Monday, April 14, 2008

How to move around Zagreb

I found this as I was cleaning out my purse recently. A tram card from my January 2008 trip to Zagreb. This is how I move around town, for example, from my apartment in Britanac to my cousin's in Mercusevac (tram 11 or 6 or 1 to the square, then tram 14 to the end, then the bus to Mercusevac). I can also take tram 1 (my favorite line) from Britanac to the Ekonomski Fakultet.

There are some times of day in which traffic in central Zagreb is too congested and hostile to take the tram. Just walk, or go to a cafe and wait. The trams in Zagreb, you see, run on lines that are on the street - the street and the trams share lanes - too much activity. And central Zagreb, or even its surroundings were not built to handle the traffic - the amount of people and cars - on them today. They were built in the 1970s and early 1980s when not everyone had a car. When, in the 80s, some license plate numbers were allowed to drive on some days and not on others. And now, everyone in Zagreb wants, perhaps needs, a car to get around. The city is spread out. And this traffic is not just to move through, or to and from, the suburbs, but to and from, and within the city center. It moves slowly.

It is nice to have a car, especially if that is the only big luxury you can afford. The luxury is not simply owning the car, or moving your body around the city, fast, but the experience of driving versus riding in the tram car. Even if the traffic in Zagreb is congested, and grates on the nerves, at least, in your car, you do not have to ride with the hoi poi. Sometimes, what I see and experience on the tram is disturbing.

I saw a married pair with a child, who must have been about age 3. I was with my Aunt, aged about 70, from a Zagreb of another time and place. The summer, sunny and hot, at least tram 11 now has the modern cars with air conditioning. We smelled this pair more than we saw them or shared space with them. The mother nursed her three year old on the tram. They were talking a language I could not understand, loudly. My Aunt was shocked and gave me such a look. Not fear of personal safety as you might have as a typical emotion in the USA from seeing something so unusual in public. But, what is this world, this place, this society, coming to, and where is it going? Not confusion, but shame and frustration.

I see many old women fight to get on and off the tram, fight for seats, I think I learned some of this from them, to use in other situations. But still, why do they fight, why are people not acceding to them? Wouldn't that be nice? And the general anxiety of that. The younger generation, I see them when I am traveling to and from the University, seems less anxious this way, they are socializing, gossiping through text messages or on the phone.

Then, there is the phenomenon of the ticket controllers. Very embarrassing to be caught, not worth it. Anyway, people who are there and not paying into the system should at least may their tram ticket. I once told an American who was a diplomat posted there and riding the tram with me and not paying a ticket.