Central European in appearance and spirit, Zagreb bears the hallmark of centuries spent under Vienna and Budapest, as opposed to Mediterranean ambience of the coastal towns, which were under Venice. The capital of Croatia, with almost 1 million inhabitants (a quarter of the nation), Zagreb is the country's economic, industrial and administrative powerhouse.


The city was founded in the Middle Ages as two separate but neighbouring settlements, Kaptol and Gradec, which today make up Gornji Grad (Upper Town). Kaptol was a religious centre, built around the cathedral, while Gradec was the home to craftsmen and merchants who supplied the needs of the Kaptol clergy. Although relations between the two were strained, outsiders saw them as a single town, which they referred to as Zagreb (meaning 'behind the hill').


In 1557, the settlement became Croatia's capital, with the parliament meeting alternately in Gradec and Kaptol. It was not until 1850 that the two parts were united to become the city of Zagreb. The second half of the 19th century saw a period of economic and cultural development, with the arrival of the railway and the construction of Donji Grad (Lower Town). Under Yugoslavia, industrialization brought migrant workers from neighbouring republics and the high-rise suburbs developed.


During the war of independence, Zagreb saw little fighting, though the Croatian Parliament was hit by a rocket in 1991. However, the economic and social consequences, with industrial collapse, an influx of refugees, plus political corruption, took their toll.


Today, despite unfulfilled requests from The Hague to hand over war criminals, Zagreb is working towards EU membership, which could be achieved as early as 2009.

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