An Illustrated History of Slavic Misery: Zagreb

Posted on May 2, 2013


Sad Building #35412

Sad Building #35412

Amongst former Yugo-towns, Zagreb has got a pretty decent reputation. Whilst certainly not grabbing the headlines and tour buses as much as Dubrovnik or Split, it has definitely formed a reputation of being a great Central European city, leaning towards the west as opposed to the east. Croatia has been this way for much of its history of course, spending far more time in the Germanic sphere of political influence than anything from the east. The centre of Zagreb is typically glorious. The architecture is varied, almost spanning the breadth of central european architectural history. There is the usual big main square, complete with a statue of Ban Jelacic, the man who pushed for Croatian independence from Hungary. The beautiful people stroll around, sit in the cafes, striding elegantly and doing what people do in Milan, in Munich and in Vienna. The centre of Zagreb has shed its communist shell, leaving modernity and, well, a very European feeling.

As we drove out to the airport to pick up the fabulous Casey Gillespie last night, the crack in this veneer began to peek out. To put it mildly, once you leave the pulsing European heart of Zagreb, Slavic Misery abounds, and it abounds heftily. The freeway around the town is swamped in Slavic Misery Concrete Towers, a land where Brutalism is king sitting on a dilapidated throne surrounded by sad. Everything is literally dwarfed by cement. Of course, Zagreb is by no means on its own here, my beloved Belgrade has a similar existence. However, unlike Belgrade where the concrete is still frequently used and is just purely ugly, the blocks outside of Zagreb are dying. These are huge concrete cadavers of a nations past.

We saw plenty of it as we got horrifically lost on the way back in. I would dare to say we traversed the entire city, getting more and more frustrated, as one is wont to do when lost. Our mood was briefly lightened with a long legged hedgehog on the big road (Hey there little buddy!), but needless to say we got back to the apartment and pivo was required. Pivo was achieved. The thunder and lightning capped off a pretty interesting day in the most boring sense. Or is that a pretty boring day in the most interesting sense? Thats without even mentioning the cevapcici, the drina, the hostel in Kranj or the now multi-daily viewing of a King Diamond video. Bitches and bread.

[Just to clarify something. When I refer to Slavic Misery, I don’t speak of it in a condescending, depressing and negative way. Where as some people abhor it, seeing the concrete and history warms my heart more than most things. I genuinely love it.)