20 November 2013

Story of Zagreb :)

It's been awhile I know, I've been a lazy ass but here it goes again, another story about one more beautiful destination!
I've been writing about so many places around the world and now it's time to tell you a story about my favorite place in the Universe, about the city I was born and raised in, about the city where I've spent the biggest part of my life -and where I want to come back to at some point, story about my Zagreb - my home! :)

Zagreb - capitol of  the Republic of Croatia
Local currency - Hrvatska kuna (Croatian kuna, kuna meaning a small animal - marten)
Population of Zagreb - about 1,5 mill

Kuna :)

Story of Zagreb starts...well we say somewhere in the 7th century, but its history dates all the way from the Roman times!
For centuries Zagreb was divided into two different city centers - smaller eastern part Kaptol, where Zagreb Cathedral still proudly stands, and larger western part Gradec or Grič, inhabited mainly by farmers and merchants, or I would say - where all the life was happening :)
At the end of 19th century ban Josip Jelačić united these two sides so, in his honour, the main square has his name!

Zagreb Cathedral

Main square - Ban Josip Jelačić

A few centuries before that, in 1242. , Gradec became a free royal town by Bela IV, King of Hungary and Croatia at the time. He gave citizens of Gradec a royal charter, a Golden Bull by which Gradec was proclaimed 'a free royal city on Gradec, the hill of Zagreb'.
The citizens started to built defensive walls and towers, scared of Mongol invasions. There were four gates into the city, and only one still remains today - Kamenita vrata (eng. Stone gate) inside of which is a small statue of Majka Božja (literally Mother of God) where people come to light candles and pray, so when you pass through just be respectful of those who are praying in front of the only painting that survived a terrible fire in 1731. (was that a sign?)

You cannot miss it on the way up to the Upper town, where another must see church is - st.Marko's church! One of the most beautiful in the country... On the same square there is a mansion called Banski dvori, which is the seat of the Government of the Republic of Croatia, and just on the opposite side is Croatian Parliament. (and right next door is my high school :)

St. Marko's church

Tower Lotršćak

My favorite place in the city is as well in the Upper town and its called Kula Lotršćak (Lotršćak tower)! It is a fortified tower, one of the towers built in 13st century, remember Mongols and their invasions? The name comes from a Latin expression which means thieves bell, referring to a bell hung in the tower to signal the closing of the town gates.
There is one more important thing about this tower, it has a cannon inside which is fired from every day at noon to mark midday, since January 1st 1877! (no matter how long you live there and hear the 'bang' every day at the same time you always jump for a second, and all th crazy pigeons start flying all over! Therefore if you hear a loud bang and see lots of pigeons flying just remember it's 12 o'clock!) ;)
If the doors are open you can climb up and get an amazing view of the city of Zagreb, specially in the summer time, around 7pm... Ah, amazing!

Oh we have so many interesting history facts and legends I could bore you with right now but let's move to another one... :)

Winter sunset in the city 

Tram 11 takes you from the west to the east part of the city, from Črnomerec to Dubec.

THE best ice cream on planet Earth :D

There are also many legends and stories about how our city got its name, and one of my favorite is the one explaining the name of the main square's fountain Manduševac too...

Long long time ago, when this small lake was outside the city walls, and girls had to walk there with big wooden buckets to get some fresh cold water, a Croat ban was coming back with his thirsty soldiers from far away, across a deserted region. Getting closer to the city he saw a beautiful girl Manda at the lake (of course she was beautiful, they all are in the legends like this, I'm sure he was handsome too).
As thirsty as they all were he came to her on his horse (white horse would be a little too much for this story) and asked her 'Mando dušo (Manda dear) zagrabi vode (scoop some water)'. And that's how it happened, I don't know if they fell in love, got married and lived happily ever after but this is how Manduševac got its name and stands today on the main Zagreb's square as a small fountain, just near ban Jelačić statue, and how our lovely Zagreb got the name that proudly carries for ages!


Many books and poems were written about my lovely Zagreb, and one of my favorite writers is Marija Jurić Zagorka, whose statue stands in one of the most livest streets in the center of the city - Tklačićeva street. If you come for a visit you'll go there for sure, cause most of bars are there and it is one of the ways to get up or down from the Upper town!

One of the ways to go up or down is funicular!

Center of the city is where everything is happening! Relaxing in one of the parks making Lennuzzi's horseshoe is just one of the things you can do here! Btw Lenuzzi's horseshoe consists of 7 squares/parks, and the most known one is Zrinjevac with its musical pavilion built in the late 19th century. Around this small green square you can find the Supereme court of the Republic of Croatia, Zagreb Archeological Museum, Ministry of foreign Affairs and European integration, and Croatian Academy of sciences and arts.
Every summer or winter there are happenings and it is one more must see and feel places...

Zrinjevac - summer and winter time, it is equaly beautiful!

If you walk further down you'll get to the Main railway station and Botanical garden. And that route is a favorite one for me and and my Miss T for a long walk and talk with ice creams in our hands when it's warm outside...

Miss T and me on one of our walks :)

Main Railway station

Botanical garden

Sit for a coffee or beer in one of the bars and restaurant on Cvjetni square, as well my favorite place to spend days off when I come for a vacation. Christmas market is taking place there every year (and I'm gonna miss it again ;(
It is THE hot spot for a saturday's 'shpitza' (just an expression for everyone to go out and show off, I personally avoid it 'cause I hate the crowds like that when you can't find a decent place to sit down and grab a drink, but it can be 'interesting' from time to time).

Cvjetni square at any time of the year :)

Christmas on the main square

Friday's and Saturday's nights are mostly spent here where you can walk to and from one bar and club to another, specially in the winter when Jarun lake is closed.
Speaking of which... The lake was formed by the Sava river and it is a sports and leisure center where you can come for a loooong walk around the river, bike, swim, play volleyball and so many other stuff. Few weekends a year there is a cinema on the open - watching movies on the big screen and laying on the grass under the stars - awesome! Around the lake are lots of bars and clubs too (they are mostly closed during winter but in the summer time...) :)

Movie night by the lake :)

Taking a tram number 11 or 12 from the main square you'll get to the eastern part of the city and one more large park named Maksimir (by which is a Dinamo stadium where all the football matches and bigger concerts are being maintained).
Maksimir park is Zagreb's oldest public park. Founded in 1787. predates the majority of Europe's public park foundings. The park was opened 7 years later under the initiative of the man for whom it was named - Bishop Maksimilijan Vrhovac of Zagreb. Inside of the park is Zagreb's ZOO, so if you like nature take a whole day and spend it there, on the meadows, in the woods or by one of the five lakes - spring/summer weekends are the best time for a visit ;)

Unfortunately I don't have any newer pic from Maksimir but here is one from my neighbourhood :)

The last part of the city I want to mention is a mountain just north of Zagreb under which our city lays down safe :) - Medvednica - it can be translated as the bear mountain.
Most of the area is the nature park, and the highest peak is called Sljeme. There's also a winter sports center that has hosted several FIS World Cup slalom skiing races!
One more thing built up in 13th century, for defensive purposes against Mongols was Medvedgrad (bear town). A fortified town overlooking the city. Below the main tower of the castle is Oltar domovine (Altar of  the homeland), dedicated to the fallen Croatian soldiers.
It's worth taking a hike to go up and get a spectacular view of the city and much further away...
A night car ride further up to Sljeme is also amazing for some night shots or kissing in the dark with an amazing view :D (it is a famous place for couples ;)

My window view on Medvednica and Sljeme

I think I told you about my top places where I would take you if you ask me to be your guide when you come for a visit :)

And for the end of the story just a few interesting facts about our wonderful Croatia...
- Mr. Slavoljub Penkala, who lived and died in Zagreb, invented hot water bottle, rail-car brakes, and anode battery and one of the most famous creation - the ball point pen! (the first pen to come with its own ink, the ones you are using every day)

- Another Croatian invention was a tie! Soldiers fighting for king Louis XIII wore silk material around their necks in the early 17th century. As the king being quite the fashion oriented he took those colorful accessories and named them Cravats, which came from a word Croat. (kravata - eng. tie)

- Zagreb also has the largest and most extensive collection of Neanderthal Man remains found on one site in the world!

Aren't we awesome or what?! :)))

I think I could write and write and write about Zagreb (and all the other places in Croatia), since lots of people told me how amazing it was for them seeing a little bit of my country, or how they can't wait to go for a visit, or how they plan to go back again soon! :)
Hope you'll all visit Zagreb someday and see it the way I see it, the way I love this town :)

Have a wonderful night wherever you are! xx