The Road to Serbia: Day 3&4 – Zagreb to Niš

We had another lazy, no-alarm morning – this time in Zagreb. The bed was comfortable enough and we were in no rush to be anywhere at all. I found 2 possible bakeries and, luckily, I forgot where the first one was because the second one was really great! We got croissants and sandwiches for breakfasts and some baguettes and “cruffins” for later.

I worked on the previous blog post and we lazed about before finally setting out to grab some more bread and groceries and then to hit the Zagreb farmer’s market!

We picked up some gnocchi, tomato sauce, and grated cheese for our Christmas Eve dinner. A bit unconventional but we didn’t have a lot of options and since this was from a stand selling fresh pasta on the market, we thought it was a good option. To that, we also added some pickled and spicy peppers. I bought some salami for the next day’s breakfast as well.

On top and outside is an open-air market, with fruits, vegetables, and nuts. We didn’t get anything but did take a look around, of course! Jelena pointed out the cheap, shelled nuts, which would cost a fortune in Germany.

Lunchtime was already here, so we dropped off our finds and headed to the Christmas market for some stew. It was some specialty with liver and chicken. It was a tasty (not the liver so much) cold-weather choice – the warm bread too!

Next, we went for a dessert victory lap. First, we got a fried dough thingy called Languš.

Oops… we were too greedy and ate almost everything before we thought to take a photo. We are bad food bloggers. Just imagine that was the size of the plate.

Then we continued with Germknödel and some more frittule. I’m not a big fan of Germknödel (it’s popular at German Christmas markets) but Jelena hadn’t tried it before. In my opinion, it tastes like a ball of wallpaper in paste. The frittule also weren’t great but they were good enough. Fried dough is always good.

After our gorgefest, we walked around town a bit, to see some parts we hadn’t seen yet, including the state theatre.

We did some more shopping while we were out and discovered this hilariously tacky Christmas market by the train station.

It was red and green, with English quotes from Christmas songs. Yes, that is a Christmas tree made out of tires. But it was the only market consistantly playing Christmas music!

We headed back to the apartment for a break and to drink some tea and coffee – and eat some of the cruffins!! The eating party wasn’t over yet.

Later, we started our Christmas Eve dinner!

It was actually really good. The baguette was still fresh enough and soaked up the sauce well. It was no fondue but it was a good meal. We put on Croatian TV for some background Christmas music.

After dinner, we discovered Home Alone was on and watched some of that. As the movie was coming to an end, I realised I hadn’t mailed Natalia’s Zagreb postcard yet and it already had a stamp on it. It was now past 10 but we saw online that the train station had a post office and went to put it in the box. We were shocked to discover the post office itself was open until midnight on Christmas Eve!! Those poor workers.

We got a good sleep but set the alarm, so we could have breakfast before heading out to meet our rideshare to Niš.

Jelena fried the bread in the pan (no toaster), and we broke out the Slovenian vending machine cheese and Croatian market salami. It was a good breakfast! The cheese was soft but not too strong. The salami had a nice taste.

We took an Uber to a mall by the highway and met Miloš, a fellow Serb who lives in Graz and was heading home to the next town over from Niš. It was a very long day of driving (9:30 – 4:30) but it went fairly quickly because Miloš was very friendly and interesting to talk to! He was also a good driver – very important!

One last surprise was in store for the day. Jelena’s mom prepared turkey legs, in recognition of my Christmas!! Jelena’s sister and her family joined us to eat! So, I had a family dinner with turkey for Christmas Day after all.

There were turkey legs, with potatoes roasted in the pan. Before that, we had soup and the normal Serbian things, like cheese, ajvar, pickled peppers, spicy peppers, bread, and Jelena’s mom’s homemade Sauerkraut.

I planned the Road to Serbia to go through Catholic countries to get a taste of Christmas along the way. Who could have guessed Vienna would get rained out or that Croatia would be missing the Christmas spirit but that it would be waiting for me at the end of that road? Alternate title for this story: How the Serbs Saved Christmas.

So I’m in Serbia now until next year. Then we will be making another journey home, this time over Novi Sad and Budapest. In the meantime, I’ll be enjoying Serbian food and hospitality. Maybe I’ll write the final cycling post! Otherwise, stay tuned for next year’s adventures.

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