My trip around the Balkans exceeded all my expectations in terms of its twists and turns. Right now I am yet again in Belgrade – for the fourth time this summer, never having been here before! I don’t even know where to start describing this complicated web of movements. The previous post was about Skopje, for which I only had half a day due to a bus that broke. I was to leave Skopje early next morning, and when I say early, I mean early. After a sleep of 1.5 hours, at 3.15 am I was waiting in a tunnel next to the bus station for a minibus to the airport. Early flight to Zagreb!
To move abruptly from Skopje to Zagreb is akin to being woken up from a dream. From the crazy dream of the Balkans you jump into the bourgeois coiffed reality of the European Union. As my friend-Balkanologist would say, Croatia is no Balkans at all. Zagreb is a measured city with friendly people. No tourists almost, as all the tourists in Croatia head for the coast. As I was getting out of a tram in Zagreb, an elderly man suddenly and spontaneously grabbed my bag to help me get out. I was shocked – this has never happened to me in any other place in the world. The centre of Zagreb though is already ruled by the European neutral detachment, correct but uninterested service. The prices also correspond to an EU capital.
The spirit and geography of Zagreb reminded me very much of my native Tallinn. It is also composed of two towns, an Upper Town on a hill and a Lower Town down below. Just like in Tallinn, Gradec and Kapitol used to be enemies and now form an indivisible ensemble.
The view from Gradec towards Kapitol and the Cathedral, the undisputed focus of the city space.
Roofs of old Zagreb:
The central square of the city – Trg Josipa Jelačića, named after a key figure of Croatian history.
Directly North from there is the perfectly functional city market Dolac.
Among the places I enjoyed in Zagreb were certainly the exceptional Museum of Contemporary Art, the Maksimir Park as well as the endless wonderful cafés, where days hours turn into days in languid tranquility.
The main gate of the Upper City is the so-called Stone Gate. It is guarded by this horseman in repose among flowers.
The centre of the Upper Town – the church of St Mark:
From the South you can climb the Upper Town through Strossmayer promenade
Homy and plentiful Croatian food: