Medvednica Mountain - Zagreb, Croatia
Running in conditions that are not so ideal can result in some really nice experiences. I experienced just that in Zagreb, Croatia. Zagreb sits just to the south of Medvednica Mountain. If you stay in the northern part of the city, the trails into the mountain almost start directly from your doorstep. I stayed at the Hotel Puntijar because of its location that turned out to be a perfect starting point for my two runs. The other great thing about the mountain is almost the entire area is a nature park, meaning there are lots of trails and open spaces to explore.
My first run started early on a Saturday morning after several inches of snow had fallen. The snow was a bit heavy so it accumulated on top of every surface, including narrow tree branches. In the thick forest it resulted in an otherworldly experience with the trail almost as a tunnel through snow. In addition, the snow weighed down the trees to the point they were laying directly on the trail so I had to snake my way above and below the branches to get through.
What made this run extra special was that I was making the first tracks through the snow that morning. It was a completely untouched trail, and hard to follow, so it was good that I had my Gaia GPS to keep track. If I’d waited for better conditions I would have missed these views.
That evening I took an Uber into the city center and wandered the Christmas markets. My only comparison was to those in Berlin and Munich but I found them extra nice. The city being on the mountain has many levels so there were great views and I traversed the markets almost vertically going up and down stairways.
On day two I had limited time since I needed to check out around 1pm to catch my flight. However, this was still enough time to do a run to the Medvedgrad Castle. This castle sits high above Zagreb and was said to have great views. The run started through the forest on trails then transitioned to a more heavily used trail. It was on this trail that I decided it’d be a good idea to get some additional traction for my shoes. Fortunately, another hiker alerted me to an icy section ahead to go around. The trail was on the upper edge of a very steeply walled valley with a stream at the bottom. While the fall probably wouldn’t have killed me it would have been painful sliding down and very difficult getting back up. Fortunately I made it to the top without incident. Unfortunately, the castle was closed that day (and now appears to be closed for renovations) but the skies were blue and there was a nice trail around it to take it in from all angles. Even if it is closed, you can still tour the outside of it.
Zagreb proved to be a great ultrarunning destination because of the convenient direct flight from Berlin and trails starting right from the city. While the distance of my runs on this trip were not ultra, the deep snow, cold and elevation made for ultra conditions. I’d highly recommend a trip here if in Europe as it’s accessible from many cities.