The Croatian capital of Zagreb is a lively city with a rich history, and it lies at the crossroads of eastern and western Europe. Central Zagreb is divided into the upper (older) town, and the lower (newer) town. The central square, Trg Jelacica, serves as a focal point between the two sectors. The upper town consists of narrow, cobblestone streets and a few squares; Markov Trg with St. Marks church is particularly nice, as is the Dolac market just above Trg Jelacica. We were quite surprised to see such an active outdoor fruit and vegetable market in the middle of winter.
The lower town consists of a bustling commercial center, with clothing stores and boutiques, shopping centers, restaurants, and dozens of cafes with terrace and street side seating. People rely heavily on public transportation, particularly the Zagreb Electric Tram (ZET)—a strikingly blue tram that integrates the entire city. The newest trams are sleek and extremely clean, and manufactured right here in Croatia. Perhaps most surprising to us is the fact that these trams—though on tracks—are integrated with regular street cars and sometimes stuck in traffic jams along with cars, trucks, and buses.
After spending much time in Latin America and obtaining a certain degree of fluency in Spanish, I have found my lack of Croatian to be a serious point of frustration. Although many Croatians speak English, and particularly the younger generations, Sasha and I are both eager to learn Hrvatski (Croatian), challenging though it is. In fact, I find myself sputtering through the few Croatian words I know, with Spanish usually pouring out of me uncontrollably to communicate. Thus far, Sasha has been able to spend much more time building a vocabulary and has consequently fared much better. Fortunately, most people are patient with our feeble attempts to speak Hrvatski, and even appreciative of our efforts. Overall, we can’t say enough good things about the people here, who have been extremely friendly and encouraging. Nonetheless, we are not satisfied relying on English alone, so we are looking to enroll in a beginners Hrvatski language course here at the University of Zadar. My teaching and research with the university offers a great deal of flexibility, so course scheduling shouldn’t be a problem. Overall, we enjoyed our short stay in Zagreb but are now settling into a slower paced lifestyle in Zadar along the Dalmatian coast.