grey marble

November 10, 2010

From city to castle and back again

I took a bus to Varazdin and another to the Trakoscan castle. The bus wound its way through small villages and vineyards and I gazed out the window at the passing scene. Yesterday, after leaving Bianca, I walked through the Trg Petira Preradovica to the Trg Marsala Tita (pausing at Vincek for an ice cream) en route to the Museum Mimara. As I passed the Croatian National Theater I could hear a tenor practicing scales from an open window atop the building. The walk reminded me of St. Petersburg, and I was suddenly nostalgic for that city and the Hermitage. In my mind, I vowed to return.

The Mimara was modest but engaging, and I spent the rest of the suddenly rainy afternoon there amongst the art.

Trakoscan castle proved to be a complete surprise. The bus left me at its base and I stared up at it perched on a hill lording over the valley below. I could only compare it to castles I had seen in Japan, and the approach up a stone path through the forest grounds reminded me of a similar approach to Matsuyama-jo, the highest castle in Japan.

I made my way through the rooms and exhibits before returning to the base of the hill. A small lake rested in the shadow of the castle and I began circumambulating it before realizing the path was longer than I had anticipated. From everywhere were amazing views of the castle, perfectly reflected in the still water.

Back in Zagreb, I made arrangements to meet with Ana, a friend of a friend from New York. We met on the steps leading to Dolac. She told me that usually they would take out-of-town guests to Japanese food. I asked her what our other options were. She suggested a member's club that served home-cooked meals. She told me it was favorite haunt of our mutual friend when she lived in Zagreb, and I readily agreed to try it.

She told me it was ostensibly a club for writers. I asked if she was a member and she said no, her father was. I asked if he was a writer. No, she told me. He deals yachts.

The restaurant had the cozy feel of someone's living room. We feasted on squid ink risotto and aprivate label wine made by the club. To start, I had a sald of some of the best arugula I have ever tasted with cherry tomatoes. One of Ana's friends stopped by for a glass of wine and they set upon revising my itinerary. Ana called various friends for advice and when she asked one to compare Hvar with Rab told her it was like comparing champagne and caviar to dirt. I immediately dropped one place for the other.

Eight minutes to 11, the waitress handed us the bill. They were trying to close up, but we ordered dessert and ate quickly. At 11 everyone was ushered to the door. Ana asked if I'd like a drink, and she took me to a small bar on the corner of Tkalciceva and Skalinska for rakija, a local brandy.

A large group was standing outside drinking and she greeted them as we approached. You know everyone, I exclaimed. It's a small city, she replied. Her friends had been to a jazz concert, part of Zagreb's jazz festival. The night before, Ana had gone to hear Evgeny Kissen. I told her I had thought of trzing to get tickets but the rain kept me from walking to the theater. She said I should have called her. One nice thing about Zagreb being a small town, she told me, is that if you know someone, they can usually get one in for free. One of her friends was in charge of selling CDs at the concert, she arrived with the shipments.

Ana ordered the rakija, explaining the different types that were available. The one we had was infused with a plant that, if eaten in too-large quantities could kill. We toasted each other's health with our glasses raised, and then toasted again to sharing another meal somewhere in the world.

Posted by eku at November 10, 2010 4:26 PM

Recent Entries