For the Easter holiday (Salzburg College gave us Monday off in addition to the usual three-day weekend), I went with my friend Michael to Croatia. We took an overnight train to Zagreb, the capital, where we explored the city for a day. As with most overnight trains, sleep was hard to come by. The long stop at the border between Slovenia and Croatia didn’t help either, as both countries (one at a time mind you) checked the whole train and then stamped passports. We arrived in Zagreb around 9:30, and as we could not check in to the Airbnb until noon, we decided to walk through the city and find a place to eat.
The city was bustling, something I noticed immediately upon exiting the station where I saw a small collection of stands selling books and other goods. After exchanging money and looking at a map, we decided our best bet for food would be to walk straight until we hit the center of the city. Along the way, we took in the buildings around us, the first of which, directly across from the station, was the Art Pavilion. Established in 1898, it is the oldest gallery in Southeast Europe. It does not have a permanent display, but instead specializes in one-off solo and group exhibitions representing art movements from all periods and styles, with works by both Croatian and foreign artists.
We eventually ended up in Ban Jelačić Square, Zagreb’s central square, which is dominated by a large statue of Ban Josip Jelačić (1801-59) on a horse. The sculpture was created by the Austrian artist Anton Dominik Fernkorn and was installed in 1866 by Austrian authorities under much protest. A noted army general, he is remembered for his military campaigns during the Revolutions of 1848, though he is seen as a traitor by Hungarians, and for his abolition of serfdom in Croatia. Unfortunately for us, though this was a busy location with many high-end shops and restaurants for dinner, nothing was really suitable for breakfast.
Finding a place for breakfast ending up being much harder than we originally thought. Somehow, we ended up walking on streets that only had coffee bars, and eventually just decided to stop at one to get some caffeine and look up somewhere that would give us food as well as a drink. It turned out we had passed the perfect place, so we retraced our steps and got an outdoor table at Kava Tava.
After eating, we had about 30 minutes left before we were supposed to meet at the Airbnb, so we decided to walk slowly in that direction, coming across some interesting pieces of art on the way.
Once reaching the Airbnb and getting our keys, we took a little time to settle in and rest before heading to Michael’s pick of the day: the Ethnographic Museum. Founded in 1919, it holds around 80,000 items, though only approximately 2,800 are displayed, covering the ethnographic heritage of Croatia, separated into the Pannonian, Dinaric, and Adriatic cultural zones. Examples of these include reconstructions of farms, musical instruments, furniture, and life-size dolls dressed in traditional costumes, the latter being the most interesting to me. The museum also houses a large collection based on non-European cultures from Latin America, Central Africa, India, Polynesia, and Australia.
As the Ethnographic Museum was located in what seemed to be the location of the majority of museums in Zagreb, we took time to explore the area. Directly across the street was the Museum of Arts and Crafts, which was established in 1880. Next to that was a modern building that included a rainbow at the top; this was the Academy of Music.
In addition to various styles of architecture, there was also art outdoors, one example being the Zdenac života (Well of Life). Created by the Croatian artist Ivan Meštrović, who was influenced by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin, in 1905, it is located in front of the Croatian National Theatre on Marshal Tito Square. The sculpture depicts ten naked figures, representing man’s life cycle, surrounding a well. When it was installed in its current location in 1912, the sculpture was placed in a cavity surrounded by walls so that none of the nudity could be seen from the street.