Zagreb, Dec 11 (efe-epa).- The only Christmas market to be held in Croatia this year will be scaled down – not only in terms of attendance, but in size. A popular miniature train museum in the heart of Zagreb, normally a center-piece of the city’s Advent attractions, now features a miniature Christmas market.
Visitors to the model train museum, which claims to be the largest in Southeast Europe, can see about 150 miniature locomotives dragging a thousand wagons along about 1,050 meters of rails, while on another 300 meters of roads, dozens of small cars, buses and trucks circulate.
More than two thousand details, such as human figures, trees, sheep and other animals in landscapes with snow, lightning or thunder in bad weather, or buildings where the lights are turned on window by window at dusk, help bring this miniature world to life.
In recent years, the museum has been one of the main attractions of Zagreb’s popular Advent celebrations, which were cancelled this year due to restrictions and bans on gatherings because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Antun Urbic, nicknamed “Backo”, is the owner of this local institution that houses the largest model railroad in Southeast Europe, which is also suffering from the effects of the coronavirus crisis.
To be able to view the model with the mini trains, guests must respect the health rules, “from measuring temperatures to wearing masks”, says Backo, who has been dedicated to collecting and building model trains since he was a child.
“Only a maximum of four families can enter because we have four positions, each separated by six meters. When someone comes out, others can enter and everyone moves to the next position,” he tells Efe.
The model covers eight levels with a height of about 3 meters, and the entire system is controlled by several computers, a costly assembly that is increasingly difficult to afford in times of crisis, the owner says.
Backo admits that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on his museum has been severe.
“The coronavirus crisis has almost destroyed us, because we hardly had any visitors this year. There are no tourists, schools, groups, it is a disaster. We are on the verge of closure”, the owner of the “Backo Mini Express” laments.
However, in these tough times amid restrictions and the near total closure of social and cultural life in Croatia, the railway museum offers at least a little Christmas relief.
With pride, Backo points out that some visitors wait patiently for up to an hour and a half to enter the premises, before leaving with a Christmas glow in their eyes. EFE-EPA