How we got there
Ben: We took the train from Innsbruck to Zagreb. It was an all-day affair, but we stayed in a compartment with a very nice man that shared my day-of-the-week sock sense of style.
Kyra: Trains in central Europe are phenomenal. You eat, read, write, reflect, and if your name is Baby Ben, you sleep. I usually pass the vast majority of my train time listening to my favorite podcasts and watching the landscape and people pass outside our window.
Where we stayed
Ben: We stayed in a small flat near the center of the city. The place was quaint –
Kyra: Ew. I did not like this place. The utensils had old food on them, the shower did that gross stagnant water thing, and a spider crawled way too close to my bag.
Ben: The nice part was that we could walk most places and we were staying in the only occupied apartment in the small building. If I ever rent out an AirBnb, I’ll be sure not to say that I “used to live here.” It just feels a bit like they’re telling me there are good reasons why they moved. Not something I want to hear when I arrive after traveling all day!
Ben: 42 Coffee was recommended by our host and the coffee was excellent. As has happened quite a few times on this trip, instead of asking for recommendations, I’ll pick something at random. The barista sort of called me out when I ordered an iced coffee, asking if I wanted it hot instead to bring out the flavors of the beans (she told me all of this in perfect english no less). I decided to ask instead for her recommendation and received a delicious coffee sweetened with milk. I may have mentioned this before, but I keep asking myself whether it’s worse to assume people speak english, or to assume they don’t. It seems a little rude either way you go.
Kyra: Our first morning we walked out our front door and stumbled onto Dolac Market. Vendors sell their fruits, vegetables, and flowers using an old-school scale – you know the one where you put weights on one side to see how much the other side weighs? While looking for spicy peppers, we happened upon one vendor who called his english-speaking-son over. The son ended up giving us the peppers as a gift and told us about his university program as an air traffic controller (that’s why his English was so flawless).
Ben: Kyra reached out to a woman on Meetup.com that had been hosting an event for freelancers in Zagreb and although there wasn’t a Meetup, she offered to grab a beer with us and even invited us to a barbecue at their home. Read the Highlights section for more on our time with Robert and Anna, but suffice it to say that they were more than welcoming to us during our stay in Zagreb. When we arrived at their apartment for the BBQ, we met many other folks from Zagreb and even more from elsewhere. Anna offered us some wine and we enjoyed learning about the city from their tour-guide friend and smelling the ribs (Anna’s husband, Robert, is from Minnesota and has perfected the art of rib making). The funniest local there was Kruno (pictured below). He spoke excellent english, claiming that most of his skill came from watching so many American films (others in the group agreed that this was the best way to learn the language). He was also the owner of a local coffee shop, what I imagine to be a perfect job for a man with his personality. We also met a couple that had moved there from Singapore, going wherever the next job was – they worked for a company that does massive infrastructure projects, building rail stations, subways, and in Zagreb’s case, an airport. Overall, it was a fantastic time with great food and an eye into Croatia.
Kava y mjielke – Coffee with milk
Local View / Lessons learned
Ben: This is more of a technical lesson learned, but Robert and I talked a bit about Venture Capital. I had read many articles about it and researched it minimally, but he broke a few misperceptions for me:
-Venture capitalists are quite simple to find/connect with once you have a product.
-Venture capitalists run in the same circles, so get in contact with one and you can meet many more.
-VCs never read submissions to their website, a better bet is to tweet.
Kyra: There’s a small section on Croatia from my Yugoslavia post that details some of what we learned. I was also emailing with a designer in Zagreb who created this really neat exhibit called Interactive Spaces. Zagreb was our first glimpse at how important aesthetics are in many Southeastern European countries. Restaurants are decorated with upcycled furniture in a way that transports you to Brooklyn or any other hipster paradise.
Ben: When we grabbed drinks with Robert and Anna, we talked about everything: traveling, startups, venture capital, arts in Zagreb, and design. The two started a translation service business awhile back in Spain and have now split their ventures: Anna manages the remote translation team and Robert is working on a software startup focused on building better products for translators to work more efficiently. They also traveled for a few months, working as they went and looking for a place to settle. They decided on Croatia and have been there for 5 months.
Kyra: Anna made me fall in love with Zagreb the first night met up with them. The French Institute put on a series of exhibits throughout the city and Anna put together a little schedule of what we needed to see. As we passed cafes, bars, and parks she pointed to intricacies in the architecture she stumbled upon. Zagreb is the kind of city that has alleys which open onto parks and cultural events every night of the week. Apparently the city was called to action after being voted the second most boring city in Europe a decade ago.
Ben: As mentioned in the Food section, Kyra and I were quite thrilled to find out there were a number of markets in Zagreb where we could find cheap items (a huge plus during budget travel) and a myriad of antiques.
Kyra: The Museum of Broken Relationships was actually quite beautiful and, in an odd way, very touching.
Ben: Not paying for a ticket on the city-wide tram. Robert told us that if you got on without a ticket, the drivers would push you to not buy one because it meant more work for him.
Kyra: Anna told us it’s far more common to own a house in Zagreb than rent an apartment.