2 weeks in the Balkans (Part 1)
Last updated: Sunday May 29th, 2022
It's been 3 months since I made the Balkan Trip and I still can't stop thinking about it. Let me share you my story of my first trip completely alone.
First of all you might ask, why Balkans? Is there anything else to see, except for Croatia and Greece? So... I've not really been around Europe so far, even though I live in Vienna and everything is not so far from here, it's literally in the middle of Europe. And I've not been to more popular places like Spain or Portugal before. Even Italy, I've only been to Rome and Venice, which is nothing from what Italy can offer.
But... I also thought that I will travel to those places with my friends at one point in my life anyways, so since I am planning to travel on my own, I thought it might be a good idea to go somewhere where my friends wouldn't necessarily agree with coming. Which is why I came up with Eastern Europe. I've never been there before and I was also interested in Russia and the slavic culture in general. But of course... since you probably already know what is currently happening over there, my original plan of going to Ukraine was cancelled. After days of thinking where else to travel to, I eventually came to the conclusion... The Balkans. But where exactly?
Planning... or not?
All I knew is I want to visit Belgrade. That's it. And because it takes long to get there with the bus, I decided to visit Zagreb too. And for this trip, I wanted to try out the so-called Couchsurfing, which means you ask a stranger on the internet, if you can stay at their place. So I tried to find a host, but the whole process took me longer than I expected. I lost a whole week of February by doing so, but at least I could find a host for Belgrade! It seemed like my planning process ended, but I still wasn't sure how long I want to stay and how I get back. Because I want to see more and don't want to get back to Vienna from Belgrade. I already lost a week of my time in planning so I just said... you know what, I'll just see when I get there. So I bought my tickets One-way, packed my backpack and off I went.
Day1: Vienna -> Zagreb
In the bus, I started talking with my neighbour. She is a croatian student as old as me and it was fun talking. This is something I really missed in my other trips, because I usually don't talk to strangers when I'm traveling with friends or family. She was very kind, she introduced me to croatian culture, showed me local food, which restaurant is recommended and what to do in Zagreb. Everything she told me, I didn't know before, probably because I didn't really do enough research. I was curious about croatian food, because I could only find croatian sea food on the internet, but not much about northern croatia. I wrote down everything she showed me and yes I ate everything she recommended me, we will get there. When we arrived in Zagreb, we exchanged our numbers to do something together the day after. But for the rest of the day, I went to the town centre, when it suddenly started to rain. I was not bothered about the rain, it gave me a special mood and as an hobby photographer, it was the chance to take some cool pictures.
For me, Zagreb is a small lovely place (~500k population), where it looks like Austria but with darker touch.
In the evening, I went to the Museum of Broken Relationships. It is a museum of everyday objects from people who went through a heartbreak and can tell a story behind the item they submitted. Not only did it touch my heart, it really made you remember what's really important in life. I can definitely recommend the museum to anyone visiting Zagreb!
After that, I talked with my hostel roommates. We went for a late night walk, talked about our travel plans (which I didn't have), and played poker past midnight. I already enjoyed the first day, a really good start of the upcoming adventure.
Day 2: All about Croatian Food
On the second day, I made a short day trip to Samobor. I've never heard of this place before, so I have to thank the girl from the bus. Samobor is a small village close to Zagreb, where you can try the local traditional cake "Samoborska kremsnita".
I'm sorry for being honest here, but when I ate it, I realized I'm way too spoiled what comes to cake. Don't mistake me, the cake was really delicious! But the cake culture in Austria is so delicate and I've eaten so many Austrian cakes in my life, so that the Kremsnita didn't really stand out.
But the trip to Samobor was definitely worth it, it is a small and calm place with some interesting architecture in the town centre.
When I went back to Zagreb, it was time to meet the girl from the bus. We wanted to eat the things she recommended me, but unfortunately, she got sick on that day and we couldn't meet. So I ended up eating a dinner for one. Or... 3 dinners for one in one evening. Because on the next day I already planned to go to Belgrade. So I had to eat the whole list at once.
The first thing on my list was Mlinci. Without having any idea what it is, I went to a restaurant and ordered just one Mlinci. The waiter looked very weird at me and I was wondering why. It turns out that it is a side dish! Like ordering just fries in a steak house. It was although delicious, it is a flatbread with a noodle-like consistency with meat drippings, so it's very oily.
Even more delicious was this so-called Strukli. It is basically a baked cottage cheese and sour cream, which sounds simple but probably the most delicious dish I've eaten during the whole trip (This is probably a lie). But if there is one thing I want to eat when I go back to Croatia, it's this.
I was already full but I had to try the Zagrebacki odrezak. I went there with my hostel roommates and one croatian woman asked me, if I've been to Zagreb before. I said no. She thought so, because I directly went to the best restaurant in Zagreb and knew about this dish. Well you can guess who told me all about this :). Anyways, the easiest description of the Zagrebacki odrezak: it's basically a Cordon Bleu. If there is a difference, there was more cheese inside and it was melting smoothly.