Zany Zagreb

Trip Start Jun 08, 2010
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35
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Trip End Aug 26, 2010


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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Okay, Zagreb wasn't really zany, but I could only think of two "Z" words so it was that or "Zagreb Zebras", which was totally inaccurate.

My initial judgment was correct, Zagreb was filled with interesting architecture from the late-19th and early-20th centuries. I think I took pictures of just about every building in a 20-block area. The most imposing piece of architecture, though, was the Neo-Gothic Cathedral of the Assumption, which, although much older, got its current form in the 19th century. Topping out at just under 350ft, it towered over the rest of the buildings. Another striking church in the area was St. Marks (Crvka sv Marka), with a colorful tile roof featuring the crests of Zagreb and the three-part kingdom of Croatia, Dalmatia, and Slavonia.

The Church of St Mark was in the middle of a square surrounded by Croatian government buildings, including the Sabor (their parliament) and the nearby Governors Palace (Banski dvori) with the prime minister's offices. Strangely, many of the government buildings were flying the Hungarian flag in addition to Croatia's. Some high ranking member of the Hungarian government must have been there for a visit. There was even a long line of black luxury sedans waiting, no doubt, for a group of ministers to emerge.

When the sun was too much, I ducked into a couple of museums. First up was the Zagreb City Museum (Gradski muzej). It had a large collection with explanations in Croatian and English, but I found it disappointing. Most of the narrative focused on minutia without giving any sort of social or political framework to hang it off of. For example, the WWII poster said things like "WWII was hard on the city, with many bombings. In 1941 the city began rationing salt. Then in 1942, meatless Tuesdays and Thursdays were introduced. In 1944, lard was rationed." It didn't provide any information about who was in control of Zagreb, or why, or what the people thought about it. Or when it did, there was only a sentence of what without the why.

In my opinion, when you're making a museum, you need to assume first that the majority people who will visit it will be tourists, without a general knowledge of your subject. If you want to list out the dates of lard rationing, or when the city's paraffin lamps were replaced with oil and then electricity, or the date of the first radio broadcast, do it in the smaller cards around the room. Use the major room overview poster to provide a big picture of what was happening and the motivations.

The second museum was much smaller, but more interesting to me. It was the Croatian Museum of Naive Art (Hrvatski muzej naivne umjetnosti). I'm sure it wasn't for everyone, but I like folk and other untrained art. The museum exhibited the works of a small number of Croatian artists from the 1900s.

Late in the afternoon, I stopped by the Zagreb Botanical Garden, only to find out it closed early on Tuesdays. (Argh. Don't trust the times printed in Lonely Planet Croatia 2010.) I probably didn't need the extra exercise, though. After all that sun and walking, it was back to my hotel room for another round of cheap room service and a cold shower. (By the way, my hotel breakfast buffet was huge. It even had a selection of baby food.)

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