Heartbeat of Zagreb

City Gardens: Breaking the Concrete Monotony

As cities continue to grow and as buildings get higher and higher, it is easier to forget the joys of gardening and growing your own food.

When I was a small boy I used to go to the countryside with my parents, to visit my grandfather and grandmother who lived in a house surrounded by gardens. The plots had more vegetables than my childish mind would let me eat, as well as fruits that were so sweet that you almost didn’t need to add sugar to your cakes. The summer days when we would pick pears, cherries and strawberries flew by, as most childhood days do. Now, the memories of getting food straight out of the garden and bringing them to my grandmother to prepare lunch are long gone. In my adult life, I am mostly buying all my veggies in shops, with occasional trips to the farmer’s market. Even when buying fruit and vegetables from farmers who grow them organically and locally, it is not the same as picking a vegetable yourself and eating it minutes later.

Image credit: Ivan Luzar


While walking to Zagreb’s embankment, I came across an enclosed part of the land between some high-rise buildings. My interest was piqued, so naturally, I took a closer look. When I came closer, I could see something that immediately brought me back to my childhood days - rectangular plots of land with vegetables and fruits planted in them. I was a bit shocked because the idea of fruits and veggies growing between two apartment buildings was very foreign to me.

A bit sneakily, I walked in and took a walk between the plots. There were tomatoes the size of apples, watermelons greener than grass and pumpkins the size of basketballs. I was reliving my childhood once again. The only difference was that the vegetables were not all grouped together. Not all tomato plants were nearby, nor were the lettuces. All plots also seemed to be of the same size, from which I concluded that this was a planned undertaking.

As I was walking between the produce, an elderly man approached me and asked me if I took a plot and if I needed anything, that he will give me his tools if I needed them. It was unclear to me what he meant by that. I didn’t understand why I would or how I could take a plot. It turns out that the city divided greater part of the land into smaller plots, which could then be given to citizens who wanted to grow food for themselves. The small 50 square meter plot should be enough for a smaller family. That would explain why all tomatoes are not grouped together – it’s because those tomatoes belong to different plot holders.

Image credit: Ivan Luzar


While walking further into the garden, the old man kept me company and told me that he has been holding the same plot of the land for the last two years. He also told me that it helped him keep busy since he is retired, but it also helped him to reconnect to his youth – as it helped me to reconnect with my childhood. He had a similar plot of land around the house where he grew up, where he had the same vegetables that he has today – tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage and beans. Jokingly he said that his grandchildren only eat his vegetables, refusing to eat store-bought produce that couldn’t taste the same. As we came to the farthest part of the grounds, his wife came into the gardens with her neighbours, who then all sat around a table in the shade and prepared everything for cleaning green beans. That reminded me of my grandmother, who also sat in her garden, chatting with her neighbours while they were cleaning green beans. I immediately felt a strong sense of community. The old man walked into his shed, waved to me and told me that he hoped to see me soon, and once again told me that I could borrow any tools I needed.


Image credit: Ivan Luzar


The project ''City gardens'' gives the citizens the opportunity to enjoy the same things that I did with my grandparents in my childhood days but without going to the countryside. They only need to go outside their buildings, and for a moment, they can forget that they live in the city. The gardens are also located all over the city, all on the city property and no one can build anything on them. So those little green oasis can continue to live around concrete reconnecting many with their memories but also giving the city children the opportunity to taste and see how vegetables are grown.


Header Image credit: pixabay

Author: Ivan Luzar