Osijek and Vukovar
Chapter Nine: osijek and vukovar, croatia
The place that may inspire a nomad to settle down for a while.
Osijek gets my vote for the most “livable” city in this region. I plan on hanging out for a while!
I’m still here and still taking in this town. So far, I’ve found it to be the most “livable” place in all of the places I’ve been in so far.
It has a fantastic bike culture, is easy to get around in, and has an unpretentious vibe.
It has a perfect balance of vibrancy, but also a certain.. intimacy? and accessibility that makes it ideal for introverts who may be exhausted by the idea of preparing for a “night on the town” including dealing with crowds, parking, and complicated public transportation, or for lazy people like me who don’t enjoy mustering the will to plan for and make an ATM/Shopping Expedition.
But it sure as hell isn’t boring. So far I’ve been to a major concert within an easy 15 min walk from my apartment, and the Pannonian challenge BMX finals, also an easy walk or bike ride from almost anywhere in town.
This town is EASY. I really, really like that. Just the other night I went for a quick walk and discovered that on one of the cobblestone streets there is live music, wine, and beer every Friday night this summer, with easy, laid-back seating and a very cozy, beautiful, and inviting atmosphere.
This is common in Osijek. FOMO (fear of missing out) can be a real thing when living in this river town.
Markets: Excellent. The outdoor market here has some of the best produce I have ever seen. What a time to be in Osijek, in the height of summer! I’ve never eaten so many fresh fruits and vegetables. I feel great.
I’m becoming more of a fan of eating at home. It’s very, very easy to find everything you need to prepare simple, traditional, healthy Croatian food.
Nomads: Packing a portable blender sounds weird, but it can be totally worth the weight and space to carry one. This way you can easily make soups, smoothies, pico de gallo, cauliflower rice, and much more.
Note: I suggest buying from the smaller producers and asking them if they use and chemicals, pesticides, or herbicides. They may not know the word “organic” but the word “domaći,” which means “home grown.” This will only mean that it was locally produced. Find a vendor you trust when purchasing peppers (paprika) or other fruits and veggies that tend to retain residual toxins and pesticides. Ask locals who are more aware and health conscious.
Same goes for meat, eggs, and cheese. Find a grower or producer you trust and stick with them. Ask locals for the best places to buy grass-fed meat or eggs.
Keep in mind that you will only find produce that is actually in season. This may mean that you won’t find spinach in July. Since there is always something in season, it’s a good incentive to try something new each month.
Tech: If you need Apple support..there are a few Apple Authorized dealers, but no official Apple Store. (For this you may need to plan a trip to Zagreb)
Clothing: It’s totally hit or miss. Osijek likely isn’t a fashion mecca, but it’s close to Zagreb so it’s not really that much of an issue.
Services like haircuts: Stay tuned. I have a cut and highlights booked.
Restaurants: See above. I stopped going to touristy restaurants even for cheap lunches. Osijek still needs more places that offer healthy, affordable, diverse, and accessible options for every day. Dining out here seems to be regarded as a “special occasion” event or a place for tourists or hipsters to find a hamburger joint.
There are a few restaurants that I feel good about as everyday options, but there still needs to be more places where I can find say, a healthy vegetable soup or a good quality burrito for lunch.
Osijek wins, hands down, when it comes to transportation and ease in getting around.
By Bus: There is a bus station (see above) on the west side. It’s pretty much the same as other cities as far as having regular daily routes to major cities in the area.
Intercity buses: I have only been here in the warmer months and prefer walking or riding a bike to get around. I’ll have to update my take on in it winter.
By Tram: Wow, the systems is SO easy to navigate. Zagreb and Osijek both rate high in my book for having great tram systems.
By bicycle: I was thrilled to find a place in Southern Europe that had a solid bicycle infrastructure and culture. Being that I lived in Denver and spent time in the NL, and am very much a “Bicycle person,” this is one of the MAJOR factors that won me over and made me decide to spend more time in Osijek.
What it taught me:
I’m still here in the moment, but the major theme here for me is health, self-care, and balance. This is the perfect place for that.
Many, many people have left this town during the war, and many more are still leaving. The economy isn’t great here.
To some, some of the areas may seem a bit empty. There is an odd combination of abandoned buildings and gorgeous buildings with strong Turkish and Austro Hungarian influences. This may be a downside for some, but overall, it has not been for me, since the beauty far outweighs the “less than beautiful” or even ugly buildings.
I for one, also enjoy the lack of crowds.
I love the Tvrđa, love visiting and having drinks. However, I stopped going to the tourist restaurants because I have experienced some sneaky practices designed for the restaurants to make quick cash at the expense of the customer. This is not a great way to establish long term relationships with potential repeat customers. There is some shortsightedness, unfortunately, like what I have seen in Dalmatia and is not unique to Osijek.
One word: Mosquitoes. (Komarci)
It can be a real problem, living right next to a river and a major wetlands preserve. There are efforts to keep them under control. I’m learning more and more about how complex of a science it is: Timing, finding ways to control the mosquitoes without harming the ecosystem of the wetlands, etc.
To me it’s not a deal breaker. I have repellant, (mostly natural) and have not used any DEET repellants, although for some situations, like taking photos on a riverbank, it might not be a bad idea.
I wasn’t thrilled with the bus station and its lack of wifi or a travel-friendly cafe to sit with luggage, get bearings, text a host or find a hostel. This seems so obvious to me, but many bus stations in this region have not caught on yet. It wasn’t a great first impression, although Osijek quickly won me over to the point where I want to stay.
The usual. A few missed photo/video opportunities due to a dead battery. I need a battery backup.
Beyond the Visual:
Get a bike somehow, and explore the bike paths both in the town itself along the Drava river, or further west towards the village of Visnejvac.
Check out a summer concert or sip some wine in a cafe along the Drava, or find gatherings in the Tvrđa (old city) where live music and wine can likely be found on weekends. The vibe is totally laid back and easy to get to. No crowds or complicated planning.
Wine is a big deal here, as is craft beer. The food is also very good. If you can, I HIGHLY recommend learning more about Croatian cooking, especially for everyday. This is one of the gems you may not easily find as a tourist or even a nomad, but it is totally satisfying to go to the market to buy fresh vegetables to make a soup, or learn how to make healthy breads, or other easy to prepare dishes that are also budget-friendly.
This is only a partial list.. I’ll keep adding to it!
The entire old city or Tvrđa. I like to walk through it and stop at the “Water gate” for a workout and quick mediation. I may also stop at St. Michael’s church.
The bike path connecting Osijek to the village of Višnjevac is my favorite place to think.
Kopački Rit. It’s a gorgeous wildlife and bird sanctuary to the east, and easily accessible as a day trip on a bike. Have a coffee in a quiet, beautiful spot right next to some water lillies (lotus) and watch or listen for birds, or enjoy the extensive wooden plank pathway as you explore. The sound of the wind in the marsh reeds is beautiful.
For some reason, there is a whole PLAYLIST that comes to mind (for me personally) which ranges from traditional Slavonian music to the latest Tool album. This may be due to the fact that I just bought some new headphones and have access to a bike and a bike path!
For a sampling of traditional Slavonian music, go to the SOUNDTRACK page.
The Tvrđa, wine tours, a visit to the town of Vukovar, Kopački Rit, the St. Peter and Paul cathedral, the pedestrian bridge, and any of the many concerts and events you can find here in the summer.
I can’t wait to see what winter/advent season has in store!
Digital Nomad Friendliness Rating:
If you found me because of the interview in Total Croatia News, you know!
I give it an A- for me, personally. With a few more healthy eateries and support for Apple devices, it would be an A+, even with the mosquitoes.
I want to stay here longer, to “settle” longer term in Osijek. I really like this town. Osijek is fantastic for cyclists, wine enthusiasts, bird watchers, photographers, foodies, and people who very much enjoy diving into life and savoring every moment, both large and small. Cool things will find you just by walking around or going for a bike ride. One way to make that happen even more, is to forget your phone/camera at home. Works almost every time. Sigh.