5 Things I Missed About Croatia After Moving Away

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Zan / Unsplash
Zan / Unsplash

Living in emigration involves a constant sense of longing: longing for your home, your family, your friends, your community. Those are the big ones and they’re self-explanatory. However, depending on the place you move to, you’ll also find yourself missing a few other things from your homeland. In my case, the place was Ireland, and as for the things…

No, it’s not the colour of the sea or temperatures in summer or the like. While I tehnically did miss those terribly, it’s low hanging fruit. Instead, here are 5 oddly specific things I missed about Croatia: 


1. Blitva

When it comes to groceries, one is generally spoiled for choice in Ireland. What you can’t find in shops or food markets, you’ll get in one of many international grocery stores.

Except blitva.

I was expecting to spend my days in Ireland yearning not for the wider scope of Croatian cuisine, but specific items we grew up with and love: Bajadera, Cedevita, Napolitanke, Domaćica biscuits. And yet, with Croatian presence in Ireland already well-established, there are stores catering to us Balkan folk. All our favourite sweets were easy enough to find.

Other things, like the whole sour cabbage needed for the quintessential winter dish sarma, required a bit more effort and savvy, as it otherwise can’t be found in Ireland and what little is imported by a few selected shops is scooped up as soon as it hits the shelves. It’s not easy to get your hands on it, but it’s possible.

Swiss chard, however, hasn’t yet found its way to Irish markets. There’s an abundance of other leafy greens, but to a Croatian who grew up on the coast, they’re not a good enough alternative for the revered blitva. When you’re longing for a taste of home and are looking to recreate a classic simple Mediterranean lunch, what are you supposed to pair all that cod and hake with, spinach? As if.


Image source: Hippopx

To be fair, you’ll occasionally spot blitva at farmers’ markets, but I wasn’t lucky enough to come across any in my vicinity. Overall it’s not widely grown in Ireland and is not sold in stores. I appeal to the Croatian food shops in Ireland to start sourcing some blitva asap – we’d even take the frozen stuff.


 2. Bura

Don’t get me wrong, there’s no lack of wind in Ireland – in fact, it seems that it’s windy all the time. But it’s the Atlantic, and so the cold winds are paired with high levels of humidity and very unstable weather in general. You can forget hanging laundry out to dry most of the time.

Unless it’s exceptionally sunny, moisture will just keep circulating in and out of the fabric until all your clothes give off a nice damp-basement odour. Instead, we keep the drying racks indoors, next to any available sources of heat.

I often found myself eyeing our damp hoodies and jeans on drying racks for days on end, dreaming about a few laundry lines out in the open and a good spell of bura to take care of all the sheets and towels.


Image source: Hippopx

Tumble dryers are a very popular alternative, and while we did have one, I’m not a fan as they damage clothes over time. I’d trade them all for the crisp, fresh feel of bura-dried clothes any day of the week. The clarity of mind that bura brings along is just an added bonus. 


3. Malvazija

Ireland doesn’t have much of a wine culture, with good reason – the Irish climate and grape growing are mutually exclusive. To be fair, with the entire world of phenomenal Irish beers and whiskeys to explore, there really isn’t much to complain about on the booze front.

Well, if there’s one thing us Croats excel at, it’s complaining, so let me just say… There were days when I was browsing the wine section in supermarkets and off-licenses, longing to see a bottle of malvazija or plavac mali on the shelves. Wines that are commercially available in Ireland come from France, Italy, Spain, USA, Chile, South Africa and Australia, and while the selection isn’t bad, it’d be nice to see a few Croatian varieties thrown in the mix. Because if there’s another thing us Croats excel at, it’s wine.


4. Motorways a.k.a. hrvatske autoceste

Back in the day, I didn’t quite understand why tourists in Croatia often praised our road infrastructure. Such great roads you have! I was confused – I mean, they’re just roads. they get you from point A to point B, and as long as there are no potholes along the way, we’re good.

Looking back, I failed to see the second most important aspect of driving in any given country, after safety: convenience. I now realize we’re spoiled, having a country criss-crossed by a network of well-maintained highways which significantly cut down the time required to get from any one part of the country to another. Tolls are costly and they add up on longer distances, but if efficiency’s your main goal, you’re all set.

Ireland does have a similar number of motorway routes, but their layout is different: it’s a radiating shape with the capital as its central point on the eastern coast, giving off the impression that their main purpose is to connect Dublin with other bigger cities. God forbid you want to drive north to south. To be fair, local roads are quite scenic and they make for enjoyable roadtrips – but if you just need to get somewhere fast, you’ll find yourself missing the good ol’ A1.


5. Mom’s tea

Let’s end on a sentimental note. There’s a special tea blend my mom always makes on cold winter evenings or whenever anyone in the family falls ill: a big pot of chamomile and rosehip tea with plenty of honey. We typically use the Franck brand which is a household staple in Croatia, only to be replaced with Cedevita teas in times of dire need.


*Not sponsored, but always in my pantry.

While I know all the ingredients and ratios needed to brew this wondrous healing potion, I just never seemed to get it right in Ireland. No matter what I added to it, it was never as intense or as comforting as I used to remember it. It’s possible that different tea brands are to blame, or that the gods of Barry’s tea were punishing me for straying from the right path. I think it’s most likely that my attempts simply lacked the most important ingredient: a touch of mom’s magic.


Now that I’m back in Croatia, I’m happy to have all five things in my life again. I find, however, that I now terribly miss some aspects of life in Ireland, and I just might look at a few of those in a counterpart to this piece. I guess the saying you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone really goes both ways…



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