The Main Square of Zagreb. Much of the city was like this.

Dobar dan!

In the latter half of the UA in Croatia trip, I find myself reflecting on our adventures so far. We have had some wonderful experiences, from kayaking around the walls of Dubrovnik or watching the sunset of Zadar. Yet, I find myself missing the capital city of Zagreb the most. Our daily routine in the city was simple, but enjoyable. We would wake up, eat breakfast, and take the train to class. After our lecture was done, the city was ours to explore. And thanks to its walkability, we could go anywhere.

It’s hard to compare Zagreb to any city in the US, probably because there is no comparison. It was built a thousand years ago, while the oldest cities in the US are no more than a few centuries old. Zagreb was built for centuries around the idea of walking being the only option to travel, while American cities have been heavily influenced around the availability of the car. In Zagreb, there are many areas throughout the city where cars cannot get, with many businesses only accessible on pedestrian-only streets. Even when in car-accessible areas, it is usually only a two-lane road. Even in cities like New York, you are going to have to deal with cars almost everywhere you go, while in Zagreb, you’re not going to deal with rush hour traffic jams.

The lack of cars and increased walkability are blessings for a few reasons:

First: Safety. Cars automatically put more people in danger, whether it be pedestrians or other drivers. With fewer cars, accidents don’t occur as much. 

Second: Health. In Zagreb, I was walking at least five miles a day. A lot of those steps were just because we had to walk to class, to get food, and to do something at night. In the US, we worry about the health of our society. If we walked a bit more, we would not have as much to worry about. 

Finally: Community. In Zagreb, I felt connected to the city in just a few days. That’s because when we traveled, we got to see the faces of the people that lived there, the businesses they ran, and the beauty of the city. Cars can give us tunnel vision: it disconnects us from other people, and they make us focus on the destination. In Zagreb, I felt like I was able to slow down and enjoy the journey as well.

Cars are useful, and they are fun. I’ve gone on many road trips and seen the beauty of nature. Also, without a car, we wouldn’t have as much freedom of movement. All that being said, I don’t think it would hurt to rely on them less.