Zagreb: Day 2

My perambulations around this lovely town continue, but I’ve little time to post and so I may have to catch up on the backlog when I come back to the U.S.  I’m also keenly aware that most of the pictures so far are about food, but that’s only because I’ve spent more time sitting in restaurants than touring museums and sights. That will change, though, as I’ve several sights to see, including the Museum of Natural History, where I’m told I’ll be shown actual Neanderthal bones today, and the Museum of Broken Relationships, which I’m very keen to visit.

First, though, dinner on Saturday night. I was already full from a huge lunch, but my generous hosts pressed more food on me. As I requested before I came here, we went to a traditional Croatian restaurant. We began with beer (of course), and rolls with a cheese spread. These rolls had pork cracklings and paprika in them (thanks again to Pavel for identifying the food).

My main course was pašticada, described by Wikipedia like this:

Pašticada is a stewed beef dish cooked in special sauce, popular in Croatia. It is often called Dalmatinska pašticada because it originates in Dalmatia. It requires long and meticulous preparation: first, the meat is pierced and stuffed with garlic, cloves, carrot and bacon, then salted and marinated in vinegar overnight. The marinated beef is then roasted and cooked with roasted bacon, onions, parsley root, nutmeg, prunes, tomato paste, water and prošek up to five hours, depending on meat. After cooking, the vegetables are blended into a sauce. In Dalmatia, it is a meal for important feasts, including weddings. It is usually served with gnocchi or homemade pasta.

It was rich, delicious, and served with gnocchi, great for mopping up the sauce:

Pavel and Igor, wanting lighter food, had kalja, a soup/stew made of cooked lamb and vegetables. There’s a glass of slivovitz (plum brandy, the national tipple) on the side:

For “dessert” we had a dish that wasn’t sweet, and can be served as either a soup, an appetizer, or a main course: štrukli, the Croatian equivalent of pierogi: dough filled with cheese and covered with bread crumbs and sour cream. The dough here, though, is wheat flour rather than potato flour:

The next day we visited the Neanderthal Museum and site in Krapina, a very important place where, during mining operations in 1899, a huge trove of Neanderthal bones and relics were found. Some of those bones were used by Svante Pääbo and his colleagues to get the first Neanderthal DNA sequence, which of course was important in many ways, not the least to show that Neanderthals bred with “modern” Homo sapiens (I consider the two forms to be subspecies rather than full species).

There’s a museum on the site with replicas of Neanderthal bones and dioramas of how they might have lived, as well as a movie and other information about evolution. Here are some shots.

The museum exterior:

A diorama inside; note that one person has lost his hand; this is deliberate, as the movie showed a bear biting off the hand of a hunting Neanderthal man:

A comparison of the skulls modern H. sapiens (H. sapiens sapiens) and Neanderthals (H. sapiens neanderthalensis):



A neanderthal cranium bit showing the more prominent brow ridges:

And the teeth, larger than those of modern H. sapiens. In a few hours, with luck, I’ll get to see real Neanderthal bones instead of casts.

A reconstruction of where the Neanderthal fossils were found. The cave was blasted out of existence before they found the bones, which were excavated from layers of soil. This is the site where they were found, but the cave is gone:

A stromatolite section in the evolution bit of the Museum. Stromatolites are the earliest “fossils” on Earth, dating back about 3.7 billion years ago, and are the remnants of layers of cyanobacteria (“blue green algae”) built up over years. Moreover, stromatolites are still forming in some saline places on Earth like Shark Bay, Australia.

Here are some modern stromatolites forming in Shark Bay (photo from Wikipedia):

After the visit to the Museum, Pavel, Darko and I repaired to a lovely country inn overlooking a castle for a substantial and delicious lunch. Here’s the restaurant:

While we waited to be seated at the Sunday lunch crowd, we cracked local walnuts, which the restaurant had conveniently provided on a wine barrel, complete with a big wooden mallet to crack them. Pavel is opening one:

Lunch was COPIOUS. We split three dishes: a Croatia “everything plate” with samples of all kinds of meat, veggies, and potatoes, as well as duck (shoot me now) with mlincia type of noodle or flatbread (it’s both) made from flour and eggs, baked, and then boiled.

But Pavel and Darko began with a soup made from štrukli, the dish we had for dessert the night before:

Duck with mlinci:

The giant meat platter:

A well-laden table. Darko is on the left, Pavel on the right:

Dessert was Palačinke u vajnšatou – crepes with ground walnuts and wine “chateau”: runny mousse made of white wine, whipped eggs, vanilla and cinnamon. I show the dessert as it was served and then a bit dissected:

It was a terrific meal in a wonderful setting, and we spent several hours eating and chatting, including some discussion of free will. Here’s a view from the restaurant, with a medieval castle atop a nearby hill:

Stay tuned for further adventures. . .


  1. GBJames
    Posted October 16, 2018 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    I sure hope Honey doesn’t hear of this.

    • JezGrove
      Posted October 16, 2018 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      Yup, that could result in an exhibit for the Museum of Broken Relationships…

  2. darrelle
    Posted October 16, 2018 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    That view from your lunch venue is gorgeous. Sounds like a thoroughly wonderful time.

    I’d really like to try that crepe dessert. And the pašticada. Heck, go ahead and gimme one of those giant meat platters too.

    • Blue
      Posted October 16, 2018 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      Oooo, me too !
      Me too, Mr darrelle !

      Golly ! … … what w o n d e r s, Boss !


      • Blue
        Posted October 16, 2018 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

        Plus I like learning in re
        … … family – like Ancients !

        HOW interesting for Us All !


      • Blue
        Posted October 16, 2018 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

        What SMASHING joints at where
        … … to spend your Boss’s Day, by the way !


      • darrelle
        Posted October 16, 2018 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

        He’s living the dream!

  3. Merilee
    Posted October 16, 2018 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    I feel as if I won’t have to eat for a week just looking at all that food 😋

  4. Michael Fisher
    Posted October 16, 2018 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    The museum design has a pleasing simplicity. It’s one simulated stone [actually concrete] space with a clockwise spiral, rising layout in plan. The middle of the spiral is early life & time advances are indicated on the floor. I assume from the lack of barriers that visitors can touch all the exhibits

    PRESENT ERA [not sure this embed will work]:

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted October 16, 2018 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      I wonder if visitors enter from below at the centre? The design is silly otherwise.

  5. Diana MacPherson
    Posted October 16, 2018 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    That Neanderthal has a big honkin’ schnoz.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted October 16, 2018 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      Ancestor of Jimmy Durante

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 16, 2018 at 12:54 pm | Permalink


      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 16, 2018 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

        Inka Dinka Doo to you, mate.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted October 16, 2018 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

          I enjoyed that – Harry James
          Jimmy in a short tie like Oliver Hardy – perhaps Hollywood code for being down & out?
          Durante was big in the UK, maybe because of his songs – I don’t think he toured here, could be wrong. Great bloke.

        • rickflick
          Posted October 16, 2018 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

          “Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are!”

  6. Posted October 16, 2018 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Actually Pääbo got DNA from Vindija a nearby and much later site. No DNA is preserved at Krapina.Pääbo has tried, but no luck.

  7. W.T. Effingham
    Posted October 16, 2018 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    I can tell by the shell Croatian walnuts crack quite well.

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 16, 2018 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    … the Museum of Broken Relationships …

    From the sound of it, it should swamp the Smithsonian in number of exhibits. Hell, I know folk who should have a wing of their own.

  9. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 16, 2018 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    There was a woman named Nada from Dubrovnik who had a Croatian restaurant in Broward County, FL — little joint in a strip mall parking lot, maybe six tables — who used to cook some of these dishes. I used to go there for lunch whenever I had morning court in Ft. Lauderdale. Great goddam food.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 16, 2018 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      Love places like that.

  10. Mark R.
    Posted October 16, 2018 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    What gastronomical delights! And there’s a lot to be said about a restaurant’s atmosphere; that restaurant next to the castle looks gorgeous.

    The description of Pašticada reminds me a lot of Sauerbraten with Spaetzel. And if it tastes anything like a real Sauerbraten, you’re a lucky man.

  11. Christopher
    Posted October 16, 2018 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    I love stromatolites. They have a simple elegance to them. There are supposedly quite a few large fossil stromatolites not far from me viewable from road cuts but in my geological/paleontological ignorance I wouldn’t know them if I tripped over them.
    Steve Jones’ book “Coral: A Pessimist in Paradise” mentioned that as well as Shark Bay, there are some in the Bahamas and there are rumors about freshwater lakes in Minnesota that have some but in a secret location to protect them from collectors. Sadly, he doesn’t elaborate on those rumors but it is tantalizing all the same.

  12. Mike Cracraft
    Posted October 16, 2018 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    Ceiling Cat ! That food looks delicioso. It amazes me how much it reminds one of classical French techniques.

  13. openidname
    Posted October 16, 2018 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Vajnšatou is pretty much sabayon (a/k/a zabaglione).

  14. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted October 16, 2018 at 7:49 pm | Permalink


  15. Posted October 17, 2018 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Looks like a fun place.

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