Zagreb is a great city for easy sightseeing! It reminded us of a small, compact Vienna…..so there was no need to set the alarm for this morning. We woke about 8:00, dressed and had a lovely breakfast on the hotel’s terrace before we walked into Zagreb’s old town to start our self-guided tour.
First up was Dolac (the market)….a daily market that’s busiest on Friday and Saturdays. We were amazed at the quality of the “fresh from the farm” foods. Dare I say it? Everything looked even better than the markets in France…..no mean accomplishment.
The cathedral with the graceful spires towering over the town is “the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saintly Kings Stephen and Ladislav” (Whew! That’s a mouthful!). Inside was a beautiful silver bas-relief altar that depicted Joseph, Mary and Jesus hard at work….Mary was sewing while Joseph and Jesus were building a fence (with a little angelic help). We would have liked to linger for a while but it was now noon and the faithful were filtering in for mass.
Since their war with Serbia twenty years ago, the Croatians have reclaimed Catholicism with a vengeance (perhaps a poor choice of words). In all of our travels in France, Italy and Germany, this was the only time we felt we were intruding on a private, spiritual observance…..so we soon left.
Our walk continued past one of the many “tie” shops in Zagreb. Croatians are responsible for creating the necktie…..the traditional Croat military uniform included a scarf knotted at the neck. In the 17th century, Croatian soldiers were enlisted by King Louis in France. King Louis liked the look and began wearing his own cravat….starting a fashion trend that’s lasted over three centuries.
We turned the corner at the statue of St George and the Dragon, walked through the Stone Gate….a passageway that’s been a chapel and a shrine since 1731 when a painting of Mary and Jesus miraculously escaped the flames of a fire that destroyed the surrounding neighborhood….and found ourselves facing the beautiful tile mosaic roof of Crkva Sv. Marka (Church of St Mark) depicting the coats of arms of Zagreb (the white castle on a red background) and the Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia.
A little further on, we entered the Croatia Museum of Naive Art…..beautiful works of art created by peasants with no formal training, often painted on glass (a readily available medium). We were in awe of the creativity and originality of these little-known works.
We took a well-needed break in a tree-shaded beer garden before taking the funicular down to the lower town. On our ride down, we were joined by a group of young Japanese tourists. They were obviously enjoying their sightseeing and, perhaps thinking we were locals, all wanted to have their picture taken with us. These delightful young women were enchanting. We asked if we could take their photo and they creatively indulged our request. Their sheer joy and enthusiasm were contagious and we continued our touring with a lighter step.
“Architecture is a visual art, and the buildings speak for themselves.” ~ Julia Morgan