Babs and I spent 1 night in Zagreb at the start of August, as a transit point between Dubrovnik and Prague. We spent 1 day exploring Upper Town -- made up of the historical clerical distrct called Kaptol, and the merchant and tradesman stronghold called Gradec -- and the next day wandering the parks and government monuments of Lower Town.
Smack in the middle of it all, up the steps from Ban Jelacic Square, was my favourite part of the city -- Dolac Market, where we bought and made lunch on both days for less than €4 per person.
Dolac Market was built between 1926 and 1930, when city authorities decided to level an inner city slum and replace it with a destination more palatable to visitors' eyes. The market is currently open from 6am - 2pm each day, and until 3pm on Saturdays.
Its centrepiece is an armada of red-and-white striped umbrellas sheltering fruit, vegetable and local craft vendors. On the far side of the square is a stairway and elevator that leads you down to 2 covered storeys of meat and cheese vendors.
The market square is ringed with cafes and bars, where you can perch and watch the grazing and haggling action, or better yet, grab a borek (cheese, spinach or meat-stuffed filo) and kava to line your stomach and clear your head sufficiently, then wade into the thick of it yourself.
We did just fall off the overnight bus from Dubrovnik, but geez, the old women around here look like they're made pretty much of the same stuff as the statue above. So, bleary-eyed schmleary-eyed! Stiff upper lip, chug another double expresso, and in we go...
Turns out, the kaleiscope of colours will jolt you awake anyway. Given it was the height of summer at the the time, there was an explosion of berries. A new find for me were these pretty yellow raspberries.
I'd seen curiously shaped pettipans in UK farmers markets before, but never ones of this muffin shape. Anyone know if they grow this way naturally, or if they are forced into this shape? (A long time ago as a cub reporter I covered a story on the Japanese growing cube-shaped watermelons in a bid for easier transport. Each baby watermelon would be placed in a box, and the box would be replaced with a larger one as the melon grew. I don't get the sense the idea caught on, given the amount of faff required.)
Another first for me -- these gorgeous beans of varying shades and speckles of purple, freshly shelled by stallholders. You'd think they were jellybellys!
On to the indoor meat section one floor below. I felt my arteries clog just at the sight of this shelf full of pork crackling (this photo's for you Jas!)
There were smoked meats and sausages everywhere, from different animals, using different spice blends, from different makers and regions.
And just in case you had a hankering for something different from all that was on offer, there was a stall that sold sausage casings and nettings for you to make your own at home.
And now to the cheese wing. If you hear a lot of "Sir" this and "Sir" that around here, it's not that these vendors are extra formal. Sir is the local word for cheese. The local make seems to be a mild, salty and sometimes curdy cross between ricotta and mozzerella, made simply in plastic bowls. Some had been smoked for a stronger taste. I was especially amused by the cheese cones. Sadly, these were mostly targeted at local home-based buyers and we weren't able to buy a small tourist-sized portion (or maybe we just lost too much in translation...).
We got a good taste of the goods however, as many stallholders were keen to show off their wares and give us a sample to nibble on. Hvala ti, ladies!
The fishmongers had their own off-shoot building. The range wasn't anything to scream about, but I was amused by this helmet-sized tuna head. Also, we saw some of the skarpina we had at Restaurant Lindo in Dubrovnik, in their original state. Very pretty.
On top of providing hours of entertainment, local markets are a great way to very eat well on a tight budget. We could barely eat or drink anything else after this 1.5kg slice of watermelon, bought for ~€1. The plums and blueberries would have to wait, but there might just be enough room for that half of a rotisserie chicken...