On Tuesday I hung out in Zagreb’s backstreets – fun! First stop was the Dolac district where I enjoyed a cappuccino and discovered the open-air food market – called “the belly of Zagreb”.
The backdrop to Dolac market is St. Mary’s Church built in the 18th century. On the other side of the market there’s a square filled with fragrant flower stalls.
“A mischievous looking statue of Petrica Kerempuh stands in the midst of the flowers… Petrica Kerempuh is a Croatian plebeian prophet rascal and cynical commentator on contemporary events – a sort of predecessor to modern-day stand-up comedians.”
I continued to Tkalčićeva (tkal-chee-tseva) Street built along the course of the former Medveščak Creek, a Croatian landmark. Medveščak Creek was the location for most of Zagreb’s watermills. In the 18th century it was an industrial site used to produce cloth, soap, paper, and liqueurs.
“Medveščak Creek was the traditional boundary between the settlements of Kaptol and Gradec. Everything to the east of the creek belonged to the church-controlled Kaptol. The west side belonged to the secular Gradec.”
Tkalčićeva Street is famous for its colorful architecture and interesting residents. Near the beginning of the street there’s a bronze statue of novelist and equal rights advocate Marija Jurić – the first female journalist in Croatia. Her pen name is Zagorka and her novels which intertwine love stories and historical themes are popular in Croatia. “The Witch of Gric” is one of her most popular writings.
North of Tkalčićeva Street the Glyptotheque museum houses contemporary art and design exhibitions and plaster copies of famous sculptures. It was a leather tannery before the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences converted it into a museum.
The Zagreb Ballet performance last night was really something! It was a mixture of classic and contemporary ballet. I’ve never seen stronger or more talented dancers. The ballet was called Baletini Triptih and included three separate pieces specifically choreographed for the Zagreb Grand Ballet. Each piece consisted of three segments with a short break between dances. For three hours the dancers tirelessly gave their all during extremely demanding performances. The audience appreciated their amazing stamina.
I had a great seat next to a friendly and gracious Danish man involved in Croatian ballet production. He explained the layout of the ornate theater. He said in the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire the presence and support of the royal family was a major part of every performance.
In Europe the upper front section to the left of the stage was for the king and his friends who were patrons of the ballet. The king’s family occupied the section directly across on the right side of the stage.
During high-profile ballet and opera performances kings and other royalty would show off their daughters and try to find them suitable husbands. He said to this day in Denmark no one will sit in empty seats reserved for the king – even if a performance is sold out.
It was a wonderful evening and I’m happy to have experienced a ballet in the majestic Croatian National Theater – a fantastic memory!