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European Peace Walk: Day 17: Zagreb, Croatia

Bus ride through Croatia

Bus ride through Croatia

Note: My adherence to the itinerary of the European Peace Walk went off the rails on Day 13.  Any information after this day loosely follows the EPW guide. Zagreb, Croatia is not an included destination on the European Peace Walk.

Yesterday, Senja and I made the decision to leave the itinerary of the European Peace Walk and go see Croatia’s capitol: Zagreb.

We arrive at the bus station at 8 AM.  After boarding the double-decker bus, we watch as the town of Varazdin vanishes behind us and bucolic homes on hillsides with family-sized gardens and corn fields appear.  Seventy five minutes later, we are deposited in the big city at a huge hub of a bus station where toilets are behind “pay to go” gates, cafes are bustling, and fruits and salads can be found in a vending machine.

We walk to our accommodation, passing highly fashionable women who leave a trail of perfume in their wake.  I admire their put-together-ness, a feminine feat I’ve never been able to consistently pull off myself.  Snappy-dressed men with fine leather shoes walk dogs and carry briefcases, in both cases appearing carefree.

Angels outside cathedral

Angel outside Zagreb’s Cathedral

We pass the magnificent train station, built in 1892, the golden age of railways.  With pillars, statues, and neoclassical architecture, it stands as a glowing memorial to a time when train travel meant luxury.

We reach our  apartment near the center city, which could just as well be an Ikea showroom, modern and sleek.  It hides within a heavily-ornamented building with an inner courtyard. There a lone calico cat lays carefree next to scattered flowerpots.  We deposit our bags and head out.

As often happens because I move about so much, I am momentarily confused as we leave the building.  I feel like I’m in Buenos Aires, Argentina because of the rows and rows of palatial art-nouveau buildings, green parks and relaxed cafes alongside the hustle of big city life.  It takes a moment to remember where I am.

We arrive at Ben Jelačić Square, a bustling place and the living room of Zagreb since 1641.  A musical stage is being set up and blasting from the speakers comes American Country music which is an awkward auditory backdrop for such a fantastic European square.

We travel over cobblestone streets to the upper town which can be reached by the world’s shortest cable railway line, a funicular of 66 meters, or by foot.  Seeing as we are not currently walking the European Peace Walk, we are self-shamed into climbing stairs and walking.

Museum of Broken Relationships

Museum of Broken Relationships

Our first stop is the Museum of Broken Relationships.  Generally, I’m not a museum lover but this one called my name.  And it’s one not to miss.

The museum showcases donated sentimental objects relating to broken relationships alongside stories about that object’s significance.  See photos below for a better understanding.  As a viewer, it’s voyeuristic, sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, and all the while comforting.  Reading these stories from all corners of the world, I am reminded that when it comes to love, we all struggle with the same issues.

We continue on to St. Mark’s Church, notable for its brightly-colored tile roof.  It stands in the center of a block of grand government buildings.  Today, protesters shout while the police presence is heavy.  What their protest is about I can not determine.  Incidentally, it seems that everywhere I go in the world, I run into a protest, which momentarily makes me wonder if the whole world is protesting me.  I wouldn’t blame them.

St. Mark's Church

St. Mark’s Church

Hungry and worn out, we take a seat at a restaurant with outside tables and peruse a menu which offers many snail and frog options.  Even if I weren’t a vegetarian I can’t think of two less appetizing animals, but hooray for diversity and snail and frog eaters!  More for you my friends!  We opt for lighter fare and I am amused at the finish to order “Bosnian coffee” only to discover that it is what I know to be Turkish coffee: rich, thick, sweet and bold with a final swallow that deposits coffee grounds on the tongue for caffeine safekeeping.

I later learn that there are several differences between Bosnian coffee and Turkish coffee, the primary one being the method of bean roasting; Bosnian coffee requires beans to be roasted on a word burning stove.  Always learning!

We pass a sculpture garden which features works by Croatia’s most famous sculptor,Ivan Meštrović, whose work can also be found in Chicago’s Grant Park.  It seems he liked his women large and manly.  The song Baby Got Back comes to mind.

There many tie shops.  Senja tells me that the modern tie originated in Croatia having been part of the military uniform before becoming fashion.  Let the men of the world give thanks to Croatia for their silk nooses!

Zagreb, Croatia

Zagreb, Croatia has many beautiful parks.

We pass through an old city gate which has become a shrine to Mother Mary and a place to say thanks.  White candles illuminate the space and believers pray to a painting of Mary that was miraculously saved from a fire in 1731.  Tiles on the wall are offerings of gratitude from the devout of past ages.  Nuns appear, as they do in Catholic places, and due to my nun-phobia I evacuate the premises.

We visit Zagreb’s cathedral which is under reconstruction. Having been neglected in Communist times, the reconstruction is a constant obligation.  Inside, Baroque shrines drip with gold and ceilings soar.

We return again to the main square where the daily Dolac street market closes up.  We missed it’s offerings of fresh flowers, cheese, local produce,  and crafts.  Broken flowers litter the street.

Our walk back to our apartment parallels a vibrantly green park with mature trees, flowers, fountains and abundant benches just waiting for the weary traveler or the pigeon feeder.

I’m so glad we took this diversion off the European Peace Walk.  Zagreb, Croatia is an incredible city – one not to miss!

This post is dedicated to Paul Vasquez.  Happy Birthday from Slovenia!

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Photos of Zagreb, Croatia (click to view):

 

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for such interesting observations and pictures today. The Museum of Broken Relationships — such a good idea and so beautifully put together. I am glad you saw this amazing city…sure beats fields and backroads!

    • Yes indeed! Thanks Paula!

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