Day 16, Sept 16 2019 – Zagreb, Croatia.
Today we went for the walking tour by Free Spirit walking tours. We walked upto the horseman statue and found a young man wearing an orange coloured T.shirt with Free Spirit Tours written on it. Nearly 50+ tourists gathered for this tour. The tour guide was Vid and exactly at 11 am he gathered all of us to explain how the tour would be done. He was a pleasant young man who spoke good English and guided with enthusiasm.
He first explained about the horseman whose statue was installed at the central square. This is the statue of Ban Josip Jelačić, the Croatian hero who was born in 1801. He ruled Croatia for 11 years and some of the highlights of his rule were – abolishing feudalism, founding the Archbishop of Zagreb and uniting Zagreb by combining the settlements of Gradec and Kaptol. He also introduced the Croatian language in the social and political circles. He also set in motion the first elections for establishing the Croatian Parliament and broke the Viennese and the Hungarian revolution.
Croatia was a part of the erstwhile Yugoslavia and when they gained independence, they brought out this statue of their hero again and placed it in the central square. During the time Croatia was a part of Yugoslavia, the statue was put into storage and the central square in Zagreb was used as a parking lot so that some money could be earned in parking fees and there would be no large enough place for people to gather for protests. Communism at its best !
From the square, we started walking up the first hill… there is an easier way to get to the top by paying HRK 5 for a Funicular ride, but since this was a walking tour, we all trudged up nearly 300+ steps to a viewing platform. HRK – Kunas (the Croatian currency), Euros don’t work in Croatia.
We climbed a few more steps to come upon this space where there was street art on the walls. The first pic I took was of this Zeppelin, the creator Schwarz is a Hungarian-Croatian.
After we climbed up from the place where these wall paintings were, we reached St. Catherine’s church built in the 17th century. This church was a victim to fire twice and finally wealthy Croatians put in money and rebuilt the church fully. The interiors are pink apparently, but we didn’t get a chance to go in.
Vid, our tour guide then pointed out the special gas lamps that dotted the streets and functioned as street lamps. These were lit up during the evening when a guy would carry a particular kind of stick which was a torch. Many couples stood under these gas lamps when they were lit and prayed for a long loving relationship ! The most gifted item in Croatia are apparently the heart-shaped pendants, wall-hangings etc with a mirror :). The St. Catherine Church is in the upper town or old Zagreb. There aren’t too many restaurants here so most people just visit the upper town for the churches and to see these gas lamps.
It was around 11.55 or so and Vid took us near a tower and said that at noon, a cannon would be fired, which would be very loud and unexpected so we should brace ourselves. There were several tourists like us at the base of the Lotrščak Tower waiting to catch the cannon firing.
The legend associated with Kula Lotrščak tower is that when the Ottoman Turks attacked Croatia, a cannon shot from this tower soared across river Sava and landed in the Turks’ camp. The Turkish Pasha got scared and didn’t attack Zagreb !
Vid was right, the cannon did make a huge noise when it was fired 🙂
From the tower we walked a short distance and reached the St. Mark’s square which is named after the iconic 13th century St. Mark’s church. It has colorful roof tiles, that were put there in 1880. These tiles are made in Bosnia and they are so pretty. We saw similar tiles on the roof of the St. Stephans Cathedral in Vienna. There are two emblems – a white castle on a red background on the right which is the coat of arms of Zagreb and on the left the coat of arms of the Triune Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia.
Its a beautiful square ! I noticed a Museum of Broken Relationships on the way to the St. Mark’s .. strange name and very intriguing. We didn’t stop there, but Krishnan and I may explore it on our own. From St. Mark’s square we walked towards the old Stone Gate which has Virgin Mary’s shrine.
A miraculous event happened here in 1731… Legend has it that a great fire destroyed most of the Stone Gate, except for the painting of Virgin Mary and Child. The painting was found in the ashes after the fire was put out and even though the wooden frame was burnt, Virgin Mary’s image was intact.
We went through the stone gate and came down behind Dolac Market. There was a small water fountain where we could refill our bottles.
After this we walked down to St. Peter’s church and then ended the tour near the stone model of the city of Zagreb near the main Square. We all paid Vid and went our separate way.
Later in the evening, Krishnan and I went out for a long walk along the main road Ilica, all the way till we reached the Funicular. Zagreb’s funicular is the shortest one !
Zagreb is the 16th safest city in the world and its so beautiful in the evening with all the street lamps, the stores all lit up and the trams criss crossing … we just sat in one of the benches and watched life flowing around. We like Zagreb !