I arrived in Zagreb, night had already fallen and the winding steep streets lead me to a part of the city that I had never seen before. This is a hill above the upper town, high, calm and serene as if in the middle of some Austro-Hungarian village, somewhat forgotten.
There is no one on the street, a long shadow leads me to the place where I will spend the night. It’s foggy.
I enter the house, there is a roar and somebody is celebrating something, I would say. I recognized Arsen Dedić, who, seeing me with a suitcase, got up from the table and offered me his help. “You came to our house, now you have to have dinner with us, but also listen to the lamentations of poor student musicians.”
At the table, I learned that I was in the famous Jurjevska street and that it was the artists street. A lot of artists lived and created there. “Two houses from us lived Antun Gustav Matoš, and across the street lived Ivan Mažuranić, a little further down the scientist Bošnjaković, actress and writer Božena Begović, and over here Šenoa and Lisinski. There are too many of them in such a small place. There is something in this Jurjevska, life creators, signed with their words and music and left it to us to decipher”.
Here I am, a little more, in the student dormitory where my life in Zagreb began. Everything was there (Jurjevska Street is mentioned several times in the poems in the collection “Ship in a Bottle”).
At the table with Arsen sit his friends Leonard Cohen and Jacques Brel. They speak in different languages, it’s noisy and I don’t understand anything. I observe their facial expressions and tics, how they smoke in sync with sipping some indistinct drink from a crystal glass, then write down verses on a napkin. Arsen accompanies them on the piano. The image is in blur, black and white, distorted.
The snow starts to blow, through the windows you can see the roofs and the cathedral.
Arsen likes to talk about the past and the people who marked it. He addresses them as if they were present. He recites their verses, imitates their voices, sometimes gets up from the table to show us someone’s gait or gesticulation.
“Ivan Meštrovic sometimes stops by our place, his studio is a few streets below. You must come again, we will invite Miroslav and Bela Krleža and you will witness how the best music is created”.
I didn’t remember anything after that, it was too much for me. I looked at Zagreb and the lights in the distance and thought how nice it would be to stay there all winter and visit all those houses where the turbulent literary and musical past of Zagreb lives.
I woke up in a room named after Countess Clotilde. In all the portraits, he looks sad and wistful, melancholic. They say that she was like a princess in a golden cage (A.G. Matoš remembers how she appeared on the promenade in Štrosmejerova Street).
It’s time to leave this place, but I still can’t open my eyes. I’m afraid the pictures and voices of those people from last night will disappear. Maybe it’s time to face the calendar after all.
I am grateful to the concept hotel, the only one in the upper city, boutique hotel HOH.
Jurjevska was given the place of gathering of all these special historical figures who worked and lived in the upper town and were a neighborhood worthy of the most imaginative stories of your future guests.