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Beautiful and Mysterious Visoka Street

Croatia recently elected its first female president. All of the sudden, the President’s office is being transferred to the historical center of the city, to the most beautiful Villa Pongratz of Visoka street. There are seemingly more important issues in the country, but this information has outgrown itself, everyone keeps talking about it. And now for something completely different – my contribution to the discussion 🙂

Entrance to the famous Villa Pongratz. Hey, what’s that in the lower right corner? Hope it’s not an orb!


The mansion has remained unnoticed by public up until recently, many people haven’t even heard of Visoka street. Especially foreign visitors… (Except for some of the Secret Zagreb Walks guests. Some of my tours come all the way to the fence that keeps anyone from coming near and makes you feel you’re doing something wrong just by standing there.) The mansion is hidden at the end of Visoka, one of my favorite streets. A pretty mysterious and beautiful street where one can feel the history and sense the presence of famous former residents. Literally. Here is an example of what can happen in Visoka street:

“I hardly closed my eyes when I heard a loud clunking noise coming from my library, as if something fell. I thought it was the drawing board I had used earlier that day. And then, I heard something again, it was in the salon, the armchairs moved. I clearly heard the armchairs sliding on the carpet and then on the parquet floors. I heard the footsteps in the library and listened to someone opening the big old chest full of documents. I heard the chest lock knocking and the lid thumping. The windows being open, I thought someone had entered the room through the window, even though it seemed highly improbable, since the first floor was high above the yard, looking over the Tuskanac forest. I grabbed a candle, took a lighter and went into the library. Everything was fine. As soon as I started returning through the salon, I heard the chest opening and its lid thumping all over again.”

A bit unpleasant… But wait till you hear what happened after he went back to bed:

“I heard the footsteps again, they kept getting closer, as if someone walked in his socks. At the door, behind the glass, there was a shadow, some sort of a transparent violet smoke. The shadow came closer to my bed, opened the wardrobe in front of me…” Sorry, but no spoilers.You can find out what happened afterwards on Zagreb Ghosts and Dragon Tour... or in acity library near you 🙂 With this quote, I just wanted to point out that the street, where our new president is heading, is not a place you want to spend your late-night hours. Note that the violet-shadow-testimonial wasn’t written down by some lunatic. It was Emil Laszowski who recorded it, and he was a distinguished Zagreber some hundred years ago. Ok, so he liked to present himself as a dragon, but that’s a whole different story.

The gardens of Visoka street overlook the Tuskanac forest. See the ventilation opening up there between the trees?

Visoka is the only dead-end street in the upper town area. Up until now, it used to have a strange private feel. So quiet, so empty, so incredibly beautiful, separated from the rest of the city, most people unaware of its existence. Now that there’s been so much talk about the “mansion in Visoka”, I can’t see how they’re going to keep people away. When people come to see the gorgeous villa, they’ll be surprised to see all the memorial plaques on other building in that street – remembrances of Croatian personalities of historical importance who used to live there, especially some revolutionary artists.


 

Ruinous Gardens of Gvozdanović Mansion

The Gvozdanovic mansion (the one where Christopher Lee acted as the narrator in his Lost Series, TV show inspired by E.A.Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination), is also right there in Visoka street. In fact, the soon-to-be presidential office was a movie set itself. One of the most successful actors from this region – Rade Serbedzija – grew up in this house. Or at least his role did, he played a popular book character called Ivica Kicmanovic in a TV series U registraturi. Ivica came to live there, in the mansion of so-called Illustrissimus.

Villa Pongratz is one of the most luxurious places in the city. Part of it was built on the remains of an old defensive tower. It was originally owned by a powerful entrepreneurial family ofPongratz. Feel free to call it a royal palace, because it accommodated the royal Karadjordjevic family during the kingdom of Yugoslavia. 



 

Poe’s Tales of Mystery and an occasional thumping noise are not the only mystical things around. This street follows the shape of the former town wall. The upper town area used to be a fortified medieval city. There are numerous unexplored layers of history buried beneath all those buildings. Speaking about what’s beneath… It’s a well known fact that underneath this hill there is an immense underground tunnel. Rumor is, one of the entrances lies right beneath the Villa Pongratz in Visoka street. The tunnels’ current purpose is a bit secretive since the information is not easily accessible and they can not be visited. So it’s up to you to imagine what lies underneath. The sleeping dragon, the Black Queen, or maybe even some kind of a military base… after all, the tunnels were built for military purposes, and the villa was used by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during Croatia’s homeland war. Plus, Croatia’s new president Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic was a NATO employee. As you can see, this is a hidden, yet inspiring street for everyone – from history aficionados and mystics enthusiasts, to conspiracy theorists.  

Let’s just hope the president won’t mind us sharing a ghost story or two in front of the mansion. And that common people, like Rade Serbedzija’s character Ivica Kicmanovic, are going to have an opportunity to visit it from time to time. So far, it has been reserved just for illustrissimi.
 

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