Spica in Zagreb

Have you preordered Housekeeping yet? It releases in 4 days. To celebrate, there will be a tweetaway very soon. You should follow @dreamspinners on Twitter right away and keep your eyes open, especially if you’re in a European time zone (or you’re a nightowl or early bird in the USA).

Roughly 800,000 people live in Zagreb. On Saturday mornings, nearly every one of those people converges on a few square blocks in the center of the city for a ritual called spica (pronounced shpeetzah). The ritual requires that you shop at dolac, the big greenmarket, and meet your friends at one of the zillion cafes for coffee. You will dress up for this, and possibly get your hair done as well. You might also do some shopping for clothes, shoes, or whatever catches your eyes in the stores. You will probably hang out at the main square, taking part in whatever festival is going on or maybe just waiting for your tram. Then you go home and have a big midafternoon lunch with your whole family.

I live right smack in the middle of this. I wish I could convey with words the crowds and bustle, the way people chat with their usual purveyors at the market, the rumble of ten thousand conversations going on at once, the calls of friends greeting each other. There is no equivalent to this in the US, and I haven’t seen the like elsewhere in Europe. I imagine it’s a much larger version of what market days must have been like in medieval times.

 I have some photos from this morning. You can click on them to see them big.

Here you see the  flower sellers. That’s my building on the left. My door is between two of those pillars.

And here’s a corner of dolac. Today I bought a kilo of apples for 4 kuna (70 US cents), and also a kilo of potatoes for 4 kuna. And a large bottle of homegrown honey for 20 kuna. I managed everything in Croatian. The people selling the stuff are the people who grew it, and they always have a pleasant smile for their customers.

Looking down the stairs from the upper level of dolac, past the flower sellers, to the main square. You can see a blue tram in the background. Again, the tall grayish building on the right is mine. Look at those crowds! They’re nonstop from early morning until 2ish on Saturdays.

The main square.  Nominally, the booths are set up in celebration of St. Martin’s Day. But really they’re an excuse to have an event in the square. There’s a stage on the right, where children were doing folk dancing. You can see some adults in traditional costumes waiting their turn. I think folk dancing is a popular thing here. I see it a lot.

This is about a block from the main square. It’s the sun. Several years ago an artist made planets to go with it. He scattered his planets around town, each of them at the appropriate distance–to scale–from the sun. So Pluto is way out in the suburbs somewhere (it was still a planet then). He didn’t tell anyone where he’d put them, so for months there was a sort of city-wide scavenger hunt as people searched for planets.

When we lived here 2 years ago, this was my daughter’s favorite cafe. They have very good ice cream.

This is Flower Square, one of the main places to meet for coffee. That’s the Eastern Orthodox church on the right. (Over 90% of Croatians are Catholics, but there are a few Eastern Orthodox, Muslims, and Jews.)

Another shot of Flower Square. Thousands of cafe tables, and every one of them is occupied.

 Saturday is also a good day to gather petitions or, if you’re a Hari Krishna, have a parade. I caught this photo from my window right after I got home.

Spica is one of the many things I miss about Zagreb when I’m not here.

3 thoughts on “Spica in Zagreb”

  1. I love hearing about (and seeing photos of) spica–what a great weekly tradition! But I’m exceptionally enamored by the idea of a scavenger hunt for the solar system! That’s a very intriguing artistic concept.

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