12/08/2013 - 15/08/2013
We travelled most of the day to get to Zagreb from Vienna - changing trains twice. We arrived in Zagreb about 9pm and made our way to Cherry Hostel. We stayed in a 6 bed dorm, though it was fairly spacious from what I remember. The hostel itself was really nice, though mostly because the staff were so friendly and it had a nice outdoor seating area. There was also an enormous dog who we nicknamed The Bear. He was a big softie though and more interested in stealing bags of cat food than he was in us. The only downside of the hostel was the limited bathroom facilities (one shower room and one toilet for women and then the same for men). It's a fairly small hostel though, so it wasn't too problematic. After check in we enjoyed a nice cheap beer, sitting outside, before retiring to bed.
We woke up the next morning in time to get the free breakfast. The free breakfast consists of 2 bread rolls with ham and cheese (or just cheese if you're vegetarian). That description makes it sound quite dull, but I think the rolls are homemade, with a texture kinda like a croissant. They're served warm, with the cheese all melted inside. Mmmmmm. You have to pay if you want coffee, but it's not a lot and it was decent coffee, so definitely worth it.
We spent most of the day walking around and taking in the sights. We'd heard that Zagreb wasn't that great a city and that there are far nicer places to see in Croatia. I don't doubt there are nicer places in Croatia, but as somewhere to just spend a couple of days, I did quite like Zagreb.
We timed our afternoon museum visit well as it was just as a storm hit. The museum in question was the Museum of Broken Relationships. Yes, it's just what it sounds like - a museum of personal belongings related to relationships that have ended, along with an explanation as to the significance of the item. It sounds pretty depressing, I know, but the reviews on tripadvisor assured us it was actually quite amusing and a fun place to visit. It's fairly small but it's also cheap, so that was fine. There are definitely some amusing (and bizarre) tales in there, but overall I still found it quite a melancholic experience. I suppose the ominous tone set by the weather didn't help. I'd definitely recommend it though - it's a unique experience.
On our second day in Zagreb we set out to visit the number 1 rated attraction on tripadvisor. Was it a museum? A church? Some other historical building? Some pleasant outdoor area? No, it was a rally car racing track. It was also quite difficult to find. We had to get directions from tourist information, then after we'd caught a tram to the general area it took a bit of walking around in order to find the entrance. It was fairly quiet when we got there and we weren't sure how it all worked. The receptionist soon got us sorted out though (albeit in a slightly disinterested way). As we were first time visitors we had to pay for a 'licence'. This just involved registering on a computer, which optionally included a link to our Facebook profiles. We then paid for 1 race, which lasts 10 minutes. Now, if you know me at all, I know what you might be thinking - "Chantal racing a rally car?! Surely not". Trust me, I was just as surprised. Jamie really fancied it though and I thought 'hey, why not?'. Thankfully it was just a race between the 2 of us, so I didn't have to compete against anyone experienced and worry about getting in their way. We were given helmets and chest plates, put into cars and told which pedal was accelerate and which was break. That was it - no time to practice - it was straight into our 10 minutes of racing. Not being used to driving anything, plus being a total wuss, my first lap was... interesting. I stalled quite early on and had to wave the guy over to restart my engine. I then managed to crash a couple of times and had to be rescued again. I was starting to think that my whole ten minutes would just be a series of crashes and rescues, but my 2nd lap was totally fine, I started to get the hang of it. I went pretty slowly, granted, but it still felt like I was going at a decent speed. Jamie would overtake me on the straights though - he got the hang of it pretty quickly and only crashed once during the entire race. After my crash-prone first lap, I did crash once more on a later lap, but that was all.
The ten minutes goes pretty quickly, especially when it's your first time and you need to spend a while getting used to it. I only managed 6 full laps in total; Jamie managed 11. Their computers automatically posted on my Facebook wall, saying how I'd been racing with them, how I'd come second and what my best lap time was. I was expecting comments on this from my Facebook friends - I thought they'd be shocked I'd done such a thing, plus possibly impressed I'd come second (they wouldn't know it was a race of only 2 people!). But weirdly I got no comments at all. Jamie and I theorised afterwards that people would likely have assumed I was playing some kind of racing game and not actually racing. It would be an understandable assumption.
I was totally knackered afterwards, probably due to the adrenaline. If a second race had been cheaper I know Jamie would have been tempted, though I'm not sure my body could have handled it. Instead we had a beer in the gallery area and watched some other people racing. I think they were mostly regulars as their times were amazing. The computers showed the ranking of best laps of everyone who'd raced so far that day. I wasn't remotely surprised to see mine in last place - even behind the 2 young kids in the family who'd raced before us.
All in all it was good fun. Afterwards we tried to go to a Mexican restaurant, but of course it was closed, as it was somewhere we wanted to go. Instead we ended up getting some pizza and chips, then heading back to our hostel for another beer.