(All photos © Sean D Sorrentino, 2012)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The second day in the first city

Zagreb, in addition to being the capitol of Croatia is also the largest city. Despite that, the largest concentration of tourist sites are all within walking distance. That means we covered pretty much the same ground today as yesterday. One real highlight was the tour of the Croatian National Theater in Zagreb. That’s the actual name for the “Opera House” I showed you yesterday. It’s a striking building outside, but it’s completely over the top on the inside.

We got a private tour of the inside by the simple expedient of asking. Yesterday when we walked around the place The Wife went to the stage door and asked the lady if we could go inside. She couldn’t speak English, but she called the guard up front who promised that if we returned between 10 and 1 today, we could take a tour. We expected to be pointed to the stairs and told to look about a bit, but instead we were personally escorted around by the very nice young lady who was manning the office. She seemed to be giving us a bit of a pro-forma tour until we started asking questions and showing a real interest in how things worked and who built it and why it was built the way it was built. Once she realized that we had an actual interest and weren’t just being nosey Americans, she warmed to her subject. You could tell that she had a real love for the building.

I didn’t take any photos because I thought it might be rude, so you’ll just have to come here yourself and see it. The ballet Sleeping Beauty was sold out tonight, so we couldn’t see the house in action. I’m not one for ballet, but I’d have gone willingly. I couldn’t help but look at the stage and think how cool it would be to stand there and perform for a full 785 person audience. Well, if I ever develop any talents, I’ll be sure to come back and see if the reality matches the fantasy.

Off we went from there as far as the first bakery. Have I mentioned that I love the food? For 46.50 HRK, (about $9) we each had a sandwich, a bottle of water, and some sort of dessert-y thing. We were well fortified for the long trek up the hill to the Old Town. Our only real disappointment today was that the furnicular railway to the top of the old town hill was out of order. We had to climb the steps. We were rewarded at the top with a view of a really striking church.

What isn’t immediately apparent, unless you read the guidebook, is that the buildings on either side of St. Marks Church are the Croatian Parliament and the offices of the Prime Minister. They are cool buildings, but with this church dominating the middle of the square, you hardly notice them. What caught The Wife's eye is the fact that the heraldry on the church roof doesn’t exactly match the heraldry above the door of the parliament building.

I don’t know if they are both correct, or if one is a mistake. I didn’t want to ask. It might be a sore spot. We went into St. Marks, just hoping to see the inside when instead we were treated to a short concert. There was a chamber music group of about 10 or so people inside. It was really good. Sometimes you just luck into things.

Off down the hill we ran into a shrine to the Virgin Mary inside the last remaining gate from the old city walls.

The story is that painting of the Virgin Mary miraculously survived a fire in 1731 which pretty much burned everything else to the ground. Not wanting to waste a miracle, they’ve turned the place into a shrine. It is a street, through the gate, and past  several pews, so it felt a bit like walking through a church during services. It actually felt rude to walk through, but that was what you were supposed to do. No sooner did we get through when the “City Guard” rolled through on their horses headed up the hill towards St. Marks Church.

They rode their horses right through the Old Gate, past St. Mary. They were polite enough to take off their hats to her on their way through.

You get the sense that you could spend a week here in Zagreb and still have things worth seeing. We parked in a business lot recommended by our rental agency and just walked everywhere. We didn’t ride the trams, but they are only about $1.25 a ticket. We didn’t want to try to sort out the tram schedule when everything was so close.

After getting some food for tomorrows breakfast, we rested and then went out again to Purger for dinner. I swear, if we lived here we would have a regular table. Seriously, if you go to Zagreb, eat at Purger. You won’t regret it. Between them and our rental agency, Zagreb gets top marks. Hopefully we’ll get to come back soon.

Federal Trade Commission Disclaimer:
These blog entries reflect my personal opinions about the locations The Wife and I visited during our travels. I have not received money, freebies, or any other inducements to provide positive coverage of anyone, anywhere, or anything. In fact, no one on this trip knew or had any reason to know that I am a blogger. I do not work for the Tourist Boards of any country, nor am I employed in the travel industry in any way.

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