My Top 7 Croatia Experiences

The first month of Remote Year: overdrive on the senses and mind, but some of the most beautiful experiences possible in a part of a world I knew so little about.

1. Soparnik

This one is a huge credit to Remote Year for setting this up. RY offers tracks each month, various local experiences surrounding food, the outdoors, and culture, or all of the above in one day. We went rafting, bit of hiking, and while that was fun, the best part of the day was going to a local family farm run by an older couple who made us Peka and Soparnik, some best things I’ve eaten on Remote Year, a perfect combination of amazing ingredients and traditional cooking. They both involve burying food and slow cooking, but being able to see the multi-step process and enjoy the Soparnik, a Croatian version to me of 韭菜盒子 ,still remains one of my top RY memories a year out.

2. Mostar 

I talk more about the experience in this other post, but visiting Bosnia and Mostar was for me, of those travel moments that truly shake you with its beauty as well as its sadness. I definitely had one of my best meals all year and best times chatting with locals in Mostar, but everything from the scarred landscape to how a blonde police officer forced our driver to pay 20 euros (feels really little) as a bribe really informs you about the condition the place is still in due to its recent history.

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3. Swimming in the Adriatic Outside Workspace 

My first Remote Year workspace conveniently had a beach outside of it. Given how crazy my headspace was the first month, my favorite part was getting up everyday and swimming in the ocean with Croatian families. It’s one of the few places I felt super comfortable going alone and leaving my stuff out all year, despite being a super obvious foreigner (as you can imagine there weren’t many overweight Asian women swimming at a beach off the tourist-y areas). I felt so lucky everyday to swim in the pristine water.

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4. Greenmarket Shopping and Wandering Around Roman Ruins

The old town of Split, the old city center of roman ruins, incredible farmer’s market, and tourists galore (kind of gross). Even though parts of it are touristy-trappy, the farmer’s market is delightfully a place for the locals but friendly to tourists. I’ve had some of the best tasting produce I had all year and learned to enjoy it all with ajvar.

5. Island Hopping

Island hopping in Croatia from Split, can’t even describe how amazing, beautiful, and varied the experience can be. Swam in some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.  Fisherman’s House and Pension, run by a Scandinavian man who fell in love with a Croatian woman, served unpretentious fresh delicious seafood.

 

6. Meet the Barba: LAB Split Brewery 

Another Remote Year track “Meeting the Barba,” or the man behind one of first the craft breweries in Croatia. One of the best American Pale Ales I’ve tasted from the tap, can’t believe this guy just let us enjoy it. There’s not much high-end beer selection in Croatia, so this is your guy, who could easily go toe-to-toe with any California craft brewery.

7. Visiting a Working Shipyard 

Another Remote Year track and far off the tourist track, getting an up close look at the shipbuilding industry in Split. Took a look at the post-Yugoslavian socialist era to competing with much more modern and sleek operations globally. Wish them the best as they’ve got their work cut out for them.

Favorite Coffee Stops in Split, Croatia

The first thing my American ass I missed when I spent a month in Split was cold brew and drip coffee. Especially in the mediterranean, not really a thing. Croatia is still so recently a post-Soviet state with a small population to boot, so the sheer variety of such frivolities is still limited.

Luckily, a few places came to the rescue:

D16 

The most American style and first iteration of such coffee shops in Split Croatia. You can get Cold Brew growlers if you’re in town for awhile. Us American savages do not appreciate the slow drinking of expresso like the rest of the region.

  • Website
  • Dominisova ul. 16, 21000, Split, Croatia
  • ~$3-5 USD

4coffee soul food

More than decent stop for a good cup of brew while wandering around the old city. You can really feel the love for the bean here. They specialize in Italian style coffee, but have Cold Brew for American tastes as well.

All the Feelings about Croatia, and Bosnia. Where I was at and what what I learned. 

Where I Was At 

Every month on Remote Year, I wrote a bit about my mood and what I learned from each place each month. I got more disciplined about this over time, even taking a spreadsheet grid of each place I went to and what I liked. I’ll start posting that in the months to come. But it’s been more than a little over a year since I left and almost two months into my return, so I should start.

I have to say, a lot of my learnings are not necessarily the most happy, especially in the beginning, but I hope reflective and needed to decompress from a year as unbelievable I’ve had. I’ll start on some of the fun stuff soon. 

To start, I had a dark predilection for visiting and learning about unhappy places and sectarian conflict. I can easily draw a straight line back to my own family’s history. You project your own history on the history of others in the tragic tapestry of the human experience a way to sort out one’s inheritance. It’s a particular Asian American refugee neurosis for those of us in the tribe and other with similar experiences, but difficult for outsiders to comprehend that constant state of mind. Given world events the past few years the awareness I’d soon no longer be considered young, I was in a kind of mood. 

I wasn’t ready for a routine and not ready to settle down. At this point, I’d also gone through years of feeling figuring out my identity, that didn’t fit in anywhere and deprogramming myself from intergenerational trauma. Unfortunately through that progress I had evolved into the sort Asian female yuppy monster – you’ve seen them on the streets of NY, SF and LA, a bunch of recovering ABGs never too far from a needless act of aggression. 

My co-workers affectionately told me “you broke out of a middle class prison” by job hacking to work remotely for a year. I digress to say we’re better off than most New Yorkers, so it’s some real first world urban elite complaints. Still I wasn’t feeling it, so with the encouragement of a dear friend and mentor who did RY I put laptop on my backpack and got on a plane to Croatia, which had to be the most fitting places for both literally plunging into beautiful ocean and into dark history. 

All the Feelings About Croatia and Bosnia

In between daily gorgeous swims in the Adriatic outside of our beachy hipster workspace, exploring the islands, seeing insane natural beauty, running through roman ruins, and still working my full time job, I steeped myself in really terrible news articles and reels about Srebenica and the Bosnian wars for probably more time than was healthy and read Girl at War  and The Tiger’s Wife. I remember also reading S in college and remembered what Dr. Quinn, shout to one of the best professors I’ve had, taught us about the unfortunate nature of how history repeats itself despite knowing it and the shock to Europeans of it happening again in living memory at their shores in the Balkans. 

This behavior was probably not something someone should do on a couch with a view of the sea or anywhere for their psychological and emotional health. This month I had in Croatia and the next two were weird places for dark historical tourism juxtaposed to a kind of magical European vacation and drunken party Eurotrip alongside serious work hours and pressure on top of the madness of the first two months. Your sense of time and experience becomes warped and compressed in this way on Remote Year along with a sense of displacement. A friend told me about a French word dépaysement that describes it well I think.

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I felt this acutely traveling into Bosnia. It was really the first time I contemplated and saw blue hair blonde eyed White people in such a destitute ruins and recovering from such a recent and tragic history. 

In Croatia, it felt like the past wasn’t far behind, but the scars of war are visibly gone in most places a tourist would go. In Bosnia, bullet holes and no go zones with land mines are part of the tourism. It’s one of the early experiences that sticks with me. When I think about my time there, I think about one of the best meals I had all year and the beautiful landscape while sinking into a disturbingly recent shocking moment of humanity’s depravity. 

Dark tourism aside, I loved hanging out with a few college students telling me how their family saved the coffee roaster they got from Italy during the war and about Bosnian coffee. They asked me questions about what I was doing there and expressed how they wanted to join the EU and be like another EU member state, be able to travel and get jobs in places like Germany. Definitely a favorite moment of the trip, even if bittersweet. Really want better for them.

What I Learned

The enormity of how little I knew about this part of the world sank in, and I consider myself pretty cultured and well-traveled. Everything from the beauty, how charming the people were in a particularly slavic way, and histories I need to learn more about. 

So my lesson for the first month was fitting for the start: how little I actually knew and still don’t know. This would prove to be hypnotic contrast when I got to Asia, so in hindsight I felt grateful for the humility. I really leaned into that vibe as we traveled to Prague.

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First Transition Day aka traveling hoard of digital douchebags.