This morning I got a tour of Zagreb, and learned quite a bit about Croatia. The most important thing to know is that, much like the UK, Croatia has several different sub-divisions, each with their own culture and traditions. It is also, of course, on the edge of the Balkans, which brings a whole new level of intensity to ethnic difference.
Here’s an example. The Croatian that you are most likely to have heard of is Nikola Tesla. Although he lived much of his life in America, he was born here. But ethnically he is Serbian, and Serbs are not terribly popular here right now. And for that matter, when he was born, all of this part of the world was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It’s complicated.
While Croatia’s recent history is bound up with the Balkan conflicts following the break-up of Yugoslavia, political issues are still affected by the Second World War. The Croatian government sided with the Axis powers. Many Croats fought against the Fascists as part of the Partisans. Then there was Communism. Steering a path of being anti-Fascist without being seen as pro-Communist, or vice-versa, is not easy.
Then there is the Church. Croatia is a Catholic country. Under Communism the church was stripped of much of its power, and land was confiscated. Now much of this has been given back. A major political issue appears to be the imposition of (pro-Catholic) religious education in schools.
While there is clearly a lot of spirited political debate, what I’ve seen here is a thriving capital city with some beautiful old buildings and lots of tourists. I wish I had time to get out to the coast as it looks gorgeous from the promo films. There are a couple of things I noticed that have a more sfnal tinge to them.
The first is the solar system model. In the center of the city there is a large globe representing the Sun. It is about 4 foot across. Scattered around the city, to scale in both size and distance from the Sun, are representations of other planets. I didn’t get to see all of them, but there will be photos.
Also, on our way back to the car park after wandering around the market, my guide, Goran, got his phone out. He’d realized that we were running out of time on the parking, so he called up the garage on his phone and bought a 15 minute extension. I don’t have a car, so I don’t know if such things are common these days. I guess they may be. But Goran told me that the system in Zagreb was ten years old, which is impressive.
More tomorrow. Now I have to get to the con for some initial panels and the Opening Ceremonies.