A Sunday evening in Zagreb - Balkan Dreams - CycleBlaze

August 24, 2020

A Sunday evening in Zagreb

We were uncomfortable with our restaurant last night when our waiter came to the table wearing his mask as a chin warmer, so we resolved to do a better job scoping places out before entering.  Walking back to our room we passed Boban’s restaurant and were attracted both by the menu and the well-masked woman luring us in.  We booked a table, and later in the room read up on it and discovered that it is a well regarded, Michelin rated restaurant.  We’ve been looking forward to it all day.  

Boban is a bit of a splurge, but we feel obligated.   In our opinion, we have an obligation to hold up our end of the bargain: Croatia is consciously taking on risk by letting in tourists, hoping they’ll help revive their suffering, tourism-dependent economy.  Our part in this arrangement is to behave responsibly and to repay them for hosting us by spending more freely than we might normally.

It was a wise choice.  We enjoyed a great meal in a perfect setting,  dining outdoors on their private, secluded, airy patio.  I imagine we’ll make our way back here when we return to Zagreb at the end of the tour.

There’s a lot to like here, even if you don’t care for wine and just ordered a second glass for your mate: focaccia and ciabatta bread, a baby spinach salad with young goat cheese, roasted peppers and zucchini. Didn’t know young goats could produce milk?
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Also: homemade gnocchi with salmon, shrimp and porcini mushrooms; and sea bass filet with vegetables in a paper bag.
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It’s still early in the evening when we leave the restaurant, so we have time to walk around and explore more of the old city.  I suggest that we find the Serbian church for a better look (we saw only its colorful steeple rising above surrounding buildings before this), so we look at the map.  The only nearby church we see is Saint Marks.  It doesn’t sound Serbian, but we work our way there anyway.  It’s not of course, but it’s so much more.  Finding the church and our experience there is the highlight of our stay in Zagreb.

Saint Mark’s sits upon a small hill, a different one than the cathedral stands upon.  We come to it after climbing a steep set of stairs that bring us to an overlook that surely must provide the best views within the city.  To the east is a clear, open view of both the cathedral and the Serbian Church.   To the south are sweeping views across the new city, the Sava basin and the hills to the south.  

Tkalčićeva Street Isn’t lined with bordellos any more, but it still holds some interest.
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Showing us how it’s done. Yes, I think I could master that, if I was about 50 years younger.
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Jen GrumbyCool!

Love those handlebars! But looks like they make it extra challenging to mount the bike.
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4 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyEverything about this looks hard to me, and an invitation to a broken collarbone.
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4 weeks ago
See! Some folks are taking precautions here.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesWell, half precautions anyway. Not much point if your nose is open to the world.
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4 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/GrampiesNo, it’s fine. That’s the Croatian style, which we see everywhere. It works because they’re all circular breathers, inhaling through their nose and exhaling through their mouth.
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4 weeks ago
A red bike in Zagreb.
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The narrow, graffiti-sprawled connector between Tkalčićeva Street and the stairs to the upper town.
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Climbing toward the upper town.
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This long mural honors Nicola Tesla, possibly the best known Croatian-born personage.
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Presumably another mural honoring Nicola Tesla.
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The views from the upper town are fantastic. Here, we’re looking east toward the Zagreb cathedral and the Serbian church.
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The viewing platform is a very romantic spot, its railing lined with love locks and lovers.
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Turning away from these breathtaking views, we round a corner and our breaths are taken away a second time by the spectacular sight of the church at the end of the street.  If we’d bothered paying attention to our travel guides we would have known this was up here and would have looked forward to seeing its colorful tile roof, but it was thrilling to come upon it completely surprised as we did.

Saint Mark Square and Church, one of Zagreb’s iconic highlights. To the right of the church is the parliament building. Populating the square, as they do every Sunday evening, are an array of characters illustrating Zagreb’s cultural heritage.
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Jacquie GaudetIncluding a second, more traditional, penny farthing! I have to wonder what specifically makes them part of Zagreb's heritage.
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4 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jacquie GaudetYou’d think that would have come up in the conversation, wouldn’t you? Ask him yourself the next time you’re over here.
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4 weeks ago
Saint Mark’s Church, the parish church of old Zagreb, dates back to the 13th century and is one of the oldest architectural monuments in the city.
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The gothic south portal of Saint Marks Church dates from when the church was massively reconstructed in the gothic style in the 14th century.
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In front of the church is a small square, largely empty except for ten or so costumed people standing and strolling around in twos and threes.  It looks like they must be assembling for some event, but five minutes later they’re still just standing around, interacting with the few other tourists present and posing for photographs.

Curious, I approach a couple and ask what is happening here.  By way of explanation, they introduce themselves.  They’re members of the 19Th century Zagreb aristocracy.  He’s a businessman of some sort, and travels extensively throughout Europe, partly for business, partly to escape his much younger wife and his unhappy marriage, and possibly to seek female company elsewhere.   She stays at home, managing perfectly well in his absence.

We move on to another charming and beautiful young couple, evidently much in love.  They introduce themselves: they’re the principals from Croatia’s first historical novel, Goldsmith’s Gold, a tragic tale that ends badly for both of them, rather like Romeo and Juliet.

Also in the square is another couple we missed the background on, a trio of ‘ordinary’ townfolk from the past, and a sharply dressed bicyclist with his penny farthing bicycle.  We learn that they are all here under the sponsorship of the tourism bureau, as they apparently are every summer afternoon during tourist season.  They’re just mulling around for the atmosphere apparently, animating the square and giving a view of the rich heritage of this remarkable city.

How fortunate to stumble upon this square at just the right time, and to find them when the square is so empty and they have plenty of time to share with us.  They say it is quiet, but it’s really a relief to not be deluged by waves of tour groups that would ordinarily be here.  It was such a charming experience.  I especially enjoyed the fact that they all described their characters in the first person, as though they actually were the character they portrayed.

A view into Zagreb’s past, in Saint Mark’s Square.
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The couple on the right are of the old aristocracy. He, fifteen years older, is often away on business. She stays at home, embittered and entertaining an array of gentleman callers before eventually donating her palace to the city.
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This unlucky pair of lovers are the protagonists of Goldsmith’s Treasure, one of the first historical novels set in old Croatia. He is born to the nobility, she is a commoner her rescues and then falls in love with. A tragic tale, ending in death by poisoning. Croatia’s take on Romeo and Juliet.
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Goldsmith’s Treasure, by the Zagreb-born writer August Senoa, Croatia’s first historical novelist.
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Typical figures from the past. Left to right: a news crier (note his trumpet), with aspirations to become a mail carrier; a washer woman; and a sand seller. Sand, dredged from the river, was used as an abrasive for cleaning dishes and so on.
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We enjoyed an extended conversation with this bright young man, who expressed amazement to hear of how we’re spending our retirement years.
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Jen GrumbyIs this where the young man was exclaiming, "Forty-two miles a day?! Just for fun??"

Just as you are telling stories about these interesting characters, I'm sure this guy went home and told his family about the Team Anderson.

And hopefully they all nodded and smiled and said, "So wonderful to hear about some nice people from the US."
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4 weeks ago
Continuing a ritual over 150 years old, lamp lighters light the gas lanterns in the old city each night before sundown. This began when the lamps were introduced in 1863, and was discontinued only during the Second World War when the risk from aerial bombardment was too great.
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Performing Green Fields, by the Brothers Four.
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The view south from the upper town.
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Suzanne GibsonThis looks like the beginning of a wonderful trip. So excited for you!
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4 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonGreat! Join the club! We’re excited for us too.
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4 weeks ago
Jen GrumbySo glad that you got to talk with these people .. and that they got to talk with you!

Team Anderson has great power to influence opinions about the US. Thanks for being our kind and curious representatives!
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4 weeks ago