Friday, May 7, 2010

Zagreb, Croatia: Morning Walking Tour

I had one-half day to soak in as much of the Croatian capital as I could, before I boarded the 15:45 train to Budapest and concluded the Croatia portion of my vacation.

The central core of Zagreb is divided into two segments: Gornji Grad and Donji Grad. Upper Town and Lower Town. There are the only two sectors that any tourist will likely see -- other than those hopelessly lost trying to find the in-town Hertz rental-return location. Upper Town is the old, historic district, filled with old buildings, tourist-bait museums, andcafes. Lower Town is the business district. It's also where the hotels are. And, in between, is the place that the tourbooks call (derisively, perhaps), "The Times Square of Zagreb," Ban Jelačić Square (see above).

It's a very short walk to Gornji Grad from where I turned in the rental car. As far as turning in the rental car goes, let's just say this: Thank God I decided to opt for the full, no-deductible insurance coverage! I usually would've cheapened out and bought the cheaper coverage, given that I've never had a problem before with a rental car. Never say never! There was no place to park in front of the Hertz in-town location. So I parked about two blocks away. When the person finally opened the location, she directed me to park on the sidewalk in front. So I fetched the car. I was trying to maneuver the little Ford Fiesta through the two metal posts, the illegally-parked Renault making this difficult. Then. Yup. Crunch.

It was only a small scratch, but still.

And it would probably take the amount of the deductible to repair. But I bought the no-deductible policy. Life lesson learned: never never never ever never return a rental car to an in-town location in Europe. Rental cars and airports go to together like, as in the old Frank Sinatra song, a horse and carriage.

As I said, Lower Town is nothing special. It's a city. A European city, that is, with the narrow pre-automobile-era streets and trolley tracks.

This statue, I believe, is of Croatian poet and monk Andrija Kačić Miošić. More importantly, for purposes of this walking (for me) and photo (for you) tour is that his statue is right on the dividing line between Lower Town and Upper Town.

As you can see, the walk to Upper Town involves walking up, a hill.

The view of Zagreb from the south side of Gornji Grad. Actually, the view is more spectacular in person than it appears from the photo.

Does Gornji Grad have cathedrals? Does the old town section of any European city? Is the Pope, well, you know what religion? This is Crkva Sv. Katarinin (Church of St. Katherine), one of the more modest churches in this part of town.

A little less modest -- check out the roof! -- is Crkva Sv. Marka (Church of St. Mark). A nice square, "trg" in Croatian, surounds the church.

The view from the other side of Crkva Sv. Marka. Note the police officer in the picture. There is a very heavy police presence in the urban core of Zagreb. The policija are everywhere, usually hidden in small unmarked kiosks, such as the one visible in the bottom left of this photo. I am not complaining. After all, one of the discretely-hidden policija came to my rescue the day before, when I pulled into some random dirveway when engaged in that horrible activity "driving under the influence of being hopelessly lost." But it is a little strange for a city to have some police everywhere. It adds a kind of "Paraguay" feel to the place.

I found this fountain in Jezuitski Trg (Jesuit Square?) interesting. The statue doesn't look happy. He looks kind of P.O.'ed that his lot in life is to keep filling that basin with water.

Some of the buildings in Gornji Grad have been impressively restores. Others remain in a stay of beautiful decay.

On my walking tour of Gornji Grad, I visited two interesting museums. No photography allowed in either, so I've got nothing to share from either of them. But I will supply the links so you may visit them on line, if you choose.

First, I visited the Hrvatski Muzej Naivne Umjetnosti, the Croatian Museum of Naive Art, which bills itself as having been the first museum in the world dedicated to "naive art," art from the untrained artist. It has a small, but very collection, and gives a good feel for Croatia. This piece was my favorite: It reminded me of Pag!

Second, I visited the Mestrovic Atelier, the "studio," actually, a museum, of the work of noted (and prolific) Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic. I got a guided tour from the women manning the desk, as it was not a busy day. (There is a famous Mestrovic piece in Pittsburgh, by the way. But it's not in a museum. It's in the Croatian club.) No links to the pieces to show you my favorites, sorry.

It was getting closer to the time that I would have to catch my train -- and I have an air traveler's mentality about needing to be there at the station a few hours in advance -- so I walked down out of the Gornji Grad. Obviously, these streets are meant for driving.

I thought the police "smart car" was kinda cute. Practical, given the parking issues in Zagreb. Those little kiosks are roomier though.

Back down in the Times Square of Zagreb. Here's Ban Jelačić himself, presiding over the Square That Bears his name.

My last stop in Zagreb was to the Dolac, a large market near Ban Jelačić Square. It was huge, with booth selling meat, produce (really really delicious, fresh looking produce -- the red peppers looked good enough to eat) and, sadly, nice smelling baked goods of all kinds, both breads and desserts. I especially loved the vats of sauerkraut where you could ladel out as much as you wanted.

Time to head back to the hotel to pick up my bags and head for the train station.

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