Dick and Jane's Travels

A Travelblog (click on any picture to enlarge -- then click again to make it even bigger)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Zagreb, Croatia


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Croatia is crescent shaped, ironically because it clung to its
coast while resisting the Ottomans who threatened from Bosnia for centuries.
Hungarians took it over in 1102 and held on until the "war to end all
wars" which we call WWI. It then joined its neighbors in becoming
Yugoslavia. It declared independence in 1991 -- but fought the
Serbian-dominated Yugoslav army for 5 bloody years. This most recent of
Europe's wars is all but forgotten by most Americans -- but not by our guides
who lived through it and described some sights through tear-tinged eyes. A UN
tribunal continues to prosecute many of its war criminals (mostly Serbs but
some Croatian generals as well). While our trip was primarily along the
rock-cragged Dalmatian coast 1 of Croatia's over 1000 islands, we started in
Zagreb, Croatia's political and cultural capital.

Zagreb is Croatia's capital. -- and a place that Marshall Tito
claimed had known war over the last 50 generations. It's been making itself
over for pretty much the past 150 years. Tourists mostly visit four areas of
Zagreb which align themselves like a grotesque smiling face climbing a hill.
The newer area is the green smile at bottom which holds several museums, parks,
and cultural attractions. It's a great example of planned urban growth and is
often called the "Green Horseshoe." The rectangular nose is the
town's main square -- Ban Jelačić Square. The two eyes contain the
now-pedestrianized medieval towns which belonged, respectively, to the crown
(left) and the bishop (right).

Zagreb is mostly what tourist Croatia is not. Most come to the
coast for the sea and Mediterranean climate and diet. Zagreb is inland and
east European; it spent much of its history under the Hungarian thumb (and
trying to avoid Ottoman rule). Let's start our visit where the town began --
up on the Kaptol hill, shown on the map here as the right or eastern
"eye" on Zagreb's twisted face.

At the heart of the Kapitol district, and the reason for
Zagreb's existence, is its cathedral. About 85% of Croatia is Roman Catholic
and this is their icon. Unlike a lot of European, these Catholics go to
church -- not unlike the Poles whose religion helped preserve their national
ethos through decades of political trauma.

While Iron Age peoples and even the Romans were once here,
modern-day Zagreb traces its roots to 1094 when a diocese was located here.
Behind these stones rise naves from a 13th century foundation. But what we
see here (underneath the restorative scaffolding) is an 1880 neo-Gothic rehab
after an earthquake collapsed the single spire and the interior dome. The
restoration architect went on to become Zagreb's most important builder. His
name was Hermann Bollé and he was born in Cologne. While Bollé labored in
Zagreb, Cologne's cathedral with its twin spires was finally completed.

The Hungarian king who established the bishopric was Ladislaus
I who went on to sainthood -- and the cathedral was later dedicated to him
and a few others. Ladislaus expanded Hungary's realm into Croatia and he
reorganized the Catholic Church accordingly. The first cathedral was
consecrated in 1217 but a few decades later the Mongols destroyed it when
they came through the area raising Khan. The onion-domed spire at right is
St. Mary's, built in the 14th century and modified in the baroque wave of the
1740s (like many Zagreb churches). Like the cathedral to its left, St. Mary's
sports an exterior rebuilt after the 1880 earthquake.

Inside St. Stephen's, we see a traditional nave with two
aisles. The late 19th century gothic rework removed most renaissance and
baroque elements from the interior. The apse area seen at the rear has been
given over to a mausoleum for Zagreb bishops including one currently proposed
for sainthood.

Most prominent of the bishops' tombs is the somewhat startling
"container" of the remains of Aloysius Viktor Stepinac--a boy
wonder who became archbishop before he was 40. He resisted first the Nazis
and then the communists. Tito threw him into prison for 5 years and severed
relations with the Vatican when Puis XII gave Stepinac the red hat. He rests
here below the coat-of-arms of the Zagreb Archbishop. Pope John Paul II
called him a martyr for the faith (he may have been poisoned.) He was
beatified in 1998.

Returning outside, this view looks west from the Cathedral
across its large square. As they feared the Ottoman Turks, the Zagreb bishops
finally constructed defensive walls around the cathedral and bishop's palace
in the 15th century. In 1907, the western walls were razed to open the plaza
up to the rest of the Kapitol area. At center we see a mid-nineteenth century
column topped by a Marian statue which, like the four gilded angels below it,
is the work of the Viennese artist Anton Fernkorn. Fernkorn was Zagreb's
alpha sculptor until native Croatian Ivan Meštrović arrived. This is a
town that takes sculpture and sculptors seriously so we began to pay

The other 3 sides of the cathedral are flanked by a huge
bishop's palace which over the years has been expanded into one huge u-shaped
building with a baroque facade that linked together most of the existing
buildings around 1730. This view is of the southern wing, showing a defensive
tower incorporated into the palace. In total, the bishop's palace links 6

This view shows the north defensive walls. These rose between
1469 and 1473 when the bishop feared an impending attack from the Ottomans.
The Ottomans threatened for two centuries and their capture of Bosnia
explains the crescent shape of modern Croatia. The scaffolding at right
supports the renovation of the cathedral's neo-Gothic facade. If the Ottomans
do come back, they'll be stopped by those two camouflaged figures at lower
right walking past the caged angels. Croatia joined NATO on April Fools' Day 2009
and has over 300 soldiers in Afghanistan. (The successors to the Ottomans,
modern Turkey, will probably be here on joint maneuvers some day as they have
been members of NATO since 1952.)

If you want to see more of the cathedral, try our supplemental
picture pages at http://picasaweb.google.com/schmitt.dick/ZagrebChurchesSupplementalPictures?authkey=Gv1sRgCOjpg-KH37OPHw#slideshow/5402157660404607778.

Many of the houses on Zagreb's narrow medieval streets were
torn down in 1925 to clear space for the colorful Dolac farmers' market
located between the cathedral and St. Mary's whose onion spire rises in the

While produce takes center stage outside, buildings at the
periphery house fish and meat markets.

Atop one of these market buildings we find a flower market
with an unusual statue of a busker with a noose around his neck. This is
Vanja Radaus's statue of the the minstrel Petrica Kerempuh playing for a
condemned man. Somehow the musician inherits the noose -- probably as part of
the trickster's ruse in a tale from Croatian folklore. Most squares have
statues and generally, the newer the statue, the more physically accessible
it is.

West of the Cathedral rose a separate town chartered by the
king. Today Gradec houses the Croatian government and several of Zagreb's
more than 30 museums. It's a bit of a museum itself as it has been restored
pretty much to its 17th century Baroque redo.

We look south here at this medieval model with the higher
Kapitol (the cathedral center) at left (east). The Medveščak brook
separates it from the lower royal town (Gradec). For centuries, these were
distinct rivals until they merged in 1850. The church at right is St. Mark's
-- still the center of the old Gradec.) The brook, as we shall see, has been
paved under a sewer project.

Thanks to Wikipedia for this aerial view of the old town,
Gradec, rising from Gornji Grad hill. At about the center we see St. Mark's
church between the presidential palace (above) and the house of parliament
(below). At about 8:30 position we see the funicular's railroad track
sticking out like a long tongue reaching to the main square just outside this
picture on the left. To the funicular's right is one of the few remaining
defensive towers which still fires a cannon daily. The lower quadrangle (6 to
8 o'clock) is mostly a complex constructed by the Jesuits. In all, three
religious orders had substantial real estate here.

Above the Medveščak brook rises the old town of Gradec.
Its medievial rival Kaptol and its cathedral is to the lower right. This
prehistoric habitation site grew to be the center of Slavonia (now a separate
country in the EU to its east) as it was on the crossroads between Hungary
and the Adriatic. Before the Hungarian domination, the Croat kings made this
a royal town -- with special privileges and lower taxes for skilled
immigrants. Before capitalism, this was the equivalent of our state
governments giving tax abatements to corporations for building plants. We
were all Keynesians then.

Here's what tourists see today of the Medveščak brook --
not scenic, but at least they get to walk on water -- and have since 1898
when the sewers came to Zagreb and put it underground. It flows south from
Zagreb's mountain (Medvednica) and a few hundred yards from this spot in a
fountain in the town's main square. Once the twin towns fought over who had
rights to put mills on its banks.

Here's the automobile's view of Medveščak brook: a lively
pedestrianized area as is most of the upper town. The cylindrical barriers
are viagrized. If your car has the right remote button, they go down and then
back up after you pass through. Anything else would be uncivilized.

The street over the old brook leads to the only gate still
standing (the defensive walls are long gone.)

This view is from the inside of Gradec looking towards the
gate, the only one of the five original town entrances. Much has changed
since the Ottoman Turks threatened Zagreb.

Inside this 13th century structure is both passageway and a
chapel. Note the glow at left and what is thought to be one of southeast
Europe's greatest baroque screen at right protecting ...

...this miraculous icon. A 1731 fire destroyed most of this
area but not (you guessed it) this painting which was found in the ashes of
the apartment just over this gate. Candles have been burning ever since. The
original frame was burnt and this ornate frame is thought to be from a 16th
or 17th century Zagreb artisan. In 1778, the city placed what is considered
the best example of Croatian baroque smithwork in front of it -- as a
protective fence. The crowns date from 1931 when they were added to celebrate
200 centuries of this icon keeping Zagreb safe. (We won't talk about that
1880 earthquake, of course.)

And what better way to honor an icon that survived a
horrendous fire than with candles?

From the outside, the Stone Gate (upper right) is protected by
another saint. Here St. George and his steed stand above a stone dragon. Near
the end of these slides, we'll see a quite different St. George statue than
this pensive bronze. On either side of St. George, we see job creation. This
week's Newseeks tells me that Croatia and Michigan have approximately the
same unemployment rate. At left we have restoration, especially to a
"quaint" state. At right, we see a busload of tourists.

St. George thinks about a larger stimulus package or maybe
asking Goldman Sachs to help him with God's work in Zagreb's. Croatia has had
its challenges recovering from that dragon of a controlled economy where the
government owned most assets and was too poor to properly maintain them. A
long civil war right after communism fell didn't help. As a result, you
rarely see a Zagreb building well maintained over the years. Structures are
(1) recently restored, or (2) covered with scaffolding, or (3) hoping to get
out from state ownership so private capital can restore them. George here
views the old Kapitol area, pretty much restored as a tourists' delight. As
you descend into less historic areas, things can shabbier.

Nearby is what appears to be a medieval chapel -- but is, in
fact, another late 1800s work by Zagreb's master of the neo-Gothic -- Hermann

Here's a view of one of the four gates that didn't survive.
Let's now turn to the heart and soul of Gradec -- old St.
Mark's. As in Venice, which dominated much of coastal Croatia for centuries,
St. Mark's Square is the location of the government. It unfolded around the
parish church which still appears quite humble from the exterior except

That naive art roof. Like Zagreb's much larger cathedral, the
14th century St. Mark's was restored after the 1880 earthquake by Hermann
Bollé under the direction of his mentor and fellow neo-Gothicphile Friedrich
von Schmidt. To the left is a former presidential palace and the parliament
building is to the right -- the heart of this new nation. The square got new
cobblestones in 2006 and is kept spotless. We found it relatively empty
except for the group of school children awaiting entrance into St. Mark's.

The late 19th century roof sports colorful tiles of the
coats-of-arms or an old Croatian-Dalmatian kingdom (left) and the city of
Zagreb (right). The 14th century Gothic doorway is by Ivan Parler from
Prague; it teems with 15th century baroque statues of the apostles in various
states of disrepair -- even though the latest renovation was celebrated about
6 months before our arrival. Many consider this to be the most significant
Gothic portal in Southeastern Europe even though it cries out for
restoration. (Its Madonna is missing Mary's head and the entire upper half of
Jesus's body! Perhaps the head cuts have gone too far.)

Inside (rarely open to tourists) are old frescoes and a much
newer statue by a famous Croatian sculptor we'll see a lot more of named Ivan
Meštrović. If you'd like to see more exterior pictures, check out our
supplemental picture pages at:

Croatia and nearby Slovenia voted overwhelmingly to overthrow
their Communist yokes in the early 1990s -- causing a civil war sparked by
the Serb-dominated Yugoslav Army. Like ours, the North once again won the
civil war (but in this case, they were the ones who left the union).
Serb-sparse Slovenia got off relatively easy, but Croatia had thousands of
deaths and hundreds of thousands of refugees.

Here we see the 1910 Neo-Classic Parliament (Sabor) building
which holds sessions for the 150 or so members of this unicameral
legislature. When it declared its independence in 1990, Croatia formed a
bicameral legislature but moved to one chamber in 2001. The red checkerboard
coat-of-arms at the center of this Ionic-columned Palladian facade is
ironically that of the old Hapsburg Kingdom of Croatia. Croatia and Slavonia
were Catholic and looked West -- to Venice and Vienna -- for their identity.
While they speak Slavic, they spell with the Latin alphabet. Most of the rest
of the former Yugoslavia (the name means "Southern Slavs") looks
east -- to the Ottoman empire. Today, the US celebrates the fall of the
Berlin wall and its bloodless revolution -- but virtually ignores the horror
that happened here when Croatia threw off its Communist rulers.

This long structure works well with its square. Its symmetry
is maintained by having two facades, allowing the southern facade ample
frontal space even though the back facade is blocked, somewhat, by St. Mark's
church. This space, in turn, allows crowds of citizens to gather for
important announcements made from this columned balcony. From this spot,
Croatia proclaimed its independence first from the Austro-Hungarian Empire
(1918) and then from Yugoslavia (1991). Considering that the neo-Gothic was
all the rage just 15 years before this was built -- and that this building
itself replaced a 1731 baroque parliament building on this site -- its twin
neo-classical pediments may be a bit of a pleasant surprise. But as a
parliamentary building, it seems to age well.

Facing the Parliament building and St. Mark's, we find the
former Presidential Palace, once the palace of the Ban. ("Ban" was
the title of the local ruler in Croatia since the 7th century Slav migrations
and was also used for provincial governors during Croatia's 8 centuries under
Hungarian rule.)

In Croatian, the official title of this long 2-storied baroque
building is "Banski dvori" which means "palace of the
ban." Bans lived here from 1809 when it was built until 1918 when
Yugoslavia was formed. Under the "second" (communist) Yugoslavia,
it housed the president of the Socialist Republic of Croatia. The
Serb-dominated Yugoslav army shelled the building with rockets in 1991,
trying to kill Croatia's newly elected president, Franjo Tuđman and
several other prominent leaders. The next day, the new parliament declared
Croatia independent. A year later, the president moved his residence to an
upscale neighborhood in Zagreb; but this building is still considered to be
the headquarters of the Croatian government. Note both of these buildings
sport the European Union blue flag -- a bit prematurely as Croatia (like
Turkey) is only a candidate for membership in the EU. Its admission was
delayed when it misplaced one of its generals accused of war crimes.

Enough of this history and politics stuff. Let's talk about
museums. The old city houses many (and all of Zagreb has over 30 in total for
about 800,000 inhabitants; if Houston had the same relative to its
population, we'd have more than 100.) Several are a stone's throw from St.
Mark's square including the former studio of Zagreb's great 20th century
sculptor, Ivan Meštrović, who settled here in 1922 (but moved to the US
in 1946, teaching at Syracuse and Notre Dame. His grandson today teaches at
Texas A&M.)

We found Ivan Meštrović's work proudly displayed
throughout Croatia. The 17th century building he converted to his studio
features about 300 of his works. Meštrović lived and worked here from
1922 until his departure to the States after WWII. (He more than dabbled in
politics and was imprisoned during WWII for his opposition to the Axis
puppets who ran Croatia.) At the center of the entrance courtyard we find
Meštrović's 1928 rendition of "Woman in Agony," perhaps
suggestive of his teacher Auguste Rodin. After our visit to Meštrović's
studio, we got into sculpture on this trip and started paying more attention
to statues other than as places for pigeons to roost.

Here we look south past another museum and towards the steeple
of Saints Cyril and Methodius Orthodox church, another place gussied up by
the ubiquitous Herman Bolle. We found a lone demonstrator waiving the
checkered flag in the foreground at St. Mark's Square -- but couldn't figure
out what this was all about. This museum is restrained baroque on the outside
but ...

...inside its 20th century and primitive. Bound to put a smile
on your face, the Croatian Museum of Naive Art claims to be the first museums
of primitive art (think Grandma Moses) in the world. Most work is by
Croatians, many of whom formed movements with their fellow primitivists.
Their "Grandpa Moses" is Ivan Generalić (although most art
historians would say that Grandpa Moses was our Ivan Generalić.) The
place started with a much more primitive name in 1952 when it was called the
Peasant Art Gallery. About 80 (of the collection of 1500) paintings are
displayed in an interior stark enough to please any sophisticated modernist.
Most works displayed here are from the Hlebine School -- named after the home
town of two generations of artists encouraged to paint primitive near Zagreb.

Outside the Museum of Naive Art we find a plaque to Croatia's
most famous scientist, Nikola Tesla. If you know of Edison and Westinghouse,
you should remember this Serbian born in Croatia who did most of his
scientific work in the states. Sprung from an illiterate mother and an
Orthodox priest, he is pretty much the reason the world runs on alternating
current. With his Howard Hughes-like obsession with germs, he became the
poster boy for the mad scientist in his later years, before dying
impoverished. The US Supreme Court ruled that he also invented the radio.
With some irony, each night his plaque -- and the rest of this area -- is
illuminated by gas lamplights which are lit by hand at dusk. Tesla would
probably be rolling over in his grave -- with the assistance of an AC
electric motor. Around the turn-of-the-20th-century, he once lit 200 lamps
wirelessly over a distance of 25 miles. Note St. Mark's in the background.
Tesla migrated to the US about the time these tiles went on that colorful

When the Ottomans no longer threatened, Zagreb could look to
improve its quality of life in the 17th century. Town defenses came down and,
in their space, rose monasteries and schools. Three religious orders were
invited in including the Poor Clares in the northeast corner of the Upper
Town's trianagle.

The nuns are long gone, but their convent has been made into
the city museum for Zagreb. Here's a view of the trompe l'oeil courtyard.
Inside is a well presented (mostly English-friendly) set of displays of some
of the museum's 75,000 objects.

By coincidence, the Poor Claires built over a site inhabited
since the early Iron Age. So when the museum was established, the first thing
to do was get archaeologists to excavate the basement! They found many layers
of civilization starting with the Halstatt culture around the 8th century
BCE. (Halstatt was a Celtic tribal culture common in central Europe.) This site
appeared to have been abandoned when the Romans left until the early middle
ages around the 7th century CE.

One of the better ideas here is to display the 17th century
statues taken during Herman Bolle's late 19th century remodeling of the
cathedral and display them here in their context by using a steel framework
to suggest their placement on the arch of the central portal. These are the
apostles and we see St. Paul with his sword and St. Peter with his key
flanking Christ. But why does the apostle at right have the upside down cross
usually associated with St. Peter?

Another innovation is to display models of the 19th century
civic building in context on their streets which are labeled on the parquet
flooring. Note the upside down "U" of greenbelts as we look at
these models (facing south). Later in our trip, we would walk by the real
buildings in the lower town as we traversed part of the "green
horseshoe" of Zagreb's late 19th century urban plan.

Another interesting display is these tombstones arranged to
suggest their church graveyard.

This tickled my fancy: As a royal town, Gradec officials could
mete out an assortment of punishments including death. For minor infractions,
they'd make you wear a "shame mask" while tied to a stake in the
central market square -- a bit like the Pilgrim's stocks. The projection at
center appears to be a whistle the wearer would blow to attract attention so
that he could be further harassed.

Before the Poor Claires were invited to Zagreb, the new order
that came to be known as the Jesuits arrived. Today's University of Zagreb
traces its DNA back to their establishment of a church and school in the
southeast corner of the Old Town. The academy continued after the Jesuits
were disbanded by Pope Clement XIV in 1773. For centuries most of the
Croatian intelligentsia came from here.

While the Cathedral revels in its neo-Gothic restoration, St.
Catherine's holds onto the baroque splendor that the Jesuits gave it in 1630.
Inside it displays some of the baroque altars handed down by the Cathedral
when it went retro-Gothic at the end of the 19th century. While it lacks a
massive dome, this building was clearly inspired by...

...the much more massive Gesu church in Rome photographed here
during our November 2007 visit. This has been called the "first truly
baroque facade." Michelangelo offered to design Gesu for free, but the
Jebbies, as is their way, went elsewhere. Note the niches on the Jesuit
mothership ...

...which we also find here in the much simpler St. Catherine's
facade. These are populated by bookish evangelists such as Luke with his ox
at left and Matthew with his angel at right.

Jesuit architecture dispensed with the vestibule. When you go
through the front door, you are to be overwhelmed with magnificence. Awe is
to lead to devotion. And if you were thinking of leaving the church to join
those upstart Protestants, this iconography will scare you back. St.
Catherine's lacks Gesu church's dome, and its small budget meant much of the
main altar "carvings" are actually trompe l'oeil -- but it all
works well, especially when you consider that this is a short and well-lit
nave. The church scale is human but the decor is nothing if not divine.

Much trompe l'oeil here including the open door at left. At
center, St. Catherine of Alexandria defends the Christian church from the
wise pagan men that the Roman emperor has sent to convince her of her error.

Catherine's crown denotes her position as the daughter of the
governor of Alexandria, for a millennium the capital of Egypt and home to the
greatest library in the world. If the scholarly Jesuits are to venerate a
female, she's probably the right one. By the end of the middle ages, she was
the most popular virgin-martyr. But in 1969, the church removed her feast
from its calendar because they were not sure she ever existed. Never mind!
Eventually the Roman emperor tired of his scholars' attempts to convert her
and had her killed on the wheel -- which fell apart so he had her head
removed instead.

At least they kept Catherine's pink-stuccoed church. This wall
and ceiling treatment dates to 1732, just after a huge fire decimated the
stone gate area of the old town.

The pulpit is from 1690; atop its canopy rises the statue of
Pope Leo the Great who convinced Attila the Hun to return home in the 5th

The church holds five wooden baroque side altars and one of
marble: this industrial-strength Jesuit altar. It's a masterpiece sporting
emotional statues by Francesco Robba, considered to be the best sculptor of
his day in this part of Europe. He died in Zagreb in 1757 --one of many fine
sculptors with a connection to this town.

Robba's St. Ignatius gives him a chance to show his technical
virtuosity in clothing folds and curly hair. He probably learned these during
his internship in his native Venice.

Atop this altar we have Robba's resplendent Holy Trinity
including our Lord of the Abs. Baroque sculptors loved to have several
figures interact with each other.

St. Catherine's (shown at left in this fish-eye distortion)
anchored a complex of schools most of which are now museums. This side sports
a belvedere with great views of the Kaptol and the Cathedral at right (east).

We've posted about 35 more pictures of this remarkable Baroque
church at

To the north of St. Catherine's church is the Jesuit square
which we found to be very quiet...

...with its 17th century seminary is now an exhibtion museum
called Gallery Klovićevi Dvori. Parking is allowed here if you have a
permit to drive in the pedestrianized Old City...

...and even this humble square has its fountain with Serbian
Simeon Roksandić's 1908 statue of a fisherman with a serpent.

The Street of Saints Cyril and Methodius leads directly south
from St. Marks square between stately baroque buildings and then terminates
at a 900-year-old tower and a much newer funiculare.

The Tower of Lotrščak dates from the 13th century and
adjoined the old town's southern gate. Once this tower held bells that warned
when the nearby gate would be closed each night (9 PM in winter; 10 PM in
summer.) If you were outside the city when the gates closed, you spent the
night beyond the walls. Originally a square Romanesque building with three
stories, the tower got a fourth story with windows and frilly eave treatment
in the late 19th century.

Here the cannon peaks out of the uppermost window. These
windows were added to the tower in the 19th century and, since 1877, a cannon
has been fired daily at noon so that the many bell ringers in town can set
their watches. We found the iron cross at upper left to be a common exterior
decorating touch in Zagreb. These bind stone blocks together in case of
earthquake. The city walls in this area (long torn down, of course) were made
with chains inside of them for the same reason.

At the base of the tower we find the Zagreb Funicular -- one
of the steepest (52 % grade) and shortest in the world dedicated to public
transport. It ends at the main town square about 215 feet (and 55 seconds)
below. This is pretty much the original appearance (1890) although it hasn't
run on steam since 1934 when it was electrified. (Thank you, Mr. Tesla.) It
connects into the electric tram system which is free in the tourist areas
(and the trams are often painted this same blue shade).

The Zagreb Funicular bisects the Strossmayer Promenade, a
greenspace created when the southern walls were torn down.

This promenade is named after Josip Juraj Strossmayer who was
both the archbishop as well as a noted politician who founded the Croatian
People's Party (today called Liberal Democrats). Its foundation was the
belief that Serbs and Croats should be integrated and abandon their own
nationalist feelings and institutions. Furthermore he supported the use of
the Slavonic (instead of Latin) rite in both Catholic and Orthodox churches.
This a century before Vatican II let Catholics hear mass in their native tongue.
(In fact, the brothers Cyril and Methodius who converted the Slavs always
said mass and administered the sacraments in the Slavic languages -- back in
the 9th century. They had to invent their own alphabet -- the Cyrillic -- to
do so. (Croatia today uses the Latin alphabet)

Wisps of fall color decorated this scenic walkway and led us
to (yet another) public statue...

...this 1978 work by Ivan Kožarić. Ivan Mestrovic's town
teems with public statues -- but this is Zageb's first non-traditional one.
Appropriately it honors Antun Gustav Matoš, the writer who brought Croatia
into modern literature.

The funicular descends briefly but steeply to Zagreb's main
square which has had several names but today carries that of Count Josip
Jelačić whose reputation has gone from hero to villain and then
back to hero. (Or maybe not. Hungarians will have a different view of him
since he opposed their 1848 revolution to overthrow Habsburg rule.) Often in
this part of the world, a hero in one country is considered to be a scoundrel
by its neighbors.

This massive square opened in 1839 when the lower town was
developed and most of the surrounding buildings date from the 1880s. Styles
vary from classic to modern and include a Croat variant of Art Nouveau called
"Secessionist" which we'll talk about later. Tramways meet here,
making a good meeting spot that distant equestrian statue at left-center ...

...of Ban (Count) Josip Jelačić by Anton Dominik
Fernkorn in 1866. This statue once faced north to threaten Hungary with its
menacing (but pigeonified) sword. After WWII, the communists covered it over
with a paper mache monument. Jelačić's nationalism was a threat to
their international outlook. (Somehow they forgot that Jelačić
freed the serfs and established a parliamentary government). Sometime during
their rule, the statue was cut to pieces and disappeared. It miraculously
reappeared and was reassembled on a new base in 1991 after the communist
overthrow. It now faces south as Hungarians are now the friends of the
Croats. Count how many of the horse's feet are touching its plinth. There
will be a quiz later.

At the opposite end from the statue, we find the Manduševac
fountain which is the end of that same Medveščak brook we saw paved
under a littler earlier. Workers uncovered it in 1987 when they repaved the
square. Yes, that sky is threatening.

The Donji Grad or Lower Town includes one of the best examples
of late 19th century urban planning. It's nicknamed "Lenuci's
Horseshoe" after its creator, the urban planner Milan Lenuci. The good
news was that Zagreb planned its growth and channeled lovely public buildings
into a harmonious collection. The bad news is that the cash-poor Tito regime
let many of these buildings deteriorate. The result, an impressive area both
upscale and shabby.

Several upscale plazas interrupt this green belt. Descending
from the busy Jelačić Square, one of the first we encountered was
Petar Preradović Square named (and statued) after a 19th century
Croatian poet. Buildings of several architectural styles edge this square.
Most are high-end shopping and a flower market is also held here. We do have
a church, however.

As Patriarch Pavle of Serbia, the head of the Serbian Orthodox
Church lay dying, we visited his resplendent cathedral in Zagreb dedicated to
the Transfiguration of Jesus. We found no worshipers here, but didn't expect
many: Most of Croatia is Roman Catholic with less than 5% being Orthodox.
This cathedral is not only their headquarters but also for the Serbian
Orthodox in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, and all of Italy. (Come to
think of it, you don't see that many worshipers in the Catholic churches in
Italy either.) Most Serbs are Orthodox as that church helped enable Serbian
resistance to Ottoman rule, thus promoting Serbian nationalism. After WWII, Tito's
communist regime suppressed the institution, but it sprung back in the 1990s
-- only to resist Slobodan Milošević destructive onslaught of
neighboring Balkan countries. Several more photos are available at:

And now for something completely different on the obviously
well-restored Petar Preradović Square : these Art Nouveau caryatid-like
babes decorate the corners of one of the buildings near the Orthodox
cathedral but have enough time to check their manicures...

...and reliefs such as these decorate a Turkish building
(possible the embassy). While they have more clothes than the caryatids, they
are probably not as stylish.

Proceeding south from Petar Preradović Square, we
encounter three successive squares on the "Green Horeshoe" of
Lenuci's master plan for the lower town. The first is a green expanse lined
with cultural buildings including the deliciously baroque National Theater
shown above. The square is named after the WWII resistance leader and
architect of the second (communist) Yugoslavia -- Marshal Josip Broz Tito. A
Viennese firm led by the architects Ferdinand Fellner and Herman Helmer
specialized in theater buildings and built this in record time (under two
years), finishing in 1895. About that time, Herman Bolle was remaking the
Cathedral neo-Gothic besides building a neo-classical cemetery. Also, as we
shall soon see, Vjekoslav Bastl would soon create the Art Noveau building
that would become the Ethnographic Musuem. Fin-de-siècle Zagreb had a lot of
eclectic construction that makes this greenspace an architectural smorgasbord
of monumental structures.

A year earlier, we had visited Fellner and Helmer's opera
house in Ukraine's Odessa, another Italian Baroque masterpiece recently
restored (see it at http://fmschmitt.com/travels/black-sea/overview/odessa.html
.) In all, this team did over 20 theaters. In Zagreb, they also designed the
Art Pavilion which opened 3 years after this building, but is currently being
restored. All told, Croatia supports national theaters in 5 of its larger cities.

Since this Zagreb, with monumental buildings, you get ...
monuments. The baroque statuary atop the north side of the National Theater
overlook two of Ivan Meštrović's most important sculptures.

The first is in a recessed fountain and is called "the
Source of Life." It was forged in 1905 -- only 10 years after the
neo-Baroque National Theater opened. The sculptor was 22 years old and would
go on to be the first living artist to have a one-man show at New York's Met.

Which end is up?
The recessed pit makes a quiet spot for contemplation.
Climbing out of it and crossing the street we see a second major
Meštrović piece...

...a copy of his History of Croats (the original sits somewhat
ironically in Belgrade, the Serbian capital.) This one does yoga in front of
a University of Zagreb building.

But not all public statues in this square are by Ivan
Meštrović. While no statue of Marshall Josip Broz Tito was apparent, we
did find another St. George attacking a quite vividly imagined dragon whose
bronze tongue is attempting to give the warrior a hot foot. The is another
baroque equestrian statue with raised sword by Anton Dominik Fernkorn who
also did the statue of Ban Josip Jelačić Jelačić in
nearby Jelačić square. Fernkorn eventually went mad, perhaps after
trying to get his statues to balance on only 2 horse legs. Unlike the pensive
bronze we found in old town, this St. George is a man of action with a clear
mission. In 2008, protesters tried unsuccessfully to drop Tito's name from
this place and call it simply "Theater Square"; but it remains with
the non-aligned communist's moniker.

For those of you into neo-classic pink, this building abuts on
Marshall Tito Square.

Across the street from the National Theater rises another
Hermann Bollé "neo" building. (Yes, he did more than neo-Gothic --
we'll see a neo-classical building of his in a few more slides, as well.)
It's the neo-Renaissance Museum of Arts and Crafts. Its collection numbers
160,000 works in 18 collections; its library holds 50,000 volumes on arts and

At top, artistans stand between baroque ears in front of
Bollé's tiled roof. Bollé was one of the founders of this museum and an
architectural school (which he led for 32 years) grew out of this

Art Nouveau was the rage in Zagreb from 1899 until World War I
changed everything. The Ethnographical Museum shown here is one of its
outstanding examples. (Note the frayed edges at right. Under the communists,
many of these outstanding exteriors deteriorated and are being restored as
funds become available.) This building was designed by architect Vjekoslav
Bastl. He and Viktor Kovaci were the prime leaders of Zagreb's flavor of the
Vienna Art Nouveau branch called Secessionist architecture.

Check out this tattered frame around these Croatian figures
representing trade. On some deteriorating Zagreb buildings, even defacement
was viewed as an improvement and some blocks were deliberately given over to
graffiti artists. The problem is not confined to public buildings. Under
Tito's socialism, apartments became owned by the state and poor maintenance
resulted. Once Communism fell, ownership structures took a while to evolve
--but weather and time kept us their relentless assault on the fin-de-siecle
blocks of the lower town.

The museum is not as old as this 1902 domed building which
fronts on the park-like Mažuranićevo square. It was built as space to
boost trade as a chamber of commerce hall. The museum started later with the
donation of the textile collection of industrialist Salamon Berger. Today it
has about 80,000 items and features Croatian folk costumes. Note how the
upper window arch presages the dome peaking over the roof.

Croatia's National Archives are housed in another outstanding
Secessionist building reflecting the strong geometric lines that
characterized this style near the start of WWI. The design stems from a
competition won by architect Rudolf Lubynski and is made of reinforced
concrete which has a classic Greek marble feel to it. (In fact, it was
Zagreb's first concrete building -- not a bad start!) It's in the Jugendstil
style popular at the end of the 19th century in Germany and Austria. Despite
the symmetry which focuses the eyes to the center of this 260-foot-wide
structure, the entrance is on the other side! This was built as a university
library which might explain the bronze patinaed owls on each corner of the
upper structure. If this is the back, what's the front like?

This cheeky frieze in the Pallado tympanum is not your
father's Elgin Marbles but then that's why it's called Secessionist
Architecture. Ivan Mestrovic started his artistic life as a Secessionist

The Green Horseshoe formed by the lower town's monumental
buildings ends at the railroad tracks which have this appropriate neoclassic
building with its Palladio center entrance above which we find...

...this frieze. The station opened in 1892 and was designed by
the national railroad's resident architect, Ferenc Pfaff, who built or
remodeled 38 railway stations in the Austria-Hungary area. Most of his
stations are characterized by a high central section with two wings -- the
better to accommodate long platforms which ran parallel to the station and
make it easy for passengers to exit to the street.

Just across the square from the train station is the Regent
Esplanade which had been built in 1925 as one of the stopovers on the Orient
Express as it elegantly wound its way between Paris and Constantinople. We
started our Croatian adventure from this recently updated hotel. This is the
future for Croatian travel: private capital flowing in to refurbish such
faded beauties that deteriorated during the communist days or in the chaos
that followed when tourists disappeared and war refugees flooded the hotels.
We took this picture from a lovely fountained park floating above a large
modern shopping mall -- another example of capital finding its way into this
now stable democracy.

There is one architect's work we missed because we were
standing on it: That of Zagreb's clever urban planner, Milan Lenuci, who laid
out the "Horseshoe" we see rising in green above the railroad
tracks in this Google map. His vision started around 1880 when the city did
not own most of the land needed. On the privately-owned vacant land, he
staged public events and built cheap skating rinks and soccer fields in order
to delay the owners from developing the plots before public institutions
could get funding to buy and build. By doing so, he out-maneuvered the
Hapsburg bureaucracy which would have moved too slowly before private capital
developed the land. More than a century later, we swim by the Horseshoe's
many spectacular buildings like so many fish oblivious to Lenuci's water.

Let's end our stay in Zagreb where many of its citizens do --
at the Mirogoj Cemetery on the slopes of Mount Medvednica.

The neo-classic entrance is the work of (you've guessed it)
Herman Bollé , architecto primo of the 2nd half the 19th century in Zagreb.
Look closely at and you can see his tiny bust at right of center. This
entrance holds up better than this software-assembly suggests. A brisk autumn
provided the multi-colored ivy over Bollé's assembly of the classical shapes
of dome, arch, and triangular pediment.

Bolle worked on over 70 buildings in his career. Born in
Cologne, he died in Zagreb and is buried here along with a pantheon of the
city's leaders. In 1875 he traveled to Italy and was sketching its classical
monuments when he met Zagreb's great archbishop/politician -- Josip
Strossmayer -- who convinced him to relocate. The rest, as they say, is
architectural history.

This lacks the chapels with which wealthy families built in
say Paris's Père Lachaise Cemetery. Instead, Bolle built long arcades where
family could assemble their tombs in niches like so may side altars in a
cathedral. This cemetery consolidated remains found in the many parish
cemeteries and thus freed up urban land around the churches in the rapidly
growing city. From the foothills, Mirogoj Cemetery looks down upon its city
as it awaits the arrival of those who bustle below.

Floor to ceiling, this is a beautiful place of repose. About
300,000 remain here -- over 10 times the population of Zagreb when
construction started in the 1870s. Much of the decoration on the tombs is by
artisans trained in Bolle's school of Arts and Crafts.

Bolle designed the central chapel of Christ the King.
Financial problems slowed completion of the cemetery and it took nearly 50
years to complete -- long after Zagreb's greatest architect was himself was
planted here.

Besides graves, many monuments honor war dead including the
most recent -- to the victims of the 1991-1995 war. Here modern harsh angles
reflect the soft arches of Bolle's neo-classic chapel in the black polished
tomb of Franjo Tuđman, Croatia's leader during that struggle for

And as we would expect in Ivan Mestrovic's town, its most
prominent cemetery sprouts many statues atop graves of Catholics, Orthodox,
and Jews: an eclectic mix in death even though in Balkan life, they have not
always mixed that well.




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