Brunch, Croatian style. Also, the best čevapi in Zagreb.

There's this hole-in-the-wall bar that I've seen numerous times while walking through the center of Zagreb. It's tiny, so small that it can't even contain its regulars, a group of old men who pour outside into a narrow passageway, smoking and drinking for hours.

It never struck me as the kind of place I'd like to spend my time, until Damjan and I walked by one day and noticed a faded menu – and by menu I mean a a simple pricelist printed on a sheet of A4 paper – hanging from the sign. Among standard meat dishes and french fries, one thing caught my eye: eggs. "We're coming here for brunch one day," Damjan declared, reading my mind.

A couple of weekends ago, we convinced Milovan to come along with us to give it a try. A round of homemade rakija kicked off what would turn into a five-hour-long event, complete with several platters of grilled meat, countless glasses of wine, and many new friends. We set up camp just outside, balancing our drinks and trays of food on a tiny bar while wagons of fish trundled back and forth to the market and a pair of cathedral spires rose overhead.

Of course, it wouldn't be Croatia without song, and we were lucky enough to be serenaded by the two waitresses, who knocked back rakija shots themselves as they poured wine and manned the grill. Somehow, though, they managed to produce the best grilled chicken, liver, and čevapi I've eaten in Zagreb. (Čevapi is a popular seasoned and grilled minced meat dish.)

When we arrived, we ordered just one plate of chicken and liver, skeptical about the food and a little disappointed that all of the eggs had already been devoured. The liver was delicious, so we decided to give the čevapi a go. We ended up ordering four rounds of food.

The problem with most čevapi in Zagreb is that the ground meat is mixed with soy and mineral water – I suppose to make a small amount of meat go a long way. The result is spongy čevapi that fills you with regret as soon as you start to digest. (Gross, I know.) These čevapi, though, were made from pure meat, and the difference was remarkable. Not only are they super tasty, but none of us felt heavy or bloated afterward, which is normally a given when you go out for some grill.

Enough talk: time for photos. I haven't divulged the name of our secret bar because we're not quite ready to give it up yet. It's in a pretty conspicuous spot, though, and you might be able to locate it with the help of the photos. Or, we'd be happy to take you along next time we're craving a hearty brunch.

The passageway.

The bartenders/grill masters/singers. I asked if I could take some photos, and they replied, "Only if you take some of us!"

Finally, the food. Rounds 1-4.

And the final result.


Developments and rather undeveloped thoughts

Two new writing projects have been keeping me busy lately: an expat guide to Zagreb for Easy Expat and regular articles for Ikon Arts Foundation, a non-profit organization established to encourage engagement with Croatian creative culture. While the expat guide has me researching mind-numbing but useful subjects such as purchasing real estate and qualifying for pension, writing for Ikon Arts requires me to track down and interview artists, directors, designers, curators, and other creative professionals.

Being a bit more present in the art world over the past couple of weeks has already been highly rewarding and has, essentially, reminded me who I am. I know that sounds dramatic, but, as I'm slowly starting to realize, moving to another country often comes with major identity loss. That also sounds dramatic, but then, I guess beginning a completely new life in a new country is sort of a dramatic thing.

But that's a discussion for another day.

The important thing, for right now, is that I'm rediscovering what really gives me a sense of purpose and fulfillment. I'm refocusing and restructuring many aspects of my life, and I think this blog might be one of them, too. However, what I decide to do with it is still very much up in the air.

What I know is this: I'd like to have a space to share more about the expat experience, I'd like to have a space to share more about Zagreb, and I'd also like to have a space to collect ideas and investigate museum education and my own practice as a museum educator and an arts writer. Yeah, I know: the first two work pretty nicely together. The latter kind of throws a wrench into everything.

Then again, maybe it doesn't. The two most popular searches that bring people here are "gluten free Zagreb" and "Tošo Dabac," which, in my opinion, is pretty awesome.

I started writing here for several reasons: to keep my friends and family abreast of my life in Zagreb, to share tips and interesting tidbits about Croatia, and to record my own experience building a life in another country (or between two countries, as I hoped might happen). As such, this space has always been rather nebulous. I share whatever I feel like sharing, whenever I feel compelled to or, more accurately, when I find the time to do so. I have appreciated that. But lately, I've been feeling the desire for more structure and a stronger sense of purpose.

Why am I rambling on about all of this? Because you actually read my blog. I know there aren't a whole lot of you out there, following along, but there are enough of you that I felt compelled to provide a little disclaimer that this space might be changing, but I'm not yet exactly sure how.

Let's be honest: it also helps me to put things down on, erm, paper.

But really. This space has come to mean a lot to me, and I hope you decide to stick around as it evolves.


Vintage pharmaceutical paraphanalia at I, Jacobus Apothecarius

"I, Jacobus Apothecarius - from the apothecary to industry," an exhibition that traces the development of the pharmaceutical industry in Zagreb, is currently on view at the Zagreb City Museum. I decided to check it out, mostly for aesthetic reasons, and I wasn't disappointed: on display was a generous selection of beautiful medicinal bottles, vintage pharmaceutical packaging, charming photographs of old Zagreb and its dapper pharmacists, and an impressive reconstruction of a 19th century pharmacy.

There was a huge amount of text in this exhibition, and it was all in Croatian. I started out reading everything (or giving it my best attempt, anyway), but just didn't have the patience to read so much. I do love a good label, but I'm not a fan of excessive exhibition text, especially when there are so many pretty things to look at. 
One interesting tidbit I came away with, though, is that one of Zagreb's pharmacies, St. Maria on Dolac, functioned for some 300 years in the same location. It moved in 1910 to Trg bana Jelačića and sadly closed in 1949. 
As for the name of the exhibition, Jacobus Apothecarius was the first recorded pharmacist in Zagreb, mentioned in 1355. 
The exhibition is on view until April 28.