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Halloween in Zagreb

Zagreb is still not that tainted with Halloween craze which successfully crossed (back) the Atlantic and took over the last days of October in Europe. But you can certainly find Halloween-themed parties and a significant number of costumed people all over the city on that particular evening.

I suppose that writing about European pagan origins of Halloween is outdated. But the fact is that many people here in Croatia tend to forget most of our folk heritage and customs go back to pre-christian era. The only reason why we don’t traditionally dress up on All Hallow’s Eve, is the fact that we’ve been too busy celebrating the cult of the dead on the following day. In fact, if you can pick the exact date to visit Zagreb, November 1st is just about perfect. A simple walk through magical Mirogoj cemetery on that particular afternoon, is a truly unique experience.

But Zagreb is a true Halloween getaway regardless, if there is such a thing as a Halloween getaway. You’d be surprised how much dark history there is to this city. We are proud to be the most persistent witch-burners in Europe, for example. In fact, we started the witch hunts when the rest of the world began leaving them behind! Think what you want, but at least we have the best documented witch trials in Europe:) That also means a lot of tortured souls are probably restlessly wandering around town, waiting for the crossings between the worlds to be opened each October 31. 

There’s always an even darker side of Zagreb than the one you’re already acquainted with. Learning the facts about Zagreb witches will come as a surprise to some people. Those who already know the history of witches and witchcraft, will be somewhat shocked to learn about the forgotten old graveyards. And even those, who have always enjoyed the mysterious side of Zagreb, have their own set of dark secrets coming their way. Take me for example – I was rather startled to find out about the number of people who have grown accustomed to live with their poltergeists and apparitions. So many Zagrebers have been contacting me lately with their true ghost stories, so strolling through dark alleys of this city doesn’t really seem smart anymore. The fact that Zagreb is normally considered to be a pretty crime-free city can’t really protect you from the darkness;)

Back to Halloween. If I remember well, the first time I went out for Halloween, I was 16. I didn’t wear a mask, only had some strange makeup, which was pretty radical at that time, too, especially since I was attending some lessons before going out. Nobody really had Halloween in mind at that time. I went out on a concert to Jabuka with my namesake friend Iva. We had a great time in what was then a half-empty club. Almost 20 years later, that club has turned into one of the most famous Halloween hotspots around and it’s so crowded, you can hardly get in.

Pumpkin Humpkin preview by Gurukitty Studios

Speaking about my friend Iva and Halloween, several years ago she created a beautiful children’s play called Pumpkin Humpkin, and last November, the story about her Humpkin was published in Once Upon a Time  anthology. I finished reading all the short comics from that collection, and Iva’s Pumpkin Humpkin being one of my favorites, I’m writing a whole new post about it. So, stay tuned…

There’s another link between Zagreb and my personal Halloween history. Just as Iva and I had the exclusive opportunity to celebrate our own rebel years back in the days simply by going out on Halloween, that’s how all the travelers still have the exclusive opportunity to enjoy genuine Zagreb. Make sure not to miss this chance, ’cause Zagreb is a growing touristy destination and soon the day will come when it’ll be perfectly normal seeing everything written in English, everything adjusted to suit the needs of a tourist, and enjoying Zagreb like a local will be so much harder than it is today. It’s like those restless souls of Zagreb.. they have been erased from our memories, but at the same time, it has become perfectly natural to see a skeleton walking around on Halloween.

Written by Iva Silla

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