Zagreb’s old town, its historical core, has multiple faces, as often cities do. The first one you notice immediately: its architecture, timely bars and galleries, churches, squares and monuments, all painting a pretty picture of the heritage we have here. But there are other faces too, the ones you don’t get to see if you don’t look for them, but that might be even more essential to the identity of the streets you walk while exploring. One of those faces are the old town’s courtyards.
Now often hidden behind massive oak or iron doors, surrounded by walls that tell stories centuries old, the old town courtyards are truly a hidden gem of the historical core. Some are flashy and extravagant, some seem plain and ordinary in comparison, but all those courtyards were the central stage of the old town’s everyday social life in the past. Be them the courtyards of noble estates or gentry flats, that was where people would gather on hot summer days and parlay, celebrate, rest, eat and drink.
With modern life taking the private sphere to the streets: into bars, parlors, clubs and theaters, widening the social sphere within which different people interact; with aristocracy dying out and it’s members moving away, leaving those estates to the city, and the historical core’s gentry class growing old and disinterested, the courtyards of the old town were left hidden and empty behind the massive doors.
That is, until three years ago. People from GAD and Katapult productions have decided to re-open some of those doors to the public and let the hidden gems shine in their former glory once again. The courtyards they re-opened, with the City’s blessing, are some of the most iconic places in Zagreb’s history, and each one tells a different story about the city, people who lived in it and made it what it is today.
In the first year, only a few courtyards were re-opened, but even that was enough to make it one of top favorite events of the year to the locals, who’ve visited them in droves. This year, the number has been risen to nine courtyards, each with its own specific atmosphere, events and music.
In its ten day runtime, people who explore the old town will be able to peak, among others, into the magical Balbi palace with one of the few working wells in the old town, contemplative garden of Erdody – Drašković palace (now the national archives), the intimate yard of Milovac estate, Ivan Meštrović’s atrium, with sculptures from the famed genius scattered around the yard, the inner yard of Besaričekova street 11, an iconic gentry yard eternalised in the most Zagreb film ever made – Tko Pjeva Zlo Ne Misli (Those Who Sing Do Not Think of Sin).
Each courtyard has its historical and (pop) cultural significance and each will be presented and decorated differently, according to its context. Some will have classical concerts, some old town folk song, chansons, jazz concerts with bars serving site specific drinks.
Courtyards are one of those events that makes even us, the locals feel like tourists in our own city, excited for exploration of Zagreb’s past you’ll rarely find in historic books, the history of everyday life.
Just Zagreb is exited to be a media partner in the project and we’ll bring you photos, histories and events of those and in those yards as the event approaches.
The Courtyards will start on July 15th and last until July 24th, opened each day from 6pm until 12pm, and will be free to enter.