Whispers Of Zagreb

Author's depiction of Tesla's sculpture
Author's depiction of Tesla's sculptureIllustration: Nitin Chaudhary

“What brings you to Zagreb?” I turned around to see who had addressed me. A well-dressed man older than me stood next to me, smiling. I was studying a silhouette of a man carved in stone—Nikola Tesla, whose home was once this city.

I didn’t know how to answer him. I had come to the Croatian capital on a whim. While most tourists head to Dubrovnik—home to Gothic and Renaissance-style palaces (which became the backdrop of the television series "Game of Thrones")—I had decided to come to Zagreb. When deciding on the visit, on my mind was the Museum of Broken Relationships, which happens to be one of Croatia’s busiest tourist attractions. It houses mementoes from failed relationships, painting an emotional landscape of human connections. Anyone can donate a remembrance here. I had walked through it earlier in the day, observing each piece whispering tales of love, despair, and anguish. The melancholy stayed with me as I left the museum back to the city's cobblestone streets. That was when I came across this sculpture of Tesla.

“I don’t know”, I answered uncertainly, “just that I wanted to be in a city where I could learn something new.”

“Then you are at the right place”, answered the man with a smile and walked away, continuing what I felt was his daily stroll on these cobblestone streets.

Zagreb is like a portal that whispers both the tales of conquests and tunes of innovation. Out from the Museum of Broken Relationships, I walked through the Upper Town’s labyrinthine streets. Entering Upper Town was like stepping into a living museum. Its medieval alleys led me through a maze of architectural wonders, including St. Mark’s Church, whose intricately designed kaleidoscopic tiled roof built in Renaissance style stands out proudly, like a pastel painting, against the winter grey sky.

As the weak sun dipped lower in the sky, I stepped into the Tesla Memorial Centre next to the Church. It housed the remnants of Nikola Tesla’s genius, paying homage to perhaps the most famous scientist of the time whose multiple inventions reshaped the world around us.

I had taken a cable car on the way up but decided to walk down to the Lower Town, also known as Donji Grad. While Upper Town was quiet, the tempo picked up here in the Lower Town. It is home to multiple bustling squares lined with cafes, unlike any other modern European capital. It seemed as if this Slavic metropolis aimed to layer its cobbled street charm with contemporary lounges and ateliers, unveiling a modern face that effortlessly merges with its traditional roots.

A U-shape park runs at the heart of the Lower Town, shaping the city's core. It’s a tree-lined corridor with cafes, ornate facades, and clothing shops. Ban Jelacic Square is the city’s focal point, and the pulse of Zagreb beats most fervently here. Next to it is a farmers’ market where the local farmers sell fresh produce, and stalls offer local delicacies, giving an insight into Zagreb’s gastronomic culture.

Walking through the Lower Town is like treasure hunting. Inconspicuous alleys, with walls marked with playful murals and graffiti, lead to hidden courtyards. On one bend, one might come across Dolac Market, where they sell fresh produce, and the atmosphere is filled with the shouts of sellers. A little walk further, one may chance upon galleries and art studios, displaying handcrafted trinkets to contemporary clothing.

My walk across Zagreb was reaching an end. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee called me to a café on one of the backstreets. Such places abound in the city and offer a moment of respite, inviting one to sit and watch the world go by.

The magic of Zagreb lies in its surprises. Here, the traditional blends with the modern. Time seemed to dance at its own pace in Zagreb. I felt as if every corner of the city held a story, whispering a secret to each traveller. Zagreb has its tapestry woven with history, art and modernity and is worth not one but many a visit.

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