Drilling sounds and yellow cranes are becoming an all too familiar sight across Zagreb. Pausing along the promenade encircling the old town, standing over the city, I trace the multiple changes taking place.
The inner city is terracotta rooftops and baroque domes. But further out it’s only glass and concrete. Even from here I can see the cranes strain, laboriously lifting raw materials to form unappealing blocks. They are no match to the old, depressing communist buildings, no they are almost stunning in comparison, but in an empty, soulless way. On the far left, close to the horizon, the steel frame of one of the commercial buildings catches the sun and throws out blinding sparks. I squint and turn back to the domes of the past.
But even at the heart of the city, the drilling machines have managed to sneak in. On Illica, the main street, the ground trembles, the soft white and cream trim on the old buildings are coated with dirt and the gargoyles spend sleepless nights as a new shopping mall rises. The project has taken a while; there have been protests, but work has resumed. They say the integrity of the old centre will be maintained, but no one is sure. Like me, many fear that in this mad dash to modernize the city is replacing its ghosts and legends with shiny, lifeless glass panes.