1.Near three years since I ended up in this side of the Balkans. Why I came here, feels less important as each day goes by. It was somewhere, and I needed somewhere. Living here as a foreigner makes for a lively experience, especially now some of the language flicks freely off my tongue.
The streets of Zagreb weave and wave through whisks of different ages, linked together through the fabric of the city. Austro-Hungaria stretches it’s way through Yugoslavic flows to medieval Europe. With only glimmers of the shining glass age, she is yet to make her full appearance.
Sunshine reverberates with the easy warmth of the Mediterranean, the shadows blow cold winds from the heart of a Balkan Winter. A country that is always tense with itself, subsidising everyday with rakija and cevapi.
2.These streets under my feet are playing Zagreb’s unique beats. Where a building of poised grace stands next to a shanty shadow of glory, ready to collapse under misery and degradation. Zagreb’s going through puberty, and oh my, she’s going to be quite a dame when she’s older.
I stopped judging her, teenage years ain’t easy..
Sljeme marks an unknown promised land. One week, the Summer Sun burns all day along, the next two, a gentle drizzle nuzzles. Crystal waters of pure blue, linger so close to her borders. Water that soothes after a hard labour, and air that has the same essence of freshly baked bread on a cold Winter morning.
I find she is neither Balkans, nor of a former empire.
Neither East, nor West.
She is just Zagreb.
3.It’s the first day of Summer, and the city is opening up in all her glory. Sunshine bakes her streets to a basking warmth, cafes hustle and a-bustle with people and bikes crawl out of hibernation to reclaim the sidewalk. Austro-Hungarian parks come to life with gentle Western affections, whilst the forest of Maksimir roars with life and Jarun’s lakes shine ever more brightly each day.
In Zagreb, there are four seasons, each brings a new energy to the city. What she is in Winter, is not who she is when Summer comes. Blacks and greys give ways to colourful patterns on the streets, and sunglass tinted smiles grow on every corner. Iced windows are flung open so that the buildings may finally breath the fresh air, at least, for a while.
4.The days shimmer with heat mirages. The Sun, opening itself to the full might, turns this city into a walk-in oven. Heat lingers around every corner. Shadow is permeated with warmth. Strolling down the street, one can find only a moments breeze gushing from a basement window of the old empire’s buildings. River Sava slows to a drudging pace as water is sucked into the air.
Though there is a stirring in the north. Clouds make their way over the mountain Slijeme, creeping to the great plains of Zagreb and wind slowly starts rustle the leaves, a silent chant of the rain to come.
Nothing prepares one for the change that occurs between Spring and Summer in Zagreb. With the Celsius reaching numbers that could be a normal day in Southern Africa, yet only a month ago, rain and cold were still common place.
Though this city is not designed for such swelter, she still takes it. Year after year, braving the Sun with a relentless will to survive. For the core of this city, is an invincible will to live. So the rays of burning light may fade her buildings, crack her structures and steal her water. To her, it does not matter. For Zagreb will never give in.