Purgerska Nostalgija | 2 comments
By: Zdenko Kahlina
Zagreb is capital city of Croatia
I’ve been living in Canada for more than 20 years now, but I always return to my home town Zagreb and never have enough of it! Zagreb is my city, because I was born there. I carry so many memories, that where ever I go around the town, something always reminds me of something from the years when I was growing up on these streets – good old memories…
Panoramic picture of Zagreb
Unfortunately I do not have much family left in Zagreb any more, but I do have lots of friends with whom I stayed in touch throughout all those years (thanks to emails!). There is nothing more beautiful than to walk on the main street Ilica, or “Trg Bana Jelacica”, Radićevoj or old “Tkalca” street, and come across some old friend! And then you stop at a little coffee bar, have a beer or “gemisteka” (vine with mineral water). First thing they always ask me is: “How are you? How much (money) do you make?… yeah, it’s easy for you living in Diaspora, here we struggle!” (this last comment always annoys me big time!). But than, I realize it’s a work day, and he is with me having a coffee instead of being at work! Everybody seems to have plenty of free time and they are not under pressure to work hard.
Streets of Zagreb – Old Town
But for a tourist, the Croatian capital is well worth a stay of at least a couple of days. Though Croatia is a country celebrated mostly for its beautiful beaches, the capital city is also beautiful. Zagreb is easily accessed by plane, is close enough to reach via bus from Vienna or Venice, has a booming night life and offers a great shopping experience. Zagreb also makes an excellent day trip and is a viable destination from the holiday resorts of Croatian Istria, the coastal towns and other places in Slovenia, Venice and Trieste in northern Italy.
My city should be featured on this website because Zagreb is a lesson in how to lead an ideal laid-back city life. Here we don’t chase after trams, or deadlines. Instead we enjoy multiple coffee breaks and discuss local soccer results. Dinamo is THE soccer team of the city…
Zagreb has also modern architecture
Streets of Zagreb
It’s not to be recommended as a day trip for people staying further south in Croatia as distances take longer to cover in this part of Europe. The train to Split (as far south as you can travel by train in Croatia) is an overnight one and you may have a few hours to kill before it departs; fortunately the station is central so you can easily take in a few sights before you leave.
View of Zagreb from the Upper (Old) town
City full of love
Zagreb revolves around the city’s main square, the Trg bana Jelacica. The square is always full of people, old, young and the very young. This is the heart of the city. In the background you can see the twin spirals of the spectacular St. Stephan’s Church. Right behind the main square is the colorful Dolac Market. Set up on an open roof terrace, it is a symphony of fresh farm produce, fresh fish, local arts and crafts all surrounded by haggling locals and sun burnt peasants. Dolac is a great place to stock up on Croatian cheese, olive oils and handicrafts.
Ban Jelacic on the Main Square
At the main square in particular, pedestrians should be aware that the trams can move quickly. On the subject of walking, it’s also important to know that the city is essentially on two levels (Gornji grad – the upper town and Donji grad – the lower town) connected either by a moderately steep hill, a short funicular ride or stone steps, depending on where you go up or down. Due to the narrow streets, the one way system and some traffic-free streets, Zagreb is not the kind of city that lends itself to open-topped bus tours ( one company offers a segway tour of Zagreb though) so you do need to walk a fair bit if you want to see a lot. Fortunately, caf culture is an intrinsic part of Zagreb life so you should do as the locals do and take regular breaks at pavement cafes.
One of the attractions in Zagreb – Short funicular ride to Upper town
Main Square in Zagreb
Heart of the city – Trg Bana Jelacica
The most random thing about my city is a cannonball fired everyday at the stroke of noon from the Lotrščak Tower. The city center, known as Ilica, spreads out from the Main Square, and is full of boutiques and cafes. I have spent many afternoons combing these lanes, finding bargains in the most unexpected corners. At the other end of Ilica is Britain Square. On Sundays the square hosts a charming antique market.
Ilica – Main street in the city
Zagreb Main Street with trams
Coffee is a very important part of the Croatian social make-up. The city is dotted with coffee shops and the Croats can be found sipping on a cup at all times. Take part in this local tradition at the Flower Square (situated very close to the Main Square): Croatia’s most fashionable drop by here to catch up and be seen over coffee and beer.
When I crave something sweet I always go to Slastičarnica Vincek, a popular pastry shop. I usually have the kremšnita (vanilla custard cake) with a cup of coffee. If you have to order one thing off the menu from the local pizzerias it has to be cevapcici – small pieces of grilled mixed meat served with traditional bread. Don’t eat meat? Try burek – a pastry stuffed with cheese (it also comes with minced meat).
Dolac Market is my one-stop shop for great fresh fruits and vegetables, meat cuts, homemade delicacies and local handicrafts.
Dolac market is a busy place
Dolac market – great fresh fruits and vegetables
Locals know to skip worrying about food at local cafe-bars (most bars here don’t serve food with drinks, save for peanuts) and check out the small pizzerias and kebab joints instead. Cafes have no problem if you bring your sandwich or slice along.
Ilica is always busy
My personal tip for Zagreb is to head to Ilica street – this main stretch starts at Trg Ban Jelacic (Ban Jelacic Square) and heads west. The main square is easily accessed from all parts of the city by the excellent tram network and is a popular meeting spot for people young and old. To get a feel for the place I recommend the fantastic pekara or bakery in the square do what the locals do and buy a pastry wrapped sausage and wander along the nearby streets and the main stretch of shops.
Zagreb has beautiful Cathedral
If you’re one for history head to the Upper (or Old) Town of Zagreb. Here within the winding lanes and old fashioned gas lamps, you’ll find many of the city’s prominent landmarks: the Croatian Parliament building; the St.Mark’s Church, with its unique tiled roof; and the medieval Lotrscak Tower – even today a canon is fired from the tower every afternoon. From here make your way up to the shrine at Stone Gate where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared. The Old Town is peppered with art galleries, museums and old churches, as well as wonderful photo opportunities.
Past Stone Gate and down hill is Zagreb’s most popular watering hole/street – Tkalciceva Ulica. These streets are marked with old world Baroque buildings. A mix-n-match row of pubs, caf-bars, restaurants, gift boutiques and even tiny art galleries are etched along the sides. Come Friday night, these tiny lanes host quite a party.
Zagreb suburbs and Medvednica Mountain
Zagreb is situated between the Medvednica mountain range and the Sava River, which makes for great side trips. You can take a stroll up the Mountain or take a cable car ride up the slopes and enjoy the view of the city below. During the winters, the mountain offers skiing facilities and attracts a great crowd to the peaks. Another popular haunt is the Maksimir Park; this is one of the largest parks in the region, with a beautiful oak forest, five little lakes and even a zoo, which the children will enjoy.
This is also a city of museums and art. While there are over twenty-one museums, the ones you should absolutely visit are the Mimara Museum and the Museum of the City of Zagreb.
Zagreb streets – people are everywhere
If you weren’t going to stop off at any museums or galleries you could easily navigate the chief sights of Zagreb in one day, but a visit of a couple of days would be enough to take in some of the parks, a museum or gallery and still allow plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere. Zagreb looks beautiful at any time of the year but the very cold winters and the very hot summers may influence your decision. The city also plays host to a variety of different festivals over the course of the year (see the end of this review for a link to a list of them) and this might also help you decide when to visit.
Sightseeing by the day and partying by night with lots of coffee breaks in between that’s a perfect day in Zagreb. In the summer you should make your way to the Strossmayer Promenade, sit under chestnut trees and hide from the scorching sun. Summer is also a time to enjoy Zagreb’s longest street festival on the promenade; an event full of art, music and wine. In the fall you should snack on roasted chestnuts available at stalls along the city’s many squares. In the winter you should head up Sljeme, take in the views and ski down the slopes. A hidden gem in my city is Stone Gate, a small shrine dedicated to Mary, in the arch of the only surviving medieval town gate.
Zagreb is well connected on the European rail network and there are regular trains to cities such as Belgrade, Ljubljana, Vienna, Venice and Budapest. Buses also connect Zagreb with destinations across Europe.
Marko square – touristy place
There are plenty of hotels, with the ones closer to the centre being more expensive – some are in very grand buildings, and the cheaper ones being closer to the train station. If you are looking for cheap hostel accommodation you can find several advertising at the train station, and there is always the possibility of private rooms though these tend to be further out of town. Check on-line for the B&B accommodations, there is plenty of different opportunities.
Zagreb – Main train station
Zagreb is my city
Have a good and healthy season.
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