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Zagreb has culture, arts, music, architecture, gastronomy and all the other things that make a quality capital city – it’s no surprise that the number of visitors has risen sharply in recent years. Croatia’s coastal attractions aside, Zagreb has finally been discovered as a popular city-break destination in its own right.
Speaking of cottage cheese and sour cream, a mix of these two ingredients serves as a basis for other dishes as well. Štrukli is one of them. It’s a special kind of dough filled with cottage cheese and sour cream. Everyone considers it to be the most Zagreb-like dish there is, which is funny because no one ever prepares it at home anymore. Many restaurants offer it as a dessert, and there’s a cute place called La Struk where they serve nothing but štrukli.
While no one really prepares štrukli at home anymore, cuspajz is something we usually have almost every week. It refers to all sorts of homemade stews featuring a mix of different veggies and some meat. It’s convenient to cook a large amount of cuspajz to feed your family for several days, especially for working families. Schools and kindergartens often serve cuspajz because it’s easy to make and tastes even better when prepared in large quantities.
Knedli are sweet round dumplings of potato dough that are stuffed with plums or apricots, rolled in breadcrumbs and topped with sugar. You might have a problem finding a place that serves them because they’re usually only prepared at home. Knedli are pretty easy to make though, and they’re a wonderful treat. Even though they’re sweet, people sometimes eat them for lunch.
Zagreb Cathedral – the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, formerly known as St. Stephen’s Cathedral – was erected on the site of a previous structure destroyed by the Tartars in the early 1200s. Famous for its two ornately decorated spires, the present cathedral was built in the later half of the 13th century, although many alterations and renovations have been made since that have changed the structure dramatically. Most recently, the earthquake of 1880 destroyed large sections including the dome and the bell tower, although reconstruction maintained the original medieval design. Be sure to also visit the cathedral treasury with its many fine works of religious art, garments, and sacred objects.
Zagreb’s Art Pavilion (Umjetnički Paviljon), built for the international exhibition in Budapest in 1896, was given its permanent home here after the original iron framework was transported and reconstructed on its current site. Notable for its colorful yellow Art Nouveau exterior, the Art Pavilion is now used for changing exhibitions of contemporary art and contains important works by revered Croatian artist Ivan Meštrović. The oldest exhibition hall of its kind in Croatia, this impressive facility faces Trg Kralja Tomislava, a large public square notable for its statue commemorating the first King of Croatia. Also of interest to art lovers is the Meštrović Gallery (Atelje Meštrović), housed in a 17th-century home where Ivan Meštrović once lived and sculpted. On display are some 300 sculptures in wood, stone, and bronze, as well as drawings, furniture, and lithographs representing a variety of themes including religion and portraiture. The most recognized Croatian artist and a world-renowned 20th-century sculptor, Meštrović later moved to Paris where he became friends with Auguste Rodin.
The Archeological and Ethnographic Museums
With its focus on Croatia’s rich history, Zagreb’s Archeological Museum (Arheoloski Muzej) boasts five main collections containing some 400,000 pieces, many of which are from the local area. Of particular interest is the museum’s display of Egyptian mummies (the cloth from the Mummy of Zagreb shows script that has yet to be deciphered), Greek vases, and a medieval section focusing on the Great Migrations of the Peoples. One of the most important pieces is the Head of Plautilla from the ancient town of Salona, as well as an extensive coin collection including Greek, Celtic, Roman, Byzantine, and modern pieces. Also of interest is the Ethnographic Museum (Etnografski Muzej) with its extensive collection showing the cultural history of Croatia through exhibits of ceramics, jewelry, gold, musical instruments, textiles, tools, weapons, and elaborate costumes. The traditional folk costumes alone are worth the visit, with various colors and styles illustrating the country’s regional diversity.