Mini break in Zagreb

It’s probably not the first place one would think of coming, but Zagreb, Croatia is a good destination for a minibreak. Especially in the Spring, or in the run up to Christmas for a mulled wine and craft stalls vibe. Smart Austro-Hungarian buildings, more good cafes than you can shake a stick at, excellent restaurants, lovely parks, and a central area which is compact and simple enough to navigate without getting stressed, Zagreb is super clean (except for the graffiti problem), organised, and very, very safe. Don’t expect crazy hedonistic nightlife or too much of a buzz (except during špica on Saturdays, see below), but do expect a stress-free time, outstanding wine and food, and friendly people, most of whom speak incredibly good English and who are proud of their country and happy to talk about it (just don’t try to tell them that any seaside exists other than the Croatian coast, it’s futile and is the one thing that’s sure to offend) and help you with recommendations on what to do / see / eat / drink

Logistics:

Croatia Airlines flies most days of the week either from Heathrow or Gatwick, but if you want to mix and match, BA (from Heathrow) and Easyjet (from Gatwick) also fly frequently and are extremely reasonable.

A taxi from the airport costs around 150HRK and takes around 20 minutes. On the way back to the airport, it costs around 90HRK. In my opinion, it’s really not worth the faff for the saving, but you can get a bus from the airport into the bus station, then a tram into town, if you’re so inclined. Generally taxis (look out for the stands on street corners) are very affordable and won’t rip you off, and nothing in Zagreb is that far away

The Regent Esplanade, a smart hotel just a short walk from the main square, is probably the best place to stay (Mihanoviceva 1, www.esplanade.hr)

On one of the four corners of Trg Bana Jelacica, the main square (don’t bother trying to pronounce anything, you’re doomed to failure) you’ll find a tourist office which is very helpful and gives out excellent (and free) concise colour maps, so this should be your first port of call. This map also clearly shows the tram routes (just buy a ticket at the kiosk before you board and punch it on entry)

——————

Don’t miss:

Wandering around the peaceful old (upper) town – Gornji grad – and its views over the city, seeing the cathedral and the Church of St Mark with its blue and white and red tiled roof

st marks

Using the old funicular (only 66metres long and 5kuna per person one way) – linking the lower centre of town (Ilica, precisely) to the upper town (Strossmayer Promenade) – alternatively you can walk up the steps beside it

Cvijetni trg – a great place for coffee and people watching, and the flower stalls (after which it is named) are really beautiful

flowers

Špica – on Saturdays from 10am til 2pm, when it’s nice weather, locals like to hang around the centre (Bogoviceva, Preradoviceva) drinking coffee, seeing and being seen

Mirogoj Cemetery – a short taxi ride from the centre and worth a trip if like me you love cemeteries (does that make me sound weird?)

cemetery

Dolac (marketplace) – just off the main square (pictured below). Follow the line of flower sellers, and walk up the steps. Pretty much all foodstuffs imagineable: fruit and veg and fish outdoors upstairs, meat, more veg, pasta, inside downstairs

main square

Britanski trg Sundays bric a brac and antiques until 1400 – a lovely buzzy market to wander around. Our best find? Fantastic quality retro handbags

britanac

Tkalciceva, a pedestrian street tailor made for mooching – 19th century hobbit type houses and many inexpensive bars and cafes, as well as some little arty shops

Zrinjevac – a small but extremely pretty and atmospheric central park with a bandstand

zrinjevac

Maksimir park and Maksimir zoo – only around £4 in a taxi from the centre of town is this fantastic zoo and huge park, both well worth a visit. The ‘park’ is not a formal one, but rather a huge expanse of woods and meadows, with lovely tree lined walkways. Take a picnic (and ideally some bikes) and you could easily spend the whole day here

zoo

Botanical gardens – depending on the time of year you go, it’s worth a little stroll through these gardens, very close to the centre of town

Seeing the theatre from the outside:

theatre

——————

Good restaurants abound in Zagreb, here are a few of the best:

Appetit – right in the centre – smart, modern, with excellent quality meat and fish

Carpaccio – again right in the centre – again, excellent quality meat and fish. Delicious pasta dishes. And lovely waiters

Takenoko – Kaptol centar – Japanese, modern, romantic atmosphere – try the spring rolls (nothing like any you’ve ever tasted before and not a vegetable in sight) and the monkfish wok

Mano – unmissable. And try the steak tartare, even if you think you don’t like raw meat

Pod grickom topom – for traditional Croatian food, a comfortable atmosphere and a fantastic view over the city, you can’t go far wrong with this failsafe option that’s in all the guidebooks

Lari + Penati – a small, quality place to drop in for a bite to eat and a glass of wine. Popular with locals and rightly so

Didov San – literally round the corner from St Mark’s Church is this little ‘local’ gem with a friendly, rustic ambience, serving hearty Croatian fayre. We were tipped off about it by a lovely local lady we met in town and were very thankful as it would have been easy to miss

didov san

Oranz cafe, just a little way along Ilica (West) from the main square, on the corner leading down onto Cvijetni trg – very reasonably priced cakes and quiches to die for

Some places to try in the evening: Bulldog, Bacchus, Pepermint, Hemingways, Jabuka, Maraschino, Sirup, Route 66

Pingvin – the place for after hours takeaway food (open 24/7). Not too classy but a godsend if you’ve been out drinking and need to fill your tummy in the middle of the night

——————

Museums. Zagreb has a plethora of them. A few to try:

Museum of Contemporary Art

Mimara

Museum of Zagreb 

Galerija Klovicevi Dvori - currently has a Picasso exhibition but we enjoyed much more the (free) “ Aftermath – changing cultural landscape” photography exhibition

Museum of Broken Relationships (Cirilometodska 2, www.brokenrelationships.com). Not quite sure what to say about this one. Kind of kitsch, but an original idea. At only 25HRK entrance, you don’t have much to lose and it will give you some conversation fodder (what would YOU donate to the exhibition?…)

Strossmayer Gallery of Old Masters

And a few more: Museum of Arts & Crafts, of Hunting, of Peasant Riots, of Naive Art, of Blindness, the Technical Museum, the Archaelogical Museum

——————

For a pampering break: (tips from a part time local, ie me)

Massage -  Kresimir Abidic who used to be head masseur at the Mandarin Oriental in NYC now has his own salon (called New York) in the centre of Zagreb

Tony + Guy on Gajeva – excellent and much cheaper than Tony + Guy in London. You can usually get an appointment last minute if you’re not fussy who does you. A blow dry here is much more reasonable than at home, so why not treat yourself and look fab during your mini break

Adam i Eva beauty salon – the best in town and just a few minutes walk from the main square – but you need to book in advance as it’s (unsurprisingly) super busy

——————

There are many music / outdoor / cinematic events and so on happening throughout the year; if you really want to research the stay to death (but I think this article will keep you more than busy and you won’t miss any of the best bits) try:

Time Out Zagreb Visitors Guide for the year (50HRK – available at bookshops in Zagreb)

Spotted by Locals – a downloadable guide (www.spottedbylocals.com/zagreb)

Shopping inspiration #6

#1 Anthropologie shower curtain. Beautiful.

26862631_004_b-1

#2 Rockett St George online emporium has some great stuff. These angel wings hoop earrings, for example

angel-wings-hoop-earrings-14775-p

#3 Alice Palace cards. Like any self-respecting Brit, I’m big on sending cards, despite the advent of the cyberspace age. Thank you cards, birthday cards, anniversary cards, congratulations cards, you name it, I send it. And there’s literally NO better place to buy them than from here. I’ve been a fan for years, especially of the animal ones (no change there then) and the city ones (London, Oxford, Windsor, Brighton, Bournemouth, Cardiff) which are particularly stylish. Reasonably priced, great quality, and very original.

ap_500x500_ap343_mediumap_500x500_ap336_medium500x500_AP475_mediumalicepalace_AP136_Spontaneity_2_medium

#4 Peacock Screen. Gorgeous.

I_168894210_01_20120814

#5 Rory Dobner ceramic tiles

2-rory-dobner-number-art-ceramic-tile-6515-p[ekm]233x349[ekm]

 

Amendment to the Dress Edit (Ode to Liz)

Somebody rather stylish pointed out to me that not many of these dresses (which I picked out to be worn to weddings) from my recent post (The Dress Edit) would suit well endowed ladies. And she was absolutely right. The fact that I have the DNA of a plank clearly makes me predisposed to picking styles which do not require substantial boobs – apologies. Now I’m afraid those of you who this will interest might just have to spend a little more as cheaper cuts are not quite as forgiving on womanly figures. A few tips for those lucky enough to have large bosoms:
  • try not to have your sleeves stop in line with your boobs as that will give the illusion of more width. Sleeveless or capped sleeves  if you can get away with them, or longer 3/4 sleeves will work better for you
  • slimmer / fitted sleeves will work well (they will keep the upper half neater)
  • avoid any extra material on your top half, you don’t want to look ‘blousey’. Generally, body skimming, good cuts and quality, fabrics with slightly more weight to them (ie not flimsy) and a bit of give will look best
  • wear a great bra
  • if you have a waist, accentuate it
  • be careful with pattern and print, you don’t want to achieve the Pat Butcher effect. Probably safest to avoid animal prints unless you can really rock it, in which case, do!
  • show off your decolletage if it’s in good nick, if not, keep the neckline slightly higher up
  • check for gaping
  • don’t show cleavage if your boobs are droopy, or bolster them so they’re not
  • try daring cuts for special occasions (think Marilyn Monroe) but be careful not to cross the line into tarty
  • generally, some sort of v or shirt collar neck will suit you best, unless you want to go for a retro busty milkmaid vibe (probably not recommendable) or a Dangerous Liaisons look (quite hard to pull off unless you’re going to a ball or a fancy dress party)
  • try well cut cowl necks for an expensive and sophisticated look (think Nigella)
  • avoid looking slutty or matronly and instead aim for fabulous, stylish and sexy
Here are some dresses I found that technically should work. You could try strapless dresses (Ted Baker have some in ‘nice’ summery prints) but I haven’t included any here as my personal opinion is that they look too bridesmaid-y. After having a scout around online, it seems there are some ‘specialist’ options, but none of them have great reviews. Can anyone recommend any good brands which work for larger chested ladies so I can share your intel with the rest of the vast Nomad Thief readership?
This is a classic shape which should work well
J1BN9_model
An interesting and pretty print for a wedding, and I’d hazard a guess that the fabric’s quite nice too
Planet, £129
I_180310630_50_20130109
(Apologies for the small picture!) A great quirky dress (it’s not so easy to find a print / colour scheme which is not twee) which was brought to my attention by my v stylish friend M. She’s a plank too, and the dress looks good for giving the illusion of curves – but I think it would be pretty great on any body shape
Whistles, £165
00401476825_fco
Okay so the shiny fabric isn’t so great, and she’s not doing herself any favours in those awful flip-flops, but you get the idea. Subtle, foxy cleavage, and hip skimming-ness.
 J1LI9_model
Interesting print and nice if you want to go colourful
Planet, £99
I_180584700_50_20130207
Okay so it’s a little bit K-Mid, but the no fussiness of the block colour and the fitted sleeves are going to work
Ralph Lauren, now £82.50 (XS, M & L currently still available)
I_171809949_00_20120830
Remember, we’re looking for dresses to wear to a wedding. This could look nicely va va voom with great accessories
I_179205482_50_20130326
Safe, and a nice, but not too twee print
I_5052999750317_00_20120926
Not a big fan of red and black together (old school uniform colours) but for those of you that are
202216985_1
For those of you who want a 50s look, try to find something with a little more structure around the boobs and waist, like this:
bp-pd160mufs-small
186-3001349-PR13HK01MUMDS01_REDMUMBAI_M
186-3001349-PR13HK01MUMDS01_REDMUMBAI_ALT01
This could look great on someone with enough height to carry it off, boobs or no boobs. I know I advised no ruffles or unnecessary detail but I think this doesn’t go overboard and could look great. Of course it’s desperately unhelpful trying to see what these dresses would look like on a not-size-10 model, but use your imagination
71IE9_model
Last but not least, a nice top half silhouette with a foxy pencil skirt bottom
Alexon, £150
I_180995799_50_20130117
xx Nomad Thief

The dress edit

Wedding season is fast approaching, so I thought it would be useful if I trawled around for some nice, high street dresses. Am shocked at how many awful ones there are out there to be honest, so be careful. And styling is all important so please think about your shoes and bag and jewellery – and factor them into your budget (or organise to borrow) – those things can ruin even the best dress, or elevate a mediocre one to levels of greatness. Also, don’t buy tight thinking you’ll lose weight before the event, chances are that you won’t, and wearing a size that’s slightly looser will be much more forgiving than squeezing yourself in and not being able to breathe all day. Play to your strengths. If you have great arms, show them off! If you’re carrying extra baby weight but have great boobs, show them off! Great colouring? Showcase it with some daring colours and prints! Talking of colour, and weddings tend to bring out a lot of it, try to be a little unpredictable – be inspired by the Dulux colour mixes adverts. Or try using all different tones of the same colour from the palest primrose through to rich daffodil yellow. Next point to note: avoid anything that might make you look like a bride, or a bridesmaid. To this end please, please avoid Coast.

It’s a nice time to do something out of character – everyone will be dressed up so you’re less likely to feel silly. If you’re not usually ‘girly’ why not go all out and surprise everyone? If you’re just not a dress person, try a jumpsuit, or some sort of silky separates look – but don’t go too casual – there’s nothing worse than spending all day feeling like you’ve made a lame effort. Try luxe neutrals (think wide legged palazzo pants and a silk blouse, with classy jewellery) which can look very sophisticated. I like to wear all black to weddings, it can stand out in the sea of pastels and colour and looks striking and smart in the summer. But the jury’s out on whether all black is ‘allowed’ at a wedding. Hope the dress edit saves you some time.

xx Nomad Thief aka the Wicked Fairy Godmother

Style it: pale grey sandal boots and a chunky bracelet, picking out colour/s from the dress. Need to wear a hat? a plain pillbox one is the only thing that would work
I_178198137_00_20130208
Zara dress, £79.99
Style it: not with such clumpy shoes as shown – keep it pretty and light. If you need to wear a hat, then wear a floppy wide brimmed one. Or just put some flowers (real ones) in your hair and keep with a bohemian theme
2246775400_1_1_3
Style it: pretty, discreet, bohemian jewellery, strappy sandals or ornamental ballerina flats, and a tan. Don’t think this is a dress that will work if you need to wear a hat, it’s more of a flowers-in-your-hair / daisy chain round your head type dress
I_164934212_50_20120112
Style it: ethnic chunky jewellery, a bohemian, long-strapped bag, and strappy wedges. Need to wear a hat? Again, a floppy wide-brimmed one is best with this. And BIG retro sunglasses
I_182955402_00_20130315
Style it: grey or palest lilac accessories. No hat, but some weird little round glasses would do. Channel a Courtney Love vibe and don’t give a rat’s ass if the dress length is inappropriate for a wedding
633449_main-2
Style it: that’s the beauty of it, you can’t go far wrong
862472
Style it: comfortable but stylish wedges, if you’re very pregnant
DR068
Style it: flats for comfort
DR181
Style it: something other than black (you don’t want to look like a bumble bee). Actually, to be honest, am at a bit of a loss as to how to style this one
2324840300_1_1_3-1
Style it: classy heels and great hair
I_174414361_00_20130118-1
Style it: an upper arm bangle, or an armful of various roman/grecian style bangles and some pretty gladiator sandals. An elaborate plaited updo with some soft goldy / metallic bits stuck in would look best with this
I_176770917_00_20130308
Style it: pretty shoes and pretty earrings. And a fascinator, much as I despise them
31z-BuL7hPL._SX85_SH35_41rjLLDrHXL._SX85_SH35_
Style it: simple stilettos, a green clutch, a neat green pillbox if you like – and go easy on the jewellery (and lipstick) to avoid looking twee (a heinous crime)
I_176485732_00_20130117
Style it: cream accessories with maybe a pop of red (lipstick?) for a chic, gallic feel. Get a navy hat with a bit of a veil for an even more chic / cute look. Or some sort of summer cloche could look great with it
Loving-Crochet-Flared-Dress
Style it: a Chanel style smart black bag and stylish platformed courts. Hat? Go extravagantly large and 80s
81440364_VT
Style it: killer pins and attitude. Keep it simple – high peep-toed courts, a bangle and a plain clutch. No hat but maybe an oversized flower in your hair, or red lipstick like the lady in the picture – you need something to pull peoples eyes up to your face
102DQ02108.jpg
Style it: minimal jewellery and ideally, no bag – the dress does all the talking. Hat? No – do yourself an updo and stick some chopsticks through it
202075000_1
Style it: stilettos (red, pink or green) for a 50s feel. Or peep-toed courts. Again – if you need a hat: pillbox
201970000_1
Style it: solid cream / off white would go with with this, little gloves and a pillbox hat would set it off nicely. Or a cute ‘formal’ turban
202051724_1
Style it: platform courts and no jewellery
202093700_1
Style it: a long string of pearls and a black and cream squareish shaped long strapped shoulder bag. A straw cloche might look good with this. I said might
83440550_02-83620040_ND-86601067_ND
Style it: hair up and statement earrings, little else. Strappy wedges to give height for maximum impact. No hat but if you want to go the whole hog wear your hair up in a gold turban
81423554_MO-2

Belgrade

med quality med size

I like Belgrade. I like that it’s colourful and urban and shabby and cool somehow, ugly and scruffy and noisy. I like that the dogs are naughty and numerous and not as a rule pedigrees. And I like that at the same time as it’s very no frills, it has a certain grandeur.

Belgrade is a big city and the initial impression is that it’s hectic, messy, traffic-y. But you just have to find the little tree heavy backstreets and the huge ‘central park’ and you might just fall in love with it. It’s a shabby, arty, interesting, lively, relaxed, live and let live kind of city now, where people like to eat. That there’s poverty is evident, but you get that in any big city. I like the juxtaposition of visually extremely interesting (imposing, in your face and ugly sometimes yes) buildings and the smattering of discreet ground level posh shops, the graffiti (more like wall art actually), the fact that the pavements are in many places erupting with tree roots. The prevalent dog poo, the same kind of down at heel grandeur as San Telmo, Buenos Aires.

Orientate yourself by finding the main, wide, pedestrian street Knez Mihailova where you have a lot of mainstream shops like Zara, Diesel, Adidas as well as pavement cafes – it has a definite ‘ramblas’ vibe to it. Just below the left end of this street is a huge statue of a horse, and at the far right end of it, over the road and tram tracks, is the ‘central park’ I mentioned, Kalemegdan. It’s built around a fortress and they put on concerts at the base (we saw poor tragic Amy Winehouse here in the last concert before she died). Kalemegdan gives you a feeling of space, it has a great view over the city beneath, and the river. It’s a conker collecting, dog walking, elderly people gathering, souvenir buying, bench sitting, initials scratching, city watching, lovers smooching, cigarette smoking, females gossiping, kids playing kind of park. A park with soul, a park for all.

Walk down the hill from Knez Mihailova to Jovanova and Strahinjica bana and you’ll find some great restaurants and cafes – one particularly cool one at any time of day is Supermarket, another is Homa. Homa restaurant’s food is out of this world and not to be missed. In fact, if you’re a meat eater, I’d say that Belgrade is worth the trip just for the food. Taxis you can just hail off the street like in London – but they’re quite different beasts; beasts being a misnomer here (don’t expect to travel in luxury or particular safety – it’s more of a Flintstones vibe) but (assuming of course that you’re not fussy about comfort or safety) they’re perfectly serviceable, and cheap. And if it’s nightlife you’re after, Belgrade’s got it. But I’ll save that for a second Belgrade post, once I’ve summoned up some energy and inclination to explore it…. anyway there’s loads more to say than the above about Belgrade.

Best place to stay? Square Nine hotel with its great 50s style lobby.