At the beginning of every journey, there is a vision of how it will go. Fortunately, it never goes that way. We realized that quite early on while standing at the airport, ready to cut the usual 10-hour long journey to Croatia down to a 55-minute ride on an unusually small airplane. That was, however, only the first of many surprises that had made the week our team spent in Croatia as special as it had been.
Our destination was the magnificent city of Zagreb, capital of Croatia with population of over 800 thousand locals, as well as unexpectedly many tourists from the farthest corners of the world, ourselves included. The historical centre in which we spent most of time in was not only full of life, but also bore some resemblance to Bratislava, making us miss our home just a bit less. Add the iconic blue trams and traditional markets and you get the authentic atmosphere of the beautiful city.
While the neighbourhood we stayed in could be described as historical, the topics we talked about were definitely not. Our stay was dedicated to businesses that not only aim to ensure profit, but also take into consideration the prosperity of local community, whether that is through means of ecology, employment or financial support. As a flagship model we discussed the “Invisible Zagreb” project. This unique concept already successfully operates in numerous European cities and allows people to see them through the eyes of their most loyal citizens – the homeless. It is them, who by working on this project, get a brand new start while offering others an unforgettable experience.
Not only were we introduced to already running models, we also got a taste of what it is like to create one. The most memorable lesson was definitely the one about marketing in practice. Our mission was simple: hit the streets and exchange a single paperclip for more valuable objects. It was this seemingly easy task, which showed us the hard work that has to go into every business. Not only did we have to introduce the task in English, we had to do it in a way that would attract “costumers”. While some were able to obtain a jackpot in form of wireless headphones, we were left with a mini perfume and a memory of an unexpected encounter with a Serbian who, for some reason, made fewer mistakes speaking Slovak than we did.
Startlingly, moments like this were not rare. It was not only the participants of the project we became friends with. As an example there is the market vendor, whose family tree roots in Slovakia, or the nicest saleslady, who always showered us with love. The biggest thanks goes to our taxi driver, the real hero of the story, since it is only because of him that our terrible planning did not lead to us missing our flight home, no matter how much we dreaded the departure.
And that puts an end to our short trip to Zagreb. We said goodbye to our newly found best friends, to the charming city, that is against all prejudices more than just an industrial valley, and said hello to all the new doors that opened thanks to the knowledge gained during this project.
That would not be possible without the help of all the amazing people in Brodoto, Youth for Equality and our new friends from Turkey, Italy, Croatia, Lithuania and Romania.
Danka, Zuzka, Kika and Boris