Capital of boredom

U2 gave two concerts this week in Zagreb. It was the biggest event in a decade as famous artists usually shun Zagreb. Tens of thousands of tourists came to Zagreb. It was unusual to see the streets teeming with foreigners, because Zagreb is not a tourist destination and many Croats spend the summer on the coast.
After two tumultuous days, Zagreb is as it always is in summer. Hot, empty, boring. Zagreb missed a great change to show itself to so many visitors. Truckloads of wealthy U2 fans couldn't change euro for kuna because the exchange offices were closed. So were most pubs, restaurants and clubs. A foreign visitor with an empty stomach said sarcastically on TV: "Zagreb is very lively in the morning, but dead at night. There's no night life here."
When Zagreb was chosen as one of Europe's most boring destinations last year, Zagreb's tourist organization vehemently protested. But thousands of visitors can't be wrong. Zagreb is the capital of boredom. Shopping centers are small and you can get most things cheaper in Slovenia or Austria. Museums are small, poorly equipped and they close their doors in the weekend at 1 PM. There are no grand parks, the Sava river (banks) and the ugly bridges that span it are depressive. The ropeway to Sljeme (the 1033 meter high mountain at the foot of which Zagreb is built) have been out of order for years now. All Subway sandwich bars will close down. There is no underground. The public library has only a handful of English books. Graffiti is all over the place.
Maybe I am too harsh. I do love Zagreb in a way, although it's a bit boring, provincial and small. What really annoys me is endless nonsense about Zagreb as a "modern European metropolis". "U2's concerts prove Zagreb is a true European metropolis," I heard someone say. Give me a break. Saying that proves Zagreb is a provincial backwater. U2 don't perform in Munich, Hamburg, Rotterdam, Marseilles, Rome and Madrid, but no self-respecting person living there wonders if there domicile is still a European city.
Enough criticism for now. I just returned from the coast. Only a two hours' drive from Zagreb you'll find another world. Palm trees, olive trees, pebble beaches, a cool breeze, rocks, blue water, fish...

12 reacties:

Meryam said...

Man o man! I was planning to visit Zagreb next year and now I am determined to go there ;-)
I am not interested in the night life, I change my euros at the airport and apparently it is a quiet town! Sounds ideal to me.
I read Kaplan's book "Balkan ghosts" and he describes Zagreb as a beautiful but grey city with very little colour. His advise is: visit the town on a grey rainy day...

pozdrav, Meryam, keep up the spirit Boris!

Boris Levalle said...

Interesting to see that my post actually motived somebody to come to Zagreb! I think I simply was a bit depressed after some nice days on the seaside... Zagreb is not that bad after all. Exchange offices are all over the place and there's an amazing amount of ATM's in Zagreb, so you don't have to worry about kuna's.
I completely disagree with Kaplan. A sunny day in April of May is the best. The old trees in the stately Zrinjevac square/park are green and the many flowerbeds are in full bloom. The picture I used in the previous post shows Zrinjevac in spring.
Whenever you come, Zagreb will welcome you. I hope this makes up for my earlier criticism :-)

Meryam said...

Ah! a post-holiday-dip...

Kaplan's visit was in autumn: a thick layer of wet leaves and a drizzle. I am planning september 2010, still far, away but I like daydreaming.

A little ;-)

Boris Levalle said...

September is nice too, as temperatures should be lower.
If you want to read more about Zagreb, Belgrade, and what they think of each other, I can recommend Brian Hall's The Impossible Country. Insightful and very funny too.

Anonymous said...

i don't know about boris. but all my friends who were born in zagreb love it most when it's in a thick, dense fog.

zagreb has the mentality of a small provincial town. a little vienna. but during the day it feels like a big city because people are either a) slacking off at work or b) unemployed, but dressed like they are slacking off at work.

there some lovely things to do in zagreb. but 3 days is more than enough time to be there as a tourist. better not to be there on a sunday.

Meryam said...

Anonymous, are you serious about the three days? I was planning a week... Last year I was in Tallinn: charming but very smal. I 2 days i had seen it all (twice!).
And why not sunday: is it too crowded then? Because of mass? I like churchbells, the more, the better

Meryam said...

I took a risk in deciding to buy Brial Hall (bad experience in taking advice of a nice cvolleague) but alas: the bookstore told me they can't deliver anymore. A book from the nineties is already considered old...

But I am reading a classic. Rebecca West: Black lamb and grey falcon : the record of a journey through Yugoslavia in 1937.
Insightful and funny too (the last mainly because a horrible German woman travels along with her) but of course 70 years old.

Boris Levalle said...

@Anonymous
Your friends show a peculiar love for Zagreb. It's rarely foggy here, by the way, a least by North European standards.
I agree that 3 days is enough, unless you want to see every museum in town.

@Meryam
Impossible country is still widely available (second hand). Try here for example http://www.addall.com/

I have Rebecca West's book too, but I got stuck after a few hundred pages. It's time to give it another try :-)

Anonymous said...

my friends from zagreb are peculiar. that's why i like them. the foggy days in autumn and spring are their favorite days.

sunday is bad because there really is nothing to do. if you like going to mass then you might like it. it's a great day to travel somewhere else. i must admit however the markets on the edges of town are pretty awesome like in dubec.

you are enjoying rebecca west? i don't understand why that book is held in high regard. she dislikes croatia for all the wrong reasons. she really writes like a british colonist. better to read krleza or dubravka ugresic.

Meryam said...

hello anonymous,

We have different points of view
;-) I am not coming for the excitement (festivals, nightlife) and I like a quiet stroll, with or without churchbells, and walking in at mass and staying for some time. That is possible, right? In Holland it's not: they close the door!

I skipped the first chapter on Croatia by R. West and started reading about her journey in Serbia. I will read Croatia in my holiday.
Thanks for the advice: I found someting by Uğresić.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. But why tourists come in summer when people from tourist offices and exchange offices want to go on vacation? We are not prepared. Tourists, please come on a Saturday morning.

Daniel N. (Zagreb)

Meryam said...

Most people from rainy countries want sun sun sun! the hotter the better. (stupid, I think, but that's how it is) If you want to make money out if tourism you have to be prepared...
After september you can draw a breath of relief ;-)