Shame on you Mayor of Zagreb Milan Bandic

Milan Bandic, Mayor of Zagreb,
and fountain dedicated to Josip Broz Tito
Photo: Bruno Konjecic/Cropix

When it comes to unwanted or unwarranted national symbolism promoted or promulgated via monuments then Zagreb’s Mayor Milan Bandic takes the cake! But it’s a bitter and twisted cake that’s being shoved down the citizens’ throats! When it comes to Zagreb, Bandic continues to place priorities on historic monuments that attempt to uplift the communist era rather than focusing on the absolute essentials of decent living – such as access to public buildings and facilities (if not private) for people with disabilities. He spends obscene amounts of money to raise monuments, fountains etc. dedicated to the memory of the very former communist Yugoslavia regime, which majority of voters fought to get out of in the early 1990’s and the Croatian Homeland War.

So, Bandic has been the Mayor of Zagreb since 2005 and yet wheelchair-bound people are still unable to independently access the cable-car that takes one from city centre to the old city precinct, for example. No disability access ramp to this important city venue that facilitates quick independent access to important places such as government building, the parliament etc. for people with severe physical disabilities. Access to public facilities for people with disabilities in Zagreb, in Croatia, is a picture of neglect and careless disregard. I won’t even go into the many desperate needs in the city of Zagreb for the fixing and refurbishment of public buildings and roads that are a lifeline to its inhabitants. But, Bandic is spending exorbitant amounts of taxpayer money to raise monuments to figures from the communist Yugoslavia era! No surprises here from a former communist but plenty from the lack of force to stop this sinister madness.

Shame on you, Mayor of Zagreb, Milan Bandic.

Zagreb cable-car
No disability access!

Ever since the renaming of the most beautiful Zagreb square from Josip Broz Tito to Republic of Croatia square in August/September 2017 – championed by conservative side of political field in efforts to strip away the symbols of the murderous communist Yugoslavia regime – Bandic has been busy fixing old communist monuments or raising new statues that take one back to that dark era for Croatia! It’s almost like Bandic is on a path of vendetta against people wanting to rid Croatia of the communist mindset! In October 2017 he raised a bust of WWII prominent communist Ivo Lola Ribar but not without loud protests from many citizens and politicians. On Friday 8 June2018 he unveiled a refurbished fountain dedicated to communist Yugoslavia leader Josip Broz Tito, costing the taxpayer some 95,000 euro!

While Bandic has on several occasions expressed his reasons for such monuments to communism as being celebrating antifascism, without which, he states, there would be no independent Croatia of today, the truth is that the communists he celebrates via these monuments were nothing more than thugs and murderers (of all those that opposed communism) who pretended to be allied to true antifascists.

It’s disappointing to see that there is not enough challenging of Bandic’s narrative through public monuments of Croatia’s past since 1941; he pushes the narrative Croatia must not allow itself to remember in the context Bandic is pushing. The narrative Croatia should pursue is that of respect to all victims, especially those of communist crimes; Croatia already has a monument to victims of the Holocaust but not to the victims of communist crimes. Bandic as Mayor of Zagreb should be raising monuments to the multitudes of victims of communism whose remains were found in mass graves even in recent months in the vicinity of his jurisdiction as Mayor. So, one wonders whom or what is propelling the acts of monument remembrance within the City of Zagreb Assembly, which, I gather, votes on budgets and plans!

Tributes and memorials don’t rise on their own as some dispassionate records of history. They are created by people making specific comments about their values. And the things a culture obscures or refuses to recognise say as much about its ideals as the things they do.

Croatia’s so-called antifascists, including Bandic, may go around saying that communist Yugoslavia movement during WWII freed the country from “fascism” and the comparisons between communism and fascism gets its skin depending from which standpoint one looks. But when facts are looked in the eye one only sees that communism was all about itself and not the people; it pursued purges on class and political grounds. It pursued the agenda of communist supremacy – not antifascist one; murdering, torturing, imprisoning, stealing of property to actively pursue the agenda of communist supremacy.

We are only too aware today that memorials and monuments – named buildings, streets, statues, historical markers – say a lot more about the people who erect them than the people they commemorate. Every historic site is in fact a story of two eras. It’s a story of what it’s about and it’s a story of when it went up and these days in Croatia, monuments to the communist era have nothing accurate to say; they obscure and hide the horrors of communist crimes. But, they do tell us accurately about the people that erect them. They do tell us that resistance to move Croatia away from oppressive and murderous communist ideology and mindset is fierce.

To tolerate the erection of communist era monuments says something really significant about the failure in Croatia to confront horrendous communist crimes against humanity and freedom. A society that can’t or won’t look at its full history will continue to make decisions based on inaccurate and incomplete information. This is the outlook for Croatia as it stands now! To highlight one facet of a legacy while rendering its others invisible, as Bandic is doing with his fountain dedicated to Tito, to mythologise at the expense of the truth, perpetrates the original injustice to the people and their reasons for having paid in blood the freedom from communist Yugoslavia they fought for in the 1990’s Homeland War, brought on by Serb aggression and Yugoslav People’s Army aggression.

Bandic’s moves with monuments to communist figures of the past do a terrible disservice to history, and to all Croatians who have to make sense of the present using the record of the past and the Homeland War. Ina Vukic

A Croatian Success Story

Ban J. Jelacic Square, Zagreb’s city centre main square


By Jonathan Bousfield, Timeout

The more popular Zagreb gets as a tourist destination, the more difficult it gets to describe it. Is it really a little Vienna? A cute cousin of Prague? A near-Mediterranean Manchester? Maybe it’s a sign of Zagreb’s ongoing success that labels like these no longer make any sense.

With its mixture of baroque beauty and nineteenth-century grit, Zagreb is, in any case, an unusual and unique hybrid, a northern European city warmed by the climate and the culture of the south. However, it’s not just this idiosyncratic mixture of northern soul and southern sunshine that has made the Croatian capital into such a favourite among visitors. Its tourist fortunes have been transformed by the kind of small-scale innovation and subtle change that has brought new vitality to the streets while leaving the historic fabric largely untouched. Zagreb’s booming bistro culture, constantly morphing nightlife scene and burgeoning cultural festivals have all, pretty much without exception, been tailored to suit the needs of the local public. The result is that odd thing that we are all looking for but very rarely find: a visitor-friendly city where the tourists feel like locals and the locals don’t feel displaced.

Zagreb, Croatia

Zagreb is in any case ideally suited to the contemporary city-breaker who prefers to drift through a city and feel its rhythm, rather than moving from one sight to another in the manner of their guidebook-toting forebears. Unusually for a modern European capital, the main outdoor food and flower market is still bang in the centre of town, right next to the main square; you’ll see shoppers with carrot tops and parsley leaves poking out of their bags stuffing themselves into waiting trams alongside the business suits and high-school kids. The cult of fresh food is in evidence wherever you go; stalls on street corners sell an ever-changing array of seasonal fruits and berries; while the main square itself is frequently pressed into service as the main venue for food fairs showcasing salamis, olive oils and other deli fare.

Zagreb, outdoor cafés

Food is absolutely central to the Zagreb experience and of there is one place where you can gorge yourself giddy on a culinary conveyer belt of Balkan grills, Adriatic seafood and Central European cakes, this is it. The last few years have seen Zagreb subjected to successive slow-food, bistro-food and street-food revolutions, all of which have left a profound mark on the look and feel of the city. Pavement terraces with parasols and decking are spilling out everywhere, filling hitherto untrodden courtyards and snaking their way along side streets, all of which has taken Zagreb’s sheer strollability to a whole new level. The artisanal emphasis on doing your own thing has turned the catering trade upside down, spawning boutique patisseries, boutique ice cream, boutique coffee, boutique burgers and, of course, boutique beer. Zagreb is one of those rare places in which international franchises have been squeezed out of the high street by people with smart ideas.

Exploring the city has more to do with experiencing the ambience than any actual sightseeing. The top attractions are public spaces such as piazzas, parks and the Grič Tunnel: a World War II air-raid shelter that was opened to the public for free rather than turned into a didactic attraction with captions and a souvenir shop. Equally quirky is the Art Park, a patch of waste ground right behind the main shopping street that was taken over by the city’s street artists and turned into al-fresco gallery-cum-garden party. Sashaying down the pedestrianized, café-lined strip of Tkalčićeva is almost like being at a seaside resort, with bars of every description and a constant procession of dressed-up promenaders subtly devouring each others’ gazes.

In Zagreb, Croatia

Zagreb is all about moving and mingling out of doors, something which is given full expression by a new breed of arts festival that uses outdoor locations and an informal, no-reservations-necessary approach. Prime examples include Design District Zagreb, which transforms the area around Martićeva into one big street party every June; and The Courtyards in July, which turns the historic backyards of the old town into pop-up concert and party spaces. One of the key reasons why the reinvention of outdoor festivals has been such a runaway success is the willingness of the local tourist board to work with local creatives, reimagining public spaces and working out new ways in which Zagreb people can enjoy them. With an events calendar packed with street-food festivals, open-air film screenings and summer concert seasons, the idea of the al-fresco arty party has become something of a Zagreb trademark.

Zagreb, St. Mark’s Square

Nowhere has this emphasis on outdoor moving and grooving made a bigger impact than during the Advent season. Zagreb’s hitherto rather humdrum Christmas market has in recent years been totally transformed by the tourist board and a coalition of innovative partners into a celebration of Zagreb’s creative side, with gourmet snacks, good wine and hand-crafted souvenirs doing battle with the customary pre-Christmas kitsch. With a host of outdoor stages and micro-parties on central parks and piazzas, there’s always a feeling that something different is waiting just around the corner.

Reply To German Journalist Who Found Zagreb Boring

Zagreb Croatia
Ban Jelacic Square

By Zoran Stupar/
(Translated into English – Ina Vukic)

Before you arrive in a city you’re visiting for the first time – whether it is London, Lisbon, Zagreb or Krapina – the first thing you do is to inform yourself about what to see in that city. Every city has its own attractions of which it is proud and which are interesting to a large number of people.

After you visit the attractions that interest you, you look for the places you want to see out of your personal preferences. Some football fans may go to the Arsenal or Chelsea stadium, lovers of sweets will visit the Lisbon Belem and consume some of the legendary pastel de nata, beer lovers will go to some of the many innovative Zagreb pubs that carry craft beer.

Craft beer pub in Zagreb

No matter how many cities you visit in your life, if you are a curious person (and if your visit there is of your own choosing), there is one thing that is common to all – it will not and it cannot be boring. Some will thrill you more, some less. In some your hands (and feet) will be full of 10-day work, in some 3 days. But not a single one will be boring for you.

The problem arises when a person does not enjoy discovering a new city, but someone (probably) forces him/her to. And then he/she writes an article about it; in one of the most read European media outlets to boot, the German Der Spiegel. That is what the Berlin journalist Anne Haeming, who described the capital city of Croatia, Zagreb, as a candidate for the title of the most boring city, did.

Dolac markets Zagreb Croatia

The commentators to her article, who were rather flabbergasted by her one-sided description of the city, offered the best replies to it, as it seemed she wrote the article in a state of depression in which everything appears gray (except the red sunbrellas at the Dolac city markets). Many commentators describe Zagreb as a lively and beautiful city, which has during past years blossomed in the tourism sense. Even if they are wrong, that Zagreb is not really anything special in tourism sense, it is impossible for a person not find a corner for himself/herself.

Does Ms Haeming like to drink a beer or coffee? Zagreb offers a vast choice of creative pubs and cafés that has grown so much in the past years that the culture of drinking coffee and beer in good company has become a social habit (at times attacked because of it) elevated to a higher level. If she was not in good company, there is no problem in befriending the happy visitors to Zagreb’s pubs, especially during the weekend evenings when one or more extra may get consumed. Tkalciceva Street may seem “overused” for people living in Zagreb but for tourists it is attractive and interesting.

Tkalciceva Street, Zagreb Croatia

Does Ms Haeming like outdoors? She went on an excursion to Medvednica all the way to Villa Rebar, the former villa of Ante Pavelic (more or less in an uninteresting ruinous state), and not to mention that she visited the very Sljeme, from which sprawls a beautiful view towards Zagorje, and where one can eat some fantastic bean soup. The marvelous Medvedgrad is in the vicinity, raised above the city, frequent motive for Zagreb’s photographers. A walk along Medvednica is a true enjoyment, whether you are a mountaineer or just an ordinary walker. If she really wanted to look at ruinous buildings on Medvednica a much better choice would have been the nearby Brestovac.

Nature Park Medvednica
Zagreb Croatia

View of Zagorje from Sljeme
Zagreb Croatia

The Berlin woman visited Hrelic, the huge Zagreb flea market, where she only saw things that made her feel shame because to someone these things appeared interesting to sell. If it’s not at least a bit funny to you when you see someone selling only a left shoe or when in the scorching summer month someone tries to sell you a pudding whose use by date expired a year ago, then definitely the problem is with you. If at Hrelic you don’t see a heap of picturesque faces, if you don’t hear a person singing “Sanader is building a new house and I am dying of hunger”, then you don’t see or hear well. If in that heap of things you don’t find at least one that you like, then you are in the wrong place – perhaps a visit to a designer clothes shop would be a better choice.

Hrelic flea market
Zagreb Croatia

If you visit Bundek and the only thing you see is an artificial low water level lake showing layers of gravel at the edges, and you don’t see heaps of people barbequing and having a wonderful time, how they cycle and roller skate, how they soak in the last rays of the sun before a long winter while sipping coffee, you don’t hear the screams of playful children, then it’s difficult to say that you are a talented travel writer. Because enjoying some city also implies a degree of interaction with its population even if that may be only observing people.

Bundek park
Zagreb Croatia

What else have we not mentioned? Well, quite a lot – Maksimir, Sunday change of the honorary guard of the Cravat Regiment at St Mark’s Square, which gives you goose pimples from excitement, excellent food…

Cravat Regiment
Zagreb Croatia

Cravat Regiment
Zagreb Croatia

St Mark’s Square
Zagreb Croatia

Maksimir Park Zagreb Croatia


Haeming criticised Zagreb quite a lot. Every one of us has their own perspective and it’s clear that not everyone will like Zagreb nor will they consider it as the most desirable destination for tourist sightseeing. But if in such a big city you cannot find something you like, something beautiful, something entertaining, and if after your departure from it you are so frustrated that you call it the most boring city, then the city itself is not boring – you are the one that’s boring.


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