A firm handshake, 1 second, 2 seconds. Eye contact. Straight. Sincere. Little blinking, every now and then. The coffee arrives on the table. The usual glass of cold water as well. You light a cigarette with a match. Inhale. Breathe out in the clear summer air. Sunglasses disturb your vision, do not use them. The book is almost over, you read it for weeks and weeks now. Clearly. It looks like being tossed around too often. You like that idea. Smile secretly. A smile. The most honest thing one has to offer. You take a sip of water, while letting the spoon find its way to the bottom of the coffee. A small pack of sugar accompanies your cup. Do not open it. Coffee wants to be pure. The cigarette in the ashtray keeps burning down. You take a hasty pull and start reading. Lose yourself in a book. Trams keep speeding by, so do people. You look up, once in a while. People change. Your coffee gets cold. You still drink it. Cold coffee: a metaphor for time leaps on rusty chairs in moments of pure alienation. Detached from notions.
Category Archives: Balkan
Bok! Daj me jedna bijela kava, molim.
That is how it all began. The wish for a normal coffee with milk. What I got was the invite to stay several hours, sip your coffee every now and then and just see “being”.
Drinking coffee in Zagreb has become a wonderful tradition of an almost daily routine, involving working on my thesis (wi-fi is widely spread), reading a book and continuously improving my language skills. But all this I could do back home in Germany too. Here, it is a different feeling….coffee. It means so much more.
My day starts with making a strong coffee in one of the Balkans (some might claim Turkish) cezve. Boiling water, adding some sugar, adding the coffee, letting it boil just another second. Taking it off the stove, letting it rest for a moment – truly the most authentic coffee I have every tasted. And yet I am far from mastering this technique.
Hence my frequent visits to decent cafés like Funk Club or Melin.
Some of the “best” poems I wrote in the past few weeks were created under the influence of strong coffee and comfy chairs, mixed with an unstoppable amount of inspirations walking the streets and, of course, cigarettes.
Now, there is a different connotation to living in a Slavic country, I really have to admit. I only been here for, what, 2 weeks and I already feel another wave of honesty that I am exploring. Of course, I have been familiar with the kind of kindness, openness and ease of living for many years, but I somehow could never fully accept and/or appreciate it. To little congruence with my own culture, my way of being and my style of communicating was visible and so I did what I was best at – I stuck to what I knew and what I felt at ease with.
After those 2 weeks in Zagreb, I can say I found 1 real friend yet. 2 weeks! Real friendship does not come easy to me and it normally takes quite a while before people make the transition from being a “close acquaintance” to becoming a friend. Not here. I felt accepted and liked by the people I met so far and despite my different upbringing and history, I am welcomed immediately, That 1 guy I consider a friend, he has a girlfriend. We talked twice, I told her about my study and what I have to work on while in Croatia and she, in an instant, told me, she would help me! I was perplex! I told her, I was. She stared at me with surprise and simply replied, “that’s what friends do”. 🙂 Wow!
I came here for a reason. I start to understand a culture that really should have been familiar to me by now. I will try to incorporate every inch of this culture. It means the world to me.
So far, I spent a bit over 50 hours in Zagreb, Croatia and thought, it definitely is time for a first statement:
I am so overly positively overwhelmed!!
To be honest, I haven’t really done anything here so far. I took 2 cabs to find my final destination (I get to that later) and did a bit of grocery shopping here and there, but for the most part of my 2 days, I spent them at my new, overly dusty, attic room a good 5km outside the city center. The room is…something else. Roughly 30qm I reckon, it is packed with dust and old broken furniture. Since I won’t be needed much, I simply dragged all those boxes in the one corner of the room I most likely never again will pass by, and set up my bed and desk close by the window. Now I use the bed, the desk and something that looks remotely like a cupboard to store my clothes. My 4 house mates seem to be pleasant companions, but I only met 2 so far. However, I explained my reasons for being here and instructed them (nicely) that within short time, I shall practice my Croatian language skills on them!
Back to my being overwhelmed. I have spent two weeks in Ljubljana, Slovenia over the past 4 1/2 years and the mentality I got to understand their seems to be much applicable to what I saw from Zagreb and its people so far. Every single person I talked to so far is so friendly. And it is an honest kind of friendly, the one that makes you want to just smile at strangers and talk about everything. My first cab driver asked me whether I am married and what brought me to Zagreb. He liked the reasons… 🙂 He continued telling me that Zagreb is a safe city with no harm for strangers. Just imagine a somewhat similar conversation with any (!) German cap driver, I dare you.
Okay, since I don’t want to reveal too many emotions at this first of many posts, here are two more things that I find worth mentioning:
a) The weather. I was told that the Balkan are in the middle of a severe snowstorm. I write these words on my shiny, -3°C cold balcony! It hit +7°C yesterday, so much of the snow has turned into brownish mud, but that is okay. It is very very slippery here, guess that compensates for missing out on the white beauty.
b) The burek. I tried 2 different places already. They were good, the one I had in Ljubljana in ’07 was better! Guess the first one is always the best and the most memorable.
Oh yeah, pictures. Next time… 🙂
For me and my true love, shall one day meet again!
I am off to Zagreb, Croatia in a few days. Purpose of this adventure, again, is my Uni, who kindly asks me to write a Bachelor-Thesis. Me, for I really really want to learn Croatian and explore the country and culture to its fullest found a superb placement, called “Expat Adria”, for whom I will conduct a communication needs assessment. I shall be looking forward to it. And, of course, I am very much looking forward to exploring a culture that means the world to me. I have this decent camera of mine that takes pictures (you don’t say!) and thus I expect the most of you here again, for images and stories! Stay tuned!