Back in December, I took my beautiful other half to Croatia for her birthday. I’d been desperate to try a Christmas Market abroad but I was trying to do it on a budget. Places like Switzerland, Germany, Prague (the list goes on) were the same price as a holiday to Dubai and I just couldn’t justify it. Cue Advent in Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia.
It’s annual Christmas event is called ‘Advent‘ and lasts throughout December into early January; it’s been voted ‘Best Christmas Market‘ in Europe for the last 3 years running and with an average temperature of just 0*c and forecasted snow, it seemed like I was onto a winner.
I was right. Zagreb was everything I could have hoped for and more.
I’d chosen to keep the destination of Laura’s birthday weekend as a surprise until the night before. She’d had less than 12 hours to pack and surprisingly, took it incredibly well. We all know how girls get when it comes to packing for holidays!
We got up at the crack of dawn, made our way to Heathrow and with our bags all checked through it was time for a cocktail! Before long, we were up high in the sky…
With a flight time of just 2 hours and 20 minutes, the crew barely had time to get the drinks trolley down the length of the plane before it was time to land.
As we walked out the terminal, we spotted our taxi and before long, we were well on our way into the heart of Croatia and at our Air BnB. As I’d planned this all as a surprise, my heart was pounding as we stepped out the taxi to face this run-down alcove with an imposing double bolted door covered in graffiti. Please tell me I haven’t been scammed. Inside the door was no better, the hallway was dark and smelt faintly of damp. There were toys and bikes scattered around and we had to walk down(!) the staircase into the basement below ground level… ‘is this where we get murdered?‘ I asked myself. I knew Laura was thinking the same thing as neither of us had said a word since we arrived.
At the bottom of the staircase, it was an entirely different vibe. There were two bikes waiting for us and a ‘The Nook’ sign hanging on the door. Maybe things wouldn’t be so bad after all. As we opened the door and turned the lights on, we were welcomed with exactly what the pictures had prepared me for… a small, cozy, fairy-lit flat. Perfect for the romantic weekend away I had planned.
After settling in, we headed out into the city. God, it was cold.
Croatia is famous for it’s wine and cheese, it gets it’s influence from the Mediterranean countries that it shares it’s boarders with and it’s obvious they’ve learnt well from their neighbours! We stumbled across a small, unsuspecting bar just past all the hustle and bustle of the Christmas Markets that had a seating area outside with heaters and blankets. Being the polite British that we are, we popped inside to inquire about getting a table for two (we’d spotted one that was tucked away in the corner) before realising that it was every man for himself and a couple had nabbed the table we had our eye on. Damn.
Standing around waiting for something to open up, a waitress came over to us and offered us a seat inside but being the stubborn souls we are, politely declined and advised her we’d like to sit outside once a table became free.
Satisfied with our answer, she disappeared. Only to suddenly reappear with her colleagues and for them to start arranging a new table for us just outside the door! Can’t say I’d get this service in London..
Once seated, the waitress helpfully suggested a few wines for us to try (we settled on the rosé) and ran us through the items on the menu. This amassed up to a grand total of 3. Yes, you read that right.. they had 3 items on their menu. A cheese platter, a meat platter or a combo of both. This is my sort of place.
After devouring our body weight in cheese, meat, bread and olives, we sipped our wine and watched the world go by. I don’t know what it is but there’s something about being on holiday that makes you feel like you’re on top of the world, almost a nostalgic feeling. I could have sat there forever. Laura had other things on her mind when she suggested we find a bar.
We googled a few before settling on one called ‘Alcatraz‘ and off we went in hunt of something stronger than wine. I had big things planned, I was expecting neon lights, loud music and cocktails that matched the prices of those in London.
I was wrong.
We arrived outside a door covered in band stickers and walked inside to a room filled with smoke (turns out you can still smoke indoors in Croatia – who knew?) and a few suspect characters in the dark corners. We were definitely the odd ones out. Not to be deterred, I found a table next to the bar and confidently went up to order our drinks. Speaking to the bar man, he turned to me and goes ‘I hate your accent. Where are you from?’ Now this was not something I had ever come across, it’s the classic accent that everyone seems to love… why was this man so against it? After a brief discussion, he declared that he hates the Russians and thought my accent sounded similar. I’m not sure what Russian’s he’s been speaking to but clearly not the same ones as me.
A point I need to make… a vodka cranberry was £1.50. £1.50! That’s less than a chocolate bar or a litre of milk. Now, maybe it wasn’t the strongest drink on the planet and the vodka did come out a hose attached to the bar but when the price is that good, I’m not going to be the one to complain. Besides, he already thinks I’m Russian so the less fuss I make, the better.
At this point, the bar was filling up and my eyes had started to sting from the amount of smoke…I’m surprised anyone could see the bar let alone order.
We strolled hand in hand back to the AirBnB, only stopping for a man to point out shoes that had been tied together and thrown over a wire across the road. He had a story for each pair that was there. Of which many were food for thought as the night came to an end.
Anyway, that’s enough for now.. I’ll fill you in on Day Two soon.