Parks, naïve art and a miracle-working icon make up Croatia's undeservedly underrated capital
Issue 45-46, June-July 2010
by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff
The people of Zagreb are fond of saying that their city is too quiet. For the visitor, however – especially if you began your journey by crossing the western suburbs of Sofia – the quiet of Zagreb is a blessing. It has everything Bulgaria's capital city doesn't – wide streets, well preserved old architecture and a preternatural cleanliness.
Historically, the name of Zagreb was first noted in 1094, but up until 1850 the city consisted of two settlements on either side of the Medveščak creek. On the hill to the west was the fortified town of Gradec, and on the east was Kaptol, a community formed around the Archbishop's cathedral. Today Gradec and Kaptol are the two main attractions of a tour of Zagreb. A third area of interest is Donji Grad, situated at the foot of the hill.
1. Green Horseshoe
Zagreb's lush greenery is one of the city's hallmarks, and its most famous gardens make up the so-called Green Horseshoe. The sequence of eight parks in Donji Grad, or Lower Town, became part of Zagreb's urban plan in a project by the Croatian architect Milan Lenuci. Starting from the Zrinjevac Park to Kralja Tomislava Square and on to Maršala Tita Square, the Green Horseshoe lets you traverse half of Zagreb's central area without losing sight of either trees or gardens.
Zagreb's youth have long made the city parks their favourite places to hang out. During the day you can see them sunbathing, talking or reading a book while lying on the grass. They are there again in the evenings, quietly drinking beer and chatting. The Zrinjevac Park is the most popular. At weekends you can find an orchestra playing in the centrally located rotunda, while people dance round about and lovers of vintage clothes stroll by in 19th Century costumes.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers