Friday, June 14, 2013

Soul Searching and House Hunting in Costa Rica

We've spent the past few months searching for a new place to live. We love our current apartment, but it falls short on a few things. It's relatively small (500 sq ft), and it can feel very cozy with the three of us living, working, and playing in the same space. Also, as I look ahead to the coming months and years, Matty will start crawling and walking. Our current setup isn't exactly child-friendly, and I'd really like for him to have some green space to play in. (Unfortunately, there aren't any decent parks nearby, so if you don't have your own yard, outdoor play space can be hard to come by.) Finally, after spending some vacation time at the beach, we've realized just how hectic, noisy, and busy our current neighborhood is. It hard to go out for a relaxing stroll when you're dodging crazy motorists, pot holes, and other hazards.

We have looked at dozens of houses and apartments in the Central Valley, but, so far, all of them have fallen short. Some have very nice furnishings and ample space, but no yard. Others have a great yard,  but a less-than-ideal landlord. We've also limited our search to furnished apartments, which seemingly cuts out 80% of the rental market. Unfurnished rentals aren't an option for us right now because they don't include any appliances. In other words, we'd have to buy a stove, fridge, washing machine, etc., in addition to beds, chairs, plates, towels, lamps, and everything else (you know, all of the stuff that we just sold back in the States!)
In Costa Rica, an unfurnished apartment means BYO stove and fridge.
We recently discovered a really cute beach town in Guanacaste with plenty of rentals in our price range. But, after a little research, I was heartbroken to learn that they don't have full-service hospitals in Liberia. There are a few private medical clinics and a 24-hour public hospital, but if you need major emergency care, you'll be flown to San Jose.

Of course, you can always make the 4-5 hour drive from Guanacaste to San Jose and pray that you don't get stuck behind this guy!
After struggling with this information for a few days and doing a little soul-searching, I've realized that I'm not the kind of person who's willing to take a chance on emergency medical care. It's the same reason why I carry insurance: even though it's unlikely that I'll need this service, I still want to have it because the results can be catastrophic. Financial devastation is one thing, but when it comes to risking our health, I can't accept that.

Medical care is something that I took for granted when I lived in a first-world country. I never worried whether or not there'd be a hospital closeby to treat me if I were in a bad car accident. But the reality is that, in the developing world, you have to seek out resources and services, as it's not a given that they'll be widely available.

I guess this means that we'll be staying in the Central Valley for a while, as it's the only area of Costa Rica with higher-level medical care. At least we can enjoy our vacations at the beach!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Drinking from the Fire Hose

My poor, neglected blog! It pains me to see how long it's been since I've posted. It's not because I don't love you anymore, I have been a little busy lately. Ok, make that very busy. As my mentor WC would say, we've been drinking from the fire hose!

Yep, this is pretty much how I feel these days!
I'm not complaining about being busy. After all, we did set ourselves up for this... moving to a new country (where we barely speak the language), having a baby, applying for residency, making new friends, developing our contract work, and trying to squeeze in a little vacation time to boot. Somehow, we've managed to juggle them all, but it hasn't been easy. Sleep and sanity have taken priority over healthy eating and exercise. I have probably eaten more chicken strips in the past three months than I have in the last three decades (thank you, Pricesmart!)

We still find time for an occasional road trip!
But, I'm happy to report that we have weathered most of the storms and are looking forward to settling into some more peaceful, relaxing times ahead. For example, Jim and I have applied for permanent residency here in Costa Rica, so we don't have to make border runs every 90 days to renew our tourist stamps anymore. Baby Matty has received his birth certificate, social security card, and US passport, although we still need to apply for a special permit to take him out of Costa Rica.

Does he look more like A) a convict, B) an old man, or C) all of the above?
We are finally starting to make some strides in our Spanish again. The first month or so after Matty was born was very hard on our brains' higher processing centers. In other words, sleep deprivation made it challenging to even speak complete sentences in English!

We've also made some recent changes to our work/life schedules. It was exhausting for both of us to try and juggle work deadlines, taking care of Matty, and sleep, so, for the time being, I've become the primary breadwinner and Jim's the stay-at-home daddy. These roles aren't exclusive, but we are each getting more time to focus and no longer have to pass the baby back-and-forth like a hot potato. What can I say? The little one didn't nap as much as we'd hoped during the day! (But, thankfully, he's sleeping through the night!)

We have one last big task looming on the horizon: finding a new rental. Our current lease is up in July, and we're looking for a place that's a better fit for our needs. I've been searching for weeks now, and while a few rentals have come close, none of them have really matched what we're looking for. Stay tuned, friends, we'll keep you posted on our search!

In the meantime, please don't hesitate to hit me up if you're interested in coming down to Costa Rica for a visit. We're planning to stay here for a while (although I can't tell you exactly which town we'll be living in come July), and we'd love to share this experience with you. There are many beautiful places that we haven't explored yet, and we're happy to meet up for lunch or even a few days of vacation. You can send us a message through the "Contact Us" link at the top of the page!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Vamos a La Playa!

We love living in Escazu. It's convenient, centrally located, and has a magnificent, spring-like climate. There's only one thing missing... a beach! With two coastlines, Costa Rica has plenty of playas to explore. So far, we've only checked out a few on the Pacific side. There are many more in the northwestern province (Guanacaste) and on the Caribbean coastline that are on our list!

The closest ocean-front beaches are in a town called Jacó (ha-KO), which is about 60 miles from San Jose. Jacó has a reputation for being a party town, filled with surfers, drugs, and ladies of the night. It's also a popular weekend destination due to its proximity to the Central Valley.

We didn't have very high expectations for Jacó, but were pleasantly surprised by it! The town felt perfectly safe and family-friendly during the day. The beaches were also nice and wide, with beautiful views of the surrounding hills. There were only a couple of high-rise condos dotting the coastline, but the remnants of a former real estate boom were evident from the half-built complexes that were scattered around town. Jacó and its surrounding beaches seem like a very livable place, thanks to their good highway access and a nice variety of shops and restaurants. However, the only places you'll find us are on the beach (with our toes in the water) or at a soda (with a cold drink in our hands!) The weather's way too steamy for anything else!

The "overdeveloped" Jacó beach
Eating casado at a local soda
We recently visited Nosara, a small village on the Nicoya Peninsula. Nosara is a 6-hour drive from San Jose, the last hour of which is on unpaved roads... the really bumpy, you-have-to-drive-5-mph-or-you'll-break-an-axle type of unpaved roads, complete with goats, sheep, cows, and more!

Nosara is known for two things: surfing and yoga. There are 3 beaches (Playas Nosara, Pelada, and Guiones) in the area. What a difference from the beaches in Jacó! Nosara was dusty, dry, and brown. I suspect that all of the tourist photos are taken during the rainy season, when the hills are alive with greenery!

Entrance to Playa Guiones
Surfer and the abandoned Nosara Beach Hotel
While there was plenty of beach to go around, it was largely exposed. The sun was too strong for baby Matteus (only 3 weeks old at the time), so he spent most of the day napping in our air-conditioned room.

Our little surfer dude
 Thankfully, the temperatures dropped enough by sunset for a family trip to the beach.

The village of Nosara  has several restaurants, surf shops, and hotels. English is widely spoken, both by the businesses owners and its patrons. We couldn't remember the last time we'd been surrounded by so many English speakers!

After our border run to Panama, we spent an afternoon in Uvita, a small beach village on the southern Pacific coast. There were heavy thunderstorms that day, but the rain cleared long enough for us to spend a couple of hours at the beach. Don't let the gray clouds fool you; the weather was warm and comfortable!

Aside from the surfers, we had the beach to ourselves!

A single trail of footsteps to the sea

So which of these beaches is our favorite? I'm not saying, but I'll give you a hint... it's just south of Jacó. Come visit us here in Costa Rica and we'll take you there!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

6-Week Update

Well, it sure has been a while since we've made a blog post. Life's been a little crazy since baby Matteus arrived 6 weeks ago!

Snoozing at 5 days old
We've finally gotten some traction and are settling into our new lives as a threesome. Time slips away quickly as we juggle eating, napping, running errands, meeting up with new friends, and working. Thank you all for your well wishes and for spoiling us with baby gifts. We are blessed to have so many generous people in our lives!

My new office and el jefe (the boss!)
Matteus has already outgrown some of his newborn clothes. At his 1-month checkup, he weighed 10 lbs and had grown over an inch! His legs, thighs, and belly are also filling in.

Long fingers, just like his mama!
He's also as strong and feisty as ever... the only time Matteus isn't moving is when he's asleep! This kid is going to be running circles around us as soon as he's mobile.

At the end of March, we started seeing our first smiles... what a treat!

Our smiley Easter bunny
Becoming parents has been a powerful and emotionally moving experience. We love this boy so much that it makes us cry just thinking about him! More than anything, we're grateful that our new life here in Costa Rica allows us to stay home together and enjoy every moment as a family. We may not have much, but we have everything we need to live a rich life.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Baby Matteus Has Arrived!

He's here! He's finally here! Our baby boy, Matteus (ma-TAY-us), arrived on Friday afternoon. He was 20.5 inches long and weighed 7 lbs 4 oz.

We wanted to share some pics from our first days together. Enjoy!

Fresh out of the oven (leaves sold separately!)
Eyes wide open! Will they stay blue like Daddy's?
That's my boy!
Snuggling with Momma (who's happy, but a little loopy from the meds!)
Riding home from the hospital
Enjoying the soothing sounds of his first rain shower!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Laughing on the Outside, but Crying on the Inside: Tico Car Mechanics

Posted by Jim

We've already re-christened our car. Its new nickname is "Leaks."

Ever since we brought it home, I've noticed the sickeningly sweet smell of engine coolant emanating from somewhere under the hood. Normally, I can't smell a mad skunk from 3 feet away, but somehow I can detect burning coolant within a 3-mile radius. For weeks, I searched the engine compartment for the leak, but until last week its location eluded me. Unfortunately, once I did find the leak, it progressed at an alarming rate. One of the tanks on the radiator was developing an enormous crack that promised to fail catastrophically at the moment that Natalie was in labor and needed to get to a hospital, stat. Without the tools to replace the radiator, it was time to try my luck with a Costa Rican auto mechanic.
Someone recommended a guy in the next town over who spoke a little English, so I figured I'd bring the car to his shop before our radiator exploded (we still had 4 days til the baby was due, after all!) I told him that I wanted a new radiator, but he insisted that he could replace the leaky tank for less than half of the cost. I paused. I’d come in determined to buy a new radiator, but the man’s earnest plea to save my money won over my cash-strapped wallet. I agreed. He promised the radiator would be fixed the next day, so we shook on it and I took a taxi home.

[Natalie's note: "I can fix that" and "it'll be done tomorrow" are generally regarded as pleasantries, not promises, in Costa Rica. In other words, people would rather appear polite and helpful than tell you, "you're screwed."]

The next day, the mechanic called me just as promised. “Buenas. Comó  está? The radiator is fixed, but the head gasket is bad.” Ok, good, wait, what?! The situation had escalated from a minor part replacement to major engine work. He said, "I saw air bubbles in the radiator when the engine was running. It means your head gasket is no good." I told him,"Don't do anything. The engine is still under warranty from the dealer. I'm coming to get it right now!"

When I arrived at the shop and looked at the radiator tank, I felt a little sick. I was expecting a cheap plastic part, but what I saw was even more underwhelming. An optimistic person would call the work "custom" or even "hand crafted." I called it “craptacular.” It appeared that they had scrounged up random pieces of sheet metal (missing street signs?), bent them into the rough shape of a radiator tank, and brazed them together. The "new" tank, and everything around it, was dripping with copious amounts of black spray paint to give it that "factory-fresh" look. It was ugly and shoddy, but I convinced myself that if it didn't leak, then I didn't care. 

The mechanic wanted to show me the air bubbles he'd seen in the radiator from the bad head gasket, so he fired the engine up and… nothing. No bubbles. We let the engine run and warm up, but still no bubbles. Finally he said, "Oh, I guess it was just air stuck in the cooling system and not the head gasket after all." If you're not familiar with the implications of misdiagnosing someone's head gasket, imagine a a doctor telling a patient that he has cancer and then saying, “Nevermind, it was just gas.” I was simultaneously annoyed and relieved by the flippant misdiagnosis. Confident the problem was "solved," he put the radiator cap back on and sealed up the system.

We were standing in front of the car watching the engine run (as men do), when suddenly a geyser shot forth from the craptacular radiator tank sending a 4-foot stream of coolant into the air. As it rained down upon us, the mechanic’s young daughter ran over and started splashing around like she was playing in a lawn sprinkler. The situation was so absurd that I started laughing. Not a real laugh (and certainly not a happy laugh), but that awkward kind of laugh that ends in sobbing. The guy said, "I can fix that. I'll call you tomorrow." 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Buying an Overpriced Car in Costa Rica

Posted by Jim

Before we moved to Costa Rica, we knew that we wanted to own a car here. At first, we researched buying a car in the United States and driving it down, but between the import taxes (up to 80% of the value determined by the government!), travel expenses (border crossings, gas, food, lodging, etc.), and the time (at least 10 days), we decided that it would be better to buy a car once we were in Costa Rica. While we know some Spanish, being able to say, "Where is the bathroom?" and, "Yes, I would like another beer, please." wasn't going to help us in this situation. We searched on the internet and found a couple who helps gringos like us find and purchase cars. We sent them an email describing what we were looking for, and they located a number of cars at local dealerships that met our needs.

On a Wednesday morning, we were picked up by our Tica helper. Our first stop was a tiny little dealership that had a number of early-2000 vintage Hyundai Accents that were fresh off the boat from Korea. Everything down to the warnings on the sideview mirrors was written in indecipherable Korean characters. We took the first car out for a spin to see how we liked it. Bad clutch, bad brakes, the steering wheel shook, and half the cylinders cut out under load. For a car like this in the U.S., I would have offered $500 and made the seller buy me lunch and a beer.

The next 5 cars we drove were not much better. Whenever I pointed out a problem to the salesman, the answer was always the same, "No problem! We'll fix that. No charge." There was something about the way he said it that didn't make me feel good. Perhaps it was because he also told me, "the brakes squeal because they're new," and, "the clutch barely engages because it's adjusted for personal preference." I think that the exact moment I stopped trusting him was when he promised that the air bags would still deploy in an accident, contrary to the position taken by the steadily illuminated warning lamp on the dash.

We visited a second dealership and their cars were just as bad, but shinier. Bad clutch, broken speedometer, check engine light, bad CV joints, and so on. I peeked into the mechanics' area, where I saw a transmission laying open in the dirt, half-filled with feral dog urine. This was likely the "new" transmission that the salesman promised for the car that I had just complained about... you know, the one that wouldn't stay in gear. Many people recommend buying cars that are recently imported to Costa Rica ("for inscription") because they haven't been exposed to the bad roads. Perhaps more importantly, newly imported cars haven't been exposed to the bad mechanics. At this point, I was getting pretty discouraged. I was on the verge of pulling Natalie aside and suggesting that we reconsider the idea of getting a car at all if these were the only options.

Respite finally came at the third dealership, where we found a 2002 Hyundai Elantra fresh from the United States. It wasn't beautiful by any definition, but, by this point, to say that we had lowered our expectations was a gross understatement. On the test drive, it felt like a normal car. It accelerated, stopped, stayed in gear, and went in a straight line. Amazing! Pure automotive genius! We drove a few other cars (12 in all), and finally settled on the Elantra. Curious why the car had been deported from the U.S., we ran a CARFAX report to check its title history. Thankfully, it came back clean (enough). After working out a deal to have a few things fixed, we settled on a price just under $8,000 USD! Remember those import taxes I mentioned? They're nearly $3,000 USD for a car that's over 10 years old!

Our "new" car has four wheels and goes forwards and backwards! Brilliant!
Before we could take the car home, we had to wait until the international money transfer cleared, papers were signed, government paperwork was filed by an attorney, inspections were performed, taxes were paid, insurance coverage was obtained, and plates were issued. Two weeks after selecting a car, we finally drove our prize home. I've since nicknamed the car "bad connection" for all of the wonky electrical issues. If you're in Costa Rica and you see a car with the headlights flashing with the blinkers, that's us. Please wave.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Costa Rica, Where the Streets Have No Name

First off, let me start by saying that the Costa Rican lifestyle must be starting to stick. I woke up this morning with a great idea for a blog post, "The Top 5 Things that You Didn't Know about Costa Rica." I scrambled to type up a short list of fun facts on my smartphone. Would you believe that I actually came up with 11?!

Well, fast forward to this evening and my original idea seemed way too ambitious. Plus, who wants to be overwhelmed with so much information in just one blog post?

So, in light of my newfound laziness, I've decided to just pick one fun fact and talk about it here. Let me tell you about Costa Rican addresses, or rather, Costa Rica's lack of addresses.

Did you know that Costa Rica doesn't have traditional street addresses? Most of the roads are unnamed, making it muy difícil to assign street numbers. So how the heck do you find anything? You use a combination of local landmarks, rough distance estimates, and cardinal directions.

Por ejemplo, here is the address for Epson, the printer company, in Costa Rica:

In English, the dirección is: 100 meters south and 300 meters west of the American Embassy, San Jose, Costa Rica. Well, that's helpful, as long as you know where the Embassy is!

Does someone actually measure the number of meters in these addresses? Of course not! The rule of thumb is that 100 meters is approximately one city block.

Want to see a couple more? Here's the address for Unilever, another international corporation:

Translation: From the cross in Belén's San Antonio district, go 400 meters west and 800 meters north.

And here's my favorite! It's the address of a local potato chip company:

The company's located in Ciudad Colón. To find it, head to the old folks home (Hogar de Ancianos), then go 100 meters south, 400 meters west, and another 100 meters south. Apparently, the initial southbound road that runs next to the old folks home doesn't go through, since the directions tell you to go south twice.

Now, I haven't seen it with my own eyes, but rumor has it that some addresses are given in reference to landmarks that don't exist anymore, like the old fig tree.* Talk about confusing!

All I can say is that if it weren't for Google maps and our trusty GPS, we'd be totally lost. I think that the Costa Rican government should give each citizen a GPS, then implement a new address system using latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates. On second thought, maybe I should be careful what I wish for... do I really want to say numbers like N9° 56' 37.84", W84° 7' 23.89" in Spanish?! Aye Dios mio!

* The old fig tree (Antiguo Higuerón) is marked on Google Maps. It's coordinates are N9° 55' 52.02", W84° 2' 48.07".

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Our First Trip to the Escazu Farmer's Market

Oh boy, today was the day that we've been waiting for! On Saturday mornings, there's a weekly farmer's market (feria) here in Escazu. It's located in Escazu Centro, the old town, near Iglesia San Miguel in the main square.

I knew that the produce prices at the grocery store were outrageous, so we've been holding out all week on buying any fruits or vegetables! The feria didn't disappoint us.

I had done a little research online and came prepared with plastic bags and plenty of small change (the coins here range from 5 to 500 colones, or $0.01 to $1 USD.) We also practiced our numbers in Spanish, just in case the prices weren't labeled!

All of the vendors were very friendly and patient with us, and it felt great to be buying produce directly from local farmers.

So how'd we do? For about $5, we scored 4 lbs of tomatoes, 2 lbs of carrots, 2 lbs of onions, 1 lb of peppers, 4 bananas, a bundle of spinach, and some cilantro! Muy bueno!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Our New Apartment in Escazu, Costa Rica

Ahhhhh, home sweet home... or at least our home for now. Jim and I are happy to report that we've found a wonderful apartment here in Costa Rica!

We're living in Escazu, an affluent suburb just west of the capital San Jose. We chose this neighborhood for several reasons, not the least of which is its proximity to Hospital CIMA (where I plan to deliver our son) and my new OB/GYN. It's also a very convenient place to live, as every amenity we could ever need is located within a few miles. We can even walk to several banks, cafes, and grocery stores.

Panoramic view of Escazu
To me, the only real drawback to living in Escazu is that it's Gringo Central. The area is a haven for wealthy American retirees as well as medical tourists. Now, as a gringa, I of course have nothing against my fellow norteamericanos. But the sheer number of expats living here has left an indelible mark on the neighborhood, raising the cost of living and clearly influencing local commerce. What do I mean by that? Well, if you look down the main boulevard, you'll find a McDonald's  KFC, Pizza Hut, Quiznos, TGIFridays, Tony Roma's, and Mrs. Fields. There's also an Office Depot, Starbucks, and Walmart nearby, as well as the Multiplaza shopping mall with Lacoste, Oscar de la Renta, and Calvin Klein. Not exactly an authentic Tico experience.

In the end, we decided that the higher prices were worth the convenience, especially now that I am 8 months pregnant. We also felt very safe and secure in this neighborhood.

So, on to the details on our new apartment! We are living in a furnished 1-bedroom condo in San Rafael de Escazu. It has a covered parking spot and is part of a gated complex with 8 units. We're on the top floor and have a nice view of the neighborhood streets as well as the local mountains in the distance.

Our favorite feature is the patio-turned-living-room, which is a big, bright, open space. The north side of the room is all windows, letting in tons of light and a wonderful afternoon breeze. It's like sitting outside, but with a couch and flat-screen TV!

The kitchen is also great too. It's relatively small, but well-appointed with an American-sized fridge, gas stove, microwave, and drip coffee machine.

We also have a cozy bedroom with a wall of floor-to-ceiling storage space.

The apartment is less than 550 sq ft, but feels very spacious and open thanks to its high ceilings and many windows. It's just big enough for us... and hopefully a baby too!

While we don't have a guest room, we are happy to offer you a spot on the living room couch (which is actually a sofa bed) if you'd like to come visit us here in Costa Rica!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Our Big Plans for 2013

Happy New Year, all! 2012 was a wonderful year for us. Really wonderful, in fact, a dream-come-true kind of year. We left our professional jobs in January and made the transition to "underemployment," or working below our expected employment potential. Instead of long hours, constant stress, and never-ending business travel, we traded our big fat paychecks for a big fat lifestyle. Now we feel like we're living our full life potential.

One of 2012's biggest lessons has been realizing that we can successfully live a frugal, nomadic lifestyle. It's actually easier than we originally thought; most days, it feels downright normal. It might seem like we're on permanent vacation (and compared to being chained to a desk, I guess we are), but much of our time is spent doing pretty uneventful things, like taking dogs for a walk, cooking dinner, grocery shopping, and reading books. It might be more fair to compare our lifestyle to semi-retirement than a vacation.

Coming back to the States after 7 months of traveling has been an interesting experience for us. Even though we've both lived in Phoenix for 10+ years, it didn't feel as much like home as we had anticipated. Sure, we know how to get around, have a great network of friends and family, and are familiar with the local hangouts, but it doesn't feel like we belong here any more than a "foreign" country. This visit has been another wonderful chapter in our nomadic journey, which is still very much alive and kicking.

Which brings me to some exciting news: our plans for 2013! It's going to be an eventful year for us, starting next week, when we board a plane for COSTA RICA!

But, wait, there's more... we're also EXPECTING A BABY! Yes, you read that right. I'm currently 31 weeks pregnant with a little boy.

If you count back the weeks, you might be surprised to learn that I've been pregnant since June. In other words, I've been pregnant almost the entire time that we've been traveling. Remember that doctor's visit in France? That was actually my first ultrasound appointment. Since that time, I've been receiving exceptional medical care all around the world, including France and South Africa.

We have decided that, rather than staying here in the United States, we would like our son to be born in Costa Rica. There are several reasons for this. First, Costa Rica is a well-known medical tourism destination, offering affordable, high-quality care to norteamericanos. There are also immigration benefits to delivering in Costa Rica. Our son will be a dual Costa Rican/US citizen (due to jus soli, or "right of the soil") and Jim and I will be eligible for permanent residency. This opens up many opportunities for us, not only now, but also in the future. Lastly, Costa Rica is a lot closer to home than you might expect. It's only a 5-hour flight from Phoenix or from New York. They're on Central Standard Time. And, most importantly, Costa Rica has a large, established expat community that's already paved the way for newcomers. Would you believe that there's even a website for having a baby in Costa Rica?

So, friends, I'd like to propose a New Year's toast for 2013: may you be blessed with new adventures, fulfilling life experiences, and the courage to follow your heart and your dreams!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Short (But Sweet) Stop in Zagreb

Due to an unfortunate flight delay, we only spent 2 nights in Zagreb, Croatia. But we're sure glad that we got a chance to visit this often overlooked destination.

Zagreb (pop. 800,000) is the capital of Croatia. It's located about 3 hours from the coast, at the crossroads of Central Europe. We were impressed by its large city parks, beautiful museums and monuments, and pedestrian-friendly city center.
Fall in Zagreb's "Green Horseshoe," a large city park
Croatian National Theater
Rooftops and Zagreb Cathedral
Tkalciceva Ulica, a cafe-lined street in Zagreb's Upper Town
The tiled roof of St. Mark's Church
Zagreb also has a daily market, featuring fresh produce and flowers.
Dolac market

Several vendors were also selling Christmas centerpieces and advent candles.

The city was decked out in lictar hearts, the symbol of Zagreb ("the city of a million hearts").

One of Jim's favorite attractions was the funicular connecting Upper and Lower Town.
Possibly one of the shortest funicular rides ever.
But for me, the highlight was our visit to the Museum of Broken Relationships. The Museum features a variety of objects that people have donated in memory of their failed relationships. Some were uplifting, some were depressing, but they all gave an interesting glimpse into the messiness of love.

Would I go back to Zagreb? Absolutely! It was a compact, clean, and safe capital city. But you don't need more than 2-3 days to explore most of its sights. On my next visit, I'd use Zagreb as a home base for exploring the rest of inland Croatia.