In May, I travelled to Croatia for a two week tour. A year ago, I never even thought about going to Croatia. If someone had mentioned the country to me, I would have been reminded of the somewhat recent war in that area. I am embarrassed to admit that I knew very little about the country and wouldn't have even been able to name the capital city. I have a few friends who have been to a couple of ports on a cruise and really enjoyed it but it still didn't occur to me to actually go there. So, knowing so little about Croatia, why would I choose to travel to that country? The reason was simple, I met Roman Martin, a professional photographer from Croatia last year leading the Provence tour that I went on (Photoworkshopadventures.com). After talking to Roman and looking at some pictures of Croatia, I knew that I wanted to go and who better to show me the country than Roman. So, I spent two weeks in Croatia, flying into Zagreb and from there taking a driving tour to Dubrovnik. For the first week of the tour there was only Roman and myself and then three other photographers joined us in Dubrovnik for the second half. So after touring around for two weeks, would I recommend Croatia? Definitely. The country is beautiful, clean, friendly and safe. It didn't hurt that the food was really good, the roads in great shape with little traffic and that most people spoke English. I plan on going back some day to see the areas that I didn't get to, hopefully with Roman as my guide.
From the map above you can see how well situated Croatia is. It borders with Hungary, Bosnia and Montenegro and is separated from Italy by the Adriatic Sea. The area was formally part of Yugoslavia. The Yugoslavia which emerged from WWII was a six republic federation. From north-west to south-east, the political entities were Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Servia, Montenegro and Macedonia. The area was made up of three different faiths: Islam, Orthodox Christianity and Roman Catholicism. From 1945 to 1980, Joseph Tito unified the six republics into a communist dictatorship, independent of Russia. He was able to suppress religious and cultural rivalries during his lifetime but unfortunately no concerted attempt was made by the political or religious leaders to settle century- old religious hatreds. In the 1990's the unravelling of Yugoslavia accelerated. Pre-World War II, the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian empire, the collapse of the Ottoman empire and the conclusion of WW1, Yugoslavia became a kingdom under King Alexander. The Nazis over-ran Yugoslavia in WWII. The fascist Ustashe (Croatians; primarily Roman Catholics) established a puppet Nazi state.
I arrived in Zagreb around 10 am in the morning after flying all night. After arriving at the hotel I did something that I normally don't do- I took a nap. I woke up around 3 PM and felt ready to go out and explore. Unfortunately, it was raining out but that did not stop me from exploring the area near my hotel. The hotel was situated off of Ban Jelacic Square which is the central square of the city. You can see the statue of Ban Josip Jelacic on a horse. This statue was removed in 1947 as the new Communist government of Yugoslavia denounced Jelacic as a "servant of foreign interests". On October 11, 1990 during the breakup of Yugoslavia and after the 1990 elections in Croatia, the statue was returned to the square. The square is the most common meeting place for people in Zagreb-it is part of a pedestrian zone so no cars , however it is a main hub for the trams.
I was staying at the Hotel Dubrovnik which was very centrally located- an excellent choice picked by the tour and a hotel I would highly recommend. The hotel was surrounded by shops and restaurants.
I walked by this modern building. I liked the reflections.
I met Roman the next morning and we spent the day walking around the old part of the city . The area was small enough that you could walk everywhere. We met up with this bride who was been photographed.
Above is one of the many streets we walked down. For a Saturday, I was pleasantly surprised how few people there were in the streets. Roman mentioned that many of them would be in the squares and coffee shops which I noticed later. Zagreb has a population of approximately 1,200,000 including its metropolitan area. The city has a charming medieval old city with architecture and cobbled streets similar to Vienna, Budapest, Prague and other Central-European Capitals. Roman told me that Zagreb is often thought of as a smaller version of Vienna.
Zagreb is city dating from the Roman times. The name Zagreb is mentioned for the first time in 1094 at the founding of the Zagreb diocese of Kaptol. Zagreb became a free royal town in 1242. The origin of the name remains a mystery. In 1851, Zagreb had its first mayor and in 1945 it was made the capital of Croatia. Goring grad (Upper Town) and Donji grad (Lower Town) are the cultural, religious and commercial hubs of Zagreb. These are where most of the restaurants, bars and tourism sites are located and we walked back and forth between them.
As Roman mentioned, many people were out having coffee. What I found very interesting were all of the outdoor cafes in Croatia that only served drinks (including coffee/tea/sodas) and no food. You were allowed to smoke in these outdoor cafes. If the restaurants served food, then they had to have a kitchen and no smoking was allowed. You could sit outside and people watch and socialize without feeling any pressure to leave.
Zagreb had so many beautiful buildings that it was hard to choose which ones to photograph so I just photographed as many as I could.
This building is the Art Pavilion in Zagreb. The art gallery is located in the Lower Town area of the city. The gallery was established in 1898 and is the oldest gallery in Southeast Europe. The building was designed specifically to accommodate large scale exhibitions. The statue in front of the building is of the famous Croatian Renaissance artist Andrija Medulic.
A park leading up to the main railway station in Zagreb, Zagreb Glavni Kolodvor. The station opened July 1, 1892. An 1890 act of the Royal Hungarian Government authorized the building of the main station and maintenance shop.
An old door I came across on the walk.
The newer district on the other side the railroad tracks.
A beautiful typical 19th century building on Ilica Street in lower town. This street is one of the locals' favourite streets according to the tour books. It is six kilometres in length and for a long time it was the longest street in the city. The street is lined with shops and government buildings lining the eastern end and theatres and markets emerging as it moves west. This street has actually kept the same name since its origins in the 15th centurey.
This building is currently the home of the Croatian State Archives. It was designed by architect Rudolf Lubynski in 1913 and is supposed to be the most beautiful example of Croatian Art Nouveau. The building was formerly the National and University Library and is located in Marulic Square.
The Croatian National Theatre is located on Trg marshal Tita (Marshal Tito Square) which is named after Josip Broz Tito (1892-1980), former president of the Yugoslav Federation. Well known Viennese architects (Ferdinand Fellner and Herman Helmer), who designed forty other European theatres were responsible for the plans for the building. A Neo-Baroque style was used which was thought to be most suitable for theatres at that time. The building officially opened in 1895 and brings opera, ballet and drama companies together under one roof.