19 July 2011

Things Croatian People Like

Tourism. It's an enormous part of the economy, accounting for 20% of their GDP. So, naturally, people are much more welcoming and accommodating than a lot of other overrun destinations. Still, hearing more German, from locals and tourists alike, than Serbo-Croatian was initially unsettling and I thought, "How am I going to know what Croatian people like if they're always catering to foreigners?"
Seeing old photos like these at the Tourism Museum in Opatija (which was, ironically, free) made me see it a different way. I realized that tourism has been such a huge part of their culture for such a long time that it's unfair to consider it artificial or inauthentic.
Tourist Brochures. I add this separately because we found it really amusing. We have never ever received a welcome packet at a border crossing before. It outlined various laws and cultural highlights in a full color, multi-page mock gossip rag. Very creative. At each campsite, guest apartment, museum, we were handed a glossy pile of paper. Wasteful, yes. Endearing, totally. Proof that they have a big tourism budget, absolutely.
Family-Style Meals. For the record: most of the meals didn't look like this one. I just figured you all might be sick of fins and gills. Croatians love to put a big plate of food in the center of the table for the diners to share, listing many "plates for two." When a lamb was done roasting on a spit, people that didn't even know each other when they sat down would dig in, all at once, to take a hunk of meat from the serving platter, piled high.
Konzum Supermarket Billboards. Konzum is Croatia's largest supermarket chain and billboards for the company are absolutely everywhere. Sometimes they said witty things like "Konzum. Croatian word for Grocery" other times they were accompanied by cardboard cut outs of farmers dotting roadside fields to emphasize the farm-to-store aspect of their K Plus brand. This banner, strung up on the side of a cliff on the way to Krk Island was the most impressive.
Squid. I've never seen so many people eating squid in my life. If three things were offered at a casual eatery, squid was one of them. When there was a large menu, about a third of all diners would still order squid. Most often, they were grilled, but stuffed and fried were other options.
Perma-Pong Tables. Croatian people seem to really like ping pong tables - and not the type that you can fold away when you're not feeling particularly pongy. I can't say that they like ping pong itself all that much - just these permanent tables. We never saw a single person play it, instead opting for badminton and a soccer/tennis hybrid.

Honorable Mentions

Water Shoes and Yoga Mats. After a day on most any Croatian beach, you'll really like these things, too. Both make it a lot more comfortable to walk around and lay on pebbled and/or concrete beaches. The water shoes have the extra bonus of protecting your feet from spiky sea urchins and pointy rocks on the water's bottom.

Naturism.
There are more naturist (read: nudist) beaches and campsites here than anywhere either of us have been. It's hard to tell if this is something Croatians like or a market they've excelled in because Germans (their biggest tourism clients) really, really like being naked. Either way, in Croatia, clothing is pretty much optional. (Naturist sites do not require full nudity).

Ice.
It's sold at gas stations, offered in bowls at restaurants, there was even an ice machine at our Cres Island campsite.

Multi-Lingual Welcome Signs.
At the start of every new town, there would be a sign that read "Dobrodošli! Benvenuti! Willkommen! Welcome!" Part of the reason is that the speed limit changes when you enter a residential area and part is the tourist infrastructure. Still, they really really liked it.

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