I have to admit that once I got back to my hotel, the thought of having to re-bundle up and leave my hotel room seemed too difficult. I mean, it was cold outside and as much fun as it is to stand in the cold, I wasn’t sure that was what I wanted to do with my life. Plus, I know that I have a tendency to play it safe, but I really wasn’t sure I wanted to go wandering away from my hotel by myself at midnight to find the fireworks and then go back to my hotel. I know that I did it in Stockholm, but I was significantly closer to city center than I was in Zagreb so I definitely felt more comfortable wandering that late at night.
As I got cozy in my room, I flipped on the TV to see if I could find any channels that would be hosting the fireworks from the main square. Since it was still relatively early, I didn’t find anything immediately but around 8PM, the fireworks started outside my window and I realized that I might actually be able to still see a show without leaving my room.
You see, my room was on the 10th floor of my hotel and it looked out over the rest of the city away from the city center. My window had a full 180 degree view of the rest of the city which was awesome to see in the day and even better to see on new year’s eve which was a fun surprise. Around 10PM more fireworks started going off all around the city and by the time midnight appeared, the entire skyline from my window lit up with fireworks.
Apparently the city allows people to light their own fireworks and they have multiple shows. While I wasn’t able to see the biggest show in Zagreb, I got to stand in my window and watch the entire city lit up with fireworks as far as the eye could see. It was a solid 20 minutes of fireworks over the entire city and it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
Honestly, even though I did not get to partake in the festivities, I think that my way of ringing in 2018 was the best way possible for me. I was warm, in some sweats and could just stare at the fireworks without having to worry about finding my way home afterwards. It was so surreal and beautiful to see from my hotel room.
When the fireworks were done, I tucked myself into bed and fell asleep in preparation for my flight to Dubrovnik.
After turning around from the last Christmas market, I decided to look for somewhere to eat. I started walking around and all the places were packed and super loud in the city center so I decided to find a grocery store where I could buy food to bring back to my hotel room. I eventually stumbled upon a corner store and went looking for a sandwich or something but they didn’t have any pre-made meals that I could bring with me so I had to give up on that search. I decided to continue walking into the city center/main square and that’s when I heard music. So I made my way to the main square and saw that they had a live performance happening on the main stage. Turns out they had planned a bunch of live performances to ring in 2018. So I hung out in the square for a bit and watched the musical performance. Granted, I didn’t know the band and to be honest I couldn’t understand them since they were singing in Croatian but it was still awesome. Plus that main square is a great place to people watch, especially with the great weather and the Christmas markets surrounding the square.
After observing people and listening to some great music, I decided that I needed to continue my hunt for food. I had definitely eaten quite a bit of street food at this point in time and so I wasn’t sure I wanted to eat more street vendor food. I ended up going to a small fast food place that was packed full of people. I decided to get a sandwich and a hot chocolate and sit in the window of the restaurant watching people. Luckily this place was just at the end of the main city center and so I could see people walking around but I was away from the hustle and bustle of the main square. The sandwich was plain but delicious and exactly what I needed, nothing fancy. The hot chocolate was so thick that it might as well have been slightly more liquid chocolate pudding. I’m not entirely sure why their hot chocolate is so quick but it is delicious. Just be prepared to eat it with a spoon.
I decided to sit there and read for a bit while enjoying my liquid pudding. Eventually I got to a point where I needed to head out because the restaurant was getting way too crowded and there were people everywhere. It was getting late in the day and I wanted to get back to my hotel by dark. To be honest, given that I was in a city I didn’t really know and the parties were about to start, I wanted to get back to my hotel with some time to chill before venturing back out to catch the new year’s eve fireworks.
I recently received the best gift I have ever received in my entire life. As you might remember, I had a goal of hitting 30 countries by the time I hit my 30th birthday and as a gift, my friends created a book of every single one of the countries I’ve been to. The book is basically a photo album of some of the best pictures I have taken, some pictures my friends have taken and all in chronological order over the last 12 years.
When I opened up the book for the first time, I started sobbing. Not just because someone had given me a book but because it was the sweetest thing that I have ever received. This book took months of creeping on all of my social media and reaching out to a bunch of my friends that I’ve traveled with to collect each and every photo. While I know that I can always look back on my Instagram or my Facebook to see each and every one of my photos, or I can sit and reflect on all my adventures – none of those really provide an incredibly succinct way to document my adventures. This obviously is because of the fact that I haven’t been good about posting everything in a super consumable way until this book showed up. It was the most wonderful present ever.
But it’s not just because of my travel photos. My friends had also written some super sweet and amazing messages in the back of the book.
When I opened up the book at the party, I started sobbing and I didn’t end up reading the messages until I got home. And when I got home, I took some time to just sit down and just consume everything that my friends had done and said over the evening. It was the most amazing thing I have ever experienced.
I always forget just how wonderful my friends are and how lucky I am to have met such amazing people in my life. And this was a great reminder for me just how lucky I am to have met some great people. As I sit writing this, I am still at a loss for words on how I can describe how I feel about each and every person in my life. I don’t know if I will ever have the words to really describe how much they mean to me and how much I love each and every single person in my life.
When I emerged from the tunnel, I found myself at a park across the street. It was a giant park that basically sat in the middle of the city and there was another Christmas Market. This one had the same tents but at the very center of the market was a tall white gazebo that had a stage where local bands were playing. This market looked very similar to the rest of the Christmas markets that I had walked through but it had a very different vibe than the original one. This one felt like I had taken step back in time and found a cute farmers market that was holiday themed. The roads around the market were significantly more quiet and it felt more secluded since there were trees all around the park.
After making my way through this market, I continued down the sidewalk checking out what the city had to offer. And while I was walking, I came upon yet another Christmas Market. This one was drastically different than all the other ones because it was included kid activities along with some sponsored items. There was a carousel, a bunch of photo booth items, and…. the Iron Throne from Game of Thrones (obviously a replica) but there was a whole HBO booth available for people to do photo ops. It was impressive. This one was interesting because it was definitely more up to date and had hashtags and social media related activities. This one was not as interesting to me so I decided to do a quick walk through and then continue on my journey.
I continued down my path and ended up at King Tomislov Square which had an ice park! There’s a giant pond in the middle of this square and they created an ice rink around the pond and people are able to skate around it. It was honestly the most beautiful day to be sitting out there watching people skate around the park while the sun was shining. I decided to chill there for a little bit and ordered some Croatian fritule that basically looks like fried donut holes. They’re super light, fluffy, a little crispy on the outside and absolutely delicious. I opted to have chocolate syrup drizzled over the top of my fritule and sat down with my cup and excessively large toothpick on some stairs and watched the ice skaters. Yes it sounds a little creepy that I was just people watching, but it was such a beautiful day and it was such a great location for people watching. When I finished my fried dough, I decided it was time to start wandering again.
As it turns out the end of that specific park brought me to the end of the main road where the train tracks turned around so I decided to turn around with the train. And as I was walking, I found a sign for a secret garden so I decided to check it out. Guess what I found in the secret garden? Yet another Christmas market. It was created by the museum in that area and incorporated some ancient ruins. This market was still very quiet by the time I got there because it was still relatively early in the morning. This one was a little lackluster but it was really pretty to see. I wandered it really quickly and decided that it was time to go find more food.
I get made fun of a lot because I eat a lot of food and I don’t know how to cook. What I’ve realized is that I’m terribly impatient when it comes to eating and that mixed with my inability to really plan ahead means that cooking is an excessively difficult task for me. When I get hungry, my emotional IQ kicks in and I am not able to really control my cravings. I’ve noticed that when I start getting hungry, I don’t have the patience to wait for the food to actually cook and I start eating all of the food as ingredients rather than an actual dish itself. So that being said, I have decided to test out some simple recipes that don’t take a lot of thinking or prep to see if there’s something that will get me more into cooking. Here are a few things hat have worked for me:
Williams Sonoma quick bread: I have never actually made bread on my own but this quick bread mix is amazing and if you want good delicious bread, check these out. You can make quite a decent amount of bread with just the mix, two eggs, some milk and a loaf pan. Plus the actual mixing of everything only takes about 5 minutes and then it’s just waiting for it to bake in the oven.
Chia seed pudding: I had this delicious chia seed pudding with fruit compote in San Francisco and decided that I wanted to try and make it myself. Let’s be honest, I haven’t tried to make fruit compote yet but the chia seed pudding was significantly easier than I thought it would be. All you do is add milk to chia seeds and then let it sit for awhile (over 12 hours preferably).
Jalapeno cream cheese wontons: I like putting cream cheese, jalapenos and chopped spinach in a wonton wrapper and then baking it. Super easy, super delicious and totally worth the prep work which is maybe about 5 minutes of making and then putting the mixture in a wonton wrapper.
Home meal kits: You can try Blue Apron, Hello Fresh or even the Amazon ones. Personally the Blue Apron and Hello Fresh ones take a lot longer to prep for me and that is rough for me but knowing that I have all everything all laid out for me really helps with putting stuff together. Let’s be honest, it still takes an absurd amount of self control to handle making those but at least I have a full end goal in mind.
Bibigo Kimchi Stew: I love soondubu and I love Kimchi. This was the best discovery for me because it’s super easy to make, takes only a few minutes and you can just put it over rice. It’s amazing and delicious. I’ve decided that these fancy kits are totally the best creations.
Top Ramen noodles as a base: I love using the top ramen noodles as a good base for my meals. I usually add various vegetables and eggs to my top ramen so that it makes me feel healthier.
Prepackaged quinoa and rice bowls: These bowls are great, and I was able to find quite a few good deals at Costco that saves me the time of having to fully prep the bases for my meals. In addition, it helps with the portion control so I’m not stuck eating the same thing every day for a week.
Salmon patties: The salmon burger patties from Costco are a game changer. You can just take a few out, put them on a cookie sheet, add a few seasonings or even just a little bit of pepper and then let it bake for 10 minutes on each side and you’re done! Protein for all your meals.
Do you have any tips or tricks for easy foods to cook or work with to help minimize prep time? I’m always on the lookout for new options.
Although I knew that Zagreb loves their Christmas Markets and I had stumbled upon two of them, one on the hill and one in the city center, I wasn’t entirely prepared for the rest of the Christmas Markets I ended up seeing as I continued to wander. When I finally came out of the neighborhoods and started walking through the city, I decided to walk away from the mountain where I had been chilling. And incorporated into all of the buildings were more and more holiday decorations and Christmas Markets.
The first one I checked out was the one in City Center. This was by far the largest Christmas Market I found in the city. It covered the main town square and all around the perimeter of the square were white tents where people were serving mulled wine, beer, and various types of food. They had fake trees set up covered in fake snow and various decorations like sleighs and presents to help create the feeling of a winter wonderland. Granted, it was hard to pretend you were in the middle of a winter wonderland with the excessive sun, blue skies and buildings everywhere but it was a great attempt. In addition to the various tents, there was a stage at the edge of the market where they had musical guests on New Year’s Eve for the day and to welcome in 2018.
After checking out the markets surrounding the main square, I made my way down one of the major roads connecting to the main square and continued walking past the remainder of the tents. I was hungry at this point so I stopped and grabbed myself a hot dog and continued on my way through the city. One thing that’s awesome about these food vendors is that there are so many various options and each tent has a little table area where you can stand and eat your food while enjoying the sights.
As I continued walking down through the rest of the city, I kept my eyes open for anything new and interesting to check out and that’s when I spotted yet another hidden tunnel within the buildings. There was a tunnel through one of the buildings that led it to another parallel street and the entire tunnel was black except for a white twigs covered in twinkle lights. It was the most wonderful thing I had ever seen. It was like a little escape from the city in the center of the city. As I walked through the tunnel, it was pitch black except for the lights, it was silent and you could barely hear the street noises as soon as you hit the center and there was only one store entrance in there. It was such a great hidden treasure within the city.
Once I go to the other side, I continued walking down the new street on the outside of the city center and continued my Christmas Market journey.