Secret Tunnel Made Public
Hollow centre of Zagreb
Zagreb is actually hollow. Not in a sense that it is empty or boring. Literally, hollow with a complete system of tunnels that were once fully functional. This whole underground world of intertwined and connected passages has an awesome movie potential, and there are already gothic sci-fi books written about them.
The void tract nurtures rich yet mysterious history of politics as it was built during the dark wartimes. One of its passages ends beneath Banski dvori, occupied by the Croatian Government. One of the mystic tales is about the Banski dvori bunker connected to Sljeme and Pantovčak (Zagreb neighbourhood where most of the politicians live) but it has been allegedly blocked so that the Serbian army couldn't enter the very heart of the political power.
Image credit: zagreb.hr
Hear ye, hear ye,...hearsay?
There is an abundance of mysterious stories about the tunnels. Some of them imply the tunnels date back to the 18th century, the others say they were built by the Independent State of Croatia in the 20th century (that's a 200-year gap apt for spooky stories!). Back in 1942, when villa Rebar was built, the home of Ante Pavelić, the leader of the Independent State of Croatia, and his family, the tunnels were built through Sljeme as a shelter and an evacuation getaway. After the war, the former Eagle's nest functioned as a luxurious hotel and a restaurant but was unfortunately burnt down – you could go up into the woods of Sljeme and search for the remnants!
There are also tales about the Yugoslavian Secret Service using the tunnels and the hidden underground chambers and the terrifying stories about the tortures and murders during the 20th century, and some claim the current secret service is still using it along with the army.
There are also a bunch of functional and nonfunctional tunnels beneath Sljeme. For example, the one in Sljeme-Markuševac built by the Yugoslavian National Army which is used today by the mushroom cultivators.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Brestovac Hospital opened on Medvednica. It was built by Milivoj Dežman, a doctor and literate, harbouring huge love for Ljerka Šram who sadly came down with tuberculosis. The sanatorium was a perfect site for the patients with pulmonary diseases and reportedly had a tunnel connecting it to the city which was used for transportation of the infectious patients. The tunnel collapsed and it's dangerous ever since the hospital was shut down back in the 70's due to modern medical technology in the city.
Finally, tunnel Grič has opened!
After 20 years, one of the central tunnels is reopened! The Grič tunnel has been planned in 1943 during WWII, as the Allied Bombing started, and the construction was finished in 1945. There are even signs from that era covering the inner walls and they have been restored so you can have a stroll and remind yourself about the tunnel etiquette: “Do not spit on the floor!”, “Admonish others to obey the rules!” or “Give up your seat to the elderly!”.
Grič is 350 metres long and 3,2 - 5,5 metres wide. There are 4 exits/entrances: Mesnicka Street, Tomiceva Street where you can also chill out in Art Park by the funicular, Ilica Street next to Vespa cafe and Radiceva Street. It takes you about 5 minutes to walk through the whole thing which is great because of two reasons: if you are in a hurry, you can avoid the traffic on Ilica, one of the busiest streets, and it is a perfect hideout when the city heat is unbearable as it is about 20 degrees Celsius inside or when it is pouring down.
Image credit: zagreb.hr
The 90's were a blast
Back then, the tunnels were occupied by the wildest rave party, as a mode of showing resistance to the war. Even MTV came to see one in 1993, the techno party Under City Rave. At the same time, the passages had a different function that was not as fun as the parties were – they were used by the citizens as bomb shelters during the Croatian War of Independence. By now, I am sure you are convinced that Zagreb's history is spooky and a bit morbid. But that what the future holds is intended to make it enjoyable - for now, it is a great tourist location which may be turned into an interactive multimedia place for site-specific exhibitions.
What's in a name, that which we call Grič?
The name Grič refers to the part of Zagreb also known as Gradec situated on the hill of the Upper town - Gornji Grad. Maybe you have already heard about the witch of Grič, sipped a cup of coffee in Art kino Grič cafe and heard the Grič cannon pierce the air exactly at noon. Now, it is time to have a walk through the homonymous tunnel. It is opened every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Header image credits: Jakov Novak, Just Zagreb
Author: Karla Knezevic