Untold Stories

Time to talk about the weather!

It is time to talk about the weather. We are in the first month of summer, and summers in Zagreb can get very warm. Why don't we hide in the deep shade of the Zrinjevac park? When we do, it’s good to know that Zrinjevac is the best place to discuss the weather.

It’s always a good time to talk (or complain) about the weather - isn’t that a favorite small talk? It sure is in Croatia. This year, the timing is even better, due to the year being a serious meteo-anniversary. It’s the 190th birthday of the first meteorological observer in Zagreb, the 200th birthday of the person who started the meteorological station, and it's been 140 years since a famous meteorological ornament was built at Zrinjevac.  

I find a fascination in the early meteorologists. I imagine them as incredibly curious, unbelievably diligent, and persistent. Early meteorology was a part of some spectacles, too. The air balloon Turul caused quite a stir in the city. It is a little-known fact that it contained some meteo equipment, such as a barometer.  

Photo description: It’s 1905, and now we can measure the atmospheric pressure above Zagreb. Photo by Croatian Technical Encyclopaedia

 Zagreb is proud of its history of meteorological observations. Park Grič in the Upper Town celebrated 150 years of continuous observations in 2021. Back then, they published the book Nulla dies sine observasione. That’s Latin for Not a day without observation.  Indeed, Park Grič is one of the rare places in the world with such a long history of continuous observation. The station was built due to the merit of Josip Torbar, born 200 years ago. At the time, he was the principal of the royal school. The school building was later repurposed into a scientific institute, thanks to the efforts of Ivan Stožir. The physics professor was the first observer, and he performed his duty for three decades! He was born in April of 1934, thus making it into our list of great meteo-anniversaries.

The weather station stayed in the same building until the 2020 earthquake, when they moved it a few meters away for safety reasons. You can now spot it in the open in Park Grič . The meteorological institute was moved to another address, but the 153-year-long tradition of observations at the same spot has continued.

Photo description: Up until recently, this building was the hydro-meteorological institute. It is under repairs now to become the home of the Croatian history museum. 

The passion of those early meteorologists hasn’t disappeared. In fact, the meteorological community is very eager to share their achievements and honor their history. I love the fact they dedicated their 2024 calendar to the iconic observers. Each month shares some curiosities, and I caught myself smiling over and over again while browsing through the pages of the calendar. My favorite story is the one about the king of the observers: Božo Kralj (his last name means king) from Konavle. He retired from his job as an observer at the age of 104! I’m sure he broke a world record, not just the Croatian one. Follow the link to enjoy the calendar tales.

Did you know one of the most significant Croatian scientists was a meteorologist? His achievements in seismology are world-known, but he was a talented weatherman, too. He wrote the weather forecast for the local newspapers. It turns out that his accuracy was close to the one of modern-day meteorologists. His name was Andrija Mohorovičić. Oh, I am sorry for talking too much - that wasn’t the kind of talk about the weather I had imagined when I started this text. Where were we? Oh, at the Zrinjevac park. Notice the weather station at the park. Observe it carefully, and you will spot a thermometer, a barometer, and a clock (for day and night hours). You will also see the name of the doctor Adolf Holzer, a passionate amateur-meteorologist who donated this handy park ornament to the city. If you take a closer look, you will spot the year 1884. Wow, this old machine has turned 140, and it still works!

Croatia uses the same word - vrijeme - for both time and weather. When I’m standing at Zrinjevac square by the weather station, I feel like the two truly blend: We’re observing the apparatus as if 140 years aren’t standing between us, doctor Holzer, and all those curious and diligent observers from long ago.

Photo description: Photo by S.Carek/TZGZ 

Header image credit: J. Duval / TZGZ

Author: Iva Silla