We arrived in Zagreb on Tuesday August 29. The train ride from Split was by far the most enjoyable train ride we took in Europe. (It was cloudy climbing into Zurich) Joan was a little concerned about our accommodations. Just like the apartment in Split; it was just across from the train station (easier to get to with backpacks). The Split apartment seemed to have been built at one time to house the workers on the rail line. It was fine, but it was just that: a place for railroad workers to bunk for the night. Our Zagreb room was even cheaper at $50 a night so she was expecting the worse.
We were pleasantly surprised to find a nice apartment with a sitting room and kitchen. To top it off we even had a big picture window to watch the street activity below. Tom and Christine Connors (Christine’s Blog) were going to meet us after we settled in. Tom is out of the Cape Cod church and I had preached for him when I was an evangelist. I would be preaching for him the next night, Wednesday. We rendezvoused outside of our building and began our walk to the market area. They were easy to be with and we enjoyed each other’s company as we journeyed to our first stop, a café for coffee.
If you do a search for something like “coffee in Croatia” you will find articles describing the coffee culture of Croatia. It is the social drink for the country. A visit to the café is meant to be a long, meandering event where the coffee is slowly sipped without any sense of impropriety at tying up a table without spending huge amounts of money. Paula, my cousin, (she put us in contact with our Dubrovnik relatives) had even suggested an invite to coffee might be one way of finding time to get together with them. We had sat with men at tables in Dubrovnik having coffee while we waited for our ferry departure. This café had more women fulfilling the description of coffee as the drink to share while you talked. The sitting area of the café was across from the actual café and we were served our cups of coffee as we continued our conversations. We got the only available table and I think this cup of coffee was by far the best tasting coffee I experience on our trip. Since, the Connors visit this café often I want to see if they can find the brand served and maybe I can find it state side. Or it was just the place and the company.
They toured us around. It is always wonderful to be with a missionary who loves the place he is at. They were very knowledgeable about the city, the country, the people and the road the gospel needed to travel in Croatia. I had been told by the American Baptist preacher in Dubrovnik that the percentage of Protestants in Croatia is less than 1%. Is there a place for honest, national repentance? Is it needed? The Croat puppet regime of the Nazi’s in WWII decimated the Jewish population. Close reading shows it all happened with a nationalized, radical Catholic involvement in the nation. The Eastern Orthodox Serbs would be chased out as the Catholic Croats would be chased out of Serbia; with each group losing their land and possessions to the other as they departed. Catholicism, here, seems to be the shell of religion that it is for many Americans, they are Catholic, but they don’t really know what it means anymore, they are just Catholic.
They showed us where the market would set up the next morning, as I was looking forward to stocking up for our all-day train ride to Zurich on Thursday with some Croatian goodies. We took them out to dinner to a Indian restaurant that they enjoyed. We followed this up with another café visit overlooking a plaza area. It was a joy to be with them and hear what they had to say about life in Zagreb. We walked home in the dark as they went to their car and we went to our room. We had visited one pastry shop (our third cup of coffee that night) in which I tried a certain dessert which was kind of a custard with a thin chocolate icing. Tom asked me to remember the taste because the next day they would take us to a village where we would try it again. It was an ongoing debate between his church members as to which one was better. We would meet them the next morning at the market.