A 90 Minute Dash Around Zagreb
Trip Over to Croatia
After arriving in Zagreb and checking into the super luxe Esplanade Hotel on a cloudy, but warm, spring day, we immediately set off to explore. In keeping with my plan of slow travel, and knowing we had 3 days, on day one we had a look around the area of our hotel, up through Josipa Jura Strossmayera Park to the main square. The park forms the eastern side of what is known as the ‘Green Horseshoe’ a U-shaped section of parks all beautifully looked after by Zagreb City.
The next day, again under cloudy skies, we set off walking further afield, then the rain set in, it rained all night and most of the next day, but still we persevered, with me whingeing and whining about the dismal white/grey sky ruining my photos.
I woke up on our last day in Zagreb, and looked out the window, of course – beautiful blue skies, the building opposite that houses the offices for the Croatian Railway was bathed in sunlight – it was a cool crisp morning and we weren’t being picked up until 2.30pm for the drive to Ljubljana in Slovenia. After breakfast I set off, at speed, to re-take all the photos I had taken the previous few days, and get back to the hotel in time to check out at mid-day, and of course, have a delicious lunch in Le Bistro……….
I had a plan to do a huge lap of Zagreb taking in everything I could, while keeping an eye on the time. Starting at the Botanical Gardens just up the road from the hotel, the rather drab pond now sparkled in the sunlight. The little bridge was reflected in the pond, the grass was all green and long after so much rain and all the blossoms were out. I raced on through the Gardens, coming out on the far corner near the State Archives building, a very interesting looking building with huge owls on the corners of the roof. This set me up to walk up the left side of the U-Shape of the Green Horseshoe or parks and gardens. Sitting in a park outside the front of the Archives building is an enormous sculpture of Marko Marulić, a Croatian poet at Renaissance humanist who lived from 1450 to 1524. Behind Marko, you can look across to the Museum of Arts and Crafts, which is actually far more interesting than the name implies, a great place to visit on a rainy day. Then in even more beautifully manicured gardens is the Academy of Drama and the Croatian National Theatre.
At the top of the Green Horse Shoe, in the gardens opposite the front of the National Theatre is a lovely sculpture by Croatian artist and architect Ivan Meštrović. The Well of Life, a bronze sculpture created in 1905, depicting the various stages of human life.
Now it was time to head up into the upper city. From the Well of Life walk towards the city and turn left into Gunduliceva Ul, when you reach the end of this street, turn right into the main shopping street and cross of the road, just along here is the shortest funicular in the word. It might not cover a great distance but it is a life saver. Desperately hoping I hadn’t just missed one, they run every 10 minutes, but today I didn’t have 10 minutes to wait – I would have had to walk up the steps as we did the day before, it’s a killer! Fortunately I got there just as one was ready to leave and leapt on………..at the top of the funicular is a 13th century tower, Lotrščak Tower, built to protect the city. Everyday at noon a cannon is fired to allow all the clocks in the city to be synchronised.
I wanted to get a few more photos on Strossmartre, but it was break time at the high school there and all the students were out enjoying the sunshine. I will write more stories about Zagreb showing photos in this area. I went straight up to St Marks Square dominated by the much photographed Church of St Mark, built in the 13th and 14th centuries with the Coat of Arms of Zagreb and Croatia inlaid in the roof tiles.
From here I ran down to the Stone Gate, one of the original city gates dating back to the 1200s, destroyed many times by fire, still covered in soot from the last fire in 1731, it is now a very tiny church after a painting of the Virgin Mary survived the fire. You can walk through as it is the main pathway through to Radiciva Street, there will often be people lighting candles and praying.
Emerging from the Stone Gate you come to the statue of St George on his horse standing over the slayed dragon. After the slaying St George has his head bowed and helmet in hand, while his horse looks down at the dragon.
There are lots of small interesting shops on Radiciva St on the way down the hill back to the lower city, I passed a tour guide telling her group about an astronomically priced tie bought there by Barrack Obama, apparently everyone now wants one……!?!
At the end of this street you come to Jelačić Square, the main square in Zagreb, often full of market stalls. There is an impressive statue of General Josip Jelačić remembered for his military campaigns during the Revolutions of 1848. I turned to take a photo looking back into the square, in the background is the hideous modern building with an observation deck on the top, I did go to the top on a dismal day, on a clear day with more time that I had now, the view would be quite impressive. I think there must have been a special deal on hair dye worn by the two ladies in the foreground, I saw a lot of ladies sporting this coloured hair!!
Now it was time to race down through the other side of the Green Horseshoe and back in the direction of the Esplanade Hotel. At the top of Petrinjska St is a statue of a rather portly gentleman, in a very Churchill type stance, Stjepan Radic was an important Croatian politician in the early 1900s, founder of the Croatian People’s Peasant Party. Continue to walk down this street, then turn right and you will be at Zrinjevac Park.
Zrinjevac Park is yet another example of Zagreb’s beautiful flower beds, the park is set out with benches to sit and chat with friends, or read in the sun, a few statues, fountains and gazebos, the National Art Gallery is at the end of the park, and across the road is the main railway station. The Esplanade Hotel was built for guests travelling on the Orient Express though to Istanbul. We visited the Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul a few years earlier, and loved it. This is what gave us the idea to stay at the Esplanade in Zagreb – we were not disappointed, it is magnificent.
I arrived back to the Esplanade Hotel with 20 minutes to spare, so I could quickly pack up in time to check out. Then relax over a lovely lunch before being picked up for the drive to Ljubljana in Slovenia.
Itinerary for Trip Over to Croatia and Slovenia
Qantas flight (Emirates code share) to Zagreb from Sydney via Dubai
Stayed in Zagreb for 3 nights at the super luxe Hotel Esplanade
Private Driver from Zagreb to Ljubljana in Slovenia
Stayed in Ljubljana for 10 days in an Airbnb
Private Driver from Ljubljana to Split, via Plitvice Lakes National Park.
3 night boat cruise from Split to Dubrovnik.
2 nights in Dubrovnik staying at the Pucic Palace Hotel
Fast ferry from Dubrovnik back to Split for a couple more nights in our Airbnb
Private Driver from Split to Zagreb, via Zadar
Qantas flight (Emirates code share) to Sydney via Dubai