Updated: Sep 24, 2019
Petar Preradović Square (Trg P. Preradovića) was named after Petar Preradović (1818 – 1872), an army general who also wrote patriotic verse and love poetry. His statue stands in the middle of the square and is a popular meeting point. The square is colloquially known as “Flower Square” (Cvjetni trg), after the flower stalls which have been a feature of the place ever since the 14th century when fairs were held here. On the northern side of the square is the Orthodox Church of the Holy Transfiguration, built at the end of the 19th century on the former site of the Roman Catholic Church of St Margaret. Both the square and the surrounding streets are lined with pavement cafes, and it is here that you can get a true sense of Zagreb’s “outdoor lounge” culture. For the locals, coffee is the ideal accompaniment to a serious business meeting or a good long gossip with a group of friends.
The statue honouring Augustin “Tin” Ujević (1891 – 1955), one of the greatest Croatian poets, was placed near Flower Square on the 100th anniversary of his birth. Considered to be the last real Croatian bohemian, Ujević was a professional poet who avoided conventional lifestyles as long as he lived. He wrote verses on every possible subject, and there are few people in Croatia who don’t know at least a few lines of his poems by heart. There are many anecdotes about Tin, his oversized old coat, hat and the glass of wine he always had in his hand while sitting in one of the bars in Zagreb. Tin was and remains an urban nomad.
The passage that connects Masarykova with Varšavska is named after Miškec, a much-loved local character who occupies an important position in urban folklore. Born Mihail Erdec, Miškec was a well known pre-World War II acrobat who was forced by injury into early retirement and a life on the streets. Bedding down in the grimy boiler room of the Europa Cinema, he won the sympathies of local residents by doing odd jobs for neighbours and serenading cinemagoers with tunes on his mouth organ. A photo of the unrequited love of his life Štefica Vidačić, the first Miss Zagreb, hung above his makeshift bed. Miškec lived in the boiler room from the end of World War II until the 1960s, when he was finally persuaded to take up a bed in an old people’s home.
Linking the relaxed atmosphere of Flower Square with the bustling shopping street of Ilica is the Oktogon, an elegant pre-World War I arcade lined with largely upmarket shops. It gets its name from the octagonal-shaped central area, which stands beneath a domed, stained-glass roof. The representative business and residential building of the former First Croatian Savings Bank was built at the end of the 19th century in a record time of only 15 months.
Arguably the most popular example of contemporary sculpture in Zagreb is The Grounded Sun by Ivan Kožarić. Set down amidst a forest of café tables and parasols, this simple but unusual bronze sphere is a source of constant intrigue to passers-by. Some even push it to see how far it will roll. Kožarić’s sun inspired another artist Davor Preis to create the Zagreb Solar System, in which metal spheres representing the planets are placed in locations all around the city. The sizes of the planets and the distances separating them are all in exact proportion to Kožarić’s original sun: trying to find all nine planets presents a real adventure.
Looming over the corner of Bogovićeva and Gajeva is the curving façade of the Napredak (“Progress”) building, built by the Napredak Cultural Association in 1936 to serve as business space and apartment accommodation. Designed by Stjepan Planić, the seven-storey building is characterized by the cogwheel motif that runs around the upper part of the façade. The cogwheel was the symbol of the association. The light blue colour of the facade is the architect’s homage to traditional architecture and the blue-coloured Copper Sulphate used by wine-growers in rural parts of Croatia to stop various vine diseases.