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An elegant square lined with grand 19th-century buildings, Ban Jelačić is a great spot to feel the city’s pulse. It often plays host to fairs and performances, as well as locals chatting under the sculpture of Ban Josip Jelačić or the towering clock just a stone’s throw away. Make your wish come true by throwing a coin into the Manduševac fountain, which is built around an ancient spring, then stroll through the historic Harmica passageway that leads to Dolac Market, where tolls were collected in the 18th century.
Even on the snowy and cold winter day I wandered through the wide cobbled streets around Ban Jelačić Square, I found warmth throughout this neighborhood that made the windows simply charming. If you can spare the time, this is a fascinating part of Zagreb with history, large churches, shops, beautiful architecture, and quaint cafes. If you happen upon the city in December, be sure to wander through the Christmas market.
Reflecting on my Christmas in Croatia, I can only feel tremendously blessed. Though my flight from Budapest was cancelled, I ended up in a taxi with four other interesting people. Upon crossing the border into Croatia, we handed the officials five different passports. When we arrived around midnight in Zagreb, one of the passenger shared his taxi with me, dropped me at my hostel, and paid my fare. I met two Canadian couples in Dubrovnik who shared Christmas week dinners with me and attended my first midnight mass on Christmas Eve in the old city. And, I found that Zagreb holds a beautiful Advent Christmas season in Jelačić Square. I first came across the Christmas Fair where ornaments, mittens, beautiful crafts, woodwork, and candycanes were sold from all sorts of vendors. I still have a little yellow handmade-paper tree that I purchased from a student. Although, it was cold outside (and the first snow I had on my round the world trip), each little shop seemed to have a warm and welcoming smile behind their wares. I suppose the cup of coffee along the way helped a bit, too. In the evening, I was ready to hop on the rail back to my hostel and noticed a large gathering of people around traditional dancers. When I went to see what was going on, I was offered mulled wine and sausage (hosted by one of Croatia’s politicians). I spoke to several people in the crowd about their election and Croatian holiday traditions before finally hopping the rail back to my hostel. Blessed.
Solar System Hunt
I’ve been having a mad love affair with Zagreb over the last few years. Ssshhh ---don’t tell Paris. One of the reasons is the city’s understated element of surprise. Take for example this sculpture, created by Ivan Kožarić in 1971, called The Grounded Sun, found on pedestrian-only Bogovićeva Street, not far from the main square. I walked by it a dozen times before I asked someone about it. Turns out The Grounded Sun inspired artist Davor Preis to create an add-on installation called Nine Views in 2004. The nine models of planets are placed all over Zagreb, which, along with the Kožarić’s sun sculpture, are now often referred to as Zagreb’s Solar System. Each planet is designed to scale and the distances from the sun are also to scale. Most citizens of Zagreb can’t tell you where most of the planets are, yet probably walk right by a few every day. Since the planet models are to scale, most are tiny dots on a plaque and not great works of art. Spotting the outer planets, including now downgraded Pluto, requires some effort, but doing so is a fun way to explore the amazing and celestial Zagreb. I’ll help you out. Grab a map from the tourist office and start at the sun. 3,2,1---blast off! Mercury – Margaretska 3 Venus – Trg bana Jelačića 3 Earth – Varšavska 9 Mars – Tkalčićeva 21 Jupiter – Voćarska 71 Saturn – Račićeva 1 Uranus – Siget 9 Neptune – Kozari put Pluto – Aleja Bologne (in the underpass) Happy Hunting!
Bana Jelacica Square
Bana Jelacica Square is the main square in the Old Town of Zagreb. An equestrian statue of General Jelacica stands tall in the middle of the square.