© ilijaa

The monuments of Zagrebačka špica

A guide to the interesting statues and monuments you might see while drinking coffee in downtown Zagreb

Written by
Ivor Kruljac
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Špica is a traditional pastime in Zagreb, the act of putting your best clothes on, meeting your equally spruced-up friends and joining them for an extended coffee break, usually outdoors on a terrace, in the fancy bars and cafes of the city's downtown area. At the heart of the Zagreb's centre, just few meters away from Jelačić square, Bogovićeva and Cvjetni trg, (flower square), are known alongside nearby streets as 'Zagrebačka Špica'. A place full of life and events, this area is also noted for having several intriguing sculptures, monuments and landmarks, many of which hold interesting back stories. Time Out brings you the story of five such examples..

The monuments of Zagrebačka špica

Centre of the solar system
© Matea Petrovic

Centre of the solar system

It might come as a surprise if you didn't know, but that big copper-coloured ball on Bogovićeva, just outside the Vinyl bar, full of scratches, tags and stickers, is actually a piece of art representing our most important star. Josip Kozarić's 'Grounded Sun' was first introduced back in 1971 on Maršal Tito square (today's Republic of Croatia Square). It stood alone for many years, until 2004 when Zagreb acquired an entire solar system to join it. Artist Davor Preis used the scale of Kozarić's sun to match the actual astronomical scale of the other planets, which are placed at appropriate distances from the sun, which was then moved to be placed centrally in the city. You can see Mercury in nearby Margaretska 3, Venus at Josip Jelačić square 3, Earth at Varšavska 9 and Mars at Tkalčićeva 21. The furthest planet, Neptune, is located in Kozari 17 and Pluto used to hang around Bologne avenue, but somebody stripped him of his stautus as in recent years he's been dubbed a planetoid and not a planet.

Letting the dog out
© Matea Petrovic

Letting the dog out

Continue walking towards flower square and on your right, you will see one Pluto that isn't part of the astronomical display. This cute dog was finally let out when in 2013 this monument was moved to its current sun-dappled location after spending more than a century hidden in the dark backyard of a nearby saving bank. The first Croatian saving bank was built in 1900 by Josip pl. Vancaš. Being influenced by European trends of the day, he made a giant octagon glass roof window as part of the construction. During the building, Vancaš and his co-workers befriended a stray dog which they named Pluto who would eventually end up guarding the construction site against thieves. Sadly, Pluto died on duty and so workers built this monument to remember him. At the moment, the octagon window is under repair, but Pluto is still guarding nearby, proving once again that dogs are truly man's best friend.

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It's a free square, even today
© Matea Petrovic

It's a free square, even today

Exiting Bogovićeva onto flower square, you will see the statue of famous Croatian poet and Austro-Hungarian general, Petar Preradović. Active at the time of Croatian Preporod, a revival movement linked to Croatian national identity, his statue was made by Ivan Rendić, another supporter of the Preporod. This sculpture was first presented on Strossmayer square in 1895 and is considered his best work. Although Preradović was a decorated general who the Austrian emperor helped financially, he supported Croatian culture and his monument represents 'freedom on the square'. The statue was moved to today's location in 1956. Since then, the notion of freedom has changed in the city, so does Preradović remain that symbol for Zagreb in the modern era? When you look at people relaxed, enjoying themselves on špica in the sunshine, within earshot of busking street musicians, the answer is, absolutely.

Original Bohemian
© Matea Petrovic

Original Bohemian

Continue walking across the square, towards Varšavska and you will notice an old guy with a simple hat and a coat, looking at the guests on a terrace of Kino Europa's cafe bar. This memorial to Tin Ujević, one of Croatia's most famous 20th century poets, was sculpted by Miro Vuco and was placed there in 1991 to mark Ujević's 100th birthday. Ujević was Bohemianism personified. A deep thinker who didn't care at all for social conventions, ceremony or, in later years, his appearance, he was also notorious for his heavy drinking. Considering the look he is offering to guests on the terrace, his face seems kind of angry. Maybe because, according to one anecdote from his life, he wasn't alive in a time when you could get a drink regardless of how you dressed. Allegedly, Ujević once went to a caffe but the waiter told him that they couldn't serve him while he was dressed like a hobo. So, Ujević went to a friend to borrow a tuxedo. Upon returning to the cafe, the waiter took his order, but, when the waiter brought him his coffee, Ujević stood up, took the cup and poured the drink into the pocket of his tuxedo. 'Why would you do that?' asked the shocked waiter. 'Well, you brought it for the tuxedo and not for me' said Ujević. There is no confirmation if this tale is true, but it captures Ujević's spirit pretty accurately. A provocative, smart guy, but perhaps an awful friend. At least if you ask the guy that lent him the tuxedo.

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Is this the world he created?
© Matea Petrovic

Is this the world he created?

Nearby Špica is Teslina street, named after the most famous scientist ever born in Croatia. Among his many visionary works, Nikola Tesla pioneered alternating current, the delivery system which enabled households and businesses to receive electrical power safely. His statue was crafted by one of Croatia's most famous sculptors, Ivan Meštrović. The pair were friends and travelled together to the USA. Visitors to the Tesla museum in Belgrade, Serbia (Tesla was Serbian, although born in Croatia) can see a portrait Meštrović made of his friend, which Tesla himself requested. This statue, Meštrović gave as a gift to the Ruđer Bošković Science Institute in Zagreb for their 150th anniversary. Tesla is placed in a thinker's pose and it's fun to imagine what Tesla would think of the world he changed so much. Is he happy how we use every day the inventions he worked on or perhaps he is disappointed that electricity is something we still have to pay for, even though he wanted to make it free for everyone?

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