Tour of Zagreb with Hello Zagreb! (Review)

Hello Zagreb offer unusual and exciting tours with local guides. We were shown round Zagreb by super-star Adam and this is what we thought:

1. Hello Zagreb! Review: Some History

We met Adam just outside Zagreb Cathedral and we liked him instantly: he was really friendly and bubbly. He started us off by giving us a brief overview of the history of Croatia, which was useful as we knew nothing about Croatian history. The Croats (who were Slavic) arrived in Croatia in the early 7th century. Fast forward to the 16th century, like Hungary, Croatia was taken over by the Ottomans (the Austrians). After World War I, the Croats joined with their neighbours to form the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. By 1929, a royal dictatorship was introduced and Yugoslavia was formed.

After World War II, unlike most of Europe, Yugoslavia was pretty much left alone by both the West and the East. They were communist, but were separate from the Soviets. From 1953-1980 Tito was the president. He's often described as a 'benevolent dictator' which seems like an oxymoron to me, but asking Croats they seem to view him like Marmite - they either love him or hate him. In 1991 Croatia voted for independence from Yugoslavia and a war broke out. Actually Adam and other Croatians we've met refer to this as 'The War'. By 1995 the war was over and they were independent. In 2009 Croatia joined NATO and in 2013 they joined the EU. Adam joked that there are certain places in Croatia that have stayed in the same place geographically, but have been called many different countries.

2. Hello Zagreb! Review: Zagreb Cathedral

Our first stop was Zagreb Cathedral. We were amused to see that they'd hidden the scaffolding with a photo of what it should look like. Adam revealed that the scaffolding (and photo) had been up as long as he can remember. The cathedral is made of limestone, which falls into disrepair if unpolished. As Croatia was communist for 30 years and as most communists discourage religion, the cathedral was left to fall into disrepair. Adam also revealed that Zagreb Cathedral is the tallest building in Zagreb, and, due to an architectural error, one of the towers is 4cm taller than the other. Inside the cathedral, we were fascinated when Adam pointed out a mural of the Croatian Glagolitic Script - the Glagolitic alphabet is the oldest known Slavic alphabet. The Croats used it between the 12th and 20th century! This piece celebrates Croatia transferring from Paganism to Christianity:

I like it because it reminds me of the language in Futurama... Futurama and ancient languages aside, Zagreb Cathedral has a lot of other cool things from lots of different countries, including: the (buried) body of the blessed Bishop of Croatia, who fought against the commies and the Nazis; it is thought that he will soon be named a saint:

Our favourite was the Slovenian statues of the last supper, which was a lot more interesting than the traditional painting:

Adam also told us a funny secret about Zagreb Cathedral and made us swear not to blog about it - you'll just have to go on the tour and find out what it is for yourself!! :) Outside of Zagreb Cathedral, Adam pointed over to Medvednica -Bear Mountain and told us that Zagreb is the only capital which holds the ski cup!

3. Hello Zagreb! Review: the Bloody Bridge and the Stone Gate

On our way over to our next stop, we learn about Zagreb's relationship with tourism: rewind to six years ago and Zagreb had next to no tourism. Nowadays there is a lot more, and everyone (us included) seems to like Zagreb.  Adam thinks it's because people have low expectations of Zagreb and then are pleasantly surprised by it, possibly because Zagreb is clean and safe, has an extremely low rate of homelessness and it's yet to be commercialised. Adam explained that Zagreb was originally two smaller cities: Kaptol (where the cathedral is) and the larger Gradec. Gradec and Kaptol were separated by Medvescak Creek, which has now been concreted over and is a short road with some cute cafes and pubs. 

The Bloody Bridge once joined Kaptol and Gradec, so called because there was lots of fighting on it!

We passed a tie shop, and discovered that Croatia holds the record for the longest neck tie in the world (haha). It measured 808m!
no, this isn't the tie

Next we walked through the Stone Gate:

The Stone Gate has been around  since the 13th Century, and in the 18th Century there was a fire that destroyed everything in/on the gate except for a statue of the Virgin Mary. Croatia being a Catholic country, this was taken as a miracle and people still pray inside the gate today. We saw a few people praying and read some of the prayers on the wall:

Read as in, just looked at them - we don't speak any Croatian!! But we noticed a lot of Majkos and Hvalas and we learnt that Majko = mother and Hvala = thanks. Next up: my favourite thing in Zagreb: St Mark's Church!

4. Hello Zagreb! Review: St Mark's Church, Art Park and Jelacic Square

Isn't it beautiful!!! I'd actually seen a photo of it before we came to Zagreb, and just assumed it was an average church with a beautiful hologram on it (I have no idea why). So I was surprised to see it was 'real' and made of tiles! I LOVE it! Adam told us that the coat of arms on the right is the coat of arms of Zagreb. And the one on the left is for the Triune Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia.

The upper left bit is for Northern Croatia: everyone agrees that red and white have been the Croatian colours since before Croatia was even Croatia, but no one is sure why the chess like pattern is Croatian, it just is. The upper right bit is three heads of the lion/leopard symbolising the three kings of the coastal part of Croatia. And the bottom bit is a marten and represents the Eastern part. Interestingly (I think) marten = kuna in Croatian. Kuna is the current currency in Croatia, but back in the day, marten skins were traded and used as currency! (Mind, blown.) And then... we found our favourite view of the city:

Which was right next to Art Park and a cute avenue with lots of art on it! Adam took the nicest photo of us:

We then went in a creepy tunnel under the city, we liked this bit a lot, apparently they sometimes hold raves in there!

After the tunnel it was time for a coffee for me and an ice tea for Tanbay. We had them at Cogito Coffee and they were both delicious.

Our final stop was Jelacic Square. This is probably the most famous square in Zagreb and is named after Count Jelacic. You can see a statue of his likeness in the centre of the square on top of a horse. He has a sword in his hand and was originally pointed East towards Hungary (which Croatia hated). During the communist times, Jelacic was branded a traitor, his statue was moved, the square was renamed Republic Square and it became a parking lot. When communism fell in Croatia, the statue was put back, but this time he is facing south, to no one in particular as Croatia no longer hates Hungary :)

5. Wrap Up: Hello Zagreb! Review

We loved our tour of Zagreb with Hello Zagreb, it lasted about three hours and we went from knowing basically nothing about Croatia, to feeling confident that we now know a lot about its culture and history. Adam was a great guide: informative, funny and lots of fun! To book your own tour head on over to their website or find them on TripAdvisor. Make sure you follow them on Facebook and Pin this to your Croatian bucket-list:

And to keep up with our own adventures, follow us on Facebook too! Also, we make daily YouTube videos and days 146-147 were all about this tour:

Travelling Weasels were invited as guests of Hello Zagreb, however as always all opinons are our own.

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