Untold Stories

Panoramic View of the Past

New beginnings are always a good time to look ahead and, at the same time, to reflect on the past. At the start of this year, I looked back. A bit too far back, ending up in Zagreb almost a century ago. I found some postcards from the 1920s. Panoramic photos are so popular these days, and almost anyone can take them with the help of drones and modern technology. But what if you wanted to take one a hundred years ago? Let's look back together.

Beautiful aerial photo of Zagreb with the cathedral as a centerpiece.  

For all those who doubt that the Zagreb cathedral has ever been free of scaffolding, this photo is the ultimate proof and a reminder of just how slim and elegant its tall spires are. This photo was taken several years before that crazy event when Matija Juričić climbed the very top of the cathedral to show off his skills in the hope of becoming a fireman. And hey, he got the job! The good old days filled with oddities and peculiar personalities. 

The church to the right of the cathedral is St Francis church. Another thing that might grab your attention is a vast area covered in trees, just next to the cathedral. That would be Park Ribnjak (meaning fishpond). Zagreb locals will immediately recognize the winding Vlaška and the straight Jurišićeva street that leads to the main city square. It’s funny to see some fields in the lower right corner of the photo. But, other than that, things haven’t changed that much, have they? What attracts your attention? 

What is your favorite detail in this photo? 

And now, for a traditional way to get an aerial shot. Just go to the rooftop of the nearby building. After all, the Esplanade Hotel just opened, and it’s such an exquisite building. It’s only fair to capture it for eternity. Again, nothing has changed much. Can you spot the tram down there? Just like today. There’s even a horse carriage - it's probably there instead of taxis, waiting to give a lift to the travelers who come to the city by train. This photo is taken from the top of the train station. Look at the number of trees planted! Now, that’s a city that takes care of its residents. You can even see the mountain Medvednica, guarding the city in the back. But my favorite detail on the photo is the 1920s carefree mindset caught on camera - have you spotted the man sitting at the edge, by the sculpture? I just love how he’s chilling there. First Matija, now this man! 100 years ago, it was free climbers all over the city.

The locals don’t need a photo. The image of the Upper Town is captured in their hearts.

Let’s wrap this article up with this image of the Upper Town area. Lovely ornaments on the rooftop? Check. Deep shade of the trees to make the city life as pleasant as can be? Check. Harmonious architecture, despite the diversity of styles? Check. Are hills in the back? Check. Church spires? Check. The only thing that’s missing from this photo is people in weird places. 

Even if there are no people, it doesn’t mean there are no personalities. Ask any Zagreber, and they will tell you that some of these buildings have a personality. The Lotrščak tower to the left is one of those buildings - the Grič cannon fires each midday from that tower. Back in the 1600s, the Jesuits contributed to the recognizable appearance of the Upper Town with the complex that is made of their convent (to the right), their school, which is still a public high school up to this day (the largest building), and St Catherine’s church (the one with the smallest spire on the photo). There are two more church spires on the photo - one belongs to the well-known St Mark's church. The other one is the Greek-Catholic church. The latter, placed here, inside the city's core, is our flashback into the multicultural Zagreb. 

Old photos really have a way of luring us into the past, making us long for the lost days, or... simply feel delighted! I hope you enjoyed this panoramic view of Zagreb 100 years ago. Time to return to 2024 and enjoy the modern city. It is also the time to find true delight and cherish all those things that haven’t really changed that much, instead of longing for the lost ones. 

This 21st-century photo will once become a melancholic capture of the past, too.
J. Duval/ Zagreb Tourist Board

Header image credit: Sebastijan Carek

Author: Iva Silla