We stayed a good two days in Zagreb. It was the last leg of our Croatian trip. And after our outing at the Plitvice lakes complex, we really wanted to take it easy. There are so many things to do in the capital! Most important of all was the shopping – which I strongly suggest you leave for Zagreb. Especially if you are from Europe. It is much MUCH cheaper.
What we did:
Our hotel – the Sheraton – was a 5 minute walk from the Art Pavilion in Zagreb (Croatian: Umjetnički paviljon u Zagrebu). The pavilion lies sandwiched between the Zagreb station and Nikola Šubić Zrinski Square. A little further was the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb hosting the Croatian Triennial 2016.
A little more walking and we reach the Ban Jelačić Square better known as Jelačić place. The best meeting place and the most famous square in Zagreb. The large equestrian statue at the center of the square is that of Ban Josip Jelačić.
Next up was a 3D map of Zagreb sculpted in Bronze. And right next to it is the Cathedral of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary or the Zagreb Cathedral.
We were fortunate to find some traditional folk artists dancing and playing music outside the cathedral. The cathedral is the only Gothic structure in southeast of the Alps.
But the most amazing find in the Cathedral was text written on one of its walls. Don’t miss it. We later found out from the lady who sold us some locals chocolates about the inscriptions on the wall (she seemed to know a lot about everything). It turns out to be text in Glagolitic, the historical script of Croatia. No wonder you see many of the symbols around (on t-shirts and as tattoos)
Our next stop was the Dolac Market. Colourful little place with, you guessed it, a lot of Lavendar and sugar coated bonbons and intricately designed candles.
We bought some stuff and plonked at a café nearby for lunch. This is when we were crossed by a procession of men on horses!
Post lunch we strayed a little and got to the cobbled, bar lined street of ul. ivana tkalčića or Tkalčićeva. And then suddenly out of nowhere were the most adorable bunch of kitties staring at us. Of course, these were Graffiti on the wall. But we were nonetheless attracted to taking the steps that lead to somewhere, to see more of the street art.
This led us to the Stone gate, the entrance to the Upper town. The year 1731 saw a massive fire that killed and destroyed everyone and everything in its way. But when it came to the Stone gate, the fire seemed to have done little damage. The miraculous thing was it didn’t do a thing to the painting of the Virgin Mother that you see here. The Holy mother saved the city. The grateful people of Zagreb then built a chapel around the painting and today it is the biggest shrine in Zagreb.
The gate lets you up a street that takes you to the St. Marks Church. The famous tiled roof displays the coat of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia (on the left) and that of Zagreb on the right. Close to the church is a unique and vraiment exotic museum.
The Museum of Broken relationships
I wasn’t sure I wanted to go here in the first place. I mean,why look at a bunch of old letters and personal belongings that signify the end of something. But we went anyway. And it was surprisingly interesting. The stories and memoirs vary from funny to sad to tragic. From stories of lovers, to between child and parent and siblings. To between those who never knew other. But the amazing thing was that they have a dedicated section for stories from the refugees, from Syria and from makesift camps around Europe. I promise you, you will leave with a surge of emotions and with an even stronger belief that we are after all the same, despite our differences. I came out thinking I’d contribute one day to this place.
Man in a wheel chair
It was scorching hot at this point and so we cooled ourselves with some ice cream and coffee (yeah that helps me). We decided to go towards the Funicular. We were met by a friendly man on a wheelchair. He asked my husband D to push him towards the end of the street, near his house. The funny thing was they were chatting away like old buddies. And this after I heard him ask for “a coin”. When I finally caught up with them, D asked if U had on me any coins from India ( we are Indians you see)!! He wanted to give it to the man he just met. Strange strange! Turns out Darko – that was his name, knew so much about India, perhaps more that us, of a time when Tito’s Yougoslavia was an impotant ally of India. He loved the Gandhi family and rattled off their entire family tree. He knew some mythological characters too! It was unbelievable. So glad we met him.
He directed us to the Lotrscak Tower, which is famous for the canon that is fired from atop every single day at noon. You also have the fantastic, panoramic view of Zagreb. We picked up some souvenirs and postcards from the artists sitting outside.
We walked by the Funicular and came into the main square again. We shopped till we dropped and I will spare you the details. But I will tell you this; I got two books written by Croatian authors (as is my habit to discover new cultures). I just asked the lady to pick me her two favourite books written in English by local authors. These were ‘The Hill’ by Ivica Prtenjača and ‘Café Europa – life after communism’ by Slavenka Drakulić. Loved them both. Except for typos, Café Europa is a fantastic read for anyone who has had an experience (first hand or otherwise) of not just communist but even socialist economies. It is a MUST MUST read.
Where we ate
We ended our Croatian holiday with the best meal of our trip at Bistro Fotic – it is a family run place bustling with activity. We sat on the outside and had a humongous meal despite having ordered only a few dishes. The food choices are fewer than what you would get elsewhere, but it is a very well planned menu. Here, I must mention about the foodiosyncrasies of the four of us: one is vegetarian (though not strictly), one is allergic to gluten, one can’t stand sea food and the last one doesn’t eat beef. Also, one of us doesn’t have any red wine; one, if given a choice would not order white wine, like ever. And one is a wine connoisseur. Despite all that, each of us found what we absolutely loved (and shared without caring much about our issues!!) It was that good – enough to break promises .
Here are the things we had:
A delicious bread basket kept us busy while we waited for our food. Dinner was: Bezglutenski Kruh (Gluten free bread), Chimich Piletina (Chicken chimichanga), Piletina Safran (a chicken dish), Pizza Bijela (Fantastic pizza), Pljuk. Sa Granci (Delicious hand rolled Croatian pasta), Bottle of Korlat Rose (totally recommend it), Kava and Panacota.
I was too full to even taste the panacota , but we were served some lemon digestif – to which I just couldn’t say no!
We loved the place so much we asked our server to give us a mini tour. We were told, the place was once used as a photography club, and hence the interiors are still filled with cameras and photo equipment. A reminder of its true legacy! Had it not been a Sunday the next day, we would have showed up for breakfast! They are unfortunately closed on Sundays. Highly recommend this place.
Address: Gajeva ulica 25, Zagreb 10000, Croatia Contact: +385 1 4810 476 Website: http://www.bistrofotic.com/
This is a beautiful city – totally not worth missing. Even if you can spend a day here, I highly recommend it.
Let’s get our glasses together and Zivjeli to Croatia!