Zagreb: A Review Visit

Roof of St. Mark’s Church in Zagreb’s Upper Town, showing off the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia, on the left, and of Zagreb, on the right. It is seen in the author’s 1993 photo because the tiles aren’t so vivid under snow.

Roof of St. Mark’s Church in Zagreb’s Upper Town, showing off the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia, on the left, and of Zagreb, on the right. It is seen in the author’s 1993 photo because the tiles aren’t so vivid under snow.

ZAGREB, Croatia — It was snowing when I arrived in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, in late winter 2013. The city parks and rooftops were beautiful with the new dusting of white.

I was traveling with a group of travel agents on an educational tour of Croatia. Although the snow isn’t a great facilitator for sightseeing, it’s a missed opportunity to retreat indoors when there is a fine city to see.

With our bags parked at the hotel, we were off to the historic center of Zagreb on a guided tour that encompassed the highlights typical of a first-timer’s visit.

Modern Zagreb office building, called Eurocenter, within walking distance of the historic city center.

Modern Zagreb office building, called Eurocenter, within walking distance of the historic city center.

I was not a first-timer, but it had been 20 years since I saw Zagreb (one can forget a lot) and I am a fan of review visits.

The city (population: 800,000), located on the flood-prone Sava River, has its share of socialist architecture — which locals dryly refer to as Tito baroque. Zagreb has two historic centers, the side-by-side Upper Town and Lower Town.

An Upper Town building at top, overlooking buildings in Zagreb’s Lower Town.

An Upper Town building at top, overlooking buildings in Zagreb’s Lower Town.

The Upper Town, as the name suggests, is an elevated part of the city. It started life as two towns, one called Kaptol, which was an ecclesiastical center founded in 1094, and the other Gradec, which means burg, referring to a town of merchants.

The two weren’t formally united until 1850, by which time the commercial Lower Town was developing and Gradec became the city’s political center. (Are you still with me?)

There was a time with these two settlements in the Upper Town warred with one another, apparently shedding plenty of blood; there is now a street in the Upper Town called Bloody Bridge.

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