February 20, 2019

City Exploring in Zagreb

It turned out to be a beautiful day when my family and I, on our Trafalgar-guided tour, explored the largest city and capital of Croatia: Zagreb.

According to our tour guide, Dean Smart, tourism in Croatia started in 2005 and has been booming ever since. Alongside their tourism industry, the Eastern European nation is known for their pristine beaches and white vineyards. In fact, Croatians continue to win awards for the quality of their wine. Production-wise, they mainly produce machine parts, car engine and tractor parts. They have a well-established economy which relies on their trade with Austria and Germany.

Concerning food, Croatian culture abundantly uses olive oil in the preparation of their meals. They serve a lot of seafood, and are famous for their cheese production. Croatians typically like their coffee strong due to Turkish influence.

Of the many inventions that have originated in Croatia, one invention that has stood the test of time and gone through many transformations is what we now call the modern-day tie.

Back in the 16th century, the wives of Croatian soldiers would create ornately decorated red ties of cloth for their men to wear around their necks to help distinguish them in battle. The women would also wear red scarves to remember that their love at war was waiting for them. During the Napoleonic wars, the red scarf became recognized as a fashion trend which the French desired to adopt. Charles II of England also liked the new fashion article and allegedly proclaimed: “Get me a tie or I shall die!” The French came up with the name, “cravat”, for the scarf, and thus, ties were officially invented.

Probably the quirkiest museum you can find in Zagreb is: The Museum of Broken Relationships. The museum is well-known for its exhibits of lost relics and artifacts from relationships that didn’t work out in the end. My family and I didn’t have time to tour the museum, but their online website features many items from their odd collection.

Along our Zagreb city walking tour, we easily spotted the city’s open marketplace. There were copious red-roofed tents to pick fresh food or souvenirs from.

Among the hand-made souvenirs were gingerbread hearts with mirrors in the center of each of them. Our local guide told us about the old Croatian tradition of men proposing to women by giving them gingerbread hearts. If the woman in question did not want to marry the brave man, then she would gift him some beer to drown his sorrows with.

During the Middle Ages, gingerbread making became prominent in particular European monasteries and turned into a skillful craft in Croatia. To this day, gingerbread craftsmen decorate gingerbread in their own characteristic way. Once the baked honey cakes are dried and painted (with edible colors), then pictures, messages, or mirrors are often applied for added decoration. Croatia fondly holds the gingerbread heart as a symbolic part of their nation’s identity.

We couldn’t properly experience Zagreb without touring the Zagreb Cathedral. It was a new experience to witness an actual monk walk past us in a full body-length brown robe. I was reminded of how religions that we read about in our classroom textbooks still exist around the world today!

By St. Mark’s Church, our walking tour encountered an amazing surprise when we were able to closely observe the actual Prime Minister of Croatia, Andrej Plenković, greet the President of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović!

Although most of us on the tour were not familiar with Croatia’s national leaders, it still felt exciting to witness a legal ceremony take place right before our eyes! There was even a full band playing as the president made her entrance which made it more entertaining.

I was excited to see the Croatian National Theatre in all of its regal glory. I adored its mustard exterior and elegant porte-cochère (carriage porch). Since the 19th century, the theatre has functioned as an opera and ballet house. 

As you can see in the background, all of the trams in Zagreb are a distinct bright blue shade!

My family and I definitely had our fill of museums, cathedrals, ceremonies, fresh market produce, and other wonderful attractions that make up the city of Zagreb. Next time we ever visit Croatia, I would certainly love to relax at one of their pristine beaches that they are so well known for!

Have you ever been to Croatia? Would you consider adding it to your travel bucket list? Let me know in the comments below! :)


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