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Zagreb spending $ 1.1 million on Christmas, New Year

It has been estimated that Zagreb is spending $ 1.1 million on Christmas and New Year illuminations, reports Danko Plevnik.

india Updated: Dec 26, 2006 22:09 IST

Christmas is just over. An average Zagreb family would have spent $1500 (Rs 68,000) on festival shopping.

Spiritual leaders like Cardinal Josip Bozanic have been bemoaning Christmas's slide into rampant consumerism. There are other purists who claim Santa Claus is of American or Soviet origin with whom Croatians should have nothing to do.

They urge us to call the bearded, red-capped gentleman Santa Nicholas instead. But it has made little difference. This season, as in past seasons, people have been splurging on gifts and lights and window decorations and celebrating Santa Claus.

It has been estimated that Zagreb is spending $ 1.1 million on Christmas and New Year illuminations. 

The only serious objective most residents currently have is attending the New Year celebration party. The government owned daily Vjesnik  recently ran a story which provided a nine point guide to behaviour at New Year parties. Point number one: do not go to a party to which you are not invited. Point number nine: get away from the table on which the buffet is laid out once you have loaded your plate.

Croatians are unapologetic about sticking close to the buffet table even afterwards, looking for delicacies they may have missed while serving themselves. The buffet table here is called the 'Swedish table', and if someone is told to move away, the done thing is for him to reply, "I will move when the Swedes come."

Is the weather going crazy? Preparations are on for the women's skiing competition on the slopes of the Sljeme mountain in January. There is only one problem - there is no snow on the slopes yet. The organisers of the race are doing their best to save the competition by firing snow guns all over the piste. 

Zagreb is a fortunate city in that the venue is only a 10 minute drive from downtown. It is astonishly warm for this time of the year, but we hope the guns will come to the competiton's rescue.

Janica Kostelic, arguably the best female skiier in the world today, World Champion three times (2001, 2003 and 2006), and winner of four Winter Olympic gold medals (in 2002 and 2006), belongs to Zagreb. Unfortunately, she will not be part of the competition. She fell in love this year, and has given up her skiing career. She is happier with her boyfriend than with her skis.

Croatia's most beloved sportsman, however, is Drazen Petrovic. He was known as the Mozart of basketball. He died many years ago. Last week, Zagreb's mayor, Milan Bandic, unveiled a 4.5 metre high statue of Petrovic in front of the local museum.

Milan Bandic recently faced a major problem. A statue of Franjo Tudjman, often called the Father of Croatia, who died in 1999, had to be put up. Once a close associate of Marshall Josef Tito in the undivided Yugoslavia, but later his staunch critic - and even jailed by him - Tudjman fought for Croatia's interests all his life and became our country's first president after Independence in 1991.

He was re-elected president twice thereafter. But Tudjman belonged to the Conservative Party (called HDZ) while Bandic owes allegiance to the Social Democrat Party (SDP). HDZ may be presently ruling Croatia, but it is SDP which controls Zagreb. The big question was: where in the city should the statue stand? HDZ leaders wanted it in a tiny downtown square. But the SDP was most unwilling to rename Roosevelt Square or St Marco's Square as 'Tudjman Square'. Finally it was decided that Tudjman would get a square on the lawn in front of Rudolf's barrack, far from the city centre. 

This decision is said to have greatly upset Tudjman's widow Ankica.  She has just published a book  My Life with Francek ('Francek' being Tudjman's nickname). The truth is she deserves a medal for putting up with her Francek, who is said to have been a difficult man, with a perpetually angry expression. But she has portrayed him as an angel, as peace loving as Gandhi. Perhaps this Christmas atmosphere affected her judgement. 

Incisive interviews of our leaders are rare in the Croatian media. Thus it was a delight to watch Mislav Bago take on Prime Minister Ivo Sanader on the state owned television channel. The interview was as good as any 'Hard Talk' programme on BBC.

Meanwhile here too some journalists are well on their way to becoming stars. Bago's colleague Hloverka Novak Srzic got a 1 million kuna (Rs 80 lakh) raise for shifting from the state owned TV to a private channel.