Standing on the roof of the garages and looking at the Amazing Zagreb project’s first fruits of his labour, murals full of Zagreb’s flair, Dominik Markovic says: “I don’t even know where to start, there’s so much to mention… I just know that I wouldn’t want the emphasis to be placed on me, but instead on the project itself and all the wonderful people working on it,” he says with a bowed head, as each warm breath is outlined in the form of fog.
On his 15th birthday, Dominik Markovic ended up in a correctional facility in Zupanciceva. The two youngest children were taken from his mother, which was her greatest fear. Social services reacted because Dominik had 800 absences in seventh grade alone, which he eventually dropped out of. Two years after that, he ended up at a correctional facility and his mother passed away. He was angry with the facility, with the system, he stopped listening to anyone. He left the facility when he wanted to, so the police would have to go out searching him. At the age of 18, he left the facility and his studies at a mechanical engineering school, where he was in the third grade, although he had good grades.
Now he is talking about two projects that are part of the brand’s programme he’s creating: Iza Zgrade (Behind the Building) and Saraj Ovdje (Paint here). The first is intended to beautify the lives of the citizens in this dilapidated, grey city; to adapt rotten, old yards, and draw attention to Zagreb in terms of tourism. Paint Here is a project with an educational intent with which they want to raise awareness of the public, highlight the vandalism over the facades of buildings, or paint those same facades.
© Amazing Zagreb
The Amazing Zagreb brand could also be presented as a movement for a better, more beautiful, and more prosperous city, which will positively impact tourism in the capital and probably all over Croatia. Dominik Markovic says he wants to unite all artists in one place, on a digital platform, which would be called centralisation. Here and there, he inserts a more serious word into the conversation to showcase his maturity in regard to entrepreneurship, as if people would not otherwise believe him. “We want to enable tourists to get authentic products, but also provide something for Croatian artists, alternative artists, for all those who do something with their hands and make art out of it,” says Dominik, whose primary activity is tourism.
© Amazing Zagreb
Artists Kismo, Focus, and AtekOne were the first to join the project, and for the second year in a row, there were about ten. The plan is to paint or revive hundreds of yards in thematic ways to represent our counties, culture, history, people, as well as internationally recognised brands such as Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Transformers…
Painting a yard involves, in some cases, setting up scaffolding that requires a valid building permit, the smell of sprays covering quite a distance, and slightly louder music. For such a thing, the consent of the tenant representative is required. “There were a lot of obstacles, the police called us, people threatened me, etc. But I have a pure vision, an honest vision, and an honest heart. I want to do something for this city and something for these people. So nothing can and nothing could prevent us from doing what we are and what we’re doing here.”
© Amazing Zagreb
Just a few years ago, Dominik worked in a roastery, served in many cafes, and finally, back in 2013 in Novalja, something happened that changed his life for the better. He met Benjamin Croft through a mutual colleague. “I didn’t know who Ben was and how he would affect my life. Back then I was without a high school diploma and a front tooth. I had kidney stones, disc herniation, gastritis, and I vomited every now and then,” says Dominik, who had no parents and couldn’t rely on his older brothers, who were also only just surviving, because he was indebted to them and to the state.
After many years of being in a relationship, Benjamin’s former girlfriend left him, and Dominik listened to his woes, just as Benjamin did for him. Although Benjamin was a successful man, for some reason, he didn’t have any flip flops. He was barefoot for five days on an island full of glass. When he noticed this, Dominik took him to a nearby stall and bought him a pair of flip flops, even though he was not in a financial position to purchase personal belongings for others. “For me, sharing is multiplication.”
That act marked their budding relationship.
“My wish was to repay my debts and buy apartments for my brothers. Ben told me that for something like that, I’d have to fix myself first,” says Dominik, who had come up with many different business concepts, written down business ideas, but none were financially feasible for anything long-term. He didn’t know or understand any of the basic concepts, although they were as simple as finding a target group.
The following year, Benjamin arrived in Zagreb and began educating Dominik, and got him together with Peter Ryding, the owner of an online coaching platform that offers access to business coaches. “After all these conversations and all this education, and even attending Ben’s wedding in 2017, which lasted nine days, I realised that I have to move more and be stronger. People from 36 countries attended the wedding, most of them businessmen,” says Dominik, who at the end of 2017 went to a meeting at the Experta college.
He was greeted by the director, Ropuš, who listened to his story and told him that he needed three programmes: project management, digital marketing, and PR. “It sounded good until I heard the price. Then something in me died, and I thought: what am I doing here?!” says Dominik with his hands in pockets and his gaze fixated on the pebble he was gently rolling with his sneaker on the floor. “However, I received a huge discount, and he told me that my schooling would start tomorrow. I couldn’t believe it.”
© Amazing Zagreb
He graduated from that high business academy and then had to start his business by renting out electric scooters. “But the yard was very dilapidated, and I thought I couldn’t start that story in such a place and environment. I wanted to revive that yard, to bring a little love and colour to it. And so maybe something called Amazing Zagreb might begin to be seen today,” says Dominik.
Two years ago, he brought together artists who were willing to come and, without compensation, thematically paint the house’s facade in which he lives. “I said I didn’t have the money, but I could give it back to them through PR,” says Dominik, and it suddenly becomes clearer why he wants the emphasis to be on the project.
What was supposed to be just a beautifully decorated yard that would attract people to rent electric scooters became the beginning of a whole new story. At the beginning of last year, the Hendrix Bridge, the Croatian National Theatre, Cibona’s Tower, Matos, the Zagreb Clock, and the Arena all sprang up. In that yard, everyone is welcome. Alternative musicians are also frequent guests, so then you have to take the guitar in your hands, whether you know how to play or not. You’re expected to sing, even though you only know bits of the song. At least that’s how it can be heard in the yard at 13 Kneza Mislava street. “The goal is to unite people, us little people, who could contribute to change together,” says Dominik Markovic.
© Amazing Zagreb