After a ten hour-long bumpy bus ride from Milan, a grumpy Su and I landed in the Croatian capital at seven in the morning. We had spent three-quarters of the journey chatting away, and we finally managed to doze off just when the bus driver made a pit stop. The entire bus crowd, which had been sound asleep only a minute ago, roared awake and rushed into the supermarket. It was almost like a scene from “The walking dead.” One among these zombies was Su, who forced me to join this madness. I don’t know about you, but at 3 in the morning, I’d pick laziness and sleep over food and discomfort. We grabbed some croissants and banana-flavored yogurt (Yum!) before heading back and falling to disturbed sleep, simply to be interrupted once again. We fluttered our eyes open to find the bus driver solemnly ushering everyone outside and when we asked the driver what was going on, he muttered something in Croatian and pointed to our bags and faces. Clueless and somewhat alarmed, we joined the single file outside and saw angry looking policemen questioning the people in front. We wondered what we had gotten into, our imaginations running amok; maybe the police had gotten wind of an Italian Walter White smuggling drugs across the border or perhaps an escaped mafia-prisoner attempting to flee? What an adventure! However, almost immediately, the police screamed “Passport.” We then figured that we were at the Italy-Croatia border control. Blergh! After an uneventful passport check, we hopped back onto the bus and drove into Zagreb, right after dusk.
Zagreb is a moderately small city and is well connected by a grid of blue trams, which have become something of an unofficial city icon today, much like New York City’s yellow taxicabs. A dozen or so daytime and nighttime tram-lines traverse the city center, so you are typically only a hop, skip and tram-ride away from your destination. Despite our fatigue and gigantic suitcases, we decided to jump into one of these, to reach our hostel and I am so glad we did that. Take a look at what our tram drove by..
What we had accidentally stumbled into was, in fact, the Museum of Street Art, an initiative in 2010 to revitalize and transform one of Zagreb’s busiest streets, the old graffiti-covered Branimirova, into a thriving center for art and culture. A group of local street and graffiti artists and some international sharks had been commissioned with the task of bringing to life the street’s walls with murals, expressing the city’s beliefs, sentiments, wishes and ideals. Today, this wall and some later additions are a riot of color and creative energy delighting locals and tourists alike.
Hardly an hour into the country, we were already loving it and eagerly waiting for the rest of our Croatian vacation to unfold.