Zagreb and Croatia
The Republic of Croatia (Croatian: Republika Hrvatska) is a country in Central and Southern Europe, on the Adriatic Sea. Its capital city is Zagreb. Croatia has an area of 56,594 square kilometres (21,851 square miles) and a population of 4.3 million, most of whom are Roman Catholics.
Franjo Tuđman Airport is also known as Zagreb Airport (IATA: ZAG, ICAO: LDZA). It is the largest and busiest international airport in Croatia and located at Pleso, about 14 km southeast of Zagreb. A brand new 70,000 m2 (750,000 sq ft) terminal facility opened on 28 March 2017.
Fun Fact: Croatians invented the necktie or cravat. It is derived from the French Cravate ‘Croat’ (from Serbian and Croatian Hrvat), because of the scarf worn by Croatian mercenaries in 17th century France.
We visited in April, just after Easter, and found a charming and vibrant city, most welcoming to tourists. Everything is accessible on foot but be warned that it’s a hilly city. Join AlphaLuxe on a Lazing Walking Tour…
King Tomislav Square and Glavni Kolodvor Station
We start our Lazing Walking Tour of Zagreb from the main railway station Glavni Kolodvor. Even if not a railway geek, the static exhibit of an engine is still fascinating. Some of the communist era rolling stock is still on track and the “train spotting anoraks” will be in ‘rail track heaven’.
From the steps of the station, we see the large statue of King Tomislav that marks the start of Trg kralja Tomislava (King Tomislav Square). He was Croatia’s first king after defending against Hungarian attacks and uniting Croatian lands into one country in 925 A.D. Trg kralja Tomislava merges into Ledeni Park (Ice Park) in the Winter as another attraction.
Zagreb Art Pavilion
The Art Pavilion in Zagreb, at the north end of King Tomislav Square, is the oldest exhibition hall in the Slavic south and the only building purposely built for big exhibitions. Originally built to serve as the Croatian Pavilion for the Budapest Millennial Exhibition of 1896, it was constructed using then latest metal frame techniques. The pavilion was disassembled at the end of the Budapest exhibition, transported to Zagreb by train, and re-erected at its current location. Pretty impressive for a “temporary structure”, huh?
Park Zrinjevac Music Pavilion
We continue strolling north through a series of parks and see Croatians celebrating Easter, culture and dance.
We head north to Ban Jelačić Square (Trg bana Josipa Jelačić), which is the central square of the city, named after ban Josipa Jelačić. In Croatia, ‘ban’ is an honorific title of the King’s viceroy as the governor of the city. The official name is Trg bana Jelačića. The square is colloquially called Jelačić Place. Everything starts from this square.
Zagreb’s old towns of Gradec and Kaptol that formed the city are above Jelačić Place and Dolac Market is approached by steps. Ilica Street with all it’s luxury shopping is to the west. The funkiest rejuvenated Tkalčića Street (Ul. Ivana Tkalčića) with the highest concentration of restaurants and bars lies to the northwest and in parallel with Radićeva Street (Ul. Radićeva). To the southwest are the bars and cafes around “Flower Square” or Trg Petra Preradovića (Peter Preradović Square) so named for the many florists there.
Zagreb Cathedral (Zagrebačka katedrala)
From Jelačić Place, climb up the hill on Tome Bakača Street (Ul. Tome Bakača) to the cathedral. Stop by a bronze-cast 3-D model of Zagreb on the way to get your bearings.
Zagreb Cathedral in Kaptol town is the tallest building in Croatia and a sacral building in Gothic style. It is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary and to kings — Saint Stephen and Saint Ladislaus. The cathedral and sacristy are in the Gothic style. Its prominent twin spires are landmarks visible from most parts of the city but it was not always like this.
When King Ladislaus (1040-1095) moved the bishop’s chair from Sisak to Zagreb in 1093 , he proclaimed the existing church as a cathedral. Construction of a Romanesque cathedral started shortly after his death and was finished in 1217. The building was destroyed by the Mongols in 1242 but rebuilt by Bishop Timotej (1263-1287). At the end of the 15th century, the Ottoman Empire invaded Croatia, triggering the construction of fortification walls around the cathedral, some of which are still intact. In the 17th century, a fortified renaissance watch-tower was erected on the south side, and was used as a military observation point, because of the Ottoman threat.
In 1880, the pre-earthquake view from Jelačić Square shows the old square spire. The eagle-eyed will have noticed the statue of ban Jelačić was pointing North instead of South in those days.
The cathedral was severely damaged in the 1880 Zagreb earthquake. The main nave collapsed and the tower was damaged beyond repair; the Cathedral clock stopped at 07 hours 03 minutes and 03 seconds.
The restoration of the cathedral in the Neo-Gothic style was led by Hermann Bollé, bringing the cathedral to its present form. The building is 46 meters wide and 108 meters high. As part of that restoration, two spires 108 m (354 ft) high were raised on the western side, both of which, are now in the process of being restored. We can still see one spire and a facsimile of the other spire.
Inside Zagreb Cathedral, it is calm and well utilised by devout Catholics.
For the cunning linguists amongst you, here is a strange inscription.
There are two stories about the inscription in Glagolitic alphabet (glagoljca). The populist story is that 9th century Byzantine missionaries, Cyril and Methodius, invented it to translate the Greek/Latin Bible and church writings into Slavic language. They taught mainly in Moravia (eastern Czech Republic) but it was in Croatia that it caught on and was used until the 19th century. The term ‘glagol’, meaning “utterance”, also exists in Macedonian, Serbian, Belarussian, Czech, Slovak, and Ukrainian.
The alternate story is that Glagolitic was used in the 4th century by St. Jerome, whose Latin name was Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus. Thus, the alphabet is also known as Hieronymian. Adapted in Bulgaria, it became part of the Cyrillic alphabet, which Russia and Serbia still use.
Today, Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovena speak essentially the same language; the difference is in the writing. Croatians and Bozniaks use Roman alphabet and the Serbs use Cyrillic alphabet.
The Cravat Regiment (Croatian: Kravat pukovnija) is a guard of honour based in Zagreb. Here, they are shown assembling in Cathedral Square before setting off to St Mark’s Square.
Since 2010, the regiment has regularly performed a march in the Old Town, which culminates in a changing of the guard at St Mark’s Square. The regiment wears replica uniforms of the Croats from the Thirty Years’ War. The changing of the guard is performed every Saturday and Sunday at noon, from April to October. Additionally, the changing of the guard also takes place on special occasions such as Zagreb City Day (31 May), Cravat Day (18 October) and New Year’s Day (1 January).
We were tired and hungry by now, so it was off to the Old Town to find a bar and restaurant……
End of Part 1
AlphaLuxe articles about Zagreb:
Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He is also a moderator on PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelogue ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).