The former Yugoslavia had a huge record industry, and Zagreb companies such as Jugoton and Suzy were at the heart of it. Labels like these unleashed an awful lot of domestic product, but also released the best of western rock and pop. As a consequence, the supply of old vinyl in Zagreb is plentiful and varied. Pride of place goes to the local rock-pop scene of the 1980s, when post-punk and electro-pop ruled the roost. There is also an awful lot of ethnic music and Roma brass bands. Former Yugoslav and Italian pressings of western hits can also be found in abundance, providing rack upon rack of rarities that have not entirely been picked clean by the collectors. Whether it's a sixties-era Elvis single in the original sleeve, or a rare slice of electro-funk from the 1980s, there’s always a surprise lurking beyond the next flick of your browsing finger.
The cult second-hand shops with well-filed stock and knowledgeable, friendly staff are relatively easy to pick out. Nearest to the centre is Dobar Zvuk (C-3, Preradovićeva 24), with crates of LPs and CDs in a converted courtyard garage. The other obligatory ports of call on the vinyl trail are the charmingly Tardis-like Roxy (I-3, Savska cesta 34, www.cdshop-roxy.com), the rambling jungle of black plastic that is Free Bird (I-3, Tratinska 30, www.freebird.hr), and the neat, well-labelled specialist collector’s favourite, Karma Vinyl (H-3, ul. Podgorska 3, www.karmavinil.com).
The Britanski trg Sunday bric-a-brac market has a few vinyl stalls, although prices here have been notched up as a consequence of the market’s growing popularity with locals and tourists. The twice-weekly flea market at Hrelić on Zagreb’s southeastern outskirts is a better hunting ground for real bargains, but if only if you have the time and patience to sort through it. The unsorted junk that is laid out on the ground by sellers takes an age to sift through, and you often end up buying something you don’t really want simply to justify the time you spent getting here.
The popularity of vinyl as a format is also reflected in the choice of stuff that’s available in Zagreb’s high-street record shops. Dancing Bear (B-2, Gundulićeva 7, www.dancingbear.hr), which is a pioneering record label as well as the best of the mainstream music stores, carries a particularly good range of new albums and rereleased classics on vinyl. A lot of Croatian bands, especially the indie-oriented ones, are specifically opting to release new albums on vinyl because it is the only way of offering a collectable product that is more desirable than a simple digital download. Indeed it would be true to say that contemporary Croatian indie albums that are not released on vinyl are not regarded as artistically significant - a strange turnaround from the download-happy world of 10 years ago.
The most significant event on the vinyl hunter’s calendar is the Record and Cartoon-Strip Fair held at the Močvara club (www.mochvara.hr) every two months or so. Not only do the main second-hand shops mentioned above come here to flount their wares; there are also plenty of stalls for private dealers who don’t actually have a shop of their own. These record fairs are a popular social event, providing fans with a chance to chat about their latest acquisitions. It’s also a dangerously tempting invitation to spend money; the longer you spend here, the more seriously you need to worry about your baggage allowance before flying home.