If it weren’t for the crazy night we had last night, Zagreb would’ve been just another unmemorable city on our travels. But first, how we got there.
We had planned to meet our friend Ching-I from New York in Croatia, and decided that Zagreb (the capital of Croatia) would be the most convenient place for her to fly into to start exploring the rest of this weirdly-shaped country. After a day of sightseeing around Zagreb, the three of us quickly realized that the city itself really wasn’t anything special. There weren’t any really notable landmarks or tasty food to distract us from the blandness of the city.
Since we spent the weekend in Zagreb, we decided to check out the only “queer-friendly” bar (that wasn’t a club) I could find on the internet. We had some time to kill so we watched “Gravity” in IMAX for a mere $9 (not as cheap as Tallinn, though) and then walked back to the bar.
Café Vimpi is a cozy bilevel bar/café with a narrow spiral staircase that is a deathtrap for drunk people. But there weren’t any accidents that night, and the three of us settled around a small table and were served by the friendly lesbian bartender. Groups of queer people started trickling in, but we’re shy and we kept to ourselves. After a round of 0.5L Radlers, we looked around and ordered Tomislav beers, what the locals seemed to be drinking.
It was sometime around these beers that the young people in the large group sitting next to us starting talking to us. Classic opening line: “Are you Japanese or Chinese?” Because you know, there aren’t any other possible options. But by then we had ceased to be offended in a country where the mere presence of foreigners was still foreign (especially in less popular cities like Zagreb). How can you judge people who desperately want to travel but can’t and probably won’t have many opportunities to expand their cultural experiences?
The kids (I mean, they were about ten years younger than us) took us to a gay club called Hotpot, where men and women danced to techno versions of Top 40s songs. They liked it because entrance was free and it was a happening place. I liked it because of the name, which made me suddenly miss Chinese food. We drank and watched the Croatians attempt to dance before someone suggested we go to a Croatian club. “Where they only play Croatian music. Would you like that?” We didn’t know what Croatian music was, but we were curious so we agreed to go.
If you want to witness sudden and violent culture shock, throw a few Asian lesbians into the middle of a Croatian club. We went through an unmarked door and stumbled half-blind through a black hallway with blacklight (how classy) into a packed, smoky room filled with tall Croatians singing along very enthusiastically to a Croatian song that was thumping through the room.
Boys in tight white t-shirts and buzzed hair raised their beers and sang along with their dolled-up girlfriends clinging to them (as their stretchy dresses clung to them). A gay couple danced together by the bar as a butch lesbian chatted with a group of boys and girls. I think this was probably the most out-of-place I’ve ever felt in my entire life. “A lot of Croatian nationalists come here because they like the music.” It was a bizarre scene, but one that was nice to see. Even though we were stared at and people had no idea why we were there or what to make of us, it was nice to see these kids letting loose and having fun with each other, regardless of their differences.
The three of us said bye to our new friends and left the club reeking of cigarettes. “3:30! We’re such party animals.” Just another Saturday night in the life of a Zagreb local.