Zagreb's Shameful Ignorance of Eastern Croatia Revealed (Part 1)

By 3 February 2022

February 3 - The level of ignorance among Croatians about what lies in the east of their country is staggering. And they are really missing out, for eastern Croatia is amazing. 

I really don't know where to start. 

Perhaps at 06:35 on November 16 last year. For it was then that I picked up American digital nomad videographer and emerging media star, Steve Tsenterensky, for a 6-day tour of eastern Croatia that I promised would blow his mind. 

It blew his mind. 


(Osijek, Full of Life - Osijek Tourist Board)

Prior to the trip, I asked Steve what he knew about Croatia east of Zagreb (he has been here for just over a year on this visit). Very little, he confessed openly - the war, Vukovar. That's it. Six days later he knew a hell of a lot more, and you can read an in-depth account of what was easily the most sensational trip in my 18 years in Croatia. In Slavonia. In November. Time to Tell the Truth about Slavonia Full of Life.


I posted a LOT on Facebook during our trip, and I was struck by the number of locals admiring the destinations and asking where I was. But I was truly unprepared for what happened when I got back to Zagreb. Local friend after local friend told me that they had never been to Slavonia - even though it is motorway all the way, and despite the fact that its most eastern point - Ilok - is closer to Zagreb than Split. 


I never complain on social media - there is no point, as nobody cares, with so many of their own problems 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 out as the east is FANTASTIC. 

And so it started in a predictable way. You are a rich foreigner (ha, if only) and we poor Croats only earn 4,000 kuna a month, so cannot afford to go. I rephrased my sentence. I was genuinely shocked (not that I am bothered) how many of my Zagreb friends who are among the 200,000 who go skiing abroad each and so have money, have never been to Slavonia. 



But then... 

A very educated Dubrovnik friend of mine was in town and he had also never been to Slavonia. I decided to ask him three questions.

1. What is the biggest town in Baranja? Hmmm - is it Vukovar?

2. Can you name three famous buildings in eastern Croatia, NOT including the Vukovar Water Tower? Hmmm - nope.

3. Can you name three Slavonian dishes not including kulen? Hmmm - nope. 

I have asked those first two questions (biggest town in Baranja, 3 famous buildings) to 30 friends in Zagreb over the last few weeks. Only one person could answer both questions correctly. 

And the sad thing is that Osijek is the most vibrant city in all Croatia, certainly at this time of year. It has fantastic energy, much different to the media portrayal of emigration and decline. 


And so when the Croatia Airlines magazine article had Osijek on the Danube (it is on the Drava), and the Kingdom placed Djakovo Cathedral in Osijek (does this mean that Djakovo is actually on the Danube now?), it might not be total incompetence as it seems, but perhaps total ignorance, with an incompetence chaser. 


But then again... any national tourism board who can promote a full 18-hole golf course in central Zagreb is a bit special. Yes really - read more in Tourism Quiz of the Summer: How Many Golf Courses Will Croatia Have Next Week?

I came up with an idea to film a tourism questionnaire on Ban Jelacic to highlight the problem (I will still do this), offering a free rakija from a Slavonian colleague in traditional dress to anyone who takes part. 

And then yesterday... This. 

Index.hr, super quick as usual, beat me to it. An Index journalist took to the streets of Zagreb and showed locals photos from Pula, Virovitica, Osijek, Karlovac, Rijeka, Rovinj, Varaždin, Đakovo, Dubrovnik and Split.

The continent and the coast. You don't need to understand Croatia to see the results. 

I will still do my survey, as it is part of a bigger project to Make Osijek Great Again (#MOGA).  


A project which received strong support from Minister of Tourism and Sports, Nikolina Brnjac, at our first meeting last month. 

Zagreb is a natural source of tourism for Slavonia, and this is certainly not charity. In my opinion, a big difference between tourism in Slavonia and tourism in Dalmatia is that nobody who visits Slavonia comes back disappointed. 

And there is so much to see and do. This video below is for another project, but it felt apt to add it here. For those who know the east well, do you recognise all the places? And for those who don't know Slavonia at all, go and have your mind blown, as Steve did - this is his video. 


And if you are interested in the #MOGA project and have something to contribute, come to the TCN MOGA networking drinks at Pivnica Runda in Osijek on Monday at 19:00


Want to know more about Osijek? Check out the Total Croatia Osijek in a Page guide