Zagreb

I arrived in Zagreb on 31 Dec 2017. Josip had messaged me much earlier on Couchsurfing while I was still in Vienna, but could only show me his place at the end of the week. So I spent the first week house-hunting, some days in the frigid rain, drenched to the bone. Picked his in the end anyway since it was the best for two people. Krzysztof would join me soon.

I'm writing this at the tail end of my stay in Banja Luka, a month away from Zagreb, so my memory retains little. Here's what I have.

Hackers, makers, DIY bio

The global hackerspaces list seems a bit wrong on Zagreb. It has four on it but I'm not so sure.

The first one I visited was Radiona. It was cold and snowy and the signs beside the locked door mentioned other organisations than them. Sometimes, they tape a piece of paper to the main door with someone's number on it. But I didn't have a working phone number in Zagreb.

So, I spent some time in the cold. But, when I finally got in, they were the warmest people. Among the warmest and most welcoming hacker/maker spaces I've visited so far. There's still some of that air of shy and reticent nerdiness, but also a clear effort to reach out with offers of conversation, help, and equipment. Deborah, especially, makes the place with her quickness to include everyone new to it. I really appreciated that.

Radiona had a lot of wonderful events. I wish I'd had more time to join in.

I visited Hacklab in Mama twice, when they had tech and art talks. It's a pretty cool place to meet people too, except that the talks in English are kind of rare.

I tried to meet up with Gjino and Biotweaking, but our schedules never matched. Would have loved to though.

Ecological Conservation

BIOM does a lot of work with birds, and probably has projects dealing with other things. They have birdwatching once a month and provide binoculars so you don't need to bring your own. I met this guy Bolek there, who's originally from Poland and came to BIOM on the European Voluntary Service. He was really helpful translating things from Croatian to English for me and identifying birds in the park.

Food

This is where things get a bit complicated. You might point to certain cuisine with exotic names. but I compared the bakeries in Zagreb to the ones in Lodz, Poland. In general, I noticed that the offerings in Zagreb are fewer in variety but heavier in substance, whereas the ones in Lodz have much wider variety but are lighter on the stomach. This indicates that the pastries perform very different functions. Whereas the pastries in Lodz are meant as snacks, the ones in Zagreb are meant as meals. Participant-observation might bear this out but it doesn't mean anything. It begs the question, why so few cakes?

Anyway, I would argue that visiting the local pekarna is a must. It promises to be ethnographically rich if we have the patience.

I like dumpster diving but it's not for everyone. I lived right next to a big 24/7 supermarket and the pickings were terribly slim. I'm not sure it's the best place for dumpster diving.

The farmer's markets are nice. I absolutely loved the blood oranges and clementines. Some days, I'd savour them in the gorgeous late winter sunlight and think, this is as good as life gets.

The Observatory

They're open most weekdays. Check their hours out here. The staff is wonderfully welcoming. I went twice, both on cloudy days so we couldn't see anything in the sky, and everyone else in the city was sensible enough not to come. Still, they led me up to the dome and the telescope, and I got to rotate the entire dome by the handle. The soundscape and the mechanical tactility of the gears were addictive.

Events

Events tend to be pretty low key compared to what I'm used to. So, if you're coming from larger cities, calibrate accordingly.

A local friend said journalists in culture contribute events to Divan. You can look for free events on it too. I never used it.

Pogon has events sometimes. I went for a film event once.

Museums

Zagreb has a lot of museums. I read somewhere it has the most museums per square metre in Europe. It's like anyone who wakes up one day with an idea for a museum goes and actually builds one. I didn't visit most of them.

The mushroom museum was lovely. Hundreds, or maybe thousands, of very well preserved mushrooms behind glass casing. The method of preservation is notable and, I think, does a better job than many other places. You should ask about it.

Admission fees seem quite arbitrary though. Online, some people say it's this amount, and other people say it's that amount, and some say it's free. When I entered, the proprietor said warmly, for you, it's free! And then he went back to showing his guests around. Try your luck. It's part of the charm, I suppose.

Noc Muzej happened over the period I was there so I visited the Archaeological Museum. It was interesting to see how they used secondary/high school kids as guides for this night, and that most of the objects were displayed in conventional museological ways, quite outside of any deeper sense of context. Can't be faulted though. It's not like they have a ton of cash like in more privileged Western European states.

Churches and cemetery

After a while in Europe, we visit these just because they're on the popular lists. Honestly becomes a bit of a chore, especially when we don't have a proper historian with us to pierce the similarity of their facades. Don't expect too much, unless this is your first time in Europe.

Botanic Gardens

Closed till 1 April. I left 30 March. I merely peered through the gates with forlorn eyes.

There's a decent-looking cafe nearby called Botaničar, at Trg Marka Marulića 6. Had some plants in it. Not a good substitute but oh well.

Art

I couldn't find much new media art in Zagreb. Mostly, people told me to visit Greta, which is a little gallery with a bar. It's a decent hang-out when I'd company, but it rarely displays new media art. There's another tiny place somewhere that displayed something incorporating a theme of biology and time but I've forgotten where it was. Didn't have much time to suss out the new media art scene.

Transport

When I was there a month ago, a 30-min ticket for bus and tram cost 4 Kuna, or 0.54 Euro. Zagreb is pretty small and most things happen in the centre. I could walk to most of the spaces of activity from the centre within 20 min. Radiona was a bit farther off, but still within a 30-min ambit from my home in Crnomerec.

Travelling

Flixbus was great within Western Europe, but when I wanted to go from Zagreb in Croatia to Banja Luka in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it cost twice as much as AKZ.

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