It was a nice break leaving the bike with Annie our couch-surfing host., and catching the bus then the tram into Zagreb. We bought our tickets at the Tisek, a little magazine and drinks stand which are all over the country. The tickets allowed us 90 minutes of travel within the network much the same as other cities in Croatia.
Once the tram arrived in the centre we started our tour with a visit to the Zagreb Cathedral. The Cathedral was constructed in 1217 but was destroyed during the Mongol Invasion. It’s hard to imagine when we think back to when we were in Karakoram, the ancient capital of Mongolia, that Mongols would travel such distances and have such a massive empire. The rebuilt cathedral was completed in 1287. The cathedral underwent modifications over the years. The modifications included the fortification of the towers in defence against the Ottoman invasion. The towers also were used as a fire lookout.
After a drink at the nearby cafe we headed to the markets.
On the weekend the lower markets are attended by ladies dressed in 16th Century style clothes, but sadly we missed them. Throughout the markets all sorts of tourist items, clothes, vegetables, fruit, cheese, meats and flowers are on sale.
In times gone by the power-brokers of the city were separated by the two hills. The clergy on one and the wealthy aristocrats on the other. In between the two hills was where the rest of the population lived. These days it’s a lovely pedestrian area surrounded by lovely old buildings. As we wandered through the pedestrian area we spied the militia guard marching along. The militia guard are local volunteers who dress up in 18th century uniforms and parade through the streets.
St Mark’s Square
Around the Aristocratic area are lots of old mansions built when Zagreb was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Many of the buildings in the area including the Old Town Hall have been extensively renovated. In the centre of St Marks square, opposite the Town Hall, is St Marks Church. It is the most iconic building in Zagreb. The roof is covered in the most beautiful tile pattern. Red, white and blue tiles form a checker-work with the Zagreb coat of arms and the former Triune kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia, and Dalmatia. The shiny coloured tiles really stand out on the roof. The church dates back to the 13th century and has had lots of modifications since. It is quite a simple affair inside and a perfect place to sit and contemplate the world.
At St Marks Church each day at 12 o’clock the militia perform changing of the guard. Around the square traditional bands play Croatian folk music, breathing life back into the old buildings. As we were watching one band a local Croatian just walking past joined in the singing, soon a small crowd had gathered just to hear him sing.
Just as the band were taking a break the sound of drums filled the air. A squad of militia armed with muskets filed through the city gates on their way up the hill to St Marks. They were accompanied by 4 officers astride horses. The senior officer was astride a magnificent Appaloosa.
A lot of stamping and shouting followed as the militia went through their changing of the guard routine. It was quite spectacular with all the militia dressed in 18th century uniform.
Once the guard had finished the ceremony and the horses rode off, we headed to the nearby Museum Of Broken Relationships.
Museum Of Broken Relationships
This has been on Michele’s list ever since she read about it a few years ago. It is the most fascinating museum based on the one phenomenon which most of us face at one stage of our life,”The Break up”. The museum was started back in 1985 with a collection of items donated by different people from failed relationships. It wasn’t just failed marriages, but a whole range of relationships. From lovers to parents each broken relationship has story to be told.
Many of the stories were heartbreaking,whilst others a little funny like this one about the Bob Dylen book.
The connection between the item and story was the most intriguing part. We spent the best part of two hours reading the stories and looking at the items.
After such an intense time (of both laughter and tears) ,it was great to hit the streets again.
Near the Klovićicevi Dvori art gallery we decided to take a break. The al fresco area has great views over the city so it was the perfect spot for a drink on a hot day.
The rest of the day we spent exploring the ring of 18th century buildings which spread out towards the train station. The Austro-Hungarian architecture around the area is just fabulous.
Late in the day we caught the tram back to the couch-surf where Annie had prepared a traditional Croatian dish. We talked late into the night about her life as a foreigner living in both communist and democratic Croatia. It was one of the most fascinating stories never written. I hope one day she puts her story down on paper.