Finish of the day - Dolmac Market
A brand new country to explore with not a lot of preconceived ideas so it feels a bit like fresh  blood.

We flew into Zagreb, the capital, which is just a hop skip and a jump from the Uk.  Meeting David and Jude there, as they'd come the longer route, from their new home in Malaga via Paris. Picked up a hire car and are on the road for two weeks.

Again we are using Airbnb's as they work out so well when there are two couples and have all the cooking and laundry facilities when needed.  Staying right in the heart of Zagreb means that everything's pretty accessible and you really get a feel for the city.
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As one friend said, it sounds and looks like we're coffeeing our way around the world!  And as if by luck we discover that Croatia's 'cafe society' is very strong, with many many cafes around the city which seem to be entirely full of locals. You're met by a smokey haze and often a big sign 'No Smoking', but the locals take no notice. The cafe owners don't want to enforce it as they would lose all their trade.  So we suffer in silence and just enjoy the coffee or better still wrap up warmly and sit outside!!

Saturday morning action

The farmers markets are one of the best I've seen, with masses of local fruit, vegetables, flowers and spices available at ridiculous prices. We noticed it was thriving with locals out shopping every morning. 

Grapes upon grapes and No charge for the show

 The place was so vibrant with such colour and variety of foods and the stall holders friendly characters.  In the centre of the city was the big Dolmac market - a daily attraction. 

Beware of the blue trams

The speedy blue trams added to the colour of the city as this time of year it's pretty cold and bleak.  We visited the huge Cathedral of Assumption which was badly damaged in the 1880 earthquake but is certainly a great example of taking the time and money to do the necessary restoration.  

Outside Mirogoj Cemetery 
Zagreb is known as the city of Museums, more per square foot than any other city in the world, but alas they'll have to wait for another time.

Judy and friend

Mirogoj Cemetery

As we wandered the city it was the numbers of bakeries and flower shops that amazed us.  But perhaps the flower shops at least, have something to do with the way in which the Croatians honor their dead.  The Mirogoj Cemetery is the grandest in Europe.  Designed by a well known Austrian architect it in 1879, it took fifty year to finish. The entrance looks more like a citadel and once inside the magnificent arcades, pavilions and tombs are interspersed with some fabulous sculptures. 

Mirogoj Cemetery 

And we were lucky enough to see it in its full glory as they had just celebrated All Saints Day, 1st November, when the people of Zagreb visit their family graves and decorate with flowers and colored candles.

After having three courses of antibiotics over the last month for a tooth abscess and being given a quote for a root canal and filling, and Dave's teeth in desperate need of repair, we were pretty keen to visit a dentist.  So when we discovered that Croatia is well known for its quality of dental treatment we thought it well worth checking out. What a way to spend a Sunday morning - mouth open and in the arms of a lovely young male European dentist! 

Mathew with high tech equipment - made a Ceramic Crown in under 20 minutes

Sunday morning action
Marianna at work

Back to see them again on Monday morning and Dave and I were both sporting brand new pearly white smiles again!!  Absolutely thrilled with the work we had done, three root canals, three ceramic crowns, seven ceramic fillings replacing old amalgam ones and a great bit of spit and polish to finish off.  Highly recommend the Gikic Policlinic, Matija (Mathew) and Marianna were such a nice professional couple and the prices were a far cry from the quote I'd had in the UK.

Old Cathedral clock face that stopped during the 1880 earthquake
Trying a few of the local delicacies is always fun and Zagreb was no exception.  Samobor a small village nestled in the hills about fifteen minutes out of the city is renown for its Kremsnite. It turned out to be layer of thick custard between two sheets of flakey pastry.  A cross between the good old NZ custard square and Napoleon square without the sweet icing on top - delicious.

We dined at a local traditional restaurant that produced a selection of tasty home made sausages usually served with mashed potato and cabbage, Grah was like a bean soup, which tasted better than it sounds, veal cooked in variety of ways, and lots of different goulash all washed down with a good Croatian beer. 

But it was Hungary that really excelled in that area.  Known for their hearty stews they produced this bowl of piping hot, spicey (paprika) beans, pigs trotters and sausage stew served with generous chunks of hot fresh bread. 

Szombathely artwork

We had fun one day completing the four country run.  Judy's family were from Szombathely, one of the oldest cities in Hungary, so that was our first stop. A delicious lunch and we even managed to track down where her grandparents shoe factory had been.  Then on into Austria for afternoon tea and a stroll through Graz, a delightful city.  Last stop was Maribor in Slovenia which we sadly didn't get to see much of.  Infact the weather for most of the day was terrible so the site seeing was minimal but we did complete the mission!

AuthorDavid and Nicci Cambridge