Roko’s park is a delightful tranquil oasis, situated on a hill connecting the Lower and Upper town, above bustling Ilica. It’s named after the chapel of St. Roko, erected in mid-17th century by the citizens of Gradec as a votive chapel against the plague.
During its long and intriguing history, the hill has served many purposes: it’s been an area where citizens of Gradec had their vineyards and orchards; a cemetery; a neglected pasture for cattle, even a secret meeting place where high-school boys would light their first cigarette…
Finally, an urban plan to turn the neglected cemetery into a public park was drawn in the early 20th century, when the construction of valuable urban villas started and when the hill became the Parnassus of Croatian fin-de-siècle art. Famous artists lived here, like the sculptor Frangeš, whose house was a favourite meeting place of the artistic elite, and one of the cultural centres of Zagreb, a real refined “salon”. As you stroll down Rokov perivoj street, you will see lovely art nouveau details on houses. Villa Frangeš and Villa Auer are particularly valuable.
In the centre of the hill’s plateau, there’s an enchanting park with Frangeš’ fountain-sculpture called “Elegy”, featuring a nude lady, which at the time of its making was too controversial to be placed in a public park, so it had to wait 82 years, till 1994, to reach this place.
Roko’s park is one of my favourite places to stroll and get immersed in this poetic and Arcadian atmosphere.