Buda and Pest: Budapest–Day 1

(This is the 18th post of our Croatia-Budapest trip, June-July 2014)
Sunday, June 29

Zichy Breakfast_areaWe start this day with breakfast, which is the lower level, but open to the main floor.  This is looking down into the eating area.  What follows are all the different stations and possibilities for breakfast.

Zichy Breakfast_1Breakfast Salad

Zichy Breakfast_2Orange juicing station

Zichy Breakfast_3 Zichy Breakfast_4Fruits with Nuts/Seeds/Raisins for topping

Zichy Breakfast_5Paprika, Salt and Pepper

Zichy Breakfast_6Zichy Breakfast_15 Zichy Breakfast_7 Zichy Breakfast_8 Zichy Breakfast_9 Zichy Breakfast_11 Zichy Breakfast_12 Zichy Breakfast_14 Zichy Breakfast_13Usually the breakfast area was popping, but this shot is from the last morning, when we left to the airport early.

Zichy Breakfast Our breakfast. We learned to use a roll basket to bring our choices to the table. Of course, we normally have this kind of spread at home.  Right.

Budpest Breakfast FruitFruit detail.  We thought the addition of cherries was unique.

Budapest_2 Budapest_3Detail, front door of our hotel

Budapest MapBudapest is basically two cities: Buda and Pest, but were joined ages and ages ago.  The basic rule is Buda is on the hill, and Pest is on the flats.  We decided to explore  St. Matthias Church on Castle Hill, since it was Sunday, and also because the sun was still out.  We were always cognizant of the weather reports.

Budapest_4We walked up to the Metro stop closest to our hotel (we learned a short cut on the last day–of course) and purchase our 72-hours transit pass, good for buses and Metro and whatever.

Budapest_4b Subway TilesTile in the Fraz Josef Metro Stop.

Budapest_4cOutside the Metro station: a blind zebra-ed elephant (above) and a tribute to Raoul Wallenberg (below).Budapest_4dWe found our way to Bus #16, which took us to the top of the hill, along with HORDES of other tourists.  The tourist industry is alive and well here.

Budapest_5 Buda HillLooking down towards Pest, situated across the Danube River.  I have a fond attachment to that river, as it rolls through Austria as well, the very first place where Dave and I traveled (on our honeymoon).  I still remember walking down to the river one night from our little bed and breakfast, slipping off my sandals and dipping my feet into the chilly water.  As the famous saying goes, you never step foot in the same river twice, and there’s been a lot of rivers since that moment years ago.

Budapest_6aThis area is known as the Fisherman’s Bastion, as fishermen used to guard this area above the fish market just below during the Middle Ages, however all these current structures date from the 1896 reconstruction efforts.Budapest_6bBudapest_6gBudapest_6hBudapest_6j Budapest_6cThe church still wasn’t open so we explored the small plaza next to St. Matthias’ church, with these bas reliefs at the base of the equestrian statue.  Budapest_6e Budapest_6f The ornately tiled roof reminded me of the one on St. Mark’s Church in Zagreb, but I couldn’t find any information linking the two.  Here’s a closeup from the internet:

St. Matthias tilesBudapest_10 Buda HillThe shot from below, those stairs leading up to the Fisherman’s Bastion.

Budapest_6 Buda HillWe walk around the area of the church, noticing this beautiful gate with a hideous Lock of Love attached (maybe it’s a new form of graffiti?).

Budapest_7 Buda HillWe decide to walk around the upper Buda area while waiting for the church, and noticed this building also had a tiled roof.

Budapest_8 Buda Hill Budapest_9 Buda Hill Budapest_11 Buda HillThis is the Turul Bird, a mythical bird of Magyar folktales, which supposedly led the Hungarian migrations “from the steppes of Central Asia in the ninth century.  He dropped his sword. . . indicating that this was to be the permanent home of the Magyar people. . . and remains a symobl of Hungarian pride.” This is at the entrance into the Royal Palace plaza on the Danube side, near this gate:Budapest_11a Buda HillBudapest_Gate1Budapest_gate stairs Budapest_12 Buda HillA mildly hot day, we walked to the very end of the upper area near the Royal Palace (below, home to several museums which we didn’t see) to a long promontory which gives a great views of Pest, the flatland city. Apparently, this hill is “considered one of the last foothills of the Alps” so everything before is a part of the “Great Hungarian Plain.” (quotes from our Rick Steves’ guidebook)  That bridge to the left is the Chain Bridge, which we’ll walk on on our last day.

Budapest_Royal Palace1Budapest_other side of Castle HillWe walked back up to the church on the other side, with views into those foothills.  Along the way, we looked in all the stalls for souvenirs, for we are Departure-Day-minus-3 and we have almost no souvenirs from this trip, which causes me great stress, and Dave, none at all.  But all of the little stalls seemed to be stocked with stuff we’d never want to take home, like kerchiefs from China, straw hats and overly made-up dolls (think: Dolly Parton) in cheap native costuming.  So we settled for sharing a soda, while letting the breeze float around us, cooling us off.

Budapest_10a Budapest_10bIn we go. But first, a little story about how we became compatible tourists.  It all started in a hilltown in Italy when we shared one camera. I’d stop to take a picture of every detail, doorknob, post box then hand it over to Dave, who was muttering about how long I took and then would stand at the edge of whatever view sight there was and take landscape photo after landscape photo, the camera held out at arms length, then would swing the camera around on the strap when he was walking somewhere, which gave me hysteria, as I imagined the camera going flying across some cobblestone street and crushed by a car.  We were a good team, if you consider the subject of the photos, but in reality, sharing one camera became like sharing one toothbrush. Not advisible for marital harmony.  So we bought two and touristed happily ever after.

Until this morning when somehow, some way, we discovered that Dave’s camera doesn’t work.  It can take photos through the view finder, but we have come to depend on the use of our articulating screens to capture what we see.  I decide to swap him, seeing if I can go old-school and use the view finder, but I can tell, like so much else of our modern life, that I am completely acclimated to the swing out screen and this will be a challenge, esp. for close-ups and detail shots, which are my favorite thing to take.  He also is swinging my camera around by the strap, which as mentioned before, completely freaks me out.

So as a result, nearly all of the excellent photos below are taken by Dave, except for when he’d come and find me and I’d use it for a while. I’m also still recovering from Traveling with the Relatives, so I can’t say I was a great contributor to a harmonious day. So it was good to be in a church with lots of gorgeous space and rich, decorative surfaces to distract and mellow out.  This was a beautiful place.  Enjoy the photos:

2Budapest_cathedral52Budapest_cathedral12Budapest_cathedral22Budapest_cathedral32Budapest_cathedral42Budapest_cathedral62Budapest_cathedral72Budapest_cathedral8 altar2Budapest_cathedral9 stairway2Budapest_cathedral10 upper floor2Budapest_cathedral11 statueNotice the small church she holds.

2Budapest_cathedral122Budapest_cathedral12a2Budapest_cathedral12b2Budapest_cathedral12d2Budapest_cathedral12e2Budapest_cathedral12f2Budapest_cathedral12g2Budapest_cathedral12h2Budapest_cathedral12j2Budapest_cathedral12kI love this off-center round window.

2Budapest_cathedral12l2Budapest_cathedral12m upper ledge2Budapest_cathedral12n detail side altar tryptch2Budapest_cathedral12n StFrancisWall2Budapest_cathedral12o2Budapest_cathedral12p2Budapest_cathedral13 Budapest_13a StMatthias Budapest_13b StMatthias Budapest_13e StMatthias Budapest_14 lunch

Time heals all wounds and so does lunch, even if it is just a crisp, oh-so-deliciously-chilled salad with hearty bread.  The camera is still not working and Dave figures it’s something like a loose wire, so he keeps gripping it and flipping it open with force, further causing some alarm.  It just won’t be fixed, so we move forward into the rest of the day, with a subway ride over to the Jewish Synagogue.

Budapest_15 open subwayI was fascinated that I could look all the way down the train, with no doors in between cars.Budapest_16 SynagogueBudapest_16a SynagogueAlso known as the Dohany Street Synagogue, this Jewish Synagogue is the biggest in Europe and the second biggest after the synagogue in New York City.  It was loosely patterned after the descriptions of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, which explains the two tall towers.  Many think this synagogue feels very Catholic-like.

Budapest_16b Synagogue3Budapest_1 synagogue3Budapest_2Like many other reconstructions of Budapest, these massive chandeliers are recasts of the originals, the World War II having destroyed what hung here before.  The pews are original, as are the nameplates:

Synagogue nameplate BudapestBudapest_16c Synagogue3Budapest_33Budapest_43Budapest_53Budapest_6 tree of lifeAfter touring the interior, we went outside to the garden behind the synagogue, to see this elegant sculptured Tree of Life by Imre Varga, honoring Holocaust victims.  The “willow makes an upside-down menorah, and each of the 4,000 metal leaves is etched with a name….New leaves are added all the time, donated by families of the victims.”3Budapest_6a tree of life frontThe Hebrew inscription reads, “Is there a bigger pain than mine?”

Budapest_16d Synagogue Budapest_16e Synagogue3Budapest_73Budapest_8The tour guide passes us off to someone else, who walks us through the Jewish Quarter, where we saw this beautiful facade of a building.  We make our way back, then sit on the low stone wall, our energy flagging.

Near us is a red bus with Viking Cruises emblazoned on the side.  We watch a lot of PBS television, so waited to see the fabulous-looking people that they depict in their advertisements.  We are so tired that sitting on a hard stone wall is a good thing, while waiting to see who shows up.  Suddenly the young man bounces out of the bus, holds up a Viking Cruises paddle and waggles it back and forth.  A stream of older folks, older than us perhaps, in highly cushioned athletic shoes, baggy pants and wilted expressions slowly makes their way past their guide and onto the bus.  We realize that Viking Cruises, while fabulous and helpful, are still in the tour business and they still have to deal with folks like us.  We collect ourselves and jump on a tram, two equally wilted tourists riding away from yet another noted tourist attraction.

Budapest_17 trams

Dave nudges me after a while.  “Let’s get off here.”  Here?  Why not.


We are in a small square of some anonymity, anchored by this enormous statue at the edge of a building, the soldier caught in motion as he falls, his countrymen and Liberty (?) herself reaching out to catch him–a memorial to those who died in World War I.

Budapest_17b University Square

And then this fabulous fountain–a book of turning pages.

We’d been discussing the redoing of our front yard at home, and adding a fountain.  “This one!” I say.  “Let’s add a book fountain!”  Tempting.Budapest_17c

We find out later that we are in University Square, with terrific little bits of urban art, sculptured lightpoles and a few restaurants, all surrounded by the university buildings.


While we do end up eating at the cafe shown above, we first start on the opposite side of the square, for we always have to check every restaurant in the area before deciding where to eat.  But after the friendly English-speaking woman who greeted us sat us down, took off the pristine table cloth to reveal a tattered table, brought us a menu in Hungarian, I bailed and went to the little place above, which promised free Wifi, but we never could get it to work.  Never mind. Budapest Day 1 Dinner1

We share the salad, then the chicken (yes, it’s a bit underdone, but the presentation is lovely).Budapest Day 1 Dinner2Budapest Day 1 Dinner3

The stuffed squash’s stuffing was pretty good, but the squash needed a few more minutes in the oven.  We were the first ones, typical of English-speaking tourists of a certain age with thick athletic shoes on their feet, so we think we probably surprised the kitchen.

Budapest_18 dessert

The dessert was great.


We found our way home at the end of that day, climbed the steps to our hotel and crashed.

Budapest_20 hotelNext post: We do Pest, still sharing a camera

A Train to Budapest

(This is the 17th post of our Croatia-Budapest trip, June-July 2014)
Saturday, June 28

Zagreb_last pictures1We ate another amazing breakfast, sneaking seeded rolls & slices of ham back to our table, then making small sandwiches for the train ride ahead.  Good thing we did.

Zagreb_last pictures2We thought we had paid for a high-speed first-class rail ticket, but apparently there was some problem with the train, or our brains when we made the reservation (don’t think so), or something, so we were we to take Train A and transfer to Train B up the line.Train Station

So what was supposed to be a quick 4-hour ride, ended up being a train ride to oblivion.  Because we had fancy tickets, we had to kick out some squatters in our seats.  By some miracle the numbers matched up and they left.

Zagreb_last pictures6Zagreb_last pictures3 Zagreb_last pictures4 Zagreb_last pictures5

All the cars had been tagged with graffiti.

Zagreb_last pictures6_banging tiresThis guy came around and banged the wheels before we were boarding–a metallic hammering sound.  I have no idea why. Scenes from the trip:

Train View1Train Views Enroute to Budapest1Train Views Enroute to Budapest2Train Views Enroute to Budapest3Train Views Enroute to Budapest4Train Views Enroute to Budapest5Train Views Enroute to Budapest6Here’s the wheel banger guy.

We kept stopping and adding more cars. The train would shudder as they’d connect, then we’d slowly take off again.  This was repeated several times, until at the above stop, we added cars and then chugged backwards.  We had started out with a relatively small train in Zagreb, but when it was time to get off the train in Budapest (nearly an hour late), the train was so long, that those of us in the nice car (which had been at the front at the beginning of the trip) were so far back we had no train walkway to land onto — only train tracks.   Instead we walked through several cars to get to where we could see the train platform of sorts — this was patchy asphalt — but worried about being carried back to Zagreb, so hurriedly got off, dragging our suitcases until we made it to the less-patchy asphalt platform.   We weren’t in Kansas, Toto, and it felt like it.

Budapest_train stationTrain Station eats.  We found out we had landed at the less nicer of the two train stations.  No kidding.  Now comes the game to change money.

Budapest_train station2Okey dokey.

We try to hit the bathrooms before figuring out the next transportation hassle, but the bathrooms require coins.  Florints, Budapest coins.  So we finally find an ATM, get some money, but need change, so we buy our subway tickets (someday we are just going to take a cab, I know it), get the change.  Then we take turns watching the luggage while the other person uses the bathroom.  Holding our subway tickets in the air, to show the guards at the top of the escalator we are law-abiding tourists, we head down into the mass transit system.

Dave is in front of me by two paces, and as he rounds the corner toward the train, the doors are open and it is waiting.  He starts to make a run for it.  I holler at the top of my lungs, “Don’t you dare get on that train!” and he freezes just before jumping inside. I can envision him being whisked off to somewhere in Budapest while I am left on the platform to dissolve in tears, weeping as he leaves me behind, no money (he had all the florints), no husband, nothing.  Luckily our marriage was saved by his good reflexes, and we caught the next train.

Budapest_street signWe took the train to a street-level tram (signs on the street, above) and by following the maps I’d printed off at home, make it to our Palace.  No kidding.  It’s Hotel Palazzo Zichy and it used to be some nobleman’s palace of a home-now-turned-hotel.  We loved it.

Hotel Zichy EntranceBudapest_hotel zichy room numbersThey speak English!  Our room is ready! and this is where the room number is in the hallway: at foot level.  Our room is perfectly lovely.

IMG_8853View out our window, into the inner courtyard. 

Zichy SquareThey recommend several restaurants for us, but we are interested in the little bistro just outside our hotel in the square: Matrjoska Bistro.

Matryoshka Bistro Sign Matryoshka Dinner1 Matryoshka Dinner2

Citrus-y Bulgar SaladMatryoshka Dinner3Freshly baked bread, two varieties

Matryoshka Dinner4Garlic and sour cream — garnish for the borschtMatryoshka Dinner5

Chilled pumpkin cream soup with dill jelly (detail, below)Matryoshka Dinner5aMatryoshka Dinner6

BorschtMatryoshka Dinner7Grilled Catfish and VegetablesMatryoshka Dinner8And to finish off, cake and ice cream (they make the ice cream next door to the bistro, but it is owned by the same people)Matryoshka Dinner8a

Poppyseed cakeMatryoshka Dinner8bVanilla ice cream

(Many of my reviews of Budapest are found on TripAdvisor.)

Church scenes1 Church scenes2Bordering this little square are the hotel, a church, a very fancy (apartment?) building, and a more normal apartment building with a pub in the basement.  In the dimming light, we take photos of the surroundings.

Church scenes3 Church scenes4 Church scenes5 Church scenes6 on Zichy Square_Budapest1 on Zichy Square_Budapest1a on Zichy Square_Budapest2Count Vichy

More details about him on the hotel’s website.on Zichy Square_Budapest2aWe are too worn out to do anything else, so after these two tasks: eat an amazing meal and explore the square, we walk back across the street to hotel.

Translation of my blog

Our internet works fine, and I laugh at the translated website: “Perhaps a little maintenance on our own selves is why summertime is such a tonic, even if we don’t know what ails us.”  The bistro and this hotel are the tonic tonight, complete with chocolate on our pillows.

Budpaest_chocolate on the pillow

Next post: Camera-less Tourist and Castle Hill

Zagreb, Croatioa–Part II

(This is the 16th post of our Croatia-Budapest trip, June-July 2014)
Friday, June 27

Endomundo Zagreb

When I say wander around Zagreb, I’m not kidding.  Dave turned on his Endomundo app in the morning, and checked it at dinner that night; this is what we saw. Spot #1 is where we met up at the St. Francis Church, #4 is the large overlook, #5 is St. Mark’s Church, and I’m thinking that #8 is the main cathedral.  No clue on the rest.  Here are a couple of details from walking around:

zagreb_basket of flowers Zagreb_cool door Zagreb_DAEtieApparently the Croatians claim that they invented the tie (cravat) so here’s Dave by a giant tie.  No, we didn’t buy it.  Actually we bought pathetically little on this trip.

Zagreb_fabricWe I did buy some fabric.  Well, I went into the store and thought it was a fabric shop, but it was a Home Dec store, and the fabric we’d seen in the window was actually tablecloth fabric.  I bought two lengths off of two different bolts of cloth, too tired to figure it all out, so of course, when we got home, they were too small.  So I turn them at an angle when I put them on the table.

Zagreb Stuck Bus by dbl parked carLoved this scene.  The fabric store is “CENTRA” and on our way there, we watched this tourist bus driver become extremely frustrated over the black double-parked car, blocking his way around the circle.  When we came out of the fabric shop, they were both gone.

Zagreb_pm1a_walk to post officeWe head towards the Poste to mail the postcards.  How to Train Your Dragon 2 was advertised on their small billboards.

Zagreb_pm1b_post officeWhat a great looking post office!  I also purchased some fancier stamps for decorative uses at home.  To get into this, you enter in a main door.  On the right is a market, which we also walked through, and on the left was this glorious post office.

Zagreb_pm2_corn standWe saw fresh corn stands a lot, but it smelled slightly burnt, so we passed on this.

Zagreb_pm3_cathedral alphabetWe successfully met up with Anna Clare and Earl (score one for meeting up without cell phones!) and can finally enter the cathedral.  The whole name is the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saintly Kings Stephen and Ladislav, but everyone just calls it the “Cathedral.”  Inside the front door is a wall with some interesting script: the Glagolitic alphabet.  According to our guide book, it originated in the 9th century, invented by Byzantine missionaries Cyril and Methodius as they worked to translate the Bible into Slavic languages.  Their alphabet caught on only in Croatia, and was later adapted in Bulgaria to become the Cyrillic alphabet (still used in “Serbia, Russia and other parts east”). Scenes from the interior:

Zagreb_pm3_cathedral Zagreb_pm4_cathedralZagreb_pm12c_ExteriorCathedral(View out that open door was the tower of the cloisters.)Zagreb_pm4a_silveraltarAlthough it is incredibly hard to see in this photo, this is a silver altar with a depiction of the Holy Family. Mary is holding a needle and thread, sewing. At this point, Anna Clare begins to feel faint while walking through the cathedral, so we all head out to the benches to rest and to give her a chance to recover.  Apparently they had not eaten lunch, and after driving around Croatia these past few days (she has been the only driver), plus a few other stressful experiences, she was exhausted.  So we agree to part to give them a chance to go back to their room and rest, and to find some lunch.  We’ll meet up again at dinnertime.

Zagreb_pm5_random bottle sayingOne of the challenges of being on the go is drinking enough water, and who can resist buying bottles of water when they deliver not only the water, but a lovely pithy saying to go with it?  We share this, and head back up to the Gradec portion of the Upper Town area, because Dave wants to get some more postcards from the Museum of Naive Art.

Zagreb_pm6_interiorGreekchurchWhen we come out, all the church bells are ringing for evening mass.  We realize we can now see inside the three churches if we hurry, so we hit the Greek church first.  We stand quietly at the back, and take this photo surreptitiously.

Zagreb_pm6a_interiorGreekchurchGood thing, too, for this nun kept turning and looking at us, watching the open door (below).  Not too many showed up for mass, and we moved on to St. Mark’s, in the center plaza.

Zagreb_pm6b_greekchurchdoor Zagreb_pm6c_exteriorGreekchurchExterior of Greek Church.

Zagreb_pm7_exteriorStMarksThe sun is dipping down, and shadows creep up the walls of the church.

Zagreb_pm7a_stmarksZagreb_pm7b_InteriorStMarksThe lower light proves fascinating to capture at the back of the church.  Again, they are having mass, so we quietly sit, letting our eyes adjust to the dim light.

Zagreb_pm7c_InteriorStMarksWe then notice the glowing gilt ceilings.  They are quite beautiful.  Because of the church services, we don’t walk around, but feel lucky to have seen these.

Zagreb_pm7e_InteriorStMarks Zagreb_pm7d_InteriorStMarks

Zagreb_pm7c_exteriorStMarksOutside Dave gets a good shot of the tiles on the church’s roof.

Zagreb_pm7d_exteriorStMarksZagreb_pm8_platzsign Zagreb_pm8a_platzsignI think this is about the only picture of us in Zagreb, taken by another friendly tourist.

Zagreb_pm8c_platzsignThis building with all the flags is the Ban’s Palace, offices for the prime minister.  Across the square (where I found that elegant gold curlicue door handle) is the Parliament building.

Zagreb_pm9a_InteriorCatherineChurchWe also head to St. Catherine’s church.

Zagreb_pm9b_InteriorCatherineChurchThere is a sign at the front saying closed for a wedding, but when the fellow in the T-shirt and ball cap (on the left in one of the back pews) pushes past us crackling his grocery sacks, we slip in also. Zagreb_pm9c_InteriorCatherineChurchBeautiful plaster work on every surface.  I would have loved to have walked around, but I say to myself — repeat after me — Another Time.  Visiting this city has been one of the more frustrating visits for me, the difference for what I prepared for and what I was able to see, achingly far apart. While this is a fact of life in all cities, in all countries and on all trips, it feels very pronounced here.  I try to let the stillness of the church seep into me, but all I can think about it all the things left unseen in this interesting city.  

Zagreb_pm9d_InteriorCatherineChurch Zagreb_pm9e_InteriorCatherineChurchI try to mentally cross more things off my Tourist List, knowing that at any time a tourist is but a visitor, missing out on the vibrancy of a city, as the sights and attractions and museums are always a poor substitute for living in a foreign place.  It will have to be. We head to Budapest tomorrow, back on our own.

Zagreb_pm13c_pharmacyIt’s getting time to meet up again, and as we pass by, we stop in the Old Pharmacy to take photos of how it might have looked many years ago.

Zagreb_pm13b_pharmacyLooks like they’ve reserved a cupboard for the new products.  Amazing how garish our modern-day packaging looks when compared to the classic glass and porcelain jars.

Zagreb_pm13a_pharmacyZagreb_pm13_pharmacyZagreb_pm13d_KeyShe holds the keys to the city, apparently.

Zagreb_pm16_sightseeingBehind that waving tourist is the Stone Gate, with the little chapel with Mary’s unburnt picture.  Some more street scenes:

Zagreb_pm10_window reflections Zagreb_pm11a_buildings Zagreb_pm11b_SubacZagreb_pm15_statue in marketZagreb_pm15_building exteriorZagreb14_exteriorStFrancis Zagreb_pm12_InteriorCathedralWe’re early for the meeting, so go inside to look around the cathedral again, with the stained glass glowing in the setting sun.

Zagreb_pm12a_InteriorCathedralZagreb_Rose WindowWe walk up and down several streets, and a couple of times we found a place to eat that had the right combination of prices and food, but then a group would push in past our indecisive quartet and we’d be out of a table.  We finally make it to the large social area of town, a street with large bars on either side, catering to the Happy Hour crowd.  We found a place that would serve us some dinner, and we relax and enjoy looking at the crowds and our last night together.

Zagreb_dinner1 Zagreb_dinner2Next post: A Train to Budapest

Zagreb, Croatia–part I

(This is the 15th post of our Croatia-Budapest trip, June-July 2014)
Friday, June 27

Hotel Breakfast_Zagreb1First up, breakfast, at our fabulous hotel.  We got there after the tour bus crowd had left, so the repast was severely depleted by the time we got there.  No worries, we found things to eat anyway.

Hotel Breakfast_Zagreb2Hotel Breakfast_Zagreb3Hotel Breakfast_Zagreb4Hotel Breakfast_Zagreb5Hotel Breakfast_Zagreb6Hotel Breakfast_Zagreb7Hotel Breakfast_Zagreb8Hotel Breakfast_ZagrebtoysAnd a toy corner for the kids.

Zagreb1_marketflowersNext, we head up to the market, to see what Zagreb’s market is like.  It’s set under red umbrellas, which is one of Zagreb’s emblems, seen on different tourist tchotckes.

Zagreb1a_marketflowersZagreb2_market Zagreb2a_markettomatoesI’d buy these too, if they already had tomatoes on them.

Zagreb3_market Zagreb4_marketumbrellas Zagreb4b_market umbrellas Zagreb5_market Zagreb6_marketpeppers Zagreb7_market Zagreb8_markettoysLittle toys for sale.  They all seemed to be made in China, frankly.

Zagreb9_WorldCupStuff Zagreb10_StFrancisChurchWe’re to meet up Anna Clare and Earl at St. Francis church, a small church up the street from the market.  My friend Judy had told me about this, as they had visited it when they went to Zagreb the year before.  I was glad I knew about it.  Above is the scene carved above the doorway.

Zagreb_meetupShepherdsHere they are!  We wait for the mass to end, then head into the church, the bells tolling and ringing.  It was wonderful.

Zagreb10a_Stfrancischurch Zagreb11_StFrancis Church Zagreb11a_StFrancisChurch Zagreb11b_StFrancisChurchThe beautiful blue ceiling reminds me of the small church in Rome, Santa Maria Sopa Minerva.

Zagreb11d_StFrancisChurch Zagreb12_StFrancis Church Zagreb13_StFrancisChurchThe inevitable grotto in honor of Mary.  While I had a long list of sights-to-see today, I could see that I needed to just tuck that list away, that this was not going to be a touristing day.  More like wander, wander, wander, which can often have its own merits.

Zagreb14_MaryonpedestalWe wander past the cathedral, but there is a mass going on, so we admire the statue of Mary on her pedestal in the fountain across from the front doors.

Zagreb15_market dress Zagreb15a_marketdressWe wander back through the market, where we notice this woman in native dress, and snap a photo of Anna Clare standing by another local:


Zagreb17_hallwaytoOctogonWe were able to check off some things on the Rick Steves’ tour of Zagreb, one of which was the Octogon.  Here’s our group in the hallway.

Zagreb17a_octogonThis was the “ultimate in iron-and-glass shopping elegance a century ago” and the window over the atrium is gorgeous.

Zagreb17b_Octogon Zagreb17c_octogon Zagreb18_funicularNext up: taking the funicular up to Upper Town, a form of transportation dating from 19th-century.

Zagreb18a_funicular Zagreb18c_funicular viewsView from the top.

Zagreb19_marketNo time to wander through Stross Market, at the top of the funicular, so we’ll leave it for another day.

Zagreb27a_UpperTown Zagreb27_UpperTownTchotcke seller, but in traditional dress.  I give her some money so we can take a photo of her, but passed on the little stuff she was selling.

Zagreb20_StCatherineChurchThe Upper Town consists mainly of about 8 blocks of town, with three or so churches.  Here’s the Church of St. Catherine, but we can’t see inside.  More later. . .

Zagreb21_Greek ChurchThis one is the Greek Church, tucked neatly in the rows of buildings on the main street.

Zagreb21_uppertownTeslaNikola Tesla, he of the car fame (he championed alternating current), was born in Croatia.  He later moved to America.

Zagreb29_StMarksChurchZagreb21a_uppertowncarving Zagreb22_alcoveStMarksThe alcove of St. Marks, the prominent church on the square in Upper Town with the beautiful tiled roof.  This was closed as well.  A detail from the door is above.

Zagreb22a_interiorI peeked inside; we promised to come back to this one too.

Zagreb23_uppertownstreetWe went back down this street (the funicular is at the far end), stopping about halfway to go to the Croatian Museum of Naive Art, an amazing museum (but no photos allowed).  Typically these naive artists painted on glass in this area of the country, as that was the material they had, so all the strokes are tiny and smooth, and depicted interesting scenes of giant peaches at the base of a peach tree, people harvesting, angels, demons, storm clouds–all stuff of rural life.  I’ve taken some photos of the postcards we brought home, so you can see:

Postcards AllPostcard 3Postcard 2Postcard FarmI love the lavender and orange cows in the bottom farm scene.

Zagreb24_streetsignWe wander to the site of where Anna Clare and Earl’s car was impounded when they parked illegally and didn’t know it, while buying Bibles for their mission.  I snapped a photo of the opposite corner in honor of this event.

Zagreb25_view to newertownWe wander to the overlook, a large flat plaza (which feels like the roof of some building below).  Anna Clare and Earl have to head off to do an errand for their mission headquarters, and we set our meet-up time for later.  We head back up to the main plaza.

Zagreb27_uppertowndoor Zagreb28_door

Two door handles on the city buildings surrounding the church.



This is the small chapel inside the only surviving town gate, the Stone Gate, which has a focal point of a painting of Mary that “miraculously survived a major fire in the adjoining house in 1731″ or so says Rick Steves.

Zagreb30c_StoneGateZagreb30a_StoneGate Zagreb30b_StoneGateThese stone plaques give thanks (hvala) for answered prayers.

Zagreb30d_StoneGateCandles for prayers, I assume, then time to find some lunch.

Zagreb_lunch1 Zagreb_lunch2

We need caffeinated fuel, as we are already tired and it’s only the afternoon, but I must admit I enjoyed the glass it was served in.

Zagreb_lunch3Dave said he wasn’t hungry, looking forward to the pastry he’d purchased and which was in the backpack, but he ate half of our pasta anyway.  Blood sugar restored, two newly caffeinated tourists decide to wander on their own.  I pulled out the list of things to see, yet rapidly crossed off about half of them, since the time we were supposed to meet up with Anna Clare and Earl wasn’t conducive to getting to the Lower Town, catching the sights and getting back in time.  Another time, I say, uttering the Tourist’s Mantra.  We decide to stick with the Upper Town instead.

Next post: Two Sets of Tourists Attempt a Meet-up at a Later Time, or Zagreb, Part II

Traveling to Zagreb and Mirogoj Cemetery

(This is the 14th post of our Croatia-Budapest trip, June-July 2014)
Thursday, June 26

Travel to Zagreb_1We meet Anna Clare and Earl at breakfast, and after eating our way through the hotel’s offerings, they tell us they’ve decided to head to see the caves, back where we came from.   So after some discussion, we agreed to meet up in Zagreb at the upper Cathedral at 6:30 pm. for dinner.  This discussion is where I first began to get a hint of the fact that we would be operating on different itineraries and possibly different meeting-up schedules, one significant difference between those who live in the country (or near to it) and those who are tourists on a trip, counting every minute, trying to cram in as much sightseeing as possible.
Travel to Zagreb_2

Travel to Zagreb_2aSo after breakfast, they headed west and we headed east, towards Zagreb.

Travel to Zagreb_3One of the benefits of having a car is the ability to take some detours and see different sights, so about halfway to Zagreb, we took a left off the freeway and drove for a while through the countryside.
Travel to Zagreb_4
Travel to Zagreb_5I noticed these tiny roadside chapels everywhere, and stopped to peek in a few.
Travel to Zagreb_5a
Either she is overcome by the spirit, or she is exhausted from all the housework she’s done all day.

Travel to Zagreb_6church

Travel to Zagreb_6bThis small church caught our eye, with its graveyard in front, every plot freshly planted with flowers right on top of the plot.  We know we are headed to Mirogoj–the grand cemetery in Zagreb–so this is a preamble of sorts.

Travel to Zagreb_6c

Travel to Zagreb_6a

Travel to Zagreb_6d

SLovenia country church_2We both noticed the off-center window, which looks much older than the rest of the church.

Travel to Zagreb_6eWhat looks like black granite corner blocks are really just black paint.

Travel to Zagreb_6f

Travel to Zagreb_7a

Travel to Zagreb_yellow houseAcross the lane from the church was this pristine yellow house–every town has one, and somehow they all have planted flower boxes.

Travel to Zagreb_8Back on the road, we see this sign as we leave this small town:

SLovenia_no DramaI love their signs.

Mirojog_entryAfter some consternation, as well as some sturm und drang in the car, struggling to make sense of the maps and our printed out Google directions while watching our freeway exits go flying by, we arrive at our hotel, check in and are thrilled by it.  It’s probably the nicest hotel so far, and I look forward to relaxing in it, tonight, but first it’s off to Mirogoj Cemetery, one of Europe’s finest old cemeteries, or so the guidebooks say.

Mirojog_arch1Before we left I had looked it up on Google Maps, activating the photos feature so I could determine if it was something that Dave and I might like to see.  I don’t know if I’m channeling the Adams Family or something, but I’ve always liked the history and ambiance of these old places.  Dave and I have visited other cemeteries, using it as a green respite from the urban spaces on vacations.

Mirogoj_main entry from backThis is looking towards the backside of that front dome, at a large area for gathering the mourners and/or visitors.  While we were there, a funeral gathered, the bells clanging for ages it seemed, and we saw from a distance the casket proceeding to its resting place, followed by a handful of mourners in black.  The bells tolled for a long time.

The cemetery was originally a plot of land from a Croatian poet, who leveled the land, redirected some of the mountain’s streams, yet in the process was left cash-strapped.  So the city of Zagreb purchased from his estate after his death, keeping the name Mirogoj, after one of the founders of this section of his land.

The cemetery was divided according to religion (Catholic, Jewish and Protestant) and three different classes, was officially opened in 1876, when Miroslav Singer, a fencing instructor and gym teacher was the first buried here.

Mirogoj_TubmanThis highly polished slab of black marble is the tomb of the former president of Croatia, Franjo Tudman.

Mirogoj_Tubman memorialsSmall memorials left for him to one side: one plaque with the country’s map, and the other with their ever-present shield, although done in black and white and not the usual red/white checkerboard.

Mirogoj_10To the side of the feet of this beautiful sculpture you can see some lettering in the Glagolitic alphabet (more on this in the next post).

Mirogoj_9The town fathers planted chestnut, lime, maple and spruce trees, among others.

Mirogoj_8I want one of these in my backyard right now. . . but without the graves.  Just a little table and a couple of chairs and a good wifi connection, please.

Mirogoj_8_WWIWe arrived at the World War I Monument, or should I say, a monument to those Croatians who died in World War I.

Mirogoj_7A highly decorative tombstone.  The flowers and angry faces in the medallions in front are all inlaid mosaic.


Mirogoj_5We saw these candles everywhere, even near the cathedral in the center of Zagreb.

Mirogoj_4I told Dave I wanted one of these.

Mirogoj_3Underneath the slab, it appears, is a small chamber.  And the coffins rest on the rails, out of the dirt.

Mirogoj_18 polishing stoneHousekeeping.  Polishing the slab.

Mirogoj_2Mirogoj_19aThis was our favorite little building.  There are no names on it, so it couldn’t be a tomb, and given the crosses and the shape, it is almost certainly a place of worship.



Mirogoj_12From 1879 to 1917, two arcades were built on either side of the main section (which houses a church), designed by Herman Bolle, a German architect. Another plan was drawn up for the central dome, portal and chapel (the currently existing) but that wasn’t built until 1929. Many famous Croatians are buried here, including Kresimir Cosic, a reknowned basketball player, one of three foreigners inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.


Mirogoj_11Dave was struck by the beauty of the domes, found about every 20 or so feet in the arcade.  Here are a sampling:






Mirogoj_13aAnother beautiful statue.

Mirogoj_14A fresh display of red and white carnations.

Mirogoj_15_auto candleNotice the radio transmitter?  Through a series of clues, we were thinking that it would turn on the “candles” at this boy’s feet, as each of them appeared to be electronic.  If this is the case, we in America are woefully behind in our appropriate graveside accouterments.




Mirogoj_23Mirogoj_23aDetail of above.

Mirogoj_letteringMore interesting writing.

Zagreb_Dave and carOkay, enough dead people.  Now it’s the moment to Turn in the Car, a big deal for tourists in an unfamiliar city.  No worries, we have the address, so with Dave giving directions, I drive there.  No worries, I’ll stay in the car, double-parked, while Dave goes in to confirm.  No worries, that place has moved, but a nice English-speaking man looks up the new place on his phone (turns out they moved 9 months ago, just two weeks after we booked the car and printed out our confirmation and where to turn it in).  We drive there, and after a series of typical-tourist-wrong-turns, we finally arrive.  And boy, are we huffing as we go in because we are late (thinking of another day’s rental) and it is too far to walk back to the hotel (thinking of taxi fees).  No worries!  The place is run by teenage boys who won’t charge us an extra day and would love nothing more than to drive us back to our hotel, no charge.

It’s now nearing the meet-up time for Anna Clare and Earl, so we walk up towards the cathedral.

Zagreb_decorative1As in Ljubljana, we found lots of Art Deco-ish applied decoration to the buildings.


Zagreb_decorative2As well as classical decorative flourishes.

Zagreb_equestrian stateThis promiment equestrian statue of  Josip Jelacic, a prominent 19th-century governor, was overwhelmed and obscured by World Cup apparatus (you aren’t surprised, are you?)

Zagreb_world cup chartThe rankings.

Zagreb_Croatia TshirtsThe merchandise booth (I already have my T-shirt).

Zageb_AmericanWorldCupThe Jumbo-tron, complete with American, because right then America was playing.  Yay! America.  And Coca-Cola.  And cowboy hats.

Zagreb_decorative4We move on up towards more traditional sights, like beautifully painted classical buildings.

Zagreb_decorative eggAnd eggs.  The traditional art here is interesting, but not in this gallery, which although it contained lots of paintings on glass, did not captivate us like the museum (seen the next day).  Plus it smelled dank and basement-like, so we were in and out of there quickly.


Zagreb_Singer ShopI wonder if this is related to the first man buried in Mirogoj, or to the sewing machine people?  I vote the latter.

Zagreb_native outfitTheir traditional dress.

Zagreb_Tito StatueAnd we couldn’t go far without seeing a statue of Tito, here larger than life on his pedestal.

Zagreb_cathedral1We make it to the cathedral, and one spire is under renovation (but they’ve thoughtfully provided a drape).

Zagreb_cathedral4It is beautiful decorated on the front.  We sit on the bench off to the left, waiting for Earl and Anna Clare, but able to view humanity.  We were going to go in an tour the cathedral, but the bells tolled for mass, so we decided not to go.

Zagreb_cathedral5Christ and his apostles watched over the faithful as they streamed in.

Zagreb_cathedral2A beautiful arch over the front door.


Zagreb_ill touristaAll of a sudden the front doors opened, a man stumbled out, threw up, then collapsed on the ground.  A few worshippers were following him, catching him as he fell.

Zagreb_ill touristA crowd gathered, including a nun (she came a minute after the photo was taken).  One of the women was a doctor, I heard her say.  They helped  him off to the side, to a bench behind us, so he wouldn’t be trampled as the churchgoers left the service.

Zagreb_ambulanceThe ambulance came about 6:45 p.m. and about the same time, we saw Earl walking briskly toward us, Anna Clare a minute or two behind us.  We were happy to see them, and listened as they told about their adventure of being stopped on the Slovenian freeways because they didn’t have their pass.  We were surprised they didn’t know about it, since they lived here, but I have to remember I was one of those dorky over-prepared tourists (I read two guidebooks cover-to-cover) and had read about it in one of them.  I suggested to Earl that he might want to get a guidebook and read about this country where he lived (while on a church mission), but he was insistent that all the signs should be in English.  The fine he was asked to pay was somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 euros (about $200); because of his anger, they told him just to buy the pass and he wouldn’t have to pay the fine (whew!).  I don’t blame him for being upset, but I still think it’s my responsibility as a guest in a country to do my best to figure out how they do business here.  There will still be plenty of areas where we get it wrong (like dropping off the rental car late).

MenuZagreb_chopped saladAfter that exciting story, it was time for dinner, and we used Rick Steve’s book to find Nokturn, and were glad we ate here.  Dave and I shared the above salad, while Anna Clare and Earl shared the one below.

MenuZagreb_chopped salad2

MenuZagreb_noodlesI ordered this pasta, which was really great (I don’t even remember what we had for lunch–I think it was whatever leftovers we found in the car) and I was hungry.  I shared it with whoever wanted a bite, but they were more interested in their large pizza:

MenuZagreb_pizzaWe relaxed and celebrated the fact that we were able to meet up successfully.

Zagreb_cathedral2 with EarlWe wandered back to the cathedral, and lights were beginning to glow.  That’s Earl, walking back to report to us that an organ was playing (he’s carrying the leftover pizza in his hand).

Zagreb_cathedralI went over to the doors and listened: Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue, a piece of music I’d heard many times in my own home, E. Power Biggs on the organ, and my Dad would always turn up the stereo so the final cadences thundered through our speakers. PassacagliaBachI don’t know whether it was fatigue or tourist stress or the linking up of a fond memory or a brief bout of homesickness or whatever, but I could feel the tears stinging my eyes.  We bid our farewells and headed back to our lovely hotel.


Next post: Two Sets of Tourists Tour Zagreb