Thursday, January 24, 2013

Christmas in Zagreb

So I know this post comes a little late since Christmas was last month, but maybe it will cheer up some of you that are already missing the holidays. Christmas in the U.S. is definitely a spectacle with all the commercials that start in October, the crazy shopping in November, and all the hassle when those of use that live 1000 miles from home try to travel back. In Europe, or at least in the Catholic countries of in my current area, it appears to be more about getting together with friends and family and taking sometime to enjoy a drink and a snack. In Zagreb, the season was kicked off with the lighting of the Christmas decorations. Since I live in the center, I had these decoration virtually everywhere I went, which was great. It also meant that I began noticing their appearance in early November and waited for what seemed like weeks for them to be turned on. I may be biased because it's my neighborhood, but my favorite were these big read globes that they put up between the houses of my street. Perhaps I just liked them because it made the walk up this hill a bit more pleasant. The lights came on on December 1st so I spent the evening walking around with Amy and Jenn and enjoying the sights. 

Above is my street, Radićeva, with the red Christmas Balls. While we see decorations similar to this in the USA, in Zagreb the season emphasizes Advent and yes, it's more than just a calendar filled with mini chocolates to count down to Christmas. This year Advent started on December 2nd because it is the 4 Sundays before Christmas. In Zagreb, there are plenty of activities planned including Christmas markets, concerts, and special exhibits in the city museums. I experienced very few of these things, mostly on account of trying to get my work done, spending too much time in the wine tent (see below), and going to hockey games. However, you can check out Zagreb's advent program at this website it also includes an English page (click the British flag on the right hand side). 

This photo is a side street right off Cvjetni Trg, or the flower square. This square has a lot of flower vendors but more important, it also has the H&M and my main grocery store. Red, white, and blue are the national colors of Croatia, but we Americans like them too!

Also all of the main streets had these white lights. This street is just of the main square and the trees have the blue lights. This is a also a good photo of the trams in Zagreb (at least the newer ones). The picture below is of  the main square and the wine tent. The wine tent opened before the lights turned on and quickly became on of our favorite spots to hang out. Inside is a stage for live music, plenty of mulled wine (both white and red), beer, and a good variety of hot sausages for a snack.

On the first night before Advent we stopped in the tent after perusing the lighted streets and the markets. It was a bit early so we were nice and comfortable but the tent quickly filled to the point where we couldn't get out, even if we wanted to. Turns out the band that was playing is pretty famous in this part of the world. We enjoying actually being able to understand some of the lyrics as our understanding of Croatian has improved significantly over the past few months. After doing a bit of research the next day, I learned the band is called BOA. You can learn a little more about them on Wikipedia if you google searc, unfortunately this is the only sight where information is in English.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Dolac: My Neighborhood Market

So instead of trying to write about things I've done (when I've done them), I've decided to just start blogging about daily life in this city. I'm positive I will still write some posts about various events and outings, but I haven't been very good at keeping up with that-so this is my alternative. Today I'd like to tell you about the Dolac. This is an open air market for fruits and vegetables located above an indoor market for meat, eggs, and dairy.  The modern market has been open since 1930 (I think,my source is a tourist brochure in Croatian*). It is one of several markets located around the city where merchants sell produce that is both homegrown and imported and deliver fresh meat. I usually buy all my produce and most of my meat here.I'm still nervous about shopping at the butcher stands for beef and pork since I don't know how to order what I need. I shop about twice a week and find the prices are basically the same as the grocery store, but I feel like I'm actually participating in Zagreb life by going it's closer to my apartment than the store. 

Here is a picture of the open air section of the market as I approach it from my place. It's not the best photo it, so I might update this if I can get another one. Under the arc you can see the big square where the vendors have their tables and all the people milling about. 

This is a typical stand. Here you can see they are selling citrus fruits on one the left side  (homegrown clementines are the best now) and various leaf and root vegetables on the right. 

This is the view from the stairs in the underside of the market where all the meat is sold. 

Typical butcher stand. I've noticed that they each tend to focus on one type of meat: pork, beef, poultry, but many stands offer their own sausages. 

This is where I buy all my chicken. I took this photo on a Saturday, when it is really busy. 

 I get my eggs at this stand. The eggs here are amazing and have the brightest yokes. I don't think I can ever go back to eating egg whites again. 

This is a photo of my typical purchase at the market. I always get some kind of chicken, although this was my first time buying a whole chicken to bake. I also have a few oranges, lemons, zucchini, carrots, onion, garlic  fresh parsley, potatoes, and 10 eggs. Usually a trip of this size cost around 80 kuna ($14), but the sausages costs a little more. I'm slow in my understanding of the language so I accidently ended up with more than I had anticipated. They are sold in pairs, so when I asked for two, I actually got four but I didn't mind. I shared half of them with Amy. Every time I make a "new" purchase at the market, I learn a bit more of the language and figure out how to get what I need. This week my new purchase was mushrooms so I learned about how many grams (roughly 300) I should buy at one time. Small victories are making life here a bit easier every day.