Who thinks of Zagreb as a great place to visit? People who have been there, that’s who. Zagreb ended up being the best surprise we’ve had in our travels.

Zagreb is the capital of Croatia, which used to be in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, so there are sections of Zagreb that look a lot like Austria, and it’s a beautiful city. The main square, Trg Bana Jelicica, and the area around it seem to have found the way to mix the old and the new. Most of the buildings are from the 19th century or earlier but the businesses in them sell the latest fashions and electronics. The city just made us feel content. There was always something happening as well as an abundance of sidewalk cafes where we could sit and watch the world go by.

The food in Zagreb was good, and generally not very expensive, but accommodation costs more than in most places in the region. The best example of this was the hostel we stayed in just north of the square. To get a single bed in a dorm cost almost €20, which is expensive for a hostel, but we could get delicious plates of pasta for less than €4.

I had the feeling, though, that most people in Zagreb have a slight inferiority complex. I bought a CD from a street musician and he asked if we were here on business or “for curiosity.” When I explained we were here as tourists and loved it, he smiled, waggled his head a little, and said, “It’s big but it’s so slow.” I noticed at other times that when we would compliment the city or country people seemed pleased but a little surprised.

Before we got there I never would have thought I could enjoy travelling in the former Yugoslavia for almost a month, but it is a wonderful place. If you get the chance, you really should visit.