Zagreb: A Review Visit

So, our basic Zagreb tour included:

Interior of the Zagreb Cathedral.

Interior of the Zagreb Cathedral.

• Zagreb Cathedral, in the oldest part of the city, Kaptol, sits next to 16th century walls

The Ten Commandments written with the Glagolitic alphabet, seen in the Zagreb Cathedral.

The Ten Commandments written with the Glagolitic alphabet, seen in the Zagreb Cathedral.

that were built to protect against the Ottomans who never came.

The cathedral replaced a cathedral destroyed by Tatars in 1242. Construction stretched from the 13th to the 16th centuries, but the church got its final neo-Gothic form in the 19th century.

Our guide pointed out specific features inside, but the most fascinating was a wall covered with the Ten Commandments written in the 12th century Glagolitic alphabet, which — our guide said — combined the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets and was meant to help Croatians keep their messages secret from others.

Tkalciceva Street, once a creek that separated the two parts of Zagreb’s Upper Town.

Tkalciceva Street, once a creek that separated the two parts of Zagreb’s Upper Town.

• Kaptol and Gradec were separated by a creek, since filled in, creating Tkalciceva Street.

Statue of Nikola Tesla, the Croatian-born Serb who invented fluorescent lighting, alternating current (AC) electricity and the radio (before Marconi).

Statue of Nikola Tesla, the Croatian-born Serb who invented fluorescent lighting, alternating current (AC) electricity and the radio (before Marconi).

This brook had been used to power mills and later was a site for factories. But, in its current iteration, as Tkalciceva Street, it is known for its boutiques, cafes and restaurants, some of them open until the wee hours. Visually, it is a charming street of small colorful houses.

• We walked to the Gradec side of Tkalciceva Street via the Stone Gate, the only surviving city gate, once part of a medieval wall built to protect Gradec.

The gate is the site of a shrine built around a painting of the Virgin and Child that is believed to have miraculously survived a major fire in 1731.

• The centerpiece of Gradec is the tiny 13th century St. Mark’s Church, the Gradec parish church, which sits amid a number of national government buildings including the Parliament.

I remembered this site vividly from my 1993 visit because of the church’s unique tiled roof, which shows off (when not covered by snow) the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia and of Zagreb.

Signage for Zagreb’s popular new Museum of Broken Relationships.

Signage for Zagreb’s popular new Museum of Broken Relationships.

Nearby, we passed the city’s relatively new Museum of Broken Relationships, one of the world’s weirdest museums and a very popular one. An option for a more leisurely visit!

• The 13th century Lotrscak Tower, the best preserved piece of the Gradec fortifications, stands next to an 1888 funicular, described as the shortest passenger cable railway in the world (66 meters/216 feet). It provides a 55-second ride between the Upper and Lower towns. But we walked.

• Our key destination in the Lower Town was Ban Josip Jelacic Square, a large open space characterized by substantial 19th century buildings and lots of blue trams passing along one side. It seemed to be a transportation hub.

A large statue of Ban Josip Jelacic overlooks the square; he is honored as a 19th century war hero and because he ended serfdom in the area.

Walking in the Lower Town, we saw an amazing number of restaurants with outdoor seating in place,

Snow-covered seating at outdoor cafes in Zagreb’s Lower Town, seen in March.

amazing considering it was snowing and it was March.

I also noted, as I have in several European cities in the last couple of years, a

A modern Zagreb high-rise decorated with enlarged old photos of the Lower Town.

A modern Zagreb high-rise decorated with enlarged old photos of the Lower Town.

surprising amount of graffiti on buildings.

I asked about the graffiti. Our guide clearly did not like it, but said it is less bad than a couple of years ago. I guess that was a good indicator.

• We wrapped up a whirlwind visit with dinner at a popular eatery, Okrugljak, which dates back more than 100 years. It promotes itself as specializing in typical Croatian dishes, plus “international” dishes.

We sat in a long room with Croatian artifacts on walls and a huge freestanding ceramic stove.

Our menu included strukli, a pastry with cheese and cream, and kremsnita, a dessert that was a bit like a Napoleon. The menu also included thin ham slices and bread for openers and a veal and potato dish as the main course. This event was big on meat, carbs and creamy things, but not so much on vegetables.

Before the next morning’s departure, I had an hour to walk in the sun, which allowed me to reach the Lower Town again. In hindsight, I think I could have gotten to the cathedral, but did not realize that until too late.

Rats.

This article and its photos are by Nadine Godwin, the author of Travia: The Ultimate Book of Travel Trivia, which was published by The Intrepid Traveler.

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