“It seems to me that changes in more creative directions are occurring in the neighborhood, more and more people are moving here (or are already living here) who are starting their own creative projects, more or less connected to the local community.”
It is no overstatement to say that Anja Mutić is really a citizen of the world. As a writer and journalist who specializes in travel writing, she has travelled all over the planet Earth, staying and writing on all continents except Antarctica (and we believe that is only a matter of time). She studied philosophy and comparative literature in Canterbury, England during the nineties, when she also worked in publishing in London, and in New York she managed to become a travel journalist. Her first professional journey led her to Bolivia, and her texts have been published virtually everywhere: in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, National Geographic Traveler, Lonely Planet… In the past few years Anja has started returning to Zagreb with her husband, the Angolan-Portuguese actor Hoji Fortuna, and when their son was born here, they decided to move near Martićeva street, in a neighborhood Anja is very familiar with. We managed to ‘catch’ her in a new coworking space where she works daily, in order to find out what drew her to our neighborhood and kept her in Zagreb.
Anja Mutić: I was born in this neighborhood, but I won’t tell you how many years ago (laughs). However, my parents only lived here shortly, so I only spent the first six months of my life here, in this very building, the so-called Little Vatican, and later we moved elsewhere. I left Croatia in 1993 and lived abroad for a long time, first in England, in Canterbury and London, and then from 1997 in the USA, and from 1999 in New York. Some three or four years ago I started spending more time in Croatia again, I would stay for several months at a time. As I kept coming more often, I came to like Zagreb more and more, and I have to admit that I didn’t use to be a fan of the city, you could say that I sort of ran away in the nineties. However, my husband and I eventually left New York for a while so we could try living in Zagreb.
Why did we choose this neighborhood? For starters, because i like it very much. My grandmother had an apartment here, in Biankinijeva street, where my mother lives now. I don’t see the Zagreb neighborhood where I grew up as my own, while ‘Martićeva’ has become my neighborhood since I started returning to Croatia. I have a feeling that a lot is going on here, new shops are opening, new places, it seems like there is a life that is being recreated.
— We were very interested in what our interlocutor perceives as the specificities of the neighborhood, from the perspective of a person who has lived in many different cities and is able to compare the various processes that occur in them.
AM: I like the peace and quiet here, naturally in the context of my previous place of residence, because I presume that people who mostly live in Zagreb don’t consider it so peaceful and quiet, but I do. I have managed to reorganize my professional life, for example, I have more mental and intellectual space for working on my own projects, which is something I could not afford in New York because there I had to work incessantly just to survive. My return to Zagreb, to this neighborhood, is really the creation of my own space. And that is a big change. In winter, when everything around us starts hibernating, I immerse myself in work completely. Last year I worked on a book very intensively for two months, in an old apartment, in a small room with a view of the yard and the neighboring lights, into which I could immerse myself when my child was asleep, working on the computer simultaneously. I find that way of working very inspiring, when I can create my own rhythm and my own space. There are few distractions — although there are a lot of activities that will intrigue me in the city, it is not invasive, it doesn’t disturb my peace.
It seems to me that changes in more creative directions are occurring in the neighborhood, more and more people are moving here (or are already living here) who are starting their own creative projects, more or less connected to the local community. For example, it is great that a bookshop was opened in Bauerova recently, at a time when we are constantly hearing that nobody reads books. Artists, designers and architects open their ateliers, studios or bureaus here, and small shops and bistros keep opening. I think there is a big chance for reviving the neighbourhood on the level of small, quality entrepreneurship, because there is definitely a lot more potential in the abandoned spaces we talked about. While I was writing an article for the Washington Post, i recognized it was happening even as an outsider, and a couple of years later — here I am, living in this environment.