Anyone who regularly reads our blog know that many of us are drawn to markets, whether it is an antique flea market in Paris, an outdoor mercado in Texas, or the ubiquitous farmer’s markets that appear in many European cities. So naturally, Elaine and I found the market, called the Dolac, in old town Zagreb.
Living in Houston, with its numerous ethnic neighborhoods and the Fiesta Marts that cater to the large immigrant and Hispanic populations, the 99 Ranch Asian markets (which sometimes have English translations!) , and abundant local seafood and produce, I still tend to shop at my neighborhood stores. I enjoy the markets in Europe as much for the cultural insight as for the food and flowers. Seeing what other people grow and eat can tell you a lot about the place you are visiting.
In Istria, as in most places, you find fruits and vegetables, but I was pulled to the beautiful golden-hued bottles of honey and oils. I’m not an expert on olive oils, but I know enough to discern the spicy peppery flavor which predominated over the more fruity-floral oils I’ve tasted elsewhere. However, I was in search of truffles. Alas, the TSA conspires to keep you from bringing home bottles for all of your friends unless you want to check luggage, so I settled on small bottles of truffle oils and tiny jars of local honey.
While I was sticking my head into the bouquets of rosemary and basil, Elaine found fresh fruit. We gorged on blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries, stirred them into our yogurt and, given one more day, would have been getting drunk on fermented fruit.
We noticed many people walking around and eating their meals directly out of small paper wrappers, and finally determined that every corner featured a bakery that sold pizza. Where you might see Americans with a hamburger or a taco, the Croatians here love pizza. In the market, Elaine tried one. You are served a large slice which folded in half, and bagged, so you can eat one-handed and mess free. The breads were equally wonderful.
I’m not a squeamish person by nature, but I am a bit weird about fish and ‘strange and slimy-looking unidentified sea creatures’. I’ll eat nearly anything, but I don’t like to be introduced to it beforehand. But I do like to look at fish markets.
Our last day in Zagreb coincided with what I would call a ‘health fair’ in mixed company, and a ‘mumbo-jumbo alternative medicine hippie woo-fest’ around my skeptic/critical thinking gang. The main pavilion in town, the Ban Jelačić Square, featured bee pollen, natural herbs for curing everything that ails you, raw foods, and the like.
To be fair, almost everything was written only in Croatian, but enough people tried to sell us magic elixirs that would cure acne, baldness, aches, pains, cancer, and your love life, that we figured it out.
(Note: The contributing bloggers here all became friends though a variety of skepticism organizations. We generally have the same view of alt “med” but it’s not necessarily the viewpoints of all of our friends and fellow travelers. YMMV) The contrast between the old markets with the butcher shop, bakeries, and (somewhat stinky) fish markets, and the younger crowds perusing the organic honey and soy ice creams (I KNOW!) shows how Croatia is blending its ancient past, recent wars, and optimistic future. Elaine and I loved this place.
- Zagreb – Dolac (klojekikiriki.wordpress.com)
- Coffee in Croatia (twodifferentgirls.com)
- Slovenia : The beauty of the open road (cactuschild.wordpress.com)