Traveling to Zagreb and Mirogoj Cemetery

(This is the 14th post of our Croatia-Budapest trip, June-July 2014)
Thursday, June 26

Travel to Zagreb_1We meet Anna Clare and Earl at breakfast, and after eating our way through the hotel’s offerings, they tell us they’ve decided to head to see the caves, back where we came from.   So after some discussion, we agreed to meet up in Zagreb at the upper Cathedral at 6:30 pm. for dinner.  This discussion is where I first began to get a hint of the fact that we would be operating on different itineraries and possibly different meeting-up schedules, one significant difference between those who live in the country (or near to it) and those who are tourists on a trip, counting every minute, trying to cram in as much sightseeing as possible.
Travel to Zagreb_2

Travel to Zagreb_2aSo after breakfast, they headed west and we headed east, towards Zagreb.

Travel to Zagreb_3One of the benefits of having a car is the ability to take some detours and see different sights, so about halfway to Zagreb, we took a left off the freeway and drove for a while through the countryside.
Travel to Zagreb_4
Travel to Zagreb_5I noticed these tiny roadside chapels everywhere, and stopped to peek in a few.
Travel to Zagreb_5a
Either she is overcome by the spirit, or she is exhausted from all the housework she’s done all day.

Travel to Zagreb_6church

Travel to Zagreb_6bThis small church caught our eye, with its graveyard in front, every plot freshly planted with flowers right on top of the plot.  We know we are headed to Mirogoj–the grand cemetery in Zagreb–so this is a preamble of sorts.

Travel to Zagreb_6c

Travel to Zagreb_6a

Travel to Zagreb_6d

SLovenia country church_2We both noticed the off-center window, which looks much older than the rest of the church.

Travel to Zagreb_6eWhat looks like black granite corner blocks are really just black paint.

Travel to Zagreb_6f

Travel to Zagreb_7a

Travel to Zagreb_yellow houseAcross the lane from the church was this pristine yellow house–every town has one, and somehow they all have planted flower boxes.

Travel to Zagreb_8Back on the road, we see this sign as we leave this small town:

SLovenia_no DramaI love their signs.

Mirojog_entryAfter some consternation, as well as some sturm und drang in the car, struggling to make sense of the maps and our printed out Google directions while watching our freeway exits go flying by, we arrive at our hotel, check in and are thrilled by it.  It’s probably the nicest hotel so far, and I look forward to relaxing in it, tonight, but first it’s off to Mirogoj Cemetery, one of Europe’s finest old cemeteries, or so the guidebooks say.

Mirojog_arch1Before we left I had looked it up on Google Maps, activating the photos feature so I could determine if it was something that Dave and I might like to see.  I don’t know if I’m channeling the Adams Family or something, but I’ve always liked the history and ambiance of these old places.  Dave and I have visited other cemeteries, using it as a green respite from the urban spaces on vacations.

Mirogoj_main entry from backThis is looking towards the backside of that front dome, at a large area for gathering the mourners and/or visitors.  While we were there, a funeral gathered, the bells clanging for ages it seemed, and we saw from a distance the casket proceeding to its resting place, followed by a handful of mourners in black.  The bells tolled for a long time.

The cemetery was originally a plot of land from a Croatian poet, who leveled the land, redirected some of the mountain’s streams, yet in the process was left cash-strapped.  So the city of Zagreb purchased from his estate after his death, keeping the name Mirogoj, after one of the founders of this section of his land.

The cemetery was divided according to religion (Catholic, Jewish and Protestant) and three different classes, was officially opened in 1876, when Miroslav Singer, a fencing instructor and gym teacher was the first buried here.

Mirogoj_TubmanThis highly polished slab of black marble is the tomb of the former president of Croatia, Franjo Tudman.

Mirogoj_Tubman memorialsSmall memorials left for him to one side: one plaque with the country’s map, and the other with their ever-present shield, although done in black and white and not the usual red/white checkerboard.

Mirogoj_10To the side of the feet of this beautiful sculpture you can see some lettering in the Glagolitic alphabet (more on this in the next post).

Mirogoj_9The town fathers planted chestnut, lime, maple and spruce trees, among others.

Mirogoj_8I want one of these in my backyard right now. . . but without the graves.  Just a little table and a couple of chairs and a good wifi connection, please.

Mirogoj_8_WWIWe arrived at the World War I Monument, or should I say, a monument to those Croatians who died in World War I.

Mirogoj_7A highly decorative tombstone.  The flowers and angry faces in the medallions in front are all inlaid mosaic.

Mirogoj_6

Mirogoj_5We saw these candles everywhere, even near the cathedral in the center of Zagreb.

Mirogoj_4I told Dave I wanted one of these.

Mirogoj_3Underneath the slab, it appears, is a small chamber.  And the coffins rest on the rails, out of the dirt.

Mirogoj_18 polishing stoneHousekeeping.  Polishing the slab.

Mirogoj_2Mirogoj_19aThis was our favorite little building.  There are no names on it, so it couldn’t be a tomb, and given the crosses and the shape, it is almost certainly a place of worship.

Mirogoj_19c

Mirogoj_19b

Mirogoj_12From 1879 to 1917, two arcades were built on either side of the main section (which houses a church), designed by Herman Bolle, a German architect. Another plan was drawn up for the central dome, portal and chapel (the currently existing) but that wasn’t built until 1929. Many famous Croatians are buried here, including Kresimir Cosic, a reknowned basketball player, one of three foreigners inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Mirogoj_17

Mirogoj_11Dave was struck by the beauty of the domes, found about every 20 or so feet in the arcade.  Here are a sampling:

Mirogoj_11e

Mirogoj_11a

Mirogoj_11b

Mirogoj_11c

Mirogoj_11d

Mirogoj_13aAnother beautiful statue.

Mirogoj_14A fresh display of red and white carnations.

Mirogoj_15_auto candleNotice the radio transmitter?  Through a series of clues, we were thinking that it would turn on the “candles” at this boy’s feet, as each of them appeared to be electronic.  If this is the case, we in America are woefully behind in our appropriate graveside accouterments.

Mirogoj_16

Mirogoj_20

Mirogoj_22

Mirogoj_23Mirogoj_23aDetail of above.

Mirogoj_letteringMore interesting writing.

Zagreb_Dave and carOkay, enough dead people.  Now it’s the moment to Turn in the Car, a big deal for tourists in an unfamiliar city.  No worries, we have the address, so with Dave giving directions, I drive there.  No worries, I’ll stay in the car, double-parked, while Dave goes in to confirm.  No worries, that place has moved, but a nice English-speaking man looks up the new place on his phone (turns out they moved 9 months ago, just two weeks after we booked the car and printed out our confirmation and where to turn it in).  We drive there, and after a series of typical-tourist-wrong-turns, we finally arrive.  And boy, are we huffing as we go in because we are late (thinking of another day’s rental) and it is too far to walk back to the hotel (thinking of taxi fees).  No worries!  The place is run by teenage boys who won’t charge us an extra day and would love nothing more than to drive us back to our hotel, no charge.

It’s now nearing the meet-up time for Anna Clare and Earl, so we walk up towards the cathedral.

Zagreb_decorative1As in Ljubljana, we found lots of Art Deco-ish applied decoration to the buildings.

Zagreb_decorative3

Zagreb_decorative2As well as classical decorative flourishes.

Zagreb_equestrian stateThis promiment equestrian statue of  Josip Jelacic, a prominent 19th-century governor, was overwhelmed and obscured by World Cup apparatus (you aren’t surprised, are you?)

Zagreb_world cup chartThe rankings.

Zagreb_Croatia TshirtsThe merchandise booth (I already have my T-shirt).

Zageb_AmericanWorldCupThe Jumbo-tron, complete with American, because right then America was playing.  Yay! America.  And Coca-Cola.  And cowboy hats.

Zagreb_decorative4We move on up towards more traditional sights, like beautifully painted classical buildings.

Zagreb_decorative eggAnd eggs.  The traditional art here is interesting, but not in this gallery, which although it contained lots of paintings on glass, did not captivate us like the museum (seen the next day).  Plus it smelled dank and basement-like, so we were in and out of there quickly.

Zagreb_decorative5

Zagreb_Singer ShopI wonder if this is related to the first man buried in Mirogoj, or to the sewing machine people?  I vote the latter.

Zagreb_native outfitTheir traditional dress.

Zagreb_Tito StatueAnd we couldn’t go far without seeing a statue of Tito, here larger than life on his pedestal.

Zagreb_cathedral1We make it to the cathedral, and one spire is under renovation (but they’ve thoughtfully provided a drape).

Zagreb_cathedral4It is beautiful decorated on the front.  We sit on the bench off to the left, waiting for Earl and Anna Clare, but able to view humanity.  We were going to go in an tour the cathedral, but the bells tolled for mass, so we decided not to go.

Zagreb_cathedral5Christ and his apostles watched over the faithful as they streamed in.

Zagreb_cathedral2A beautiful arch over the front door.

Zagreb_cathedral7

Zagreb_ill touristaAll of a sudden the front doors opened, a man stumbled out, threw up, then collapsed on the ground.  A few worshippers were following him, catching him as he fell.

Zagreb_ill touristA crowd gathered, including a nun (she came a minute after the photo was taken).  One of the women was a doctor, I heard her say.  They helped  him off to the side, to a bench behind us, so he wouldn’t be trampled as the churchgoers left the service.

Zagreb_ambulanceThe ambulance came about 6:45 p.m. and about the same time, we saw Earl walking briskly toward us, Anna Clare a minute or two behind us.  We were happy to see them, and listened as they told about their adventure of being stopped on the Slovenian freeways because they didn’t have their pass.  We were surprised they didn’t know about it, since they lived here, but I have to remember I was one of those dorky over-prepared tourists (I read two guidebooks cover-to-cover) and had read about it in one of them.  I suggested to Earl that he might want to get a guidebook and read about this country where he lived (while on a church mission), but he was insistent that all the signs should be in English.  The fine he was asked to pay was somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 euros (about $200); because of his anger, they told him just to buy the pass and he wouldn’t have to pay the fine (whew!).  I don’t blame him for being upset, but I still think it’s my responsibility as a guest in a country to do my best to figure out how they do business here.  There will still be plenty of areas where we get it wrong (like dropping off the rental car late).

MenuZagreb_chopped saladAfter that exciting story, it was time for dinner, and we used Rick Steve’s book to find Nokturn, and were glad we ate here.  Dave and I shared the above salad, while Anna Clare and Earl shared the one below.

MenuZagreb_chopped salad2

MenuZagreb_noodlesI ordered this pasta, which was really great (I don’t even remember what we had for lunch–I think it was whatever leftovers we found in the car) and I was hungry.  I shared it with whoever wanted a bite, but they were more interested in their large pizza:

MenuZagreb_pizzaWe relaxed and celebrated the fact that we were able to meet up successfully.

Zagreb_cathedral2 with EarlWe wandered back to the cathedral, and lights were beginning to glow.  That’s Earl, walking back to report to us that an organ was playing (he’s carrying the leftover pizza in his hand).

Zagreb_cathedralI went over to the doors and listened: Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue, a piece of music I’d heard many times in my own home, E. Power Biggs on the organ, and my Dad would always turn up the stereo so the final cadences thundered through our speakers. PassacagliaBachI don’t know whether it was fatigue or tourist stress or the linking up of a fond memory or a brief bout of homesickness or whatever, but I could feel the tears stinging my eyes.  We bid our farewells and headed back to our lovely hotel.

Zagreb_hotel

Next post: Two Sets of Tourists Tour Zagreb

2 thoughts on “Traveling to Zagreb and Mirogoj Cemetery

  1. I love cemeteries, and it looks like you found a particularly fantastic one. I’m with Dave–I love those domes! It is wonderfully well-maintained and must be like many European cemeteries where loved ones care for the graves, or else the body is exhumed and cremated, leaving space for another body with a better caretaker. And then the drama at the cathedral! That happened to my mother in a German cathedral, except she didn’t make it outside to throw up. Turns out she was having a very significant stroke. I wonder if that’s what was happening to your worshiper?

  2. Wow, we really should have visited that cemetery when we were in Zagreb. Spectacular! I particularly love the various shots of different domes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s