Follow your ears

footballWe’d just landed in the capital city of a country we’ve never visited before. It was the start of a grand adventure, a holiday full of firsts and new experiences.

And my daughter was dying to see a football game.

Croatia was playing its opening game of the Euro 2016 tournament, and seeing them play while in Zagreb was her main priority this Sunday afternoon. We agreed to fit the game in to some touring of the city’s sights, figuring it would also be a novel holiday experience.

So we asked the hotel concierge where would be a good place to watch the game. He said the hotel had a TV and we could watch the game there. As we seemed to be about the only guests in the hotel, we figured we could find someplace with a livelier atmosphere.

We took a taxi to the old town center. The driver didn’t speak much English, but we could all agree on “Croatia,” “Turkey,” and “football.” He said that any bar would show the game, but didn’t think that was right for our daughter. He left us with a prediction: “3-0!”

So we wandered the old city streets, empty except for small numbers of tourists. Zagreb was particularly quiet even for a Sunday afternoon.

Then we heard the noise.

There was a kind of roaring sound, which seemed to come from a big hotel. Was someone showing the game with the TV turned up all the way? We headed down some stairs towards the main square, while the sound got louder.

zagrebgame - 1“I see it,” Nadia said as we reached the end of a narrow alleyway. There, in the main town square, Trg bana Josipa Jelačića, an enormous screen was showing the game while a huge crowd of people wearing the red and white check of the Republika Hrvastka cheered, blew horns and drank beer.

We got her an ice cream and enjoyed the revelry for a while. It was exciting to be swept up with the locals and tourists, enjoying the game. We were there when The Goal was scored, resulting in even louder horns, lit flares, and lots of dancing and leaping about. We then decided to retreat to a quieter nearby venue which suited our 12-year-old better.

Lesson learned: it’s not always suitable to rely on “experts” available to tourists. Sometimes you have to just follow your nose. Or ears.


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