"I am trying to check my habits of seeing, to counter them for the sake of greater freshness. I am trying to be unfamiliar with what I'm doing." - John Cage

Friday, June 26, 2009

June 22 - In Zagreb, Croatia

I awoke to rain falling over the red tile rooftops, and some intestinal trauma. Was it the glass of white wine at the Regent (that cost as much as my lunch) or the goulash? So I walked gently into the morning around the squares, sipped some tea, then some coffee. I visited the old Stone Gate. A massive fire centuries ago burned much of the city’s Cathedral to the Virgin Mary, except for one stone gate of the church. The wood carving of the Virgin Mary and her child was left untouched by flames. The gate is now its own cathedral and I walked through the gate into a small open air sacred space. In the darkness of suddenly leaving the sunlight for this L-shaped stone arch stood a woman selling candles, a few pews. Many people prayed in front of many burning candles by the wooden statue on the wall; sudden darkness and quiet of prayer. I passed through into the empty cobblestone square of St Mark’s Church. In the center of the square stood a large painted egg of Croatian art, about five feet tall. And strangely, the couple on the bus I met going to Dubrovnak days later had a picture of me standing by the egg, only I was hidden by the egg so you couldn’t see me. They swore I was in the picture.

I walked for hours through the city. From the churches, I walked to the funicular tram in the center of town. Then down a narrow alley with a small open air theatre and bars within the trees and graffiti on the walls. Everywhere, tags. In one park a sphinx had purple eye shadow and lipstick painted on its face. I wandered uphill into a park and deep trees. Many dogs being walked. Dogs are given a respectful citizenship in this country. Hours of walking through park trails, old roots, fountains and iron sculptures in the park plazas.

Finally made it back to ride the tram, all 50 feet, up to old town again. It was a Monday, the day all museums are closed, and a holiday at that. It was the day Croatia began fighting against the Fascists in WW1. None of the shops were open. In the evening I walked the old streets filled with cafes and people lounging, socializing, drinking. That night from my window the city sounded like a wedding party, as if everyone knew each other and was talking together. The noise was congruous. There was no city noise of buses, cars, sirens. Only the loud happy talk of many people in the same conversation all across the city.