Most thoughts of Croatia immediately lead to a sparkling sea from the sunshine and beautiful villas overlooking the coast, but this is not the area of Croatia I recently visited. A lesser know region, visiting the small North Eastern villages of the Baranja County was a special experience, made all the more unique by our incredibly friendly Croatian hosts.
This region of Croatia delivers endless fields of blossoming sunflowers stretching into the horizon and an eclectic array of traditional Croatian houses. Each of these complete with thriving vegetable gardens that would make our local produce aisle at the supermarket very jealous. We eventually arrived for lunch at one such Croatian home, owned and run by Nico who specialises in hosting travellers interested in ‘rural tourism’. This was an opportunity for us to taste a traditional home cooked Croatian meal served with food grown by Nico right off his land.
I sampled a simple, but full flavoured meal with probably the largest and definitely most succulent tomatoes I’ve ever eaten. Flavour exploded in my mouth as I suddenly realised, this is what a tomato is meant to taste like. After lunch, Nico invited us to explore the farm he tends to on his property. This included a menagerie of animals from swans to turkeys to the friendliest goats I’ve encountered as well as vegetable gardens and corn further back. Speaking to Nico about his farm, you can see the joy and pride radiating from this man as he knows the produce he grows tastes delicious and not a single person who stays there can’t help, but be charmed by the nuzzling goats.
I felt humbled by my experience, his property was one of the most relaxing and peaceful places I’ve visited. There is the potential this may indeed be more relaxing than lying down on a white sand beach as there you have other tourists to contend with. On Nico’s farm in the middle of nowhere with our small group, I felt marvellously isolated. It recharged me to go back to the basics even if just for an afternoon. Speaking with one of the most content and happy people I have met, I started to realise the satisfaction you can achieve from the simple things in life.
My thoughts for any visitor to Croatia would be hit up the famous beaches in Dubrovnik after all the coast is Croatia’s major draw card, but don’t neglect the North East. You will stumble upon a region with friendly people who are optimistic despite the recent war and destruction that has negatively impacted many of their lives. You will find fresh food and a patch of Europe that is virtually tourist free. Relax, unwind and try a shot of plum brandy with the locals, Eastern Croatia is a destination that deserves to be explored.