Zagreb, Croatia’s capital city, was the first stop on our Balkan adventure. I got in several hours before mom and used the time to wander through the Museum of Broken Relationships (more on this museum later). Mom arrived later in the afternoon, just in time for a giant pizza dinner.
We spent the next day wandering through the city, stopping at several museums – the Ethnography Museum was interesting (its exhibit on the connection between Slavic and Vedic conceptions of femininity was visually beautiful, if not the most informative), though the privately owned Mimara Museum was a bit lacking, I thought. Zagreb is very European-looking, much more so than the other Balkans capitals. I think this follows from Croatia’s having been part of the Austro-Hungarian empire for a longer, more continuous period of time, whereas other parts of the Balkans were under eastern influence, if not outright control by the Ottoman Empire. Visually, this plays out in the architecture of the city – Zagreb’s theatre is an almost-exact replica of the theatre in Vienna, for example.
Two things I really enjoyed about Zagreb: large dogs and the City Museum. Seriously, it seemed like every dog – and here, the dogs were pets, not street dogs – was a massive breed. Even tiny women dragged giant dogs around on leashes. Zagreb’s City Museum far surpassed my expectations. It was a really well put-together museum, with tons of artifacts and descriptions in both English and Croatian. I did find it interesting how much time/space was devoted to big topics throughout Croatia’s/Zagreb’s histories…. For instance, there were multiple rooms that had giant models of the city’s layout from the Middle Ages, but only one corner of a room was dedicated to World War II. World War I went unmentioned, which is fascinating for a city that was so close to the beginning of the war and that was so affected by the war’s outcome and the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. More on museums and national/city identity formation in a later post, though.