My eating habits have become more eccentric than usual the last few days. Today I have consumed nothing but 5 espressos and 2 cheese strudels. I do have a cheese and tomato sandwich waiting for me, though, so I may actually ingest something besides caffeine and sugar eventually.
Also, I think Zagreb loves me because for the second time this week, the rain didn’t begin to fall until 15 minutes after I’d returned to my hotel room.
This visit has reminded me of some of the local cultural quirks: people here suck at waiting, drive like they’re in a race (Mario Andretti was born in Istria), and have a rather southern European attitude toward time management. And speaking of southern Europe, the bureaucracy tends to be a charming mixture of post-communist officiousness and southern European don’t-give-a-damn.
On the other hand, Croatians are exceptionally gracious, eager to share information and opinions, and incredibly well-versed on US politics and culture (whereas most Americans couldn’t find Croatia on a map). Not only are Croatians extremely forgiving about foreigners’ inability to speak the language (Croatians don’t expect anyone else to speak Croatian), but they’ll often apologize for their quite good English, and are genuinely pleased when I make the effort to use my extremely limited Croatian vocabulary.
Croatian waiters are hard-working. They’ll take your order immediately and bring your stuff right away, and truly don’t care if you sit there all day after buying a $1.75 espresso. They’re also very gifted at avoiding eye contact when you want to pay, so you might have to sit there all day.
Tonight I walked back from a conference–about a mile–after dark by myself, something I’d hesitate to do back home. Actually, I live in California where nobody ever walks anyway. I passed 5 bookstores on my way (and I know of 5 others I passed within a block of). Back home, ever since Borders went out of business we’ve had the crappy university bookstore and one used bookstore, and that’s it.
Zagreb is a terrific walking city anyway. Look, here’s St. Marks church: