I am in LOVE with Zagreb and could easily spend a month or two just exploring the capital city of Croatia! It is clean, safe, has friendly people and even though it is a major city, there is a “laid back” atmosphere here. I say laid back because there are several sidewalk cafes where people will meet and share a coffee or wine over a visit. It is part of the culture!
On Saturday night, David and I walked through Jelacic (YEH-lah-cheech) Square, which is the central point of the “lower town” of Zagreb. It was a warm evening and people were out strolling through the square, in the nearby local park and enjoying the sidewalk cafes. They were not going anywhere special just walking, enjoying the nice evening and each other’s company. It is something that is common in most European cities and towns that I have visited over the years. I like it very much!
As of yet, I haven’t had much time to really explore Zagreb. It doesn’t look like we will have much time to do so, either. David arrived on Friday, yesterday was the trip to the national park, today it is raining very, very hard. (You are probably thinking, “and a little rain is going to stop you?” Well, 39 years ago, I hitch-hiked/worked through Europe for 15 months. I usually stayed in Youth Hostels, which is a great place to meet other young travelers. However, after breakfast, everyone had to leave regardless of the weather. There were many days that I schlepped in the rain or freezing cold, snowy days. At my age, I don’t have to do that anymore and for that, I am grateful!)
The weather tomorrow is some rain but hopefully, not as hard. There are a couple of museums that I would like to visit and hope to do that, as well as see more of the sights of Zagreb.
On Friday, while David was resting from his trip, I went out to buy a SIM card for my phone and explored a little.
Zagreb is a city of settlements on two hills. Gradec, is known as the upper village and is known as the “secular” settlement. The religious settlement in the lower section is known as Kaptol.
I was told the wrong street for the cell phone store but it was good because I visited a Ribnjak Park behind the Cathedral.
There are remnants of a medieval wall around part of the park built as protection from the Ottomans when they were a major threat. It was originally the site of the Bishop of Zagreb’s fishponds where, every Friday, priest would catch fish for Friday evenings dinner. Until, World War II, this park was where the Cathedral’s priest had their gardens and orchards. It is a lovely escape from the traffic. On the west side of the park, is Kaptol Street. I walked down this and took a right onto Opatovina Street, one of the pedestrian shopping streets.
Following Opatovina Street straight down, I came to Dolac where the open air market is held everyday. All districts in Zagreb have these wonderful open-air markets, we have one around the corner from the apartment we are staying in.
The Dolac market is the most famous in Zagreb and was established in the early 1900s! In one corner area of the market is this statue of Petrica Kerempuh by sculptor Vanja Radaus. Petrica is a much loved character from Croatian literature.
Continuing down a staircase and through a short street that had florist stands in the center, I came out to Ban (Governor) Jelacic Square. This has been the heart of Zagreb as far back as 1641 and was designated as the place for fairs. As you can see from the picture below, there are fairs that still take place in the square today.
In 1866, the square was named after Ban Josip Jelacic who defended Croatian’s rights against Austria and Hungary. During the communist rule, 1946 until 1990, the name of the square was changed to the Republic Square and the statue honoring Jelacic was removed. A public petition in 1990 brought the statue back to the square where it remains today. A common meeting point for people is “under the horse’s tail” or at the west side of the square is the clock, where people meet.
This is Mandusevac Fountain that was built above a natural spring that people of Zagreb got their drinking water until the end of the 19th century. There is, also, reference in court papers of witches, who were persecuted, meeting at this spring. Finally, legend has it that name of Zagreb is connected to the spring. The legend says that on a sunny day, “an old Croatian war leader was returning from battle tried and thirsty, and asked a beautiful girl Manda to scoop up some water from the spring for him. The Croatian word for “to scoop up water” is “zagrabiti”. So, the spring got the name Mandusevac, after the girl, and the town got the name Zagreb after the scoop of water.” (Credit to tourist brochure Step by Step, Zagreb, Croatia).
Look at this cutie!!! He rides on the back of the bicycle in a day pack that is attached to the bike. Of course, I had to click a photo of this!!
From the east end of the square, I headed north on Bakac Street, part of the pedestrian mall that turns into Kaptol Street for cars. Where the two streets meet, brings you the Cathedral.
This is the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The primary religion in Croatia is Catholicism. There has been a church in this spot since around 1094 when Zagreb had its first Bishop. In the end of the 13th century, an early Gothic sanctuary was added. The nave was modified and made higher during the 14th and 15th century.
Threats of raids by the Ottoman Empire brought about fortifying the cathedral with an outer wall. Over the years, other design changes were made but in 1880 an earthquake did substantial damage to the building. The church was reconstructed along in a neo-Gothic style, which was popular throughout Europe at that time. Today, the Cathedral, still has this design.
After this new, neo-Gothic design reconstruction, a fountain was added in front of the Cathedral. The Virgin Mary is atop of the column and the four angels at the base symbolize Faith, Hope, Innocence and Humility.
There you have my first look at Zagreb….tomorrow is more exploring, hopefully, minus the rain….