A View of Zagreb

View north towards Zagreb from the hotel, just as the sun is beginning to rise, with the peaks of Zagrebačka gora [Medvednica Mountain] in the distance.

Sitting at a cafe on the fringes of Tržnica Dolac, a group of painters capture an afternoon at the bustling farmer’s market in the center of town.

Finished in 1898, the Art Pavilion was based on a prefab iron skeleton used as a temporary gallery for the 1896 Millennium Exhibition in Budapest. The exhibition commemorated 1,000 years of Hungarian statehood with works from artists from the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia; today the Art Pavilion features primarily one-off shows by groups or solo artists.

Meandering through the Britanski Trg antiques market, looking for hidden treasures . . .

Stores along Ilica, with well-known brands clustered near the main Trg Bana Josipa Jelačića square and older institutions petering out to the west.

Each of the numerous fabric stores in town features an elaborate dress display that showcases a few dozen of their offerings. Hand-sewing garments — along with making biscuits from scratch, quilting, and other traditional domestic duties — is so unusual in the U.S. these days. It’s comforting to see the skill is still alive in places like this.

Crkva sv. Marka [Church of St. Mark] with its obscene tiled roof depicting the coats of arms of Triune Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia, and Dalmatia, left, and Zagreb, right.

Zagreb society is centered around outdoor cafes, where people congregate to sip coffee and Ožujsko lemon beer — advertised on the umbrellas — from morning til night.

The “grapes” given to me by a well-meaning woman, as told in Stories from Zagreb.

Down-to-earth blue collar ethos meets European metropolis: Old women in babushkas hawking bouquets of wildflowers and sheeps’ milk yogurt under the outdoor market umbrellas; the Saturday see-and-be-seen-while-drinking-coffee-in-trendy-clothes ritual of “spica,” complete with paparazzi and catty glares; worn cobblestone streets and utilitarian block apartments scrawled with illegible graffiti, all in drab shades of grime-covered grey-brown. It doesn’t feel dirty, just well used . . . well loved. The locals are initially reticent — restaurant service is brusque and businesslike — but a self-deprecating face excusing my foreigner’s bumbling elicits smiles. It’s as if Zagreb has managed to stave off the callous attitude that often accompanies urbanization and tourism by maintaining close ties to its humble roots — produce is still sold by the farmers who grow it, city trams run all the way up to Sljeme mountain, and life chugs along at the contented tempo of a long black and a newspaper.

1 comment

  1. When I first read about the kind “grapes” lady, I pictured fruit much smaller and creepier. Those look pretty delicious.

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