I’ve been in Zagreb for almost two weeks, but it seems like much longer. I’ve moved in with Lela, who is works for the Ministry of Culture. We’ve talked about everything from politics to cooking (neither of us are very good at it) and Lela is convinced it’s better to be in Europe for artistic people (« the government supports art here »). I feel at home in Zagreb, and it feels good to have an address.
Getting off the bus from Pula every couple hours to stretch my legs, I noticed the air getting colder and colder. Once I arrived in Zagreb, I was afraid the city would skip my favorite season and head straight into winter. The temperature hovered around 12 degrees Celsius. I made plans to buy wool socks and caught a cold almost immediately. After a few days in bed making myself powdered soup and convincing myself whiskey was helping my sore throat, I recovered, as did the weather. Croatian Independence Day was Tuesday, and it was gorgeous. I spent it wandering around with my camera taking surreptitious shots of Croats (this is my film camera, so I’ll only see the pictures when I get back to the states). There were baton twirlers at the Jelačic statue in the Trg (this improbable word means « square »). Lela was excited to be off work for the holiday, and organized a major cleaning operation.
Margot wrote about her time in Zagreb as a lot of coffee and conversation; I laughed when I read her post because that’s exactly how I feel. Coffee is cheap and delicious here, and as much of an afternoon institution as tea is in England. I have borrowed Margot’s friend Toni, and we meet most days for coffee and a few hours of conversation. I’ve learned how to make espresso at home with the tall, little kettle but usually go out instead. I’m at Booksa now, a coffeeshop/ literary venue near the apartment. It has public books on shelves all around the room, which reminds me of a tea shop in my hometown. There’s a small English-language section of mostly thrillers, although I also see a shiny box set of the Twilight books. My first day at Booksa I read an entire Agatha Christie novel (The Big Four) because I had so missed the experience of actually reading a book. I brought only five, three poetry books, one essay collection, and one novel. It seems silly, but I’ve realized I’m rationing them.
I wear the same thing every day, but somehow don’t mind. I think I’m dressed far more French than Croatian– lots of grey and black, but at least everything matches everything else. I’ve started wearing makeup again. As Catherine put it, the Sarah in Croatia reapplies lipstick. People in Zagreb are definitely more fashion-conscious than on the coast; I missed the « it » crowd of the high season, and saw mostly comfortably-dressed locals and practically-dressed travelers my first two weeks. Here it’s different. I’ve window-shopped near the main square, and am struck by how many Croatians I see doing the same thing. People here spend money to look smart. Women wear heels and leather jackets. Waiting for the tram near Toni’s university yesterday, I saw a girl looking aloofly elegant in a cloak.
I’ve got a couple leads on a violin, and have found a Croatian tutor! We’re going to start this week, so hopefully I will soon be able to say more than my hodgepodge of words: coffee, beer, thank you, good afternoon, bus station, excuse me, lizard, and cicada. Lizard I know because a cannon was named « the lizard » in Dubrovnik; cicada I know because there’s a famous Croatian poem titled « Cvrčak » that is peskily untranslatable because of the obvious onomatopoeia. I say « cvrčak » every chance I get, flipping my tongue like you never get to do in English or French, muttering it under my breath as I walk home from the Pekarna with today’s bread.