Croatian Obsessions

This afternoon I was talking to a Croatian colleague who’d just returned from Vienna–less than a 4 hour drive from here. Her boyfriend lives there so she goes often. She likes Vienna, but complained because there aren’t enough cafes.


So this brings me to a discussion of three of Croatia’s biggest obsessions. The country has other obsessions, too, like sports in general. The local men are particularly taken with dressing in track suits, as if they might at any time decide to participate in a competitive event. The manbags they also like to wear detract from that image, however. Croatians are passionate about wine and rakija (brandy), about local customs, about avoiding standing in line whenever possible (and scowling when they can’t avoid the lines). With good reason, they love to share their country. I’m thrilled to see the number of bookshops, too.

But three things all Croatians seem to love are shoes, bakeries, and cafe-bars (the kind that serve coffee and beer). Consider this view from my living room:

From left to right: clothing, bakery, shoes (mostly obscured by window frame), shoes, cafe (with another cafe 2 floors above it).

Now, I’m right in the center of the city, so my situation is a little extreme, But it’s no exaggeration to say that within a 2 block radius of my apartment are probably 15 shoe stores, 30 bakeries, and at least 100 cafes.

Shoes, bakeries, cafes. I bet Zagreb has more of those per capita than anyplace on earth. And probably one of the reasons I love Zagreb so much is that I’m awfully fond of those three things myself.

What are your local obsessions?

News and Zagreb

I have arrived in Zagreb, so now Blogger insists on speaking to me in Croatian instead of Polish. Luckily for me, I’m better at not speaking Croatian than I am at not speaking Polish. In fact, today I got through my entire day–grocery shopping, my favorite bakery, buying tram tickets, ordering espresso at a cafe–without a word of English. Croatians are very patient with my rudimentary attempts at their language. The problem is that once I say a few opening phrases in Croatian they assume I can understand more, which I rarely can.

So first some news.

My new novella, Housekeeping, releases November 13. Paul Richmond did a stunning job on the American Gothic-inspired cover. You can preorder now.

In other news, Elisa Rolle is having a treasure hunt to celebrate the 7th anniversary of the Rainbow Awards. There are tons of books as prizes, including my Brute. Here’s the link:

So now some pictures of one of my favorite cities, Zagreb. This is my 4th visit. A couple years ago, I lived here for 5 months. Look at the view from my current apartment:

That structure near the center of the picture is Dolac. The lower floor houses sellers of meat, bread, cheese, etc, and the upper level has produce and fish. It’s surrounded by cafes because Croatia has the most intense cafe culture I’ve ever seen.  That’s the cathedral in the background.

This less inspiring view of a courtyard is from my bedroom.  That green netting in the foreground is covering a deep and scary-looking hole. I’m not positive, but I suspect the thing in the middle might be a capped-off cistern.

My apartment came with a book called Flirting in Croatian. Here are some potentially useful pickup lines.

On All Saints Day, everyone catches a bus in front of the cathedral and rides to the city’s lone (and beautiful) cemetery. This line was a good quarter mile long. See that round tower on the left? It was part of the fortifications to protect the cathedral from the Turks. Which worked, but then an earthquake in 1880 did what the Turks couldn’t, and destroyed the cathedral. They rebuilt it much prettier, however.

You can see the constant stream of buses here. 

I was going to visit the cemetery, but the line dissuaded me. I decided my time was better spent here, in the main square, drinking espresso and enjoying the beautiful weather. That guy on the horse is Ban Jelacic, who governed Croatia during Austrio-Hungarian empire times. The statue itself has an interesting story–maybe I’ll share it on another day.