It has been something of an eventful year in the Croatian capital, what with pandemic lockdowns, earthquakes, and much talk about what the future holds for a changing city. Some things have changed in Zagreb, some things have kept on going: here are our reflections on five contemporary phenomena affecting the face of the city.
Outdoor exhibitionsMuseum and gallery closures due to Covid-19 restrictions and earthquake damage meant that more art took place on the streets than behind closed doors. There has also been a renewed focus on outdoor exhibitions in general, and the way in which the city itself can function as a cultural space. Initiatives such as Street Triptych, which invites street artists to cover vacant spaces in the city centre, have signalled a new appreciation of street murals and the people who paint them. Among key cultural institutions, the Art Pavilion has responded to the need for post-earthquake repairs by organizing sculpture exhibitions outside the gallery (July 20 - Sept 9: The Art Cycle in front of the Art Pavilion Kažimir Hraste / 1901 - 1907).From April 2021 exhibitions have been taking place on the café-lined Cvijetni trg, right in the middle of the city-centre pedestrian precinct, thanks to solar-powered panels that are able to display work in a way that is far better than simply putting posters on open-air display boards. With initial exhibitions devoted to landscapes and cultures of particular regions or countries, it’s almost like an outdoor illustrated encyclopedia: a great place to enjoy great photography and learn something at the same time.
Parks are the new promenadesZagrebians have always been fond of parklife – and there’s no doubt that the events of the last year have made the city’s green spaces more important. Not only were they a place to escape the physical restrictions of lockdowns or fears of tremors – they were also the perfect places in which to soothe way the stress of being an urban dweller in an age when urban life suddenly became more complicated. Maksimir, the vast expanse of landscaped lawns, lakes and woodland 3km east of the centre, is now more popular than ever. The same can be said of Bundek, the lakeside park south of the river; the walking and cycling tracks along the Sava river embankment; or the slopes of Medvednica, the mountain that looms above the city to the north. Indeed if someone without prior knowledge of Zagreb was to start writing a guidebook to the city from scratch in 2021, they would probably start with the parks rather than the museums and the churches; it’s in the parks that the life and soul of the city is to be found. Check pages xxx for the Green Oases tips and recommendations in Zagreb.
Zagreb has a new-old art museumDespite being stacked full of nineteenth- and twentieth-century masterpieces, Zagreb’s Modern Gallery was always misunderstood, overshadowed in the public mind by other art collections in the city. People knew it was an art gallery, but didn’t realize how crucial a component of the nation’s artistic heritage it actually was. A subtle change of name and a significant re-hang of the contents has sharpened the picture. Now rebranded as the National Museum of Modern Art, it serves as the perfect showcase for Croatia’s emergence as a cultural power, and makes for essential viewing for anyone intending to visit the (somewhat better known) Contemporary Art Museum on the south side of the river.
Croatia’s much vaunted coffee-drinking culture has, in a way, come to the nation’s rescue. Throughout much of the pandemic period café terraces have been open, even if the interiors have not. Morning coffees have become even more important daily rituals, to be appreciated and savoured in quiet defiance of bad news elsewhere. During strict lockdown periods residents bought takeaway coffees from vending machines or places that were permitted to sell hot drinks, and collected, discreetly, on the streets where they would normally sit at a café table. Zagreb was actually a comforting place to be throughout much of 2020, an outdoor city that took things in its stride.The list of all coffee places in Zagreb certainly cannot fit on these pages. Find our recommendations on pages XX
Relax, this is Croatia
All levels of Zagreb cultural life have suffered enormously as a result of covid-19 and the earthquake, However one alternative club has continued to provide its regular public with a cultural diet throughout all stages of the pandemic, while scrupulously adhering to any regulations imposed. Currently celebrating its 22nd year in operation, Močvara (The Swamp) navigated the first lockdown by broadcasting (via its social media pages) concerts performed by the city’s indie musicians in their own homes. After the tentative re-openings of late spring 2020, the club organized concerts, film nights and other cultural events by strictly controlling numbers and insisting on advance reservations. The club kept going through the winter of 2020-21 by constantly revising its seating policies in line with the latest regulations. Through improvisational agility and the understanding of its fans, Močvara ensured a measure of continuity in a sphere of culture that has always been in Zagreb’s blood.
Welcome to the Swamp
Make a note of these dates: July 27: Source of Sound: Chant Electronique (CRO, IRL,RA,FRA,P), July 28: Jazz in the Swamp: Colors and Shapes (ZG), July 30: The Enchanted Swamp: A Girl and a Boy (ZG), Aug 8: Source of Sound: Maria Mazzotta (I) and Aug 12: Meszecsinka (HU), Aug 18: Music Quiz, Aug 19 & Sept 1: Jazz in the Swamp:Gungula (ZG), Aug 21: Zea (NL), Aug 22: Swamp Aura:Chill in the Swamp, Aug 23: Source:34’0 (BG), Aug 31: Detective Jones (ZG), Sept 4 : Support the Scene:Ectratis (ZG), Sept 7: Film Evening, Aug 9: Indie Emo Glasses: DDR (ZG), Corridor (ZG), Sept 9: Mirna & The Fact Checkers (ZG), Sept 9: Tv Eye (ZG), Sept 13 & 27, Oct 25: Literature in the Swamp, Sept 14: Be ha Ve (ZG), Sept 15: Jazz in the Swamp: Bruno Mičetić Quintet (RI/ZG), Sept 17: Pale Origins (ZG), Sept 18: E.N.D. (ZD), Sept 19: Telepathic International Group-T.I.G. (DK), Sept 20: Terminator (ZG), Sept 21: Turbine - Turbo Tribune, Sept 22: TTI-21 (ZG), Sept 23: Detroit Groove Gang (ZG), Sept 24 & Oct 22 : Jazz in the Swamp: Sunrise Sessions (ZG), Sept 25: Fantasy Night in The Swamp: Second Breakfast (ZG), Sept 26: Source of Sound: Written Deer (ZG), Sept 29 & 30: Improfest, Oct 5 & Nov 2: Film Evenings, Oct 9: Lit Link Festival, Oct 10: Handicrafts Fair, Oct 15: Erotic Biljan Heretics (ZG), Oct 24: Bug (A), Oct 28, Skotni vrag (CRO), Oct 30: Dodger Artfool & The Viperes (CRO), Nov 7: Source of Sound: Monsieur Doumani (CY)