For this Friday, I’ve chosen a different landmark in Zagreb, one that is not so often included in the city’s “top things to see”. To be completely honest, even I rarely visit Sava during my city tours, especially when we are restrained by duration of the tour.
While so many other cities built their entire existence around their river, in Zagreb’s history Sava was considered almost like a river “far, far away”. It’s not actually so far away – less then ten minutes driving distance from the city center, if you’re lucky with the traffic (and even luckier with the parking), some half an hour casual walk.
Photo from one of the bridges over the river Sava – on the right you can see towers of the Cathedral and the city center in the distance. Beautiful shot of Medvednica (the Bear Mountain) with its peak Sljeme.
There are some historical reasons for this “anomaly”. Sava truly became part of the city only in the 20th century. What is today considered the city center was the entire town some 100, 150, but also 1000 years ago. Two historical Zagreb settlements were called Kaptol and Gradec and they were built on two hills. Their main sources of water were the streams coming from the mountain of Medvednica, not Sava “far away”. When the city began to spread in the 19th century and especially in the 20th, it didn’t have much choice but to come closer to Sava. That was particularly the case after World War II, when a completely new part of town was created, called even today New Zagreb, on the other side of the river. Before 19th century, there was almost nothing between what is today city center and the river Sava – it was simply a swap.
That’s the reason why you’ll not find so many historical landmarks close to the river. But that’s not the reason to overlook this part of the city, especially if you have more time in Zagreb and wish to get away from the city center buzz.
If you’re into cycling, jogging or simply walking, but not in the mood to go far away from the city, than artificial lakes close to Sava are a place for you. Jarun and Bundek are the most popular. In Jarun, you’ll find many bars as well, Bundek (in photo below) is a bit calmer. Around both lakes, however, we like to gather during spring and summer weekends and especially some holidays to have a barbecue.
I live close to Bundek so it’s my favorite place when I want to relax a little bit and spend some time cycling around the lake, especially during those rare free summer days.
And let’s not forget the banks of Sava, where you’ll find many Zagreb joggers as well. The actual function of these embankments is to protect us from the flood, but today they are mostly known as a place for casual running, cycling or some physical activity in general. Not related to the “official city tour”, the banks of Sava were the place where I had my first kiss in Zagreb, so I guess you can count that as a physical activity as well.
One of the most notable urban stories is the Green Bridge or Railroad Bridge. But don’t ask younger people from Zagreb where it is – it’s one of the most noticeable landmarks over Sava, but we know it under a different name, “the Hendrix Bridge”. The graffiti with Jimi Hendrix’s surname appeared there in the early 1990s. Than the officials removed it, but it appeared again. So they removed it again. And again. It’s like some strange cat and mouse game with Hendrix’s surname that lasts for so many years. As usual, some people like it, some think it’s demolition of public property. I would actually usually agree that some graffiti can be “art”, while most of them are really just some writings. This particular “tag”, however, is already a part of Zagreb’s recent history so much that the entire bridge is known as “the Hendrix Bridge”. Even the people who don’t care about graffiti or Hendrix know which bridge you’re talking about, regardless if the graffiti is there at the moment or cleaned up – we all know that “Hendrix” will somehow, someday reappear. And probably be removed. (For an article in Croatian about the authors of the original graffiti click here.)
(This is a photo from 2015, taken from the page of Hendrix Bridge. Yes, the Hendrix Bridge has its own page on Facebook. Not very active, however.)
And there you have it, Sava banks and Bundek lake are my favorite places to go and hide from the city buzz. This was this week’s Friday post and also my submission to this week’s Daily Post challenge Favorite Place.
To end this post, here are some known or lesser known facts about the river/name Sava in general:
- The river Sava flows through Slovenia, Croatia, along the northern border of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and through Serbia, and discharges into the Danube in Belgrade. It connects three national capitals: Ljubljana (Slovenia), Zagreb (Croatia) and Belgrade (Serbia).
- It’s 990 kilometers (615 miles) long.
Altars or inscriptions dedicated to the river-god Savus have been found at a number of locations along the river course, dating to the Late Bronze Age and pre-Slavic Celtic settlements. The word “sau” in old Celtic means “to flow”.
- Some Roman settlements were built along the river, including Andautonia (near modern-day Velika Gorica), Siscia (today Sisak) and Marsonia (today Slavonski Brod).
- If you visited Croatia or its neighboring countries, you’ve probably met somebody named Sava. Usually, it’s a Serbian male name, but that’s not a “rule” – it can be a female name as well and the person doesn’t have to be necessarily Serbian. It’s just more common in our neighboring country. The popularity of the name is not actually related to the river itself, but to Rastko Nemanjić, known as Saint Sava (Sveti Sava), Serbian prince from the 12th and 13th century, celebrated by the Serbian Orhodox Church as its founder.
- The river of Sava is very significant because of its biological diversity. The largest protected wetland not only along the Sava river, but in the entire Danube basin, is located in Croatia. It’s the nature park of Lonjsko polje (Lonja Field) that covers an area of 505 square kilometers. If you’re into birds or bird watching, that’s definitely the region I would recommend. Check the nature park webpage in English here!
Stories about Croatia continue every week in March.
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Categories: Zagreb City Tour