(This is the 14th post of our Croatia-Budapest trip, June-July 2014)
Thursday, June 26
We 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.
One 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.
I noticed these tiny roadside chapels everywhere, and stopped to peek in a few.
Either she is overcome by the spirit, or she is exhausted from all the housework she’s done all day.
This 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.
After 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.
Before 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.
This 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.
From 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.
Notice 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.
Okay, 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.
And 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.
It 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.
A 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.
The 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).
After 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.
I 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:
I 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. I 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.
Next post: Two Sets of Tourists Tour Zagreb