I was forewarned, but not prepared. Information is only useful if you actually do something with it. “To be honest we escape to the coast when the tarmac starts to melt,” said a local with a smile. Zagreb in a heatwave isn’t a lot of fun.
Yes, I was one again up in the metropolis where a quarter of the population lives, and it felt like being in an oven. I can’t really remember the last time I had the misfortune of being in the capital in the height of summer. Having spent most of the first part of my working life in London I am not really a great fan of large congregations of people anymore, especially when those people are dripping with sweat.
Thankfully it was just a flying visit to Zagreb, an afternoon in the sea of concrete to get my second Covid vaccine. Yes, I am now one of the group that Plenković described as “a patriot.” I am loaded with antibodies.
As soon as I waved goodbye to the flight attendants and stepped out onto the runway I knew what my day would look like as a wall of heat slammed into me. The pilot had already announced that “The current air temperature in Zagreb is 37 degrees, so it is going to be a warm day.” He wasn’t wrong!
And it seems that the comment of “we all go to the coast” was also true. Apart from groups of people huddled under the shade of trees in parks or under air-conditioning units inside the capital had a ghost town feel. London has a similar feel in the summer, but of course you don’t often get 37 degrees in the UK and it also has over 20 million tourists annually, so empty and London aren’t often found in the same sentence.
“Days like this are rare, maybe three or four weeks a year we have these extreme temperatures,” said a friend as we sat next to a huge fan on a café bar terrace. “I can’t believe people actually live here,” I said with a large dose of sarcasm.
Going off at a tangent a little, but those fans that spray a mist of water are a horror for me. The water is usually kept in a large black box, which in the heat is a magnet for producing bacteria, then these germs are sprayed over everyone sitting in the café. Forget mass vaccination, this is mass infection.
So as I trod the streets of the capital, looking for a café without water spray pollution, I felt like I was walking in a hairdryer, with only the whoosh of the Glovo rider passing by to cool my down. I passed a TV camera crew who were apparently trying to fry an egg on the pavement, with little success, a woman “showering” her small dog in a public fountain and a group of Hare Krishna disciples playing and singing “Krsna Krsna Hare Hare,” in the shade of a massive oak tree. It was probably the first time I had been attracted to join the Krishna movement as their following orange garments looked a lot cooler than what I was wearing.
“It’s ok for you on the coast, when you get warm you can always jump in the sea, we’re swimming in a sea of sweat most of the time,” said a local bus driver. Incidentally he looked like he had just dived into the sea as his light blue shirt was now a darker indigo colour. It seemed a little unkind to mention that in fact the Adriatic wasn’t that refreshing at the moment as it had boiled to 26 degrees, so I nodded in agreement and told him the frying egg on the pavement incident instead.
I am probably more of a winter person anyway, maybe I have some Viking blood in me as Finland always looks like an attractive destination for me in the summer. And the added “bonus” of having to wear a mask in certain situations meant I spent a great deal of the day with a sweat drenched chin.
So when you haven’t got the sea how do you cool off? It would appear that you go into a shopping centre and soak up the air-conditioning. For whilst the streets looked like Tombstone, Arizona the shopping centre were packed. So when in Rome do as the Romans do! Unfortunately, shopping interests me about as much as attending a political assembly. But just as most of the participants at those meetings have to be there or lose their position in the party, I had to be in the shopping centre or risk losing my mind in the Zagreb heat.
Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to