A Travellerspoint blog

Zagreb

City of a million hearts.

sunny 25 °C
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Even though we'd been warned that the weather would take a turn for the worse today, we woke this morning to a clear sky - and lovely weather. A 9-10 hour sleep had done wonders and after a late breakfast, we headed out on foot with a map of Zagreb walking tours supplied by the hotel.
Our day didn't start well. We walked to the train station to buy two tickets to Budapest which is our next destination after Croatia. We left the station and were walking through some gardens when Red realised that he didn't have his sunglasses with him. These are prescription sunnies. He thought at first that he'd left them on the counter where we bought our tickets, but when he spoke to the lady behind the counter she told him that he was probably the victim of a pick-pocket. Retracing our steps, we think we know where it had happened. There was a Fanta promotional stand that we walked past where there were heaps of people all waiting to get a free drink. That's the only place that it could have been. We went back there and Red asked a security guard - who did not speak a word of english. No luck there at all - we had to resign ourselves to the fact that his sunnies were long gone. Straight away we found an optical shop and spoke to a lady who spoke great english - yes! We bought some clip-on sunnies and continued on our way - putting that one down to experience and putting Red's wallet in my lockable shoulder bag.
For the next 6 hours we walked all over Zagreb. The city is probably about the same size as Perth and with a map is very easy to get around. Zagreb is a mixture of the old and the new, but in the centre of the city the focus is on old.
We passed many beautiful and important buildings, lovely gardens and ended up in front of the Zagreb Cathedral with it's twin spires. Unfortunately one of them is being renovated at the moment and has scaffolding and a wooden facade around it. Nevertheless, it's a beautiful cathedral. We'll get to go inside it tomorrow when we're on our tour.
We followed the black arrows on the map and found ourselves in a flower market. Up some stairs and it turned into a food market - the individual stalls are under red umbrellas. Consequently there are many, many red umbrellas. This market has been operating for about a hundred years - and because it is such a well known and popular place, Zagreb has become well known for red umbrellas.
After lunch we continued walking and made our way from the Kaptol area (lower town) to the Gradec area (upper town). We caught the funicular - probably the smallest in the world (it takes about 20 seconds). This is the political area of Zagreb, the parliament houses are here, and various embassies. There are a lot of black cars in this area, members of the military and police. Flags of various nationalities are displayed out the front of buildings. In the main square is a beautiful church - St. Mark's, it has a beautifully tiled roof - with different coloured patterns and the emblems of the countries around Croatia. They are ceramic tiles, so they glisten in the sun - spectacular.
We also walked through the Stone Gate which is the single surviving town gate still in existence. Once entering the gate you are in a little chapel, where people can stop for prayers and to light a candle. It is quite unique as there is a Shrine to St. Anthony on one wall, pews on the other side of the little alley way, and also a painting of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus which mysteriously survived a fire in 1731.
We kept walking - and ended up in the Botanical Gardens. They are small but beautiful and a haven for anyone wanting a bit of peace. There is a large pond in the gardens and we were surprised to find turtles swimming around happily - and coming up to the surface of the water to get some sun - charming.
We made our way back to our hotel, stopping at a bar/cafe on the way for a coffee and a beer - about $5 AUD in total. Perth is expensive!
There was another lack of communication in relation to the start of our Croatian tour - similar to our Turkey tour, but a different tour company. We went downstairs at around 7pm to see if we could find out anything about the start of the tour, and our tour guide was there talking to some of the tour group. We gatecrashed the meeting, received apologies from the guide (there was a problem with the hotel not passing on information to us - same as Turkey). Not to worry - we all got together in the end.
We had dinner with a New Zealand couple that we'll be travelling with - and shared some travel stories. Back upstairs to pack up our bags and get ready for our Croatian adventure.
Market area in Zagreb's Lower Town.

Market area in Zagreb's Lower Town.

Zagreb Cathedral.

Zagreb Cathedral.

The best way to see Zagreb - on foot.

The best way to see Zagreb - on foot.

Flower Market - under Zagreb's famous red umbrellas.

Flower Market - under Zagreb's famous red umbrellas.

The Art Pavillion - Zagreb.

The Art Pavillion - Zagreb.

Red in the Botanical Gardens - Zagreb.

Red in the Botanical Gardens - Zagreb.

The Croatian State Archive Building - Zagreb.

The Croatian State Archive Building - Zagreb.

The Mimara Museum - Zagreb.

The Mimara Museum - Zagreb.

The 13th Century Church of St. Mark - Zagreb.

The 13th Century Church of St. Mark - Zagreb.

Cafe in the heart of Zagreb's trendy restaurant district.

Cafe in the heart of Zagreb's trendy restaurant district.

Posted by Gibbo54 10:41 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Zagreb

From Crowns to Kunas.

semi-overcast 20 °C
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Not enough sleep last night - a late night and an early morning - 5.15am! We were ready this morning with our bags packed at 6.30am, hopped in our taxi and headed to the airport for our flight to Vienna and then to Zagreb. Prague at this time of day is pretty quiet so we made it out to the airport in good time.
Our flight to Vienna was delayed so the time that we had to make our connection was reduced somewhat. That was a stressful time as we had to get new boarding passes printed, go through Security and Passport Control a second time. We got there with a few minutes to spare.
As we came through the doors at Zagreb Airport the first person we saw was a guy holding up a "Gibson" sign. Yes! Now that was better than our arrival at Istanbul. We were taken in a van to our hotel in Zagreb - all very smooth and efficient.
Zagreb's population is around 800,000. We went for a walk up in to the main part of town - bought two huge salad rolls and bottles of water for $6 AUD in total - ridiculous. Croatia's currency is Kuna - there are roughly 6 Kunas to $1 AUD.
We walked back to our hotel and while we were looking for a Convenience Store we found a small ladies hairdressing salon just around the corner from where we're staying. Half way through our trip I'm in need of a haircut, so we went in to say hello and see if I could make an appointment. There were 3 mature ladies in the salon and no-one spoke any English. I sort of got the message across by yanking my hair and the hairdresser pointed to my watch to let me know when to come back. She wrote down the cost on a bit of paper, and away we went with instructions to come back in an hour. Once back in our hotel room Red found an App that translated English into Croatian. I told him what I wanted to say, he typed it in and voila - out came the Croatian translation. I took a photo of the Tablet page and went back to the hairdresser. She read it and then said "Okay". So after hand gestures, smiles, nods and a final shake of hands I left 30 minutes later after having a shampoo, cut and blow-wave. She did a good job!
It's been really nice tonight to just order dinner in our room and have a bit of a chill-out. Tomorrow we have a free day in Zagreb, and the day after is the start of our 8 Day Croatian Tour. Once again we're asking ourselves how big will the tour be and will we have a group that travels well together? We were spoilt with the Turkey Tour, please let's have another group like that!
Beautiful garden in Zagreb.

Beautiful garden in Zagreb.

A lovely park we found on a walk through Zagreb.

A lovely park we found on a walk through Zagreb.

Posted by Gibbo54 08:17 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Prague

The stuff of fairytales.

semi-overcast 19 °C
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We've had to make the most of today as this is it for us in Prague - we leave tomorrow morning. We caught the 22 Tram and were taken up to the top of the hill on the west side of the Vltava River - to the medieval Prague Castle that had it's origins in the 9th Century. In the grounds of the Castle is St. Vitus Cathedral, St. George's Basilica, a monastery, palaces, gardens and defense towers.
We spent nearly 7 hours here - it was an enlightening step back in time. The churches and castle have undergone many renovations in their history and have been ravaged by at least three fires over the last 1,000 years. St. Vitus Cathedral in particular is spectacularly beautiful - I don't think I have ever seen such exquisite lead light windows. The remains of numerous members of royal families and St. Wenceslas himself are lying within the Cathedral.
At around 4.30pm we made our way back to our apartment and started to pack up and get ready for an early getaway tomorrow morning. Being our last night in Prague, we decided to go out for dinner and see Prague after dark - without the rain. We had a traditional Czech meal just off Wenceslas Square and afterwards went for a walk to the Old Town Square. There were people everywhere, alot of them waiting to see the Astronomical Clock strike 10. The site of floodlit medieval buildings in the Square (in particular the gothic Tyn Church) was just stunning, unforgettable - indeed the stuff of fairytales.
Prague - the Charles Bridge is in the middle of the photo.

Prague - the Charles Bridge is in the middle of the photo.

Terracotta rooves of Prague.

Terracotta rooves of Prague.

The Czech flag flying over Prague.

The Czech flag flying over Prague.

Torture Chamber in the grounds of the Prague Castle.

Torture Chamber in the grounds of the Prague Castle.

Ancient tool shed - Prague Castle.

Ancient tool shed - Prague Castle.

Selfie - in front of St. Vitus Cathedral - in the grounds of the Prague Castle.

Selfie - in front of St. Vitus Cathedral - in the grounds of the Prague Castle.

The ornate side entry of St. Vitus Cathedral - Prague.

The ornate side entry of St. Vitus Cathedral - Prague.

St. Vitus Cathedral - Prague Castle.

St. Vitus Cathedral - Prague Castle.

The entrance to St. Vitus Cathedral - Prague.

The entrance to St. Vitus Cathedral - Prague.

One of many ornate altars in St. Vitus Cathedral.

One of many ornate altars in St. Vitus Cathedral.

The final resting place of St. Wenceslas - St. Vitus Cathedral - Prague.

The final resting place of St. Wenceslas - St. Vitus Cathedral - Prague.

Beautiful St. Vitus Cathedral - Prague.

Beautiful St. Vitus Cathedral - Prague.

Exquisite leadlight window in St. Vitus Cathedral - Prague.

Exquisite leadlight window in St. Vitus Cathedral - Prague.

A moonlit Old Town Square - night time - Prague.

A moonlit Old Town Square - night time - Prague.

Straight from a fairy tale - the magical Tyn Church - Old Town Square - Prague.

Straight from a fairy tale - the magical Tyn Church - Old Town Square - Prague.

The Astronomical Clock - Prague - under lights.

The Astronomical Clock - Prague - under lights.

The Town Hall and Astronomical Clock - Old Town Square - Prague.

The Town Hall and Astronomical Clock - Old Town Square - Prague.

This is half a duck - do I really have to eat this???

This is half a duck - do I really have to eat this???

Posted by Gibbo54 08:13 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Prague

Magical city of bridges, cathedrals, gold-tipped towers and church domes.

sunny 25 °C
View Red and Annie's European Journey on Gibbo54's travel map.

The weather is absolutely beautiful today - about 25 degrees, no clouds and no wind - perfect.
Our apartment is just around the corner from Wenceslas Square, so it took us about 5 minutes to walk there. Wenceslas Square is actually a great long wide street, more a rectangle than a square. You can imagine how many people were out and about at 10.30am on a Sunday morning. A great atmosphere - locals and tourists everywhere. There was a line of little wooden huts selling souvenirs, Czech food, icecreams, beer, wine - and tall bar tables everywhere for people to stand - eat their lunch and drink their beers.
We left the Square and started strolling along the streets and alleyways. What a great city this is. Prague's population is around 1.2 million, but this figure swells to many thousands more if you take into account the number of tourists. Within the city there are hundreds and hundreds of old buildings, with varying designs and colours. The souvenir shops are in abundance here - interesting products. The Czech Republic is the home of Bohemian Crystal, so the majority of souvenir shops sell crystal. In these shops you can buy everything from the cheapest of souvenirs right up to chandeliers costing 27,000 crowns or koruny. Quite astounding, and these shops at night with all their crystal lit up under halogen lights - look beautiful. Speaking of Czech currency, their notes are in huge denominations - very confusing. It felt like we were withdrawing thousands of dollars when we went to the Bankomat - but the best way to do the conversion is to: take off a zero and then halve it ie. $50 AUD = 1,000 crowns.
Just following the crowds we came across the Old Town Square, the Tyn Church (the most amazing church spires) and the Astronomical Clock. This clock is reportedly the oldest working clock in the world. It was made in the 1400's and is still working using the original clock works. The Old Town Square is a photographer's dream.
We made our way back to Wenceslas Square and had some lunch - Czech sausage, potatoes and sauerkraut - very tasty. On we walked, to a market and bought some little gifts for back home. From there we walked down to the Vltava River and across one of the numerous bridges. There were thousands of people out - just walking along and enjoying the day. We bought an icecream, mine was a scoop of chocolate icecream and a scoop of cinnamon icecream. The cinnamon icecream? I thought I'd died and arrived in "Icecream Heaven" - absolutely delicious.
We found our way to the Charles Bridge - so historic and probably the main draw card in Prague. What a sight! So many people, so many little stall holders on the bridge, artists, musicians - and once we walked over the bridge it was straight in to little cobbled streets and alleys full of gorgeous buildings. Straight out of a picture book - absolutely charming!
We eventually made our way back to our apartment to have a bit of a rest, as we'd booked a river cruise for tonight. At 6.30pm we got down to the prearranged meeting point for our cruise and were collected by a van. There was another guy already in the van, an American from Tennessee named Bill. A nice guy who's about to turn 70 - a widower of 6 years, now travelling solo. We met our guide - a young Czech guy from Prague - I can't pronounce his name, but it started with "Z".
We got on the cruise boat and noticed that there were a few clouds starting to form. The short version - after such a beautiful sunny day, we sailed into a thunderstorm tonight. We were able to stay up on the top deck until it started raining, but after that we had to move under cover. It was a bit of a shame but we were still able to take some great night photos. Apparently the weather can change very quickly here - we've seen that first hand!
The cruise ended after 10pm, we said goodbye to Bill and wished him "Happy Travels" - and headed back to our warm and dry abode.
Prague street on a busy Sunday afternoon.

Prague street on a busy Sunday afternoon.

Picturesque Prague.

Picturesque Prague.

Selfie - Anne and Red overlooking the beautiful Vltava River - Prague.

Selfie - Anne and Red overlooking the beautiful Vltava River - Prague.

The Charles Bridge - Prague.

The Charles Bridge - Prague.

Witches for sale!

Witches for sale!

The Tyn Church in the Old Town Square - Prague.

The Tyn Church in the Old Town Square - Prague.

Crowds watching the Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Square - Prague.

Crowds watching the Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Square - Prague.

Astronomical Clock.

Astronomical Clock.

Wenceslas Square - Prague.

Wenceslas Square - Prague.

Red and Anne on a river cruise on the Vltava River.

Red and Anne on a river cruise on the Vltava River.

The Charles Bridge at night - Prague.

The Charles Bridge at night - Prague.

Prague at night.

Prague at night.

The closing of the loch on the Vltava River.

The closing of the loch on the Vltava River.

... and the rain came tumbling down.

... and the rain came tumbling down.

Emmaus Monastery - Prague. The two spires were rebuilt in the 1960's after the original spires were bombed by British and American forces in WWII.

Emmaus Monastery - Prague. The two spires were rebuilt in the 1960's after the original spires were bombed by British and American forces in WWII.

Ruins on the bank of the Vltava River.

Ruins on the bank of the Vltava River.

Posted by Gibbo54 08:09 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Prague

From the UK to the Czech Republic.

sunny 19 °C
View Red and Annie's European Journey on Gibbo54's travel map.

Today has been such a full day, when I think back to this morning - it feels like yesterday morning!
We were up at 5.15am to get ourselves packed up and ready for a 6.30am departure. The departure was a bit better than the arrival in that it was early in the morning and it's Saturday today. But it was still a bloody headache!
We caught the bus down to Camden Town Station and were met with great heaps of rubbish on the streets - what a turnoff - yuk! The morning after the night before. From Camden Town Station to Paddington Station - where the Heathrow Express departs from. Forgive me - I'm going to have a whinge here, but wouldn't you think that a famous station like Paddington where travellers come to get a train to Heathrow - that there would actually be a lift on the station - or at least an escalator???? No! We had to make our way up probably 50 steps with our bags. Actually - Red, not me. How do old travellers get on?? Then, once we were up on the main level and purchasing our tickets for the Heathrow Express, the lady staff member asked if we were entitled to a Seniors discount! Excuse me?!? Oh well, I think we're looking older than our years at the moment :-) ! Okay, whinge fest now over!
We got to Heathrow - I really like Gatwick more (it's much quieter) and eventually took off for Prague - after a 1 hour wait on the tarmac as one of the doors on the plane wouldn't close properly.
We've really enjoyed our time in London - it's a great city, with so much to see and do. There are an endless number of shows to see, attractions, museums, galleries to visit - it's actually mind boggling. To give you an idea of the cost of accommodation - we stayed in a comfortable and spotlessly clean apartment (15 minutes from the centre of London) for around $120 AUD per night, which is about what it cost us for a tiny hotel room in Earls Court 10 years ago. Food and alcohol is cheaper here than at home. At this time of the year - with Daylight Saving - it's light until 9.15pm and it's light again at 4.45am. London is truly unique - brilliant city!
We are now in the Czech Republic - we were met at Prague airport by a driver who took us to our apartment where we were met by one of the owners. The apartment is right in the Old Town and is comfortable, clean and spacious. As keen as we are to go out and explore, we just need to stay indoors and recharge the batteries - we are wrecked! We have 2 full days here, and tomorrow is a brand new day!
No photos today!

Posted by Gibbo54 12:13 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

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