Four weekends ago now, Christophe and I met up in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. We also happened to be visiting the city on the Croatian holiday called Anti-Fascist Struggle Day, celebrated on June 22 to mark the start of the uprising of Croatians against Italian and German occupying forces during WWII. It was nice because the city was much less crowded than Dubrovnik (which is often overrun by tourists from cruise ships) and there were some reenactments taking place to commemorate the holiday.
Zagreb is distinct from Dubrovnik. Whereas Dubrovnik has an ancient, Mediterranean charm, you can see the influences of the Austro-Hungarian empire evident in the architecture of Croatia’s capital. Zagreb has several charming squares and parks in addition to impressive statues and cathedrals.
We spent all of our first day in the city exploring the upper and lower parts of Zagreb. Gornji grad (the upper town) features Zagreb’s main Cathedral, characterized by its soaring twin towers (one of which is currently being renovated), in addition to the fountain Virgin Mary with Angels, the Stone Gate, the colorful St. Mark’s Church, and the Croatian Sabor (aka Croatia’s parliament). My favorite site in all of Zagreb was St. Mark’s Church by far. The tiled roof is beautiful! We also caught glimpses of Croatia’s preparation for EU accession as the Sabor was already decorated with both Croatian and EU flags. In the lower part of town we strolled through several of Zagreb’s green squares and the Botanical Garden while also stopping to admire the sights of the National Theater, the Art Pavilion, and the giant statue of King Tomislav.
Day two in Zagreb we ventured to Medvednica, a nature park right on the outskirts of the city. We escaped the heat downtown for the cool mountain air and shaded hiking trails. While driving through the park’s winding roads, we also got a chance to visit Medvedgrad, a medieval castle built in the 13th century that offers great views of Zagreb and Medvenica’s forests.
Some do’s for Zagreb: try the amazing mango soup at Ivica i Marica, venture out of the city to Medvedgrad.
And a don’t: pass on the Museum of Broken Relationships. It’s won a few awards, but I didn’t find the exhibit that compelling.