Vladan Desnica: The Visit

Vladan Desnica (1905-1967), born in Zadar, wrote poems, short stories and novels, usually dealing with life in the cities and villages of Northern Dalmatia. His best work is the novel Proljeća Ivana Galeba (Springs of Ivan Galeb), published in 1957, in which he gives a first-person account of an intellectual lying in a hospital bed and meditating about illness and mortality. He lived in Zagreb until his death.


The Visit



A slight mist was still hovering over the town as he came out of the station. Distant bells sleepily punctured  the white haze. The spring Sunday morning  was gradually waking, shrouded  in vague, slow clouds. Ivan stopped at the edge of the pavement, undecided. Milk carts and the first trams were rumbling by. An occasional stooping figure would trudge drowsily across the deserted square, without so much as glancing up at the statue in the centre. And the statue - a bareheaded citizen in a long coat - emerging from the night with one hand raised, seemed somehow un­ employed, aimless, like those empty chestnutsellers' kiosks down the road, and this ineffectual rhetorical gesture looked senseless and painfully tiring like some kind of corpora!punishment at school -"Statues should be put away somewhere at night, to rest; or at least hidden under a cover," thought Ivan idly.

He called a cab to take him into town. The soft rocking on rubber wheels and the ringing of the horses' hooves awoke in him memories of similar arrivals in strange towns long ago, in his childhood, when he used to travel with his parents. From those days he had retained and not yet overcome an insurmountable aversion to dawn and early rising. Even now the early hour was causing a gradual queasiness in the pit of his stomach and giving a melancholy flavour to the reality which was waking round him and which he had suddenly to take on an empty and unsettled stomach, like a copious barium meal.

He had come at the invitation of the committee organizing the celebra­ tion of the eightieth birthday of the famous professor, the renowned "Old Man" whose portrait  he had to paint. He had corresponded  with the pro­ fessor's daughter and this was to be his first meeting with the man about whom  he had heard so much. But this meeting, to which he had looked forward with keen interest even the day before, now left him more or less indifferent.

He paid the cab driver and went into a cafe. There were only a handful of people there, some old men, confirmed early-risers with newspapers in their hands, shopkeepers or pensioners whose age-old habit or the arthritic pains that came on at dawn would not let them rest a little longer in bed even on a Sunday morning. He sat down on a bench by the window and or­ dered a coffee. Outside the trunks of the plane trees glistened white among the fresh young leaves of the avenue. From time to time a half-empty tram would clatter past. An aged gentleman, gaunt and unsteady on his feet, walked past the window, leading a dog; he had evidently come out for the sole purpose of taking the animal for a functional walk. For a while no-one passed by, then a man looking like a forester, with a short neck and broad flabby back in a loden jacket walked past with a purposeful, heavy tread, a parcel wrapped in newspaper under his arm and a little blue pot swinging from his forefinger like a small hurricane  lamp. A long-haired  night bird with a drawn, haggard face wandered into the silence of the cafe. He stared for some time at the few customers as though he were looking for some­ one. He was not in fact looking for anyone, but merely trying to justify his entrance by looking round like this, and he probably did not know himself why he had come in. Then he went out again, as silently as he had come in.

Ivan gianced at the morning  paper and leafed through the pile of magazines the waiter had placed in front of him. Then he yawned and looked at his watch. It was still too early for a visit. He paid his bill and went out.

A taxi tore past him, with two figures in it, one black and one white, three of four cars full of smiling faces, men and women came after it. A wedding.

He wandered  through  the town, stopping in front of book-shops,  and reading theatre bills to pass the time. He finally set off for the professor's flat shortly before ten. It was in a quiet street lined with chestnut trees. A starched nanny was pushing a pram up and down the pavement.

He knew that the professor had declined very much of late and had not given any lectures for several years. Neverthless, he was appalled when he saw him: a completely exhausted and decrepit  old man, and he did not know how to hide his surprise from the professor's only daughter Erna. The "Old Man" was sitting by the window in the dining room. Planted in a arm­ chair, a plaid shaw!round  his shoulders and a checked rug over his knees, he looked as though  he was sitting by a train  window, travelling some­ where. Except that the landscape outside  the window did not move, the picture remained always the same, as though  bewitched into immobility. Ivan had intended  to examine the "Old Man's" face and make a few notes and sketches casually, in the course of conversation. However communica­ tion with the "0ld Man" presented an unexpected difficulty: he was aimost entirely deaf. And his voice had become thin, barely audible, a wheezing whimper in his throat like a current of air in the statute of Memnon.

Erna had left them alone, with the excuse that she had housework to do.

Ivan sat down a little way away, his sketch-pad on his knees and studied the worn-out  old man who was staring sleepily out of the window, paying no attention  to what was going on around  him and protected from it by the cloud of his deaf solitude. He had retained the prolile of a man of intel­ lect. His volatility was screened by an appearance  of thoughtful  absence. Looking at him, one had the impression that the Old Man's mind was not completely devoid of thoughts, but on the contrary  that now, since he was cut off from the outside world by his deafness and the difficulty of commu­ nication, his ability to isolate himself and lock himself in the circle of his thoughts  had became even greater. His absence of mind was uneven any­ way, sometimes greater, sometimes less. Only a short time before he had on several occasions surprised the people around  him with some unexpected sign of his lucidity, and that had made people, caught out once, cautious, so that they behaved circumspectly  and trod warily along the surface not knowing what deceptive and unexplored depths lay hidden beneath it. That was the reason why dealings with the "Old Man" were somehow obscure, like a hiding game in which his surroundings seemed to lie in wait for his unconscious periods and he for their moments ofbad faith. Really, from the "Old Man's" appearance and the vacant expression of his eyes, it seemed to Ivan that his mind, in its solitude, was roaming drowsily over spaces inac­ cessible to others  and  that he had stopped  at some slender frontier  line from which he could also contemplate things on the other side. His pupils were not focused lifelessly on a fixed point but his expression wavered con­ tinually, slid imperceptibly over things and trembled like a web of light on the benches of peaceful parks and rest-homes.

The painter  tried  to lead the conversation  onto a subject that would bring some life into the old man's face, induce a change in his expression.

But he greeted every statement without sunprise and without interest and never asked any questions  about what he was told: whenever Ivan spoke, he would turn  his trembling  gaze onto him as though  he were returning from some hazy distance, he would listen without a word and nod bare­ ly perceptibly then he would turn away again and sink into his unknown far-off misty thoughts.  Ivan watched  him, sometimes  moving his lips as though  muttering  a prayer under  his breath,  strange, incomprehensible words which would have sounded  unrecognizable and impenetrable  had he said them aloud, and they would have filled the room with their weird, unearthly vibrations.

The dining-room was dark and quiet; one felt that nothing had changed there for years: the same dark urban furniture,  the same silence, the same serious, restrained  tone. The presence of the old man, engrossed and mo­ tionless, did not alter the emptiness  of the room. Occasionally he would make some slow movement, deliberatly pulling out his handkerchief with a shaking hand, gradually unfolding it, wiping his glasses, folding it up again slowly and putting it back in his pocket, and then the necessity of move­ ment, both for himself and for anyone watching him, would be satisfied for a least half an hour. It seemed as though time itself had stopped in this room; as long as silence reigned it lay heaped at the old man's feet like a drowsy little Jap-dog, and when a conversation was begun it rose upwards in slow spirals, unravelled in tufts and  filaments, then  merged  together again, circled round  the room  streching  in the warmth  of the dark cor­ ners, but always staying here, in this restricted space - always that same, worn time, used a hundred  times already - eternally winding and twist­ ing. Sometimes it would fall, fluffy and drowsy as a dandelion  puff, into some pause in the conversation and come to rest there a while; and then, set in motion by the light breath of new words, it would flutter up from the ground, float upwards and continue  its endless journey. Ivan was caught imperceptibly in this heady atmosphere,  its lazy torpor lulled him like the spring sun.

Erna came back and sat down beside them. She took up her needles and knitting and began to talk to the painter. She spoke naturally and warmly, as though with an old friend, she enquired about his work, told him about the course of her father's infirmity and said he had become steadily worse recently. Of all the more or less insignificant details of the girl's compara­ tively long life, one in particular caught Ivan's attention; she was engaged. Her fiance was a settled middle-aged  man, a colonel, head of a military cartographical institute. He came regularly in the evening to sit with them for a few hours. He was coming to lunch that day, and Erna urged Ivan to stay as well to meet him.

The Old Man made a sound: a plaintive whimper. Erna understood  im­ mediately, brought a glass of orange juice and helped her father drink, put­ ting her arm tenderly round his neck. Ivan looked at her head with its soft chestnut hair and her intelligent face bending over her father and he won­ dered about the life of this woman who had denied herself completely and found her vocation in satisfying the petty needs of this great man. He drank greedily. When he had to fulfil some bodily need, he seemed as it were to return to the world from sheer enjoyment. His air of contemplation  would vanish and his face take on another expression -a strange unrecognizable expression. But as soon as he was provided with whatever it was he needed, he would sail out of reality once more.

As Erna was speaking, the professor several times took his watch out of his pocket and absorbed himself in contemplation  of it.

"He often looks at his watch like that, probably from force of habit" Erna explained in a whisper, observing  that the painter was following the old man's movements. "And  he of all people does not care what the time is!" she added with a slightly sad smile. "A little while ago it began to stop all the time. He decided that it was stopping from cold, I had to sew him that little bag, where he now keeps it in the warm."

It occured to Ivan that the watch was the only thing about theprofessor that was alive, the only thing that still beat a regular rhythm-it was prob­ ably impossible to feel his pulse any more in those hardened  arteries. He thought some deeper, instinctive need was manifested in that concern with time, as if it were some kind of artificial heart. Having verified that all was well, the professor deposited his treasure in his pocket. Not one remotely mistrustful glance from the deaf man gave one to think that he suspected he was being watched. This detail touched Ivan.

The colonel's arrival brought a certain  relief. The fact that he and Ivan had just met made for a quite animated  conversation  during  lunch. The professor did not participitate, of course; he had lapsed again into that oth­ er state of his and was blindly supplying himself with food quite oblivious of everything around  him. That disagreable expression had come over his face again. He ate voraciously. He had hardly any teeth and swallowed the food without chewing: he pursed his lips as though he were sucking, and the food, which was mainly liquid, gurgled unpleasantly in his throat. He followed the dish that was going from hand to hand anxiously, afraid they might forget him and not give him his due. At one point all three of them stopped dead in the middle of their conversation: He had coughed on a mouthful  and  nearly choked; he was quite stiff with fear: it irritated  his throat and tears welled in his eyes, but he was afraid of coughing, afraid of swallowing, afraid even ofblinking, as though death would leap at him if he so much as stirred. And he sat like that, rigid, holding his breath and stop­ ping himself from coughing, shaking and whimpering. They could not tell whether this whimpering  was meant to draw the attention of the others to the mortal danger he was in, or whether he was simply weeping hopelessly. This old man's fear for an already useless life, his convulsive clinging to the last thread that bound him to it, suddenly sickened Ivan. He caught a fleet­ ing spark flashing in Erna's eye. It was as brief as a flash oflightning and did not even last long enough to be reflected in her face; it just flared in her eyes and immediately vanished. The colonel was the first to leap to the old man's rescue and he patted him on the back shouting in his ear.

"Don't be afraid, it's nothing, it's nothing! Just swallow."

Only then did he regain a little self-control, but he had been quite badly shaken, he was in a cold sweat. The shock had exhausted him. He dozed until the end of the meal, pale, worn-out, and then Erna took him off to lie down for an hour.

"A pathetic spectacle," said the colonel to Ivan when they were left alone. "Especially for those who knew him before. What can you do, it's a law of Nature! But there are times, believe me, when it becomes really painful. And I don't  have to tell you what it's like for Erna. But, strangely enough, you couldn't say that his physical condition is deteriorating all that rapidly: the doctor says that he could go on living like this for several more years. What is more -imagine the irony-a few days ago it was established that he has a tapeworm! Just think, a tapeworm in such old organism!"

Erna appeared  at the door. She sank into an armchair  and closed her eyes. Only now did her face show signs of her profound weariness. A sub­ dued air of resignation emanated from her. Since childhood she had grown used to subordinating herself and devoting herself entirely to the service of others: and this was perhaps what gave her personality the extreme ten­ derness  that permeated  her whole being. Watching Erna and the colonel unobtrusively, Ivan thought: these two people are in fact merely waiting for the Old Man to die. Having sacrified herself virtually until the threshold of old age, Erna wanted once and for all to start living her own life. She was most likely even subconsciously angry with the Old Man for lingering on, she probably almost resented his lack of consideration.  That is how he in­ terpreted the light that had flashed in her eyes a short time before. And at other times again she probably regretted it; feeling that her anger was ugly, inhuman, she would pity him, old and helpless as he was, and see that it was foolish and unjust to demand  that he make way for others. But when he dies she would remember  him again as he was in his best days; she would rarely imagine him as an exhausted, shrunken  old man, coughing, trem­ bling, rasping, taking his watch mechanically out of his pocket and wiping his glasses. And then she would not be able to think of him without tears and without some pang of conscience.

They were silent for a while. Then they began to talk again, slowly at first and listlessly. And when they heard the Old Man call in his thin voice, an hour later, Erna hurried  to help him dress and lead him to his study.

Ivan got up. It was time for him to go. But he wanted to try and jot down a sketch or two before he went. He followed the Old Man into the study.

He found himself in quite a small room with a large desk and bookshelves, with souvenir posters and carelessly framed yellowing photographs on the walls: the professor with some colleagues at a congress or surrounded by his students. On the table was a heap of unopened  journals which kept ar­ riving methodically and piling up. The Old Man was in here now only so that the dining-room could be aired.

Ivan looked  round  the room.  So this was where  the great  man  had worked for years, where he had meditated, where his famous polemics had originated, here he had written works which would keep his name alive for some time after his death. The room, which must once have been warm with his presence and his ardent voice, was now hostile and cold like an uninhabitated  place. It was as though the brilliance that the professor's gaze bestowed on all these objects had been peeled away; no warm human hand had touched them for a long time and they had grown cold, like hibernat­ ing hats, and they had set in the stark rigidity of dead things.

The Old Man was sitting by the window again. Again his face wore that expression of concentration. But Ivan was now convinced that it was only the effect of deeply-engrained habits of his facial muscles and nerves, which had gathered the skin into a grimace of contemplation. This grimace was no longer provoked by the effort of thinking, but the effort or sensation of discomfort in some other corner of his organism - a little bubble of gas trapped in his intenstines and pressing on them, or something like that.

The Old Man turned  and looked round  the room: Ivan followed with interest to see what he was looking for. But nothing  was able to stop and hold the old man's gaze which plunged, hollow and cold, into every object it lighted on and looked right through  it unhindered. The narrow closed frame of this room did not imprison  him nor did it succeed in imposing its reality on him. Not even the memory of thought  hampered  him now. When his glance rested on the wall where the shelves were where he used once to pick out a book he needed in his work with such an automatic, confident movement, now he gazed at it as at any other bare wall. The two thick volumes of his latest work roughly bound in calf-skin were lying here on the desk even now; but if he touched them accidentally he would just pass them mechanically from hand to hand, like two bricks.

At one point this condition of the professor's seemed to Ivan almost a sign of superiority: he had sloughed off reality and slipped out of the lim­ ited charmed  circle of human  thought.  Earthly relationships  and earthly standards no longer shackled him. Freed from strict dependence on reality, he must look with an inner  smile on man's  primitive, restricted  under­ standing. His face took on a new expression now, lit by the westerly light from the struggle between the agonizingly deep crimson light from outside and the dusk in the room: his prolile was sharply defined against the back­ ground  of the bleeding sky, and at the same time somehow  remote and unreal, almost apocalyptic. Ivan reached for his sketch pad to capture this moment. For a minute it seemed that this faded face was only a mask, wrin­ kled and shrunken,  and that something quite different was hidden behind it; the crazy thought  that the professor had a completely different pair of eyes and a sly thin smile behind it, crossed his mind. He stared question­ ingly into the old face. The professor was watching him with perfectly calm, expressionless eyes. In the silence that ensued there was a muffled gurgling in the old man's intestines and he became agitated. -Was this feeble, de­ generate body really all that remained of the man? Was that "sparkling wit" irrevocably buried in it? Ivan wondered. Now the Old Man seemed to him like something not alive, like an object. What "thoughts"! What "sparkling wit"!? A vessel nourishing a tapeworm-and nothing more! A purposeful community, a parasitic economy sensibly run according to the principle of maximum exploitation: the worn-out  genius was still good for this useful "post-retirement'"old-age" task- of providing a home for a tapeworm. And that was in fact his function  in the world today, his new function. He carried it in him, took it for walks, fed himself for its sake. He served it, was at its disposal. The tapeworm lorded it over him. Its hunger spoke through him, he did everything according to its dictates: he ate, drank, slept, walked or rested all according to its needs. He would sit quietly for a while in his armchair  and gaze outside; suddenly he begins to fidget, he looks around -and you think to yourself: there, the tapeworm wants to go for a walk, it has woken up. And he submits to it: he gets up, walks it about the room like an anxious nurse a restless baby. He wheezes: water! water! - and again you think: there, the tapeworm is thirsty and has whispered to him to ask for water, and he obeys. And goes on acting (for cunning outlives even the last vestige of intelligence), feigning thirst, pretending  that the water is for him! - God, how abominable!

Ivan felt very depressed, subject as he was to sudden  fits of dejection and abrupt changes of mood, to that painful drop from "spiritual  heights" to the shallows of "universal nullity". The fluctuations of his sensitivity had a mystic flavour and he loved taking them as "reflections of Eternity" and partial "revelations  of the Spirit". At the slightest provocation  he used to fall from such lyrical moods into the desert of naked materialism, ruled by one single blind and inexorable law: the law of mechanical efficaciousness. Naturally  such a fall would completely crush  and defeat him, abandon­ ing him to a sense of the utter futility of all human endeavour. And then he found  an almost  vindictive  delight in extending  and  deepening  that "universal nothingness" in making it if possible still more widespread and still more inane. "This is the outcome of all those sublime constructions of ideas, all those concepts", "total systems'"coherent world pictures"; this is where they lead -all those subtle differences, those fine distinctions, those "forms of apprehension", those "contents  of consciousness"; their "from a subjective viewpoint" and "from an objective point of view'all their bril­ liant nickel-plated instruments of meditation, with which, as with nails and pliers, they endeavoured  to pinch and puli out a fragment of the unknown and bring it into the light of knowledge: into the few tenths of a kilogram of "organized matter" that had endured. (In any case they say that it is seventy percent water) and which, as it is worn out and is in itself useless, serves only as a source of nourishment  and a material habitat for new organisms, younger, more resistant, better equipped for life - take the concrete case of the tapeworm, -capable of enduring for a certain length of time in that organized form  (only without  "subjective" or "objective" points of view and with no "content  of consciousness") so that eventually the new mat­ ter itself can become the food and habitat for some new organized  matter. "Matter is the only truth", he repeated his favourite formula which he had once thought  up a long time before in a similar moment  of depres­ sion and which now, although  in itself hardly comforting,  had given him considerable satisfaction because he had succeeded in stating what he felt (and a felicitous formula had always seemed to make up for half the fail­ ure it expressed). He felt that this sentence really included and expressed everything and solved everything, albeit in a negative way. But as he was temperamentally inclined that way he began again subconsciously to make some kind of mysticism out of this "bare matter", this "matter-truth". He began to see it as "the spirit of matter itself" through instinct and whisper­ ing solutions through intuition.

Starting from the assumption that an artist must understand and experience intimately all forms of the human spirit and all human ways of think­ ing and feeling, that he must know how to live in the soul of every man and get under  the skin of every man's skull (for ultimately that is what makes an artist an artist!), he came to the conclusion that he had quite frequently thought completely contradictory thoughts at the same time. He had often shared the opinions of a given person, but at the same time held quite op­ posite opinions; he understood them both very well and sympathized with each of them. But what his own opinion really was and what he himself re­ ally thought, he could not have said: he had pledged his whole personality to absorption in others. It sometimes happened that while he was following the exposition  of some theory in a philosophy reference book he would adopt it enthusiasticaly, but if he then moved on to a contradictory theory he would be just as enthusiastic about it, but without denying the first one. "Everyone is right" was the conclusion he had come to now, and was very satisfied with this formula. He was more and more convinced that two con­ flicting truths are by no means mutually exclusive. Quite the reverse, they can exist perfectly well side by side and offer the human soul and the human imagination  just the same felicitous and beneficial variety as different flowers, fruit and other divine creations offer the human  eye and human senses in general. (What is more he could not understand how these great minds and great thinkers could be so one-sided and narrow as to confine themselves to only one of these theories!) He had, moreover, reached the conviction  that thoughts  in general are not thought but felt. When some idea imposed  itself on him as an incontrovertible  truth,  he had the im­ pression that he felt its truth and did not think it. "Conviction is a feeling" -was how his third principle ran, and he was unusually satisfied and con­ saied by this conquest. These three formulae, accompanied  by very long and expansive commentaries, comprised more or less the whole content of his "philosophical notebooks" which he hid with quite adolescent timidity at the bottom of a locked drawer in his desk, under other papers. But once when he was in any case depressed, he had glanced at those three principles of his, on which he had built what in his own mind he called his "system". Reading them naked like this, with no commentary, he had the impression that they were in blatant muta!contradiction to each other. This discovery filled him with bitter disappointment and it discouraged him. Then it be­ came clear to him that in the discretion  of his philosophizing, and in the careful concealing of "The Notebooks" there had Iain a presentiment of the disillusion that had to come. And only the thought that he had acted wisely in hiding his philosophical  activity soothed  him a little in this personal failure. From that moment he lost all faith, and all sympathy not only with his own system, but systems in general.

It was beginning  to get dark in the room. Ivan put away the sketchpad that was lying unopened on his Jap and went over to the window. He stayed there for a long time lost in thought.  Down below in the street the vast crowns of the chestnut trees were swaying slowly and dusk was gathering. Lights were beginning  to go on in the distance: every minute a new one would flare up, now in one part of town now in another. Through the twi­ light came the as yet unheard  jingle of tram bells which echoed pleasantly along the long rows of street lights. The professor was staring fixedly out of the window as though out there in the twinkling distance he had caught sight of the thing  his eyes had been vainly searching  for in the room  a short time before. Standing beside him and staring like him into the dis­ tance, Ivan sank himself completedly into the dance of the flickering rest­ less points of light. And when the remote and painfully penetrating whistle of the factory siren, like a reprimand, wrenched him out of his meditation, he felt it had been an infinitely long moment of forgetfulness. He had the feeling that during  that time he had been standig outside the current  of his own life, outside the flow of time in general, and it occurred  to him that this vegetable state of the professor's was in fact a kind of "original condition'the state that saw the first vague flickering of consciousness in a living being, a forgotten possibility, buried for centuries, but which was latent in man, and which could easily be discovered, learnt or, still more easily, adopted by unconscious imitation. And he felt that some unknown, new awareness had flickered into life for a moment  in the murky depths of his soul, that an intimate link of unspoken  understanding had been established  between  himself and the Old Man, from which there would have been no returning  had the moment  only lasted longer. He was sud­ denly overcome by the urge to go out, into the fresh air, to escape from this sleepy room where the twilight was already hovering. Stealthily, like a nurse when she has put a child to bed, he crept out on tiptoe and closed the door gently behind him.




Translated by Celia Williams




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How will the futuristic world of 2060 look? How far will technology have advanced, and how will those advancements affect how we live our everyday lives? These are the questions the Zagreb-based magazine Globus asked in a series of articles in 1960, when conceptualizing what advancements society would make 40 years in the future, the then far-off year of 2000. The articles used fantastical predictions about the future to highlight the technological advancements already made by the then socialist Yugoslavia. Take a trip with guide, Jonathan Bousfield, back to the future as envisioned by journalists in 1960s Yugoslavia.


Untranslatable Croatian Phrases

What’s the best way for an open-minded foreigner to get straight to the heart of another culture and get a feel for what makes people tick? Don’t just sample the local food and drink and see the major sights, perk up your ears and listen. There’s nothing that gives away the local flavor of a culture more than the common phrases people use, especially ones that have no direct translation.

Check out a quirky list of untranslatable Croatian phrases from Croatian cultural guide extraordinaire, Andrea Pisac, in the link below:


Jonathon Bousfield on the Museum of Broken Relationships

Just got out of a serious relationship and don't know what to do with all those keepsakes and mementos of your former loved one? The very popular and probably most unique museum in Zagreb, the Museum of Broken Relationships, dedicated to preserving keepsakes alongside the diverse stories of relationships gone wrong, will gladly take them. Find out how the museum got started and take an in-depth look at some of its quirkiest pieces in the link below.


Cool Things To Do in Zagreb

Zagreb is Croatia’s relaxed, charming and pedestrian-friendly capital. Check out Time Out’s definitive Zagreb guide for a diverse set of options of what to explore in the city from unusual museums to legendary flea markets and everything in between.


Jonathan Bousfield on Diocletian's Legacy in Split

Diocletian’s Palace is the main attraction in Split, the heart and soul of the city. Because of the palace, Split’s city center can be described as a living museum and it draws in the thousands of tourists that visit the city annually. But how much do we really know about the palace’s namesake who built it, the last ruler of a receding empire? Jonathan Bousfield contends that history only gives us a partial answer.


The Poetry of Zagreb

Cities have served as sources of inspiration, frustration, and discovery for millennia. The subject of sonnets, stories, plays, the power centers of entire cultures, hotbeds of innovation, and the cause of wars, cities are mainstays of the present and the future with millions more people flocking to them every year.

Let the poet, Zagreb native Tomica Bajsić, take you on a lyrical tour of the city. Walk the streets conjured by his graceful words and take in the gentle beauty of the Zagreb of his childhood memories and present day observation.


You Haven't Experienced Zagreb if You Haven't Been to the Dolac Market

Dolac, the main city market, is a Zagreb institution. Selling all the fresh ingredients you need to whip up a fabulous dinner, from fruits and vegetables to fish, meat and homemade cheese and sausages, the sellers come from all over Croatia. Positioned right above the main square, the colorful market is a beacon of a simpler way of life and is just as bustling as it was a century ago.


Croatian Phrases Translated into English

Do you find phrases and sayings give personality and flair to a language? Have you ever pondered how the culture and history of a place shape the common phrases? Check out some common sayings in Croatian with their literal translations and actual meanings below.


Discover Croatia's Archaeological Secrets

Discover Croatia’s rich archaeological secrets, from the well known ancient Roman city of Salona near Split or the Neanderthal museum in Krapina to the often overlooked Andautonia Archaeological Park, just outside of Zagreb, which boasts the excavated ruins of a Roman town or the oldest continuously inhabited town in Europe, Vinkovci.


Croatian Sites on UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List

A little know fact is that Croatia, together with Spain, have the most cultural and historical heritage under the protection of UNESCO, and Croatia has the highest number of UNESCO intangible goods of any European country.


Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb

The National Theater in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, is one of those things which always finds its way to every visitor’s busy schedule.


Zagreb's Street Art

So you're visiting Zagreb and are curious about it's underground art scene? Check out this guide to Zagreb's street art and explore all the best graffiti artists' work for yourself on your next walk through the city.


Zagreb Festivals and Cultural Events

Numerous festivals, shows and exhibitions are held annually in Zagreb. Search our what's on guide to arts & entertainment.

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