Saturday 12 March 2016

Of cheese, views, witches, and ice cream!

After a relatively late night, we had a slow start. But one thing was certain, we were both famished. Clearly one cannot live on bread, raw onion, ajvar, beer, and sausages alone. You could, but it's probably a really easy way to lose friends. And go through a shed load of mouthwash...
Teeth brushed we headed out in desperate need of caffeine and breakfast. The sunniest and most sociable of people, as the flatmate and I had discovered, become mildly growly when tired and/or hungry. Lou never lost her cool, and when faced with inappropriate breakfast choices, suggested the tiny štrukli cafe - La Struk - that had been recommended by friends.
Sorry, what, tangy cheesy creamy fruity baked doughy pasta for breakfast? Where do sign up to become a permanent resident here? It was truly epic. She had the more more savoury version but I really need to try making my apple and cinnamon one at home.
Fully charged and raring to go we continued to meander around a cold and drizzly city. We did make a stop to go up the Zagreb Eye, a stunning cafe bar at the top of the tallest modern building in the old part of two. She thought I was mental as I did the whole excited running around the outdoor viewing terrace. She sat in the warm to complete her breakfast cocoa, whilst my excellent white coffee went cold. Stunning views of colourful brollies.
Caffeinated and caloried up, we headed down and out towards the new part of the city. The national theatre, various galleries, the main train station and the various classical London-familiar trgovi. Though she didn't let me go arty, we found a distraction to end all distractions - all hail the bookshop! This place is bookshop heaven and we dashed in to a very large one and confused the assistant by shrieking over children's books we could actually read. Horrid Henry Croatian style - Grozni Grga! Maša and her exploits with friends, and an extraordinary diary of an ant. She decided not to buy the notorious exploits of buzz buzz the shit eating fly. But we bought some fabulously meaty tomes to digest. Cue more hysterical giggling.

By this time we were definitely peckish again and we knew we were lunching at her friend's cafe. Now this place was all soup, smoothies and salads so we were prepared for light and healthy. Delicate pumpkin soup for me, a more robust mushroom for her. We had to try the 'raw cake' for dessert. Must find out what the heck was in that - apart from ground hazelnuts and cherries! The owner lit up when he knew that Lou 'was the friend from London' and we had a lovely natter.

I won't mention anything about the waterfall I caused in the bathroom. Needless to say, you can't take me anywhere twice.

After our quite long and late lunch, Lou went back to her friends leaving me to take in some art. I opted for the town museum which was a narrative history from Stone Age excavations under the convent, to the events of the 90s. It covers everything and although I struggled at first to place the modern town on the historic versions, the effort was rewarding. Basically very little of the city you see now is particularly old. Earthquakes, fires, wars, social change and a growing population, and changing architectural tastes have ensured nothing is what it seems.

I cried over the women who were burned by the superstitious. Their names roll by on a continuous loop; I sighed at the patriarchal religious fervour which may have brought education and books but only for some; groaned at the closed 'old boy network clubs' which reached a peak in the 19th century. The pastel bland young females of aristocratic families gazed out with no life or animation.

It was an interesting insight into the disappearance of women. They appear as a threat to be eradicated, an ornament for a family, a contribution to a convent, or venerated as the Virgin Mary. There is no real sense of their contribution to the history and life of the city; surely in war, post war periods, and during communism women found their voice and value. I found its conservative take on history really uncomfortable.

I didn't actually get around the whole museum that evening and returned this morning to complete the tour. Coming at it with fresher eyes has made me feel even more dissatisfied.

Anyway museums now all closed, I had another wander around, until Lou's return. I made myself comfortable in the cafe bar up in the sky, which reminded me of the jaunt the distant one and I made before we left London, weeks previously. There was obviously confusion as I had both the entrance tickets so I had to go retrieve Lou from the ground floor. We sat and got giggly on pivo and children's books before heading out up Europe's shortest funicular to a restaurant up on the hill.

Black trumpets.

We'd seen their menu the day before and were determined to eat whatever they were. Turns out they are mushrooms (foodies and brothers stop sniggering at the back) so it was a very tasty and light risotto. The feta-that-was-actually-hallumi salad was delicious, as was the bread. The wine was passable. But we were slightly put off by the domestic vinegar...I'd carefully stressed it was interesting; Lou didn't mince words. Nail polish remover. Still we didn't alarm the waiter too much and it was another pleasant meal.

We chuckled our way down the slippery wooden steps and rather than head back to the Eye bar, as was the plan, the determined one wanted icecream. Now. It's 10.30. Dark. Cold. And I was ready for bed. I was dragged kicking and screaming like a 3 year old to one of the most well hidden, closed looking slasticarnica I've ever seen.

'It's shut', I wailed, as she marched up grey stone steps. In the dark. 'No it's not, come on, želim sladoled', she announced.

It was like a chilled and frozen dessert paradise night club. I've never seen anything like it. All the cool young kids were there, eating these ridiculously shiny sweet confections. I just had the orahovac - walnut liqueur as I was so full - but a bowl of caramel and cookie flavoured icecream placed on our table disappeared. Apparently it was delicious.

There was talk of karaoke bars but there is a sad lack in Zagreb on a Friday night. Rather sensibly we found the right tram and went home - apparently there should have been a karaoke bar called Charlie's near the flat, but he'd clearly heard the crazy English were in town and hidden his establishment. Probably for the best.

Our final night as unexpected and unplanned travelling companions. Back to our respective cities tomorrow and it's been a blast (on the black trumpets!).

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