Travel, like fashion and pop culture, has trends. Places appear on the radar and soon they’re the hot new destination. And certain destinations just keep getting more popular. For the past decade Croatia has been in the spotlight. National Geographic, the New York Times and even Rick Steves have listed it as one of the places travelers should visit.
Most people are introduced to Croatia through Dubrovnik, a busy port for the cruise industry. I started my tour in Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia,.
I don’t know what I expected when I landed in Zagreb, but what I found was a city as beautiful and elegant as any of Europe’s grand dames. The Hapsburg influence is strong and there are traces of Vienna in the architecture—Zagreb national railway employes work in what has to be the most beautiful building in the country. When the sun is shining, the coffee houses and sidewalk cafes are full of locals and tourists alike and it’s not unusual for a conversation over coffee and pastries, another Viennese influence, to last hours.
At the heart of the city is the green horseshoe, an urban oasis of parks and squares. Anywhere you walk you are only minutes away from one of these lush green spaces. Red and blue trams move briskly carrying passengers across the city.
On a hill overlooking the city, reached by funicular or by narrow cobblestone lanes that wind through the old city gates, the oldest section of the “Upper Town” still holds the official government buildings.
One of my favorite stop was the elegant Esplanade Hotel, the city’s grand hotel. Built in 1925 as one of the original stops on the luxurious Oriental Express as it traveled between Paris and Istanbul, the interior of the imposing building across from the railway is ornamented by marble, stained glass and ormolu. Just above the wide front door a row of clocks tells the time in cities across the world. Renovated in 2004, the hotel is once again a showplace.
The city of Zagreb is easy to reach, only a short flight from Frankfurt or Heathrow, and worth a visit. From there, travel around the country is easy. Croatia boasts some of the newest and most efficient freeways in Europe.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at email@example.com. This story was previously published in Spokane Woman Magazine.