We’re exploring restaurants within walking distance these first few days in Zagreb. Our excursions have been to places my lovely wife remembered well, or at least thought she did.
It appears the entrepreneurial spirit is bubbling here with places opening and closing, businesses being bought and sold.
Monday night we ate with the new owner of a small pizzeria downstairs. He offered to help us order when it became obvious that the instructions we had received were insufficient for the occasion.
He ordered ‘the lady’s’ first request – but chose something ‘spicier’ for the ‘gentleman.’ Pride of product. Pizza with uniquely Croatian sausage. Yum.
Owner for little over a month, he was learning the ropes of his new gig, thinking about changes and additions. Appeared young, yet not his first place – his first was a bar when only 22. A serial entrepreneur. A veteran. Eighteen hour days were exhausting, expected, maybe cherished. His own thing.
I’m wandering knowing little more than ‘Hvala’ (thank you), and yet the people I meet are friendly, understanding, and outgoing.
This morning I was taught how to correctly purchase bananas and a tomato from the local grocer. “Teach?” you might think, kindly not mentioning your concerns aloud.
Reaching my tomato at the bottom of my basket, the checkout lady looked irritated (there was a long line) and asked something or other.
By something or other I believe I could roughly translate to “Why didn’t you do this right?”
I smiled, “English? Help?”
She laughed. Time was no longer an issue. She walked me to the scale where I should have weighed and labeled the produce. She did the tomato. I had to go back with the bananas myself, but immediately another shopper was helping me pull the label and push the buttons needed.
As there was a line I’d have expected grumbling. Instead smiles and hello. Pleasant.
Zagreb is a city that seems on the move.
During the flight over from London I conversed with a mechanical engineer who had left Croatia back in the 80s for D.C. and recently returned. He had missed the war and subsequent rebuilding and said the changes had been extraordinary, almost to the point of making the place unrecognizable. Scattered among conversation about the future of hydrogen power generation, business models, and places that we should not miss along the Adriatic, he mentioned that his countrymen were learning the ways of business quickly.
“But we know it is the United States that knows how to change the world with business. That is where we learn.”
Heady thought. Bit of a responsibility being an idea of opportunity, not just the place. Reminder that many in the world still look to the US, deficient as we may be, as the place where wonderful things can happen.
Last night fish was on the menu, a specialty here at a neighborhood favorite. Not be missed according to several.
We were there late, just before closing. A table of men off in one corner talking softly. A longer lasting date in another. White table cloths with private spaces created by small sails. Quiet. Romantic.
I’ve been last in to places before. Memories of being rushed.
Our waiter helped us decide. A nudge towards specialties and away from mistakes. There was pride when he presented each plate. Concern that we enjoyed, that we approved. Space to enjoy, take as long as we want. Fabulous close to the day.
And then the table across the room broke into song.
Wonderful, polished yet rustic tunes.
Years ago my good friend and I joined a barbershop quartet society. Breaking into song when we gathered became normal fun. Fond musical memories.
The fellowship was recognizable even if the melodies were not.
Funny how close to home one can feel when so far away.