The culture vulture's guide to Pula
The beauty of Pula is that it packs in 3,000 years of history and sights, from classic Roman to cutting-edge contemporary, within a space of under one square kilometre. It can be explored in an hour or two. Or, when there’s a festival taking place, a whole day which may well run late into the evening. The most iconic starting point is, of course, the Amphitheatre, known as the Arena. It was built in the 1st century AD during the reign of Emperor Vespasian, at the same time as the magnificent Colosseum in Rome. But while the Colosseum in Rome all too rarely hosts concerts (and when it does, they’re located outside), the Arena is still very much part of Pula’s cultural landscape. All summer long the biggest names in popular music – Luciano Pavarotti, Elton John, David Gilmour (Pink Floyd), Massive Attack, Grace Jones, Sting – perform within its near intact walled ring. Since 1954, the Pula Film Festival has been held here. In fact, the Arena forms part of its logo, the venue now synonymous with an event that once attracted the likes of Sophia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor. In more recent times, the Arena has also hosted the opening night of the Outlook and Dimensions festivals offer world-renowned acts from the genres of dubstep, techno, hip hop and drum ‘n’ bass. In 2018, the festival added another site to its roster: nearby Zerostrasse. Accessed along Carrarina, this series of tunnels was built to protect Pula citizens during air raids, originally for World War I but also f
Spectacular pictures of art intervention at Croatian monument
An art collective called Secret Mapping Experiment have visited the village of Podgarić in the Moslavina area of Croatia, installing one of their temporary video mapping projects on the region's famous war memorial. Captured in stunning photography, the video mapping lends a new perspective to the 50-year-old monument. Secret Mapping Experiment are an arts group, mostly from Hungary, whose numbers can swell to as many as 159 depending on the project they undertake. They visited the Monument to the Revolution of the people of Moslavina memorial in spring 2019, decamping at night and making their art under the cover of darkness. The Monument to the Revolution of the people of Moslavina is one of the most striking and famous of all the Yugoslavian-era war memorials. It stands 10 metres tall and 20 metres wide. The communist regime of Yugoslavia commissioned many famous sculptors and architects, such as Bogdan Bogdanović, Gradimir Medaković, Vojin Bakić, Miodrag Živković, Jordan and Iskra Grabul, to design similar modernist structures following the Second World War. Many of the memorials commemorate the victims of fascism and hold a specific inspiration and meaning. The monument in Moslavina is no exception. During the Second World War, Podgarić became a key encampment for the Partizan army, who were trying to free Croatia from the ruling, Nazi-sponsored Ustaša regime. A large field hospital was built in the village which accepted many hundreds of injured soldiers. The monumen
A literary guide to Istria
‘He chose an island in the Adriatic, not far off the Istrian coast… But the air was heavy, it rained, the hotel guests were provincial and Austrian, and he missed that close, calming contact with the sea that only a beach of soft sand can provide. It wasn’t exactly the place he had been looking for.’Thus begins the holiday of middle-aged professor Gustav von Aschenbach, protagonist of Thomas Mann’s celebrated novella Death in Venice. By far the best-known literary description of the Istrian island of Brijuni, it is hardly the glowing endorsement the local tourist board might have wanted. Thomas Mann visited Brijuni with his wife in May 1911, but soon tired of the place and headed for the city of canals and gondolas instead. Here Mann came across the people and places that inspired the rest of his story. And instead of writing a book that might have gone down in history as Life on Brijuni, he wrote Death in Venice instead. The idea of a grumpy old Mann fleeing everyone else’s idea of paradise is an appropriately ambiguous introduction to Istria’s fleeting presence in world literature. The peninsula certainly boasts enough bookish references to keep the guide-book writers happy: fourteenth-century scribe Dante mentions the scattered graveyards of Pula in the Divine Comedy, Jules Verne uses Pazin as a location in his 1885 adventure Mathias Sandorf, and James Joyce famously spent the winter of 1904-5 teaching English to Austrian navy officers in Pula. However Dante lived a rat
Eight brilliant shows to see at the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb
Having experienced a revolution in its content and outlook over the last half-decade, the Croatian National Theatre (HNK) in Zagreb no longer stands as merely an impressive monument in the capital city. Rather, it does its best to welcome people of all ages, tastes and nationalities with a varied and exciting programme that veers far from the traditional. With tickets prices even for the most high profile of productions available from 90 kuna, HNK Zagreb stands as one of the most accessible of its kind in any European capital. This spring/summer season holds many great Croatian language dramas, but of greater interest to international (non-Croatian speaking) audiences will be the operas and ballets on offer, featuring internationally renowned guests like French choreographer Angelin Preljoçaj. Alongside special one-offs, such as appearances by Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek and Romanian musician Marius Mihalache, we've collated eight great reasons to visit HNK Zagreb this spring/summer season.
8 images from the 2019 HT awards exhibition at Zagreb's MSU
The 2019 exhibition for the HT awards competition is about to open at Zagreb's Museum of Contemporary Art (MSU). One of Croatia's premier annual art events, the competition this year mostly celebrates contemporary Croatian video and photographic art.'Some Visceral Things' by Matej Knežević (photograph by Boris Cvjetanović) 'To build weapon you need support' by Leo VukelićThe work of 37 artists has been chosen for the official competition and exhibition from the hundreds of works which were submitted. Their work is on display at MSU from 17th of May to 9th of June.'Diorama za maloga' by Igor Ruf (photograph by Boris Cvjetanović) 'Terraforming' by Domagoj BurilovićThis year's edition also introduces a new category 'For Young Artists' reserved for contributors up to 26 years of age. While there is a section of graphics, sculptures and drawings, most of this year's presented works are installations, photos, videos, multimedia installations and some objects which invite audience interaction.'Silver City' by Božena Končić Badurina'Homesick' by Denis Butorac Visitors to the exhibition can vote for their favourite works. Among the prizes categories in the awards is one bestowed by public vote with 10 thousand kunas being given to the author of the work most liked by the audience.'Lyrical diaries' by Ivana Stećuk
The best of Croatia
Essential Dubrovnik attractions
Dubrovnik's glittering past as the Republic of Ragusa means it has several stand-out sights of great historic interest, which combine with its scattering of museums and galleries. Fascinating landmarks dot the Old Town an easy stroll from each other, perfect for a day's sightseeing. Consider this your Dubrovnik attractions bucket list.
The best Split museums and galleries
A bustling hub in Roman times, Split – which is built around an old Roman palace – is full of unique historic and artistic treasures. Split attractions include a number of museums and galleries that make the city a fascinating destination for art aficionados, historians and sightseers alike. Here's where to head.
Croatia’s top venues for art and exhibitions
Croatian National Theatre • Rijeka
Both an architectural and cultural landmark, Rijeka’s Croatian National Theatre was designed by the same team of architects as its namesakes in Split and Zagreb: Austrian Ferdinand Fellner and his German partner Hermann Helmer. In fact, the pair created dozens of theatres across Europe, from Odessa to Zürich, this one opened in 1885. Though Croatian-language performances here may be of limited interest, there’s also ballet and opera on the agenda, and the interior is worth a look around – Gustav Klimt and brother Ernst helped paint the ceiling before its grand unveiling, a performance of Verdi’s Aida.
Museum of Arts & Crafts • Zagreb
This grand Hermann Bollé-designed palace, founded in 1880, was originally based on 'a collection of samples for master craftsmen and artists who need to re-improve production of items of everyday use'. It has now grown to become the country's premier collection of applied art, with a wide-ranging gaggle of pieces from Baroque altar pieces to Biedermeier furniture, domestic ceramics, clocks and contemporary poster design. A side room full of synagogue silverware and ritual candlesticks recalls the rich heritage of Zagreb's pre-World War II Jewish community. On the top floor, a collection of 19th-20th century ball gowns and evening dresses provides a strong whiff of glamour. The museum is also a major venue for temporary exhibitions with big themes, with the photographs of Rene Magritte and the history of Croatian Art Deco drawing recent crowds.
Museum of Contemporary Art • Zagreb
Costing some €60 million and covering 14,500 square metres, the MCA – MSU in Croatian – is the most significant museum to open in Zagreb for more than a century. Its collection includes pieces from the 1920s and gathered since 1954 when Zagreb's original MCA (in Upper Town) was founded. Of particular note are Carsten Höller's slides, similar to the 'Test Site' installation he built for Tate Modern's Turbine Hall but custom-made and site specific for Zagreb – pieces of art patrons can ride to the parking lot. Croatia's outstanding 1950s generation of abstract-geometric artists (Ivan Picelj, Aleksandar Srnec, Vjenceslav Richter, Vlado Kristl) play a starring role in the collection, alongside photographs and films documenting the more outlandish antics of legendary performance artists like Tom Gotovac and Vlasta Delimar. The new-media and computer-art works produced by the Zagreb-based New Tendencies movement in the late '60s and early 70s reveals just how ahead-of-its-time much of Croatian art really was.
Croatian National Theatre • Zagreb
This neo-baroque landmark, opened by Habsburg Emperor Franz Josef in 1895, played a vital role in the establishment of a Croatian national identity. What you find today is a sumptuous interior – a suitably ornate backdrop for local-language theatre, congresses and promotional events.
More cultural venues in Croatia
Croatian Association of Artists • Zagreb
Visit for the building alone, a circular pavilion standing in the middle of Victims of Fascism Square a ten-minute walk south-east of the main square. The building was designed by sculptor Ivan Meštrović just before World War II as an exhibition space in honour of the then Yugoslav King Peter I. Inside, the circular walls contain three galleries, which span two floors and provide an outstanding venue for a dynamic program of contemporary art exhibitions and events organized by the Croatian Association of Artists (HDLU). The circular central hall features natural light through the cupola.
Dubrovnik Contemporary Gallery
When you tire of all of the “I love Dubrovnik” t-shirts and refrigerator magnets, take a 10-minute stroll from the city walls to the Dubrovnik Contemporary Gallery, on the left-hand side of the road that leads to the Excelsior Hotel. This little gem features striking contemporary paintings by Croatian-American artist Selma Hafizovic Muller, who also exhibits in many galleries in New York. Her work is colourful, edgy: a welcome change from all the traditional landscapes, harbour scenes and sunsets.
Croatian National Theatre • Split
As in Zagreb, the National Theatre in Split played a vital role in the promotion of the Croatian language while the country was still ruled from elsewhere. This venerable institution opened in 1893, first at Dobroma, before this imposing edifice was built decades later. Early performances featured troupes from Italy while a local theatrical culture developed. Today the HNK not only stages Croatian-language theatre, but also foreigner-friendly opera and ballet. It's a major venue during the Split Summer Festival.
Natural History Museum • Rijeka
Behind the Governor’s Palace it overlooks, Rijeka‘s Natural History Museum established its large collection of specimens from the Kvarner Bay, Gorski Kotar and Istria, thanks to private collectors from the mid 19th century onwards. Key displays include one of sharks and rays, and a geological history of the Adriatic Sea.
Lauba House • Zagreb
Lurking mysteriously in a little-visited area 4km west of the centre is this brand-new private art gallery, occupying a century-old barrack block painted in alluring matt black by modern restorers. Displaying the collection of businessman Tomislav Kličko, Lauba includes major works by virtually everyone who is anyone in Croatian art from about 1950 onwards. If you've already visited the Museum of Contemporary Art, then Lauba will provide you with a refreshingly alternative take on the local art establishment, concentrating on visually appealing works as well as more conceptual exercises. Figurative paintings by Lovro Artuković and disarmingly bling sculptures by Kristian Kožul are among the highlights.