While returning back to our hotel last evening after a wonderful walking tour, we decided to wander. On a tram, through the city and beyond. And then the walk back to our hotel through the green neighborhood. It was relaxing and rejuvenating. And our hotel? ‘The Loop Hotel’ is just the ideal place to spend your night in peace.
It was approaching twilight when we walked in. This time it was Nicolina at the reception. Such a sweet girl, it was lovely catching up with her and getting to know a little about her and her native place, Dubrovnik. And she, a perfect example of the famous Croatian charm and hospitality.
This place is very tastefully done up combining modern with industrial design and carefully selected refurbished 1960’s furniture. The interior is modern and interesting, and makes you feel at home. And we were lucky to be staying in one of their best rooms overlooking the highway. Have a look and relax.
After freshening up and change into casuals, we went down to ‘The Loop Bar’ an ideal place to relax and rest. It also has a cute sit out area where you can enjoy a cup of excellent Julius Meinl coffee of the highest quality, tea, smoothie, a glass of excellent wine or opt from a large selection of beers including Zmajsko or Nova Runda, the finest Croatian craft beers and accompanied by some carefully selected music. We then ordered some Pizza for our dinner from a nearby restaurant.
One of the brochures that I saw in the afternoon when we were checking in had mentioned “Get ready to get surprised during Breakfast” and I had inquired ” I hope you have eggs?”. Mia had said, “O yes Sir. Eggs of your choice”. And of course they had a lot more in surprise in their spread when we reached for our breakfast. Probably one of the best that I have experienced in a boutique hotel like Loop. Feeling hungry? Even if you don’t right now, you’ll start feeling in a moment from now. Have your pick. And for me, my all time favorite cheese omelette with lots of green chillies to top it up.
After a good fill it was time to venture out and take you back to the heart of town for our journey today.
Ban Jelacic Square is the central square of the city of Zagreb, named after Ban Josip Jelacic. The square has existed since the 17th century. It’s first name was Harmica. In 1848 the square was renamed to its present name.
A large statue of Ban Josip Jelacic on a horse, created by Austrian sculptor Anton Dominik Fernkorn was installed in October 1866 by Austrian authorities, despite protests from Zagreb councilmen and unease amongst Hungarians who saw Jelacic as a traitor. In 1946, the square was renamed Trg Republike (Republic Square). Jelacic’s statue was removed in 1947 as the new Communist government of Yugoslavia denounced him as a servant of foreign interests. In October 1990, during the breakup of Yugoslavia and after elections in Croatia, Jelacic’s historic role was again considered positive and the statue was returned to the square. The name of the square was again changed to it’s second name, after Josip Jelacic. In 1975, the square became a car free pedestrian zone with only trams operating near the square.
The square features the Mandusevac Fountain which was built above a natural spring that provided Zagreb with drinking water right up until the end of the 19th century. There is a legend connecting the spring with the name of the city. The story goes that one sunny day an old Croatian war leader was returning from battle, tired and thirsty. He searched in vain and hours passed by till he reached this spot where he saw a beautiful girl named Manda. He asked her for some water. She told him not to despair and asked him to scoop the land before his feet. He did as told and found water right there coming from a spring. The Croatian word for ‘to scoop up water’ is zagrabiti. So the spring got it’s name Mandusevac after the girl and the town got the name Zagreb after the scoop of water.
The city’s recorded history indicates a continuity of urban settlement beginning in the 13th century. Old Zagreb consisted of two settlements on neighboring hills – Gradec which we visited yesterday It’s blue, Zagreb, Croatia and Kaptol and the houses in the valley between them along the former Medvescak stream and present-day Tkalciceva Street. It includes settlements at the beginning of Vlaska Street III.
The Kaptol settlement was an asymmetric rectangle. Kaptol derives its name from capitulum, the Latin word for the group of Canons Regular who ruled the settlement. Kaptol Street ran north-south across the Kaptol terrace, with the canons’ residences in rows along it. Kaptol originally had no major fortifications, it was enclosed with a palaside which was repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt. It’s defensive walls and towers were built between 1469 and 1473. Prislin Tower near the Kaptol School is one of the best-preserved fortifications of the era.
In preparation for a Turkish invasion, the bishop of Zagreb had further fortifications built around the cathedral and his residence. The defensive towers and walls built between 1512 and 1520 still stand except those facing the front of the cathedral in Kaptol Square which were demolished in 1907. In the neighborhood of Opatovina small houses still stand but in the neighborhood of Dolac a number of small narrow streets were demolished in 1926 when construction began on the Dolac Market. Come let’s see it all.
Dolac Market, adjacent to the Republic Square is the main farmers market in Zagreb and has a great festive atmosphere in the mornings. Nicknamed by the locals as “The Belly of Zagreb” because it feeds the capital, the market is as much a social place as a food provider. It combines a traditional open market with stalls and a shelter market behind it. Fresh food, fruits and vegetables are sold by the farmers from the neighboring villages on the stalls outside while the covered market is the home of butchers, fish sellers and old ladies selling the traditional cheese and cream. The flower market and the memento stalls add color to the whole place.
There are large number of restaurants on the food street further extending right on to Tkalciceva Street, made out by covering the former Medvescak stream. Some of the well known ones are Bistro Dolac, Bistro Amfora, Pekarne Dinara, Burek, Rubelj Grill, Otto & Frank, Curry Bowl, Barrique – wine & more & Taquitos Bandidos for the best in meat, sea food and fish in Mediterranean, European, Spanish, Mexican, Eastern, Korean, Thai, Asian, Fusion, Sri Lankan & traditional Croatian dishes. You also have an Indian restaurant, Royal India Restaurant. The Dolac Caffe Bar is quite renowned for it’s coffee and at times there are long queues to gain entry. Do check some of them out depending on your preferences.
Let’s now take a walk up to Upper Town once again to visit an unique museum. The Museum of Broken Relationships. After the relationship of two Croatian artists came to an end they joked about opening a museum to store off the left-over objects from their relationship. And so they did. The Museum of Broken Relationships is internationally renowned and it holds an extraordinary collection of objects left by these former lovers along with their stories. There is also a gift shop with interesting souvenirs, apparel, stationary to help one deal with love and break-up.
After that head straight to Brokenships Bistro for a yummy meal. The restaurant offers a delicious selection from locally sourced organic ingredients, in a seasonally crafted menu. You have the options of traditional recipes from diverse Croatian regions complemented by a wine list of organic varietals for your pick. Also homemade baked goods are their specialty and yes they do serve beer!
Or if you are less hungry you could sit at the in-house Brokenship Museum Cafe for some delicious French pastries made by one of the leading Croatian pastry chefs or the refreshing ice cream produced using only first-rate ingredients: surprising local flavors of linden or spinach, alongside yummy staples like double chocolate, vanilla, seasonal fruits or nuts. You could also opt for their fresh daily sandwiches or salad, best enjoyed with local craft beer – Zmajsko (Dragon’s) – a real jewel of craft brewery or a glass of selected Croatian wines.
Then we took a relaxing walk down through the narrow streets towards Kaptol Square passing the fashion and memento shops and a lovely park where we sat down and relaxed for some time. One shop attracted our attention. The shop with these neckties. The necktie is one of the most famous inventions ever to come out of Croatia. Do you know what the other Croatian inventions are? The parachute, the torpedo fighter, supersonic photography, the tungsten light bulb, the ballpoint pen, antibiotic azithromycin and few others. So fascinating.
We are now at Kaptol Square near the renowned Zagreb Cathedral which is a Roman Catholic institution, the tallest building in Croatia and also the most monumental sacral building in Gothic style southeast of the Alps. It is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary and to Kings Saint Stephan and Saint Ladislaus. It’s prominent spires are considered to be landmarks as they are visible from most parts of the city.
The cathedral was severely damaged in the 1880 Zagreb earthquake. The main nave collapsed and the tower was damaged beyond repair. The restoration of the cathedral in the Neo-Gothic style was led by Hermann Bolle, bringing the cathedral to its present form. Let’s go in.
There are two interesting stories around the cathedral. One of them is that the cathedral’s chandeliers are not so sacred as one might think. Originally made for a Las Vegas casino, they were bought and later donated by a wealthy Croatian business man to the Church. Apparently the church men never intended to exhibit them in the cathedral, they merely hung them on the ceiling to see how they go with the place. They have remained there since.
The other is the story of a young man who was doing handstands on the Church’s tower one morning. Panicked, one onlooker called the fire department. The whole scene seemed like a suicide attempt so the firemen climbed the top to talk the man out of it. To their surprise, the man had no such intentions. He was a young man from a nearby city and came to Zagreb to become a fireman but he was rejected because he did not have the skills for the job. So he was out to prove them wrong, was subsequently recruited and went on to become one of the top firemen of Zagreb.
One restaurant while you are in Kaptol Square that you must check out is the ‘Kaptolska Klet restaurant’ and the accompanying ‘Bracera tavern’ bang opposite the Zagreb Cathedral across the street.
Sixty years in business, Kaptolska Klet is one of the oldest restaurants in Zagreb and it has preserved its uniqueness. The terrace of the restaurant offers warm and magical atmosphere in one of the most beautiful and oldest gardens in the heart of old Zagreb. The restaurant has a beautiful terrace with 150 seats and an ala carte hall with 60 seats. If you wish to try out some excellent traditional Zagreb gourmet specialties such as gratinated Zagreb strudel, duck confit, pasta tatters souffle, duck breast in a sauce made of prosek and various other specialties and desserts you must head to this place.
We though head towards Zagreb 360° observation deck on the 16th floor, right at the very top, of the Zagreb Skyscraper at 1, Ilica Street. It offers a spectacular view of Ban Jelacic square, Mandusevac fountain, Kaptol, Gradec, the Cathedral and the other most important cultural and historic structures in Zagreb, including its squares, streets and parks. It also has a restaurant where you can relax a bit if you wish to over a few drinks. Come let’s enjoy the views.
Then it was time for a walk through the parks stating at ‘Zrinjevac Park’ through lovely greens till we reached Zagreb Railway station. There was an off and on slight drizzle, which made our walk more special and so very romantic.
And then we planned to take the hop-on-hop-off bus to go around the city and stop at a few must visit attractions. Come let’s board.
Croatians pay their respects to the ones who have left them with a monumental piece of architecture. The work for the Mirogoj Cemetery started in the 19th century and it took half of century to finish. It was designed by Austrian architect Herman Bolle, who created the City of Dead as a reflection of the 19th century Zagreb downtown.
There is a great feel of calm and respect that transcends one when in Mirogoj Cemetery. Its imposing entrance is shielded by climbing ivy that seems to keep time outside. The graves themselves are surrounded with arcades and pavilions and the ‘Christ the King Chapel’ majestically stands in the middle of it all.
As we walked back towards our hotel after yet another tram ride, we felt good and happy. Our decision to visit Croatia, we were now convinced was truly a great one.
Croatia, the country renowned for it’s hospitality. And Zagreb, the gateway to this beautiful world of love and peace.
Come visit Zagreb. Feel the difference. Get pampered like never before 😀