divided as to whether this city has enough sightseeing potential to
warrant a visit. That’s a subjective question, and everyone has
their own tastes, so we’re never likely to reach a definitive
conclusion. I wanted to know what Zagreb had to offer during a quick
stopover, so I decided to visit for a day.
First I headed
towards the city center, which was about a 20-30 minute walk. Even on
the way, there was plenty to see. I passed the train station and
entered Timoszváv Square, which offers a good view of the pretty
yellow building that houses the national art gallery. My route then
led into Zrinjevac Park, which is named after a Croatian lord or ban,
Nikola Zrinski. It’s relatively modest in size, but it felt good to
walk beneath the shade of the trees.
Then with a skip and
a jump, I was right in the center, at Ban Jelačić Square. It has
everything you’d expect of a central square – shops, cafés,
statues, a fountain, and of course a huge open space for people to
wander through. What I liked best were the colorfully painted
buildings and the distinctive, baby-blue trams that rumble through
The center of Zagreb
is divided into three sections. First is the more modern Lower Town,
which has broad boulevards and spacious squares – like Ban Jelačić
Square. The Upper Town, where St Mark’s Church is located, has a
more medieval atmosphere. The other historic part of the town is
Kaptol Hill, where the cathedral is located. Fortunately, the most
noteworthy sights in all three areas are close to one another and
easily reached by a short walk – no need for public transport.
I was very
interested to see the local market, which opens onto Ban Jelačić
Square. First I came to a flower market – nothing more than a few
stalls – then up a broad flight of steps to the outdoor Dolac
Market. At the top of the steps is a bronze statue of the ‘Kumica
Barica’ market woman – a reminder of the old days. It’s a
typical tourist spot, and I took a few selfies there myself.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many sellers there at noon on a Monday,
but the characteristic feature of the market, the plain red stall
awnings, was still an impressive sight to behold. In one building
there’s also a fish market, which when I visited was practically
deserted. No doubt the whole place is much more interesting on
weekends, but I was still glad I visited.
Zagreb provided more
or less what I was expecting: interesting and pretty sights which are
close enough to one another to see in a day, or indeed in just a few
hours. I have to say, though, contrary to some information I read
prior to my trip, I didn’t have the feeling that this was a
‘Mediterranean city’. Still, it was worth a visit, and I’m glad
to have ticked Zagreb off my list. (2019)”
At one o’clock we enter Zagreb. After a walk northwards, crossing three squares, we reach the main square with its new horse statue – named after Jelačić, 1848 nationalist and imperialist. This former Trg Republike I recognize only because of its big standing clock and its trams. We pause for our first čevapčići.
Three nights we will pass at Skandinski 2 A, with a perfect modern room, in a hilly street with many terrace tables. We install ourselves and leave for the Kapitol district, the oldest northern hill. Cake with nuts in tearoom Procaffé; a street vendor of roasted kukurucs; a piano bar; and the cathedral full of... tourists.
Near a square, with the statue of a poet leaning on a bronze advertising column, we meet Dennis with his two little daughters in their pink outfits. Originally from Canada, he has married his wife here and works in a real estate company for tourists. But like Vera, who leads our apartments, he sees also the disadvantages of übertourism.
We end our day in the alley in front of our apartment, our terrace table full of beer, schnitzels, and anchovies salad.
In the morning we move to a second room, at the lower side of the street. This is the room we had originally booked, but first, its plumbing problem had to be fixed. We get 25 euro refunded.
After lunch, we walk from Kapitol to Gorni Grad, through the tunnel which was a safe hiding place in WW II. We meet a couple from Jerusalem and continue my pilgrimage to Ilica 17. Here I once stayed with the red-haired mother of my friend Jovan Obrenović; the archives of the famous photographer Tošo Dabac are kept here too. He was a good friend of my mother’s. In the sixties, I slept at the house of his extended family, in Gornji Grad.
We take the funicular upwards and visit the beautiful Naive Art Museum. Here we see many paintings by Generalić, f.e. Mozes at the Red Sea, a row of European cathedrals, and also landscapes such as Three Lumberjacks in the Trees. We buy a mousepad decorated with Krave se vratija (The cows return home).
Shortly we visit the Sv. Markus church, and the Mestrović atelier with its female statues. Then we dine outside Dedo San (Grandfather’s Dream), where we meet two older couples from the US. One of the husbands has been born here and asks: ‘What do you think about Trump?’
Back downtown on Tkalčićeva street, near the main square, we suddenly hear many music groups.
We start the day where we finished yesterday: at Tkalčićeva, where we drink coffee with two boys from Singapore. They attend a musical festival, which explains why all kinds of music groups fill the streets today, like yesterday evening. We see three Chileans, one of whom beats a drum at his back while he dances. This group we meet again at the market, halfway between our apartment and the Maria Church, where we buy a lubenica (watermelon).
Today we quietly stroll the west side: the long Ilica street ending in Britanski trg, with its book market. Then southwards: I stayed at Kačićeva 13 in 1966 at the Dr. Grüner family, friends of my mother’s. Their name is still visible near the door – inherited by their children now? At Trg Mažuranić the Art Academy bears several shields: in 1890 and 1920 workers demonstrated here for Labour Day and communism; in 1995 a grenade from ‘the aggressor [Serbia] struck here, leaving one person deadly wounded.
In the botanical garden we admire the Australian pine tree from the dinosaur era, then the train station and the Pantheon at Trg žrtava fašizma. At the terrace of restaurant Veganšpek we have a couscous tabouleh.
An early rise. Then via Tkalčićeva, Jelačić square, Praška, and the green squares to the main station. We meet a young Dutch business advisor with his Lithuanian girlfriend on the 07:00 train to Ljubljana. Here well over two hours later we have a ražnići and ćevapčići breakfast.
Via the main street, we head for the river. Everywhere gather groups with their guides: ‘In 1948 Yougoslavia had a fight with its communist boss. Therefore it is freer in its religion and more open to the West.’ At the Triple Bridge, a sign to a cordoned-off square says: ‘Watch out! The town of Ljubljana creates its own water.’ From above, a thin mist drops down.
The 300 meters long market sells many handicrafts and has a separate meat hall. We walk along the river eastwards, then return westwards, both banks full of only eating and drinking tourists. One bridge is decorated with four bronze dragons, another is garnished with a ‘garderobe’ of fifty meters of love locks.
The 14:45 train brings us in one hour to the tiny Lešče Bled station. There Kliment (51) waits with his car and brings us to the Hraše hamlet, to his farm, and a little camping. We install ourselves in a fresh wooden chalet, whilst the toilet and shower are located in an outbuilding. Outside a local pizzeria, we take grilled octopus. Supermarket Hofer provides us with herbal liquor, ice tea, and cheese. (e. h.