by Frances Vidakovic
After spending seven weeks in Korčula, Croatia this summer I have returned to the Land of Oz but the truth is my heart can’t help but miss countless things from my day to day life back in my homeland.
At the time I knew some of these things were special – to be treasured like a precious jewel while I had the opportunity to cradle it in my hands, while others I admittedly took for granted whilst overseas.
All of these little gifts, quirks and nuances are so tightly interwoven together in the fabric of Croatian culture, that I didn’t realise that by saying goodbye to one, I would be saying goodbye to them all.
But this is what we do when we step foot outside of Croatia – we physically have to leave things behind even though the memories and emotions are forever carried in our hearts.
Here is a list of 100 things I miss right now about Croatia. Most of these are undeniably little things but that is not to say there isn’t magic in the smaller stuff in life too.
In fact, one day we may just look back and realise that some of these trivial, unimportant, petty points I have noted here, well, maybe, just maybe, they were actually the big things in life….
100 THINGS I MISS ABOUT CROATIA
1. The sound of Croatian voices everywhere I turn.
2. Picking up fresh burek for breakfast.
3. The sight of the big orange sun setting at night.
4. Deciding between Karlovacko or Ozujsko pivo when I go out.
5. The hum of scooters rumbling throughout the entire day.
6. Having a strudel or krempita for a treat.
7. Picking up freshly baked bread from the bakery at 7 every morning.
8. Retracing the steps of my parents and ancestors through my selo.
9. The sense of community within all the little villages around our country.
10. Seeing the Croatian grb in every shop or business that I enter.
11. Hearing Moja Domovina played whenever there is something special to celebrate.
12. Standing up and putting a hand to my heart, for our national anthem.
13. The freedom all children are given – playing out until late without fear or any helicopter parents hovering over them.
14. Squashing five kids into the backseat whenever we need to get everyone home from the beach.
15. The water itself – crystal clear as a robin’s egg.
16. Being able to swim out as far as the eye can see without fear of getting killed by a shark.
17. Having rakija offered to help heal any wounds we may have.
18. Homemade vino.
19. Homemade pršut.
20. The church bells signalling every hour and half hour of the day.
21. The lack of a need for watches – “what’s the rush? Take your time. Life is to be enjoyed, not sped through at a super crazy rate.”
22. The crazy Spanish serije that everyone stops to watch at midday.
23. The radio stations, that are guaranteed to play at least a dozen Oliver songs during the day.
24. The melange of foreign voices during summertime –Germans, French, Italians, Polish and thousands more tourists who flock to our country for its beauty.
25. The lazy hot summer nights and impromptu dips in the nearby sea to cool down.
26. Going down to the water’s edge to clean our fish for lunch.
27. Playing Briskola and Treseta with old men who think I will be super easy to beat (wink wink I’m not.)
28. The little kiosks – tisaks – where one can quickly pick up the daily newspaper or other little things they might need.
29. The ćevape burgers – Croatia’s version of fast food, which beats a Big Mac any day.
30. The staple condiments and spreads: Ajvar, pašteta and mliječni namaz.
31. The kid’s favourites: Cokolino and Cedivita.
32. Taking the staple Napolitanke and Čipi Čips down to the beach for snacks.
33. The singing – it doesn’t take much to get a song going among friends.
34. The sight of old men, congregating under the shady trees.
35. Cutting open ježine and eating them by the sea with fresh bread.
36. Collecting lumpare from the rocks.
37. Visiting the groblje, where all of my ancestors have been laid to rest.
38. Reading the subtitles on all the English-speaking shows so we know the right way to actually translate a sentence.
39. Our gorgeous Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic.
40. Randomly running into cousins and family wherever we go.
41. Drinking water collected straight from a well.
42. Being able to eat grapes straight off the vine.
43. Same for figs which grow on the trees outside our house.
44. The flavoured Jana water (nothing here in Australia is quite the same).
45. The kafići, which are crowded at all times, every day.
46. Hearing old stories about my family and grandparents, from people who knew them as youngsters or before they passed away.
47. The fact that this is where it all began – the beginning, the roots of my family tree.
48. Being able to walk to the shops, to grab all the essentials, without getting into a car.
49. The old sandstone architecture in the old towns, bursting with history.
50. The slippery cobblestone streets.
51. The little tractors filled with hay or wood, driven by old Croatians, at a snail-like pace on the main roads.
52. The stare babe, who still abide by the tradition of dressing in black whilst in mourning.
53. The stalls, selling fruit, vegetables and olive oil, on the side of the streets.
54. The massive ice-creams – gelatos – in waffle cones, sold for much less than they are worth.
55. The dances and concerts that last until all hours of the morning.
56. Hearing churchgoers sing every hymn with gusto and pride during mass.
57. Doing the sign of the cross every time you pass a statue of a Gospa.
58. The very fact that the Croatians have built these male kapelice (chapels) for us to honor and appreciate.
59. Buying my mom her Moja Tajna and Moja Sudbina magazines.
60. The lack of obsession with mobile phones – which aren’t extensions of people’s arms in Croatia.
61. The lack of obsession with celebrities and social media.
62. The lack of obsession with shops and buying things we don’t really need.
63. Their unquestionable belief in God.
64. The requisite saying of Bog every time you pass someone in the street.
65. Their willingness to help each another out, because there are no real strangers in Croatia – we are one and we take care of our own.
66. All the traditional Croatian names – Mate, Ante, Marko, Ivan, Paval. It doesn’t matter if there are already a few kids with the same name in the extended family – many will still insist on honouring their parents by passing on their names.
67. The sight of all the yachts that flock our marinas during summertime.
68. The picture-perfect beaches which are even more amazing and beautiful in real life.
69. The starry, starry night sky, unaffected by pollution.
70. The lack of traffic.
71. The smell of meat na žaru wafting through the village.
72. The sound of men, selling their fresh catch, yelling “Ribe! Ribe! Ribe!” at the crack of dawn.
73. Fresh squid and octopus salad.
74. The olive oil (definitely the best in the world)
75. The very idea of fjaka.
76. The sea when there is a bonaca.
77. Our intense love for our amazing Croatian national soccer team.
78. The ability to go somewhere and not stress if you have forgotten to lock the doors.
79. Hanging out in a good-old-fashioned komin.
80. Eating good-old-fashioned juha in that komin.
81. And let’s not forget blitva.
82. Seeing the last-remaining donkeys in the selo.
83. The never-ending fields and amazing mountains.
84. Watching water polo games.
85. Listening to a klapa sing.
86. The way Croatians of all ages, young and old, happily socialise together.
87. The way you can mention your family’s nadimak and strangers instantly know who you are.
88. The surreal feeling you have just knowing you are IN CROATIA! Sometimes it feels too good to be true, like a dream you never want to wake up from.
I even miss all the things you would think one would not miss, like:
89. The sight of freshly laundered washing hanging out on everyone’s balcony.
90. The little stray cats and dogs that roam the streets (which we secretly fed, even though this practice apparently only “encouraged their presence”.)
91. All the abandoned stone huts and homes once filled with families and laughter – now only a shell of its original structure, overgrown with weeds, remains.
92. The crazy old wives tales (to name but a few: if you get a chill up your back or goose-bumps, it means someone is talking about you; it is bad luck to cut your fingernails on Sunday or if you leave your bag on the floor, you will never be rich but always poor.)
93. The fact that alcohol can be purchased alongside milk and juices inside a supermarket (the miniature liquor bottles right beside the cash registers always surprised me).
94. The sight of men drinking and smoking at a time when you would think they would be working.
95. Their tendency to throw a swear word into most sentences.
96. The smell of cigarette smoke literally everywhere (on the beach, inside restaurants, bars and cafes…there are no strict rules yet with regards to smoking.)
97. The annoying ose (wasps) that seem to find you exactly when you are about to take a bite of your sendvič.
98. The laissez-faire, carefree attitude some retail folk give to customer service (sure they are sometimes great but other times their attitude is definitely less than ideal.)
99. The impatient overtaking of every slow car on the road.
100. Finally the refusal of cars to slow down or stop for others at the well-marked pedestrian crossings.
Actually, scratch that – this is the one and only thing I will NOT miss now that I have left Croatia.
Everything else on the other hand, I most certainly will…