The scarface of Zagreb Airport
It was around noon as I have entered the Zagreb Airport or the so-called Pleso Zračna luka. I took the way to the main gate, the newly made exterior, the beton modernism could not fail me, because I was focused into the inside as if I would find the old images and architecture and as I stepped in I was amazed once again to see that everything was staying as it was. This is not the interior of one of these avant-garde, super modern, super hyper, space like – constant temperature based soulless molochs. Ok, the new phenomenon of cheap airlines made their corporate corner but they were entitled to use the former interior, which makes it more interesting. If you walk towards the main entrance you will realise the colour of the marble used in this building. I guess it was done during the old times and I would speculate that it has its own internal logic of the time. The marble is not white or grey as in newer ones, it is brownish, and it gives a wood feeling to you as you walk through the large corridor. It is a dark corridor and not overly illuminated arising the awareness feeling (of course to consume, to stimulate) as in other upgraded cases. Not these hyper bulbs are used but cheap fluorescents. You will realise the metal columns holding the structure on the right and left hand sides, again coloured brownish or even darker to black. As you enter the main hole you would realise that this is not a place for consumerist cheer. This is a serious building built during serious times. There is no place for bourgeoisie fanfare, no false individualism, this is a collectivist building constructed to serve the original need, namely to fly to reach another destination. If you look up you would spot the ventilation openings, and if you turn back you would see the extra floor, completely wooden decorated reminding the corridors of a top level Yugoslavian bureaucratic institution. Seriousness is the word to describe this, boring seriousness, and a suffocating colourless. I by no means claim that this is something to be criticised or disregarded, it has its own beauty and it’s own story that is what I try to show so try not to misunderstand me.
Continue to walk through the main entrance, leave the information desk at your left hand side and continue to the end of the corridor. As you have realised by now, this is by no means a heavily consume oriented “friendly” airport. There is no bombardment of soulless, lonely beverage boxes which serve without spelling a word, no souvenir shops, no boutiques selling ties or socks, nor bombastic book stores filled with every gadget. There is a simple newspaper stand which tried a little to integrate itself to the world of capitalist airports. This is micro-macro, you may imagine from this shop on, about the development of the Croatian state/society complex and the level of it’s integration into the transnational capitalist world order. But the main topic of this story is not now this; we want to reach the scarface of Zagreb.
In order to do so, please proceed to the shop you see at the end of the corridor. You see the tables spread around like a summer holiday garden. The shop is not illuminated with neon, nor you see McDon style appetite amplifying reddish signs or friendly mascots greeting us with big friendly Walt Disney eyes. As you enter inside you realise the whole fun is going on at the back of this strange place. That’s the smoking corner. There is hardly anybody inside the non-smoking area, you just have a look at the bar corner (on the left hand side), you will see some sandwiches, not hundreds of cakes, not carefully packed triangle shaped cold cheese and ham combinations, not a Tea corner full of hundreds of herbal infusions. This is not 2010, this is 1970s Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Even if you do not smoke, I would strongly recommend you to walk into the glass-covered area of smokers corner. This is the brightest place in the airport that you have seen up till now, because it is practically built outside the airport, and covered with glass so if you are lucky like me even in February you may experience this nice feeling of being in a bright place after a long way through the dark corridors of the airport. There you will meet, if you are lucky, the scarface of Zagreb. I do not know his name, but he looks like 50, and I remember that I saw him in 1998 because of the scar he has that cuts his face into two. But the most wonderful thing with this nice man is he has a genuine smile in his face. This is not fake customer satisfactory corporate sales person; this is a real human being. He is I guess very proud to speak in many languages easy forms, like thank you, hello my friend, what do you want and so on. It was very strange that after we spoke in English he told me “merhaba, arkadas”. I also remembered that he did this last time, it was a flashback, and to pick me up rightly was nice. You may realise the noise inside this place, and also that practically the backdoor glass was open and if there is no place you will be practically sitting outside the airport although you are located logically inside it.
So this is the first story, next will come