Monday, 30 November 2009

Overexcited in Zagreb

Much as we adore Bosnia, we do find that every now and then we need to have a bit of time out. Sometimes it is just nice to go somewhere where you can pay with plastic rather than always having to have cash. Sometimes we like going somewhere which has explicitly child orientated activities or even a cinema. Sometimes we like to go for a walk in parks that aren't covered in broken bottles, rubbish and graffiti. Every now and then we like to get in the car and drive faster than 50mph on a road that has more than one lane each way. So this weekend, we made a break for it, making a dash for the delights of the city of Zagreb, the capital of Croatia.

We weren't really sure what to expect. I've been to Zagreb before but only to spend an hour or so whilst waiting for a bus out. It's nice. Really nice. Looks and feels a bit like Paris, beautiful European buildings, squares with parks and tree lined avenues. Roads of cafes and some really nice looking shops and bookstores. There's a well developed tram system (hello activities for small boys for the day) and plenty of statues of men on horses with swords (yup, more activities for small boys).

The highlight of my weekend was a trip to Costa Coffee. I'm obviously easily pleased, but there was coffee that I could take away. Look Bosnians, and learn. Coffee, to take away. See? You put it in a cup and take it out of the shop. You could do it if you wanted to. You could also make coffee with hot milk which would be really good too, but I'd settle for a take away coffee venue to start with.

Then there was also the cinema. So good that we went twice. First with the boys to see Ice Age 3 (think it was pretty good but it was in Croatian so I didn't follow it all). It was their first visit to the cinema and it was a good cinema, a proper cinema. With huge seats and popcorn and places to put your drink and everything. They couldn't believe their eyes. The sound was even turned down a bit so it wasn't quite so overwhelming for small people, which is a trick that some English cinemas would do well to learn. In fact the cinema was such a hit that we went back, later in the evening for another film followed by some Thai food. Suffice to say that it was gooooooood. Bosnia doesn't really do Chinese, Thai or Indian food, so this was a taste explosion of the massive scale. The boys were placated with their first ever trip to a McDonald's. They thought the food was ok, but the toys that came with a Happy Meal were too exciting for anything. They are keen to go back to McDonald's as soon as possible. Fortunately for me, Bosnia is the only European country that doesn't have one, so we will not have to suffer the whinges for a McDonald's every time they spot one.

We also found the Zagreb Puppet Theatre, with shows especially for children. We couldn't resist a trip to see the 3 Little Pigs, which was in Croatian but that didn't really matter. The boys loved it; laughing hysterically as the pigs whacked the big bad wolf with sticks, booing and hissing at the wolf whenever he appeared and really enjoying the spectacle. It was rather wonderful, a great first theatre experience for the boys too.

Back home now and time to reflect. We loved Zagreb, found it to be an engaging city, with plenty going on and we'll be keen to squeeze in another visit before we leave the Balkans. But it did highlight how far Bosnia has to go to before it will feel like a country that is about to join Europe. The Croats are almost a part of the EU, the Bosnians haven't even started talks. The Croats feel closely linked in to Europe, the Bosnians don't quite. Bosnia is unmistakeably European, but it really feels like it has some way to go before it feels like the rest of Europe.

PS - if anyone fancies a trip to Zagreb (which I would highly recommend it and I know BA fly direct for about £60 which isn't bad!) can I recommend the AB Centrum apartments right in the centre of town, who are not only child but also pet friendly and pretty good value to boot.

13 comments:

Michelloui said...

Reading the first part of the post, the bottles in the parks, for instance was a great contrast to the parisian description of Zagreb. Interesting imagery to see what Bosnia is like for you to live in when compared to Croatia.

And how nice for you to find a relatively easy source for some things from home (sort of)--but how surreal to find that ll these nice things from home are also slightly different, such as the kids first cinema experience in Croatian!! You could expand a lot on that.

Interesting reading as always!

Tattie Weasle said...

A decent cup of coffee it's such bliss when you find it - I am still searching for one in Suffolk...
Zagreb sounds wonderful glad you had a great time!

Nicola said...

Hello love. Sorry to have been absent - still reeling from the news you are going home!!! Lucky lucky you! With any luck I will be following you in the summer...

And what is going to happen to the blog name? Oh my goodness, I can't tell you how many hours of lost sleep I have had worrying over it. Brit from Basingstoke? Birmingham? Brentwood? Brixton??? Brit from Greater London...or Oxford, or St Albans just isn't going to have quite the same ring to it....

WeDoAdventure said...

Good to hear you had a great time in Zagreb.

I should mention that the last time I was driving past the BBI Centar in Sarajevo I saw to girls crossing the road carrying just the sort of carry-out cup you crave. It's only a matter of time, although whether they'll reach Tusla before you leave it, of course, the big question!

nappy valley girl said...

Sounds like a wonderful day; a good coffee is always a blessing when you've been deprived. (I remember once drinking a latte in Phnom Penh, Cambodia after weeks without one...it was the most delicious coffee I've ever had).
Interesting that Bosnia has no McD's - maybe it's the last outpost of civilisation?

Mwa said...

Sounds like a great trip. Not sure if Zagreb is now first on my list of places to go, though - I know other places with a cinema and a Costa Coffee. ;-)

dulwich divorcee said...

Ah, I remember that sense of expat deprivation well - used to ADORE going to Tesco's when first got back from Belgium. It has worn off now ...

Victoria said...

Zagreb sounds lovely, and not a place I would necessarily have thought of visiting. The theatre sounds great! We have a lovely children's theatre near us, which I love going to. It's the best value for money as the shows are always completely charming and the tickets are often under £10.

Toni in Ithaca said...

One of our fondest memories of Zagreb is a walking tour we took led by a woman who spoke Croatian, French, and English. We were in a small group. She took us to a church which had wonderful historical art, and told us that now she could worship there without fear of losing her job if she were seen.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Michelle - I hadn't really thought about how things are slightly different for the boys, it happens so often that I don't notice it any more. But you are right, I should expand a bit more on that as there is quite a lot to be said. Thanks!

TW - it is not that we don't get good coffee here, we do, but sometimes a latte in a take away cup is just too exciting for words!

Nicola - fingers crossed you'll be arriving back in the UK around the same time as us. Get the boys all together for mayhem? The new blog name is occupying my mind too - Brits In Blighty? (hate the word Blighty though...

WDA - we have so got to go to the BBI centre.. the cheesecake, the take away coffee. You should go to Zagreb too, it was really great. We're going back in Jan or Feb (and not just to drink coffee, go to the movies and eat Thai food either).

NVG - it was great. Bosnia is holding out against McD's, they keep trying to get in but they won't give them access to the bit of Sarajevo that they want to be in. Apparently. There is a rumour of a new mall in Sarajevo which may have one, but nothing agreed yet. In the meantime, it is a great piece of trivia.

Mwa - I know, I do need to get out a bit more! But Zagreb worth a trip, lovely city, lots of fun, culture.

DD - I might implode from the excitement of Tescos. But when we were back in May, I found Tescos incredibly stressful - too much choice!

Victoria - go go! Are you in Europe on your travels? The puppet theatre worth the trip alone (although it was in Croatian, but even so it was fun to watch).

Toni - we're going back next year to explore a bit more and go to the cathedral. People do talk of the Tito era with such golden tones, but things like being able to worship without fear of losing your job are so important. It wasn't all good.

sanjchee said...

So happy to hear you had a good time in my town! :) There really are many activities for kids (and adults!) to enjoy here - for example when you come to the main square, first you pick up coffee-to-go from the daily fresh caffe, then take a walk and take a look around a couple of toy stores, you can even leave the kids there (in the playroom) for an hour or two, with trained ummm.. nannies?.. so lots to see and do here! :)
All the best from Zagreb :)

b said...

it was a bit easier for Croatia to progress faster as the level of destruction was different. no excuse for bosnia though for not doing much in certain areas.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Sanjchee - we loved your home town, and we are coming back next year for another trip. Maksimir Park was just awesome too.

b - you can see that. Bosnia and Croatia had very different experiences of the war. There are some areas of Croatia that don't feel anything like the rest of Europe (the area around Knin for example). Zagreb is the capital of Croatia, I'd expect it to be a bit more connected that Tuzla! But I was surprised at how different it felt. It may just have been the excitement at being on a motorway though, the car nearly broke down it was so excited!