Bits & Pieces – Zagreb

It’s that time of the year when summer bumps into something colder. One day it’s sweltering hot, the next there’s a thunderstorm. The see-sawing of the weather is taking a toll on the leaves, turning them from a fresh green to orange-red. They pull away from the branches and flirt with the wind; when they tire, they plonk on the edges of streets and walkways. I love walking through these autumn piles; the bright outburst makes me smile.

*

Walking down the street, I pass a schizophrenic mix of elegant Baroque buildings and morose, run down structures. The former are prim and proper in fresh pastel coats. They wear their frescoes and carvings like badges of honour, free of dirt and full of pomp. The latter have been stripped bare by time. Instead they tolerate club affiliations and rude words, sprayed on in blue and red. They come with accessories too, but you can barely tell if that’s a gargoyle on the roof top or a rat. If the buildings could talk, the worn out ones would probably have the better stories to tell.

*

It’s 11 o’clock on a Monday. The cafes are full. The tables hold coffee, orange drinks and capsizing ashtrays. You can tell it’s a working day by the formal wear and the absence of beer. But there is no rush. People sip on their drinks, they laugh and exchange gossip, like it’s a Sunday. There’s supposed to be a recession around. I’d expected the cafes to be the first casualties. I was wrong. That said ‘popust’ is my favourite Croatian word. It means discount. These days it hangs on to every store window, luring me in. It’s now 3 o’clock on a Monday. The cafes are still full.

*

Illica, is the city’s main street. It’s twin lanes are shared by trams, cars, bikes, vans and cycles of various shapes and sizes. Some are relics and barely wobble along. Others are brand new models just out of the showrooms. Cutting in between the vroom vroom and ra-ta-ta-ta-ta of the vehicles are the criss-crossing pedestrians. Some wait for connecting trams, other duck in and out of shops and cafes on either side of the street. A lone traffic cop stands in the middle, equipped with a paddle and a walkie-talkie, controlling who goes where and when.

*

Time in Zagreb is marked by hourly chiming church bells. It’s a beautiful sound on carefree days, but when there’s a deadline approaching it has a suffocating effect. The bells aren’t the sole keepers of time here. Every day at 12 o’clock a cannon is fired from the city’s old defence tower. The first time I heard the cannon go off, I chalked it down to a collapsing building, a small explosive or a bad accident. With so much of it going around, I’m conditioned to think it’s bad news. It’s a hard habit to shake off.

*

This is a green city full of parks, trees and flower stalls. It’s the end of summer but it still smells like spring. These flower stalls will stay through the winter; the sole hint of colour on black and white days.

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6 thoughts on “Bits & Pieces – Zagreb

  1. Neha,

    You have such a beautiful way of bring words togther. I love the first sentence in this post, and it did really draw me in due to its unique imagery. Your style is so colorfully descriptive. I read other posts on this blog too – all just so well written.

    I’ll be back!

    Sabina (from Matador)

  2. Thanks for stopping by Sabina. I look forward to receiving more feedback from you.

    p.s. just voted for you on trazzler. good luck in the contest!

  3. Hi Neha–

    Just passing through. Had started following you when I was traveling; only now have I gotten a chance to check out bits of your blog.

    You make Zagreb sound intriguing and charming — evocative descriptions that seem effortless for you to write. I am pretty sure my next trip to Europe will include Croatia, so I will have to check in with you about it.

    Cheers,
    Cheri

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