Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Place to Be

A link pointed out by a blogger I religiously read, Mr. Michael Manske at today's Glory of Carnolia was to the Real Post Reports site. Allegedly (and I'm quoting Mike here), the entries are written (for the most part) by people assigned to U.S. embassies around the world. The catch: They're written anonymously, so everyone is free to write what they really think about the place they're working in."

When I checked out the spiel on Zagreb, my birthplace, from Real Post Reports the following blurb jumped out:

"Zagreb is a great location for traveling to other cities. It is 5 hours. from Vienna or Venice, and 4 hours. from Budapest, and other locations in Eastern Europe. There is a nice movie theater at the Kaptol center, and a nice water park in Slovenia, only 45 minutes away.
Sounds like a tempting place to visit, no? Well,that is, if your visit consists of sleeping in Zagreb and then being awake in cities and places within a 5 hour radius of Zagreb. It's the place to be...if you really want to be at a lot of other places. I had never viewed the city in that way. It is the largest city in Croatia (please, no "size" jokes about either). It was the center of my world for a long time and a place I'd always thought of as a destination or a point of arrival, not as a place of temporary decampment. During one of the recent Winter Olympics, Bob Costas, in gushing about an Olympic skiing medal won by Janica Kostelic, said something to the effect of how "teeny, tiny Croatia has won another Olympic medal". Teeny is bad. Tiny added to it? That's just rubbing in the inconsequence of a country's existence. At the time of his comment, I'd actually thought it better that no medal was won. For the duration of those Olympics those three words, "teeny", "tiny", and "Croatia" became inseperable. Listeners, most probably unsure of its existence or location, probably thought it was the official name of the country. Republic of China (ROC). United States of America (USA). Teeny Tiny Croatia (TTC).
So, now, years after the TTC thing, it seeems that Zagreb has suffered the same awful fate of insignificance.

Now I'm living in the largest city in Delaware (again, please, no "size" jokes about either; easy pickings, those). Being relatively close to Philadelphia (30 minutes), New York (2 hours), Baltimore (1 hour), Washington DC (1.5 hours), and Boston (5 hours) makes it the Zagreb of the East Coast. For a while, the city's motto, displayed on rustic burnt engraved wooden signs at various points of entry was Wilmington, The Place to be Somebody. Which was a bit better than the previous Home of Tax-Free Shopping. The only problem is that most somebodies spent their time travelling to other cities, not spending their waking hours here. What were the chances of moving over 2,700 miles from my place of birth and ending up in such a similar geographical condition? Close to there, but not...there.

Wonderful post. If it's any consolation, one of the Slovenia reports mentions that, as a plus, it's close to Croatia. A "good neighborhood," they say.

I'm actually closer to Zagreb than Ljubljana -- and it's really a great city. It may be small, but it buzzes with life.
Hard to say who inflicts the greater damage to one's own home: fat-head observers like Costas, or the town entrepeneurs. The village I live in, for instance, has posted a sign declaring it, "A Great Place To Live & Shop" - leaving suspicious readers to wonder if it qualifies for either. It also has the dubious honour of having claimed a CBC "personality" as one of its former citizens. This bonehead has, on national TV, named the town, then claimed to be an authority on the rural mindset and summed it up as, "Small town, small minds." Yes, well - thanks for removing just one teeny tiny mind from our little collective.
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