Osijek, Croatia (November 4, 2022)

We spent a wonderful few days along the Adriatic coast of Croatia a few years ago but never managed to get this far inland. We woke up in Vukovar which is in the northeast part of the country where the Danube intersects with the Drava River. After a quick breakfast we headed inland to Osijek. The drive took us through rich, flat farmland that has hosted a cast of characters from the Stone Age through the Romans, Ottomans, and Hapsburgs. Our guide did not spend any time reaching that far back in history though; she focused on Croatia’s War of Independence in the early 1990s that devastated this part of the country. She pointed out numerous buildings that have yet to be repaired or replaced and told her family’s story and the lasting tole it has taken.

A home visit was our first event of the day. We, along with a translator, pulled up in front of what looked like a modest home in a residential area. We were invited in and shown to a long table where we were offered homemade desserts, bottled water, mint infused water, and homemade plumb brandy (read: fire water). With the formalities out of the way we were invited to ask our host anything we wanted. Knowing that he was an adult during the war, our questions mostly focused on life for him and his wife at that time. Other questions involved the country’s efforts to rebuilt, the current price of gas ($8.10 a gallon), the tendency of young people to immigrate (to Germany, Sweden, and Ireland) making it more difficult for the country to fully recover from the war. Our host’s three sons were born after the war and are all local he was happy to say.

It was explained to us that properties in neighborhoods like we were in are customarily designed a particular way. The house and garage are close to the street and make the initial impression. Behind the house is what they call a pleasure garden which in this case is a large covered patio with a sizable fireplace, koi pond, outdoor office, flower beds, and a path that took us deeper into the narrow property where all the animals are kept. Our hosts have rabbits, pigs, ducks, and chickens. From there the path lead to gardens and a small orchard. Quite an impressive operation and no small amount of work.

From our home visit we went to Saint Mary’s Church for a quick look inside and a short concert. Martina, a 26 year old student and proud member of the vocal group BREVIS, accompanied herself on the piano. Our guide explained that members of BREVIS, Martina being one of them, performed on Croatian Idol. They did not win but their audience grew like crazy and the group ended up more well known than that year’s winner.

We shopped near the dock, strolled around a bit, and were back on board for lunch and a quiet afternoon broken up with an enthusiastic performance by a local tamburica band. One guy played a guitar, another an accordion, and the star of the show for us was the guy who played the tamburica, a long-necked lute that looked to me like an oval ukulele with a long neck.

The best pork I’ve even eaten was the centerpiece of my dinner tonight. Add Croatia’s take on flan and you have a gal too full to go to bed. I guess I’ll go down and listen to the panel made up of crew members who will be talking about what it was like to live behind the Iron Curtain.

… Croatia Trivai …

The average monthly income after taxes in Croatia is 800 euros.

The country is about the size of West Virginia and has a population of less than four million.

Medical insurance and education are free thanks to a brutal income tax ranging from 38% to 52%
and a VAT of 25% (the second highest in Europe).

The Croatian kuna is the currency here.
$1.00 = 7.6 kuna
In January they will switch to the euro.


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