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by Elia Papillon
December 13, 2004
So you have had a nice lunch at Palainovka. Walk down Radičeva ulica. On the right, you find a small passageway that brings you to the (1) Stone Gate. Originally, this was the medieval Eastern gate to Gradec. Now it is a shrine; people come here to pray and leave flowers. There is a legend that tells of a fire in 1731. The fire destroyed each part of the wooden gate in this place, but not the painting of the Virgin and child. Many believe the painting has some magical powers for protection.
Walk through the stone gate and in front of you, and you will find (2) Trg Svetog Markov. Here you find St. Mark’s Church, the Ban’s Palace, and Sabor (parliament). St. Mark’s Church is one of the best-known sites in Zagreb -- not the church itself so much as the roof. The roof is from 1880 and has bright tiles showing on the left side the medieval coat of arms for Croatia, Slavonia, and Dalmatia. On the right side is the emblem of Zagreb.
If you are standing and looking at the roof in front of you, on the left is the Ban’s Palace. Now, this is the Presidential Palace. In October 1991, it was bombed by the Federal Army. On the right is the Sabor, the Croatian Parliament. It was built in 1910, and from the balcony in 1918 the independence of Croatia was proclaimed.
From Trg Svetog Markov, walk down Ćirilometodska, and at the bottom is the (3) Lotrščak Tower. Built in the 13th century, it was for protection of the south gate of the city. For over 100 years, each day at noon, a cannon is fired. You can climb the tower to look out over the city for 5 KN.
Close to the tower is probably the most unusual pub in Zagreb. It is called (4) Tolkien’s House. By the name, you can tell it is a theme pub for Lord of the Rings. Unlike most theme pubs, this isn’t just a tourist-oriented pub, as you will find many young Croatians here also. Inside the pub, you can find everything from the Lord of the Rings. Outside is a nice terrace with cozy armchairs, books to read, and heating in the evening.
I had my first introduction to Croatia’s most popular beer, Ožujsko, and also became fluent, with proper pronunciation of živjeli!lose by here is the (5) funicular to the lower town. At the bottom of the funicular, if you turn left, you are back at Trg bana J Jelačića, where you started your walk this morning.
Now, it’s time to find something to eat.
From journal Zest of Zagreb
Kaptol and Gradec are two original districts in the upper town of Zagreb. Start at (1) Trg bana J Jelačića. This is the main square and the centre of Zagreb. Most of the trams stop on the square, and the main tourist office is here also.
In the middle of Trg bana J Jelačića is a large statue of Ban Jelačić on a horse. He led Croatian troops to battle with Hungary. He wanted Croatia to be autonomous, but his battle was not successful. From 1866-1947 his statue was in the square, but then was removed by Tito. It was too nationalist. When the government changed in 1990, the statue returned.
Walk up Bakačeva from the main square. To the right you find (2) Katedrala marijina Uznesenja (Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary). There are two large spires on the cathedral that you can see from most of the city. Inside you can find the Tomb of Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac. This is the second cathedral here. There was a bad earthquake in the 1800s and much of the original was damaged, but you can see some design from the original here also.
Behind here is (3) Ribnjak Park, a nice peaceful place. There are places to sit and picnic. If you are travelling with children, they will enjoy it here.
From Ribnjak Park walk to (4) Dolac. This is the daily fruit and vegetable market. On a Friday or Saturday you will also find fresh flowers, home-baked goods, and wooden items. Around the edge of the market are small open shops selling souvenirs and traditional lace and clothing. At the end of Dolac are steps and at the left is Skalinska ulica. It meets (5) Tkalčićeva ulica. In the day people sit at outdoor tables drinking coffee and sipping beer. It is a popular street to be seen on and has a good atmosphere in the day or at night, so stop for a coffee or ice cream.
If you turn to the left on Tkalčićeva, you come back to Trg bana J Jelačića. I turned to the right and found myself to be away from the crowds and with very few other tourists. Turning right on Tkalčićeva, you will see many streets to the left. Any of these bring you to Radićeva ulica. Turn to the right here and you will find the (6) City Museum on a green. This is only a small museum. It tells the story and history of Zagreb in literature and also art. You can see here a beautiful model of the Gradec part of Zagreb as it was originally.
Ilirski trg is the road around the green, and here you can find Zagreb’s oldest café. It is called (7) Palainovka and is a Viennese-style café. It is the only place I found in Zagreb that makes really good coffee. There is a terrace outside with views down into the city. I stopped here for lunch, and it was really good.
I went out with some other travellers from the Ravnice Youth Hostel.
We found a reasonably cheap restaurant at the back of Dolac market. I found very little vegetarian food in Zagreb, mostly pizza and pasta. All I needed was something to make a lining in my stomach for the beer that was to come later. Pasta it was.
After dinner we went to Tkalčićeva ulica. All through the day I heard people talk about this street at night, so I wanted to see why. Really, it is different at night. It was summer when I was in Zagreb, and most people were sitting outside. We went to a few different bars on the street. All play different music - and loudly. This is not the place for a quiet drink and to write your journal. When you want a lively night and to bar hop, then it is perfect.
We went to Tolkien’s House for cocktails. The cocktail list is long, but it is only in Croatian. We were with a Slovene girl, so she could tell us about most of the cocktails. Even if you don’t speak Croatian, the staff is quite used to tourists and most speak some English. We sat around tables on the terrace under the heating and sampled several cocktails. They have a large chess set here, and all the pieces are characters from the Lord of the Rings.
Some people went to a nightclub out of the city. The rest of us moved next door to Indy’s. Indy’s is a Mexican bar. There is also a terrace here, and that night they had a live band playing Mexican and Spanish music. You can find also cocktails here, but I decided to sample the large collection of foreign vodka instead. They have many types, Stolichnaya (definitely the best vodka – Russian, of course), Krupnik a Polish honey vodka, Šljivovica a popular Croatian plum brandy, and Travarica a Croatian herbal vodka (something like the Czech drink Becherovka.)
Zagreb is not a cheap place for a night out, especially if you are travelling on a budget. This time I wasn’t; I was here only for a short holiday, but I was conscious of some others from our group.
Also, Zagreb is not a late city. Most pubs, bars, and restaurants close by 11pm.
Friday or Saturday is a good night to go when you want to meet young Croatians.
After Indy’s we walked back to Trg bana J Jelačića and caught a night tram back to the Ravnice Youth Hostel.