My first connection to Zagreb was back in 1988 on the 21st floor of the four-star Hotel Arabella in Munich. Two wonderfully cheery and rather plump middle-aged ladies, both called Barica, were my colleagues in my first professional job - I spent 8 months as the only male chambermaid, cleaning a creditable 2,710 toilets in my housekeeping career.
Barica 1 just smiled, said little in her broken German, and worked like a Trojan. Barica 2 was always up for a joke - at least in as much as our broken German would allow - and she had this rather quaint habit of discreetly placing any Playboys she found in the rooms on my cleaning trolley, neatly tucked away between the shampoos and the complimentary chocolates.
The Baricas, Yugoslav Gastarbeiter as they were known, had family back home and worked to send money home and would disappear every couple of months for a long weekend back to Zagreb, from where they would return with gifts of the non-Playboy kind.
Intrigued by their stories and prodded with my Jesuit indoctrination at boarding school, I headed to Yugoslavia the following year, destination Medjugorje, and Mostar before the war was a particular highlight. Of my overnight stay in Zagreb I remember little, and nothing noteworthy.
And so my impression of Zagreb remained for the longest time. Regular visits for work, meetings at ministries, media appearances and catching up with friends. But it was a rather boring little city, far from my idyllic island home on Hvar.
And then something happened...
While many wax lyrical about the development of tourism on the coast, the real tourism development story in Croatia in my opinion is the one less told - the capital Zagreb.
Let's go beyond the hype of Advent in Zagreb - but before we do, let's pause on the fact that numbers for December arrivals were up over 30% on last year, a year when where were more tourists in Zagreb in December than many mid-size tourist destinations on the coast manage in a year - and look at a historic city finally coming of age.
Now an EU capital, international business and diplomatic interest in Zagreb is on the rise, and so is tourism. There was only one destination in Croatia which had over a million tourists overnighting in 2016, and it was not Dubrovnik or Rovinj. With the new airport terminal opening next month, the bigger players are listening. Emirates direct from Dubai starts on June 1, and how long before that much coveted direct flight from New York?
A city with a vibrant art scene, an increasingly appealing gourmet offer, and a city gaining in self-confidence and more innovative technology and events. But how to learn about all this, and what is going on?
I have looked at doing at website for Zagreb for some time, and we finally took the decision to have a go late last year. Welcome to Total Zagreb, a website covering news, views, events and features for the Croatian capital, updated daily, and the latest member of the growing Total Croatia network.
With more and more foreigners moving to the city, providing useful information on the essentials - how to register, find an apartment, mobile phone deal or English-spealing cardiologist - are information items in demand, but hard to find - we are expanding our Moving to Zagreb section, but hope you will agree we have made a useful start.
Zagreb is nothing with its people of course, and we will be taking a weekly look at the diverse and interesting characters who make up its inhabitants in our Meet the People of Zagreb section. We start with Sanja, and if you are a Harry Potter fan, she is someone you would like to meet. If you would like to be featured in this section, or know someone interesting who would, please get in touch.
Zagreb in History - a rich past and an exciting future. Old photographs, videos and - perhaps most fascinating of all - the memories of those who grew up in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Total Zageb is a platform for you all. Wonderful memories such as those of Vesna, who grew up in the 1960s.
The site no doubt has some errors and omissions - we only started to work on it on January 2 - and constructive criticism and suggestions are more than welcome.
We hope you enjoy the site, and we look forward to getting to know so many facets of this wonderful city in greater detail.