February 3 – The level of ignorance among Croats about what lies to the east of their country is staggering. And they are really absent, because the east of Croatia is amazing.
I really don’t know where to start.
Maybe at 06:35 on November 16 last year. Because that’s when I took American digital nomad videographer and emerging media star, Steve Tsenterensky, for a 6-day tour of eastern Croatia that I had promised to blow his mind.
It blew him away.
(Osijek, full of life – Osijek Tourist Board)
Before the trip, I asked Steve what he knew about Croatia east of Zagreb (he’s been here just over a year on this visit). Very little, he openly confessed – the war, Vukovar. That’s it. Six days later he knew much more, and you can read a detailed account of what was by far the most sensational trip of my 18 years in Croatia. In Slavonia. In November. It’s time to tell the truth about Slavonia full of life.
I posted A LOT on Facebook during our trip, and was struck by how many locals were admiring the destinations and wondering where I was. But I was really unprepared for what happened when I returned to Zagreb. Local friend after local friend told me they’ve never been to Slavonia – even though it’s a highway all the way, and despite its easternmost point – Ilok – being closer from Zagreb than from Split.
I never complain on social media – there’s no point as nobody cares, with so many of their own issues to deal with, but I posted on Facebook that I was genuinely shocked (not that I was bothered personally) how many of my Zagreb friends had never been to Slavonia. They were really missing because the east is FANTASTIC.
And it started predictably. You are a rich foreigner (ha, if only) and we poor Croats only earn 4,000 kuna per month, so we can’t afford to go there. I reformulated my sentence. I was really shocked (not that I was bothered) by how many of my friends from Zagreb who are among the 200,000 who go skiing abroad and therefore have money, have never been to Slavonia.
A highly educated friend of mine from Dubrovnik was in town and he had never been to Slavonia either. I decided to ask him three questions.
1. What is the largest city in Baranja? Hmmm – is it Vukovar?
2. Can you name three famous buildings in eastern Croatia, not including the water tower in Vukovar? Hmmm – no.
3. Can you name three Slavic dishes without kulen? Hmmm – no.
I asked these first two questions (largest city in Baranja, 3 famous buildings) to 30 friends in Zagreb over the past few weeks. Only one person could answer both questions correctly.
And the sad thing is that Osijek is the busiest city in all of Croatia, certainly at this time of year. It has a fantastic energy, very different from the media portrayal of emigration and decline.
And so, when the Croatia Airlines magazine article had Osijek on the Danube (it’s on the Drava), and the Kingdom placed the Djakovo Cathedral in Osijek (does that mean that Djakovo is actually on the Danube now?), maybe it’s not total incompetence as it seems, but maybe total ignorance, with an incompetence hunter.
But then again…any national tourist board that can promote a full 18-hole golf course in the center of Zagreb is a bit special. Yes really – find out more in Summer Tourism Quiz: How many golf courses will Croatia have next week?
I had the idea of filming a tourist quiz on Ban Jelacic to highlight the problem (I’ll do it again), offering free rakija from a fellow Slavonian in traditional costume to everyone who attends.
And then yesterday… That.
Index.hr, super fast as usual, beat me to it.
I’ll do my investigation anyway, as it’s part of a larger project to make Osijek even better (#MOGA).
A project that received strong support from the Minister of Tourism and Sports, Nikolina Brnjac, during our first meeting last month.
Zagreb is a natural source of tourism for Slavonia, and it is certainly not charity. In my opinion, a big difference between tourism in Slavonia and tourism in Dalmatia is that no one who visits Slavonia comes back disappointed.
And there’s so much to see and do. This video below is for another project, but it felt appropriate to add it here. For those who know the east well, do you recognize all the places? And for those who don’t know Slavonia at all, go ahead and be amazed, as Steve did – this is his video.
And if you’re interested in the #MOGA project and have something to contribute, come to the TCN MOGA networking drinks at Pivnica Runda in Osijek on Mondays at 7:00 p.m.
Want to know more about Osijek? View the Total Croatia Osijek guide in a Guide Page.