Meet Croatia’s Most Contented Man: a Dour Yorkshireman in Vinkovci

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Complaining is a way of life in Croatia (as in other parts of the world, no doubt), and I have lost count of the number of times I have been sat alone at a cafe with a cold one and been subjected to rants at the table next to or behind me. As much as I love living here for the last 20 years, this tendency to complain and focus on the negatives is one thing I like least. For all the goodness in this country to celebrate, it is usually the negative aspects that make the headlines. Such is life, here and elsewhere. While I too see things to complain about, I see little reason to voice those feelings unless we are going to do something about it. And with the culture of complaining over a coffee usually the extent of the action, very little changes. 


Which is why I really appreciate – and warm to – positive people who may well have lots to complain about in life, but they prefer to focus on the positives. 

One of my favourite places to hang out in this country is one of its most surreal hostelries – an authentic English pub quite literally in a field in the middle of nowhere in eastern Croatia, about a 10-minute drive from the historic town of Vinkovci.  The White Boar is owned by a dour Yorkshireman called Steve Gaunt, who has added plenty of colour to life in Vinkovci since arriving in 1991 as a volunteer to fight for Croatia in the Homeland War. 


Wounded in the war, Steve’s impressive repopulation efforts in a land of emigration and population decline (6 kids with his lovely local life) are just the tip of the iceberg of his contribution to life in the east over the last 30 years.  In addition to adding Yorkshire puddings to a Vinkovci restaurant menu and being responsible for the installation of a (still-functioning) London red public telephone box in the historic centre, Steve has made countless contributions to the cultural offerings of the local museum through his metal detecting finds. 


But it is his beloved pub where Steve comes into his own, and where  I have rarely seen anyone as contented in their surroundings as this guy. He built the pub to have his own place to escape, a place to chill with his mates and family, to drink when he liked, and to experiment with other projects too. A keen cider drinker, he has slowly been mastering the art of cider production as one of his latest hobbies.


I first met him on Vukovar Remembrance Day on November  18 a few years ago, as he was hosting a barbecue for all the foreign veterans who had travelled for the anniversary.  it was certainly one of the most unusual nights of my time in Croatia. 


But it was on my last visit to The White Boar a few months ago that I realised just how contented this dour Yorkshireman was. I was visiting with an English friend on business in Osijek, who didn’t quite believe that The White Boar really existed. 

It was a fun visit, full of laughter and good conversation, with our choice of music on the jukebox (The Smiths). With no neighbours.

I remember two things Steve said that day that prompted this article.


“I have everything I need here. Vinkovci (population about 30,000) gives me everything I need.” With so many others complaining that there is no life in the east, it struck me that here was a man of modest needs, appreciative of the things that others did not see.

At one point, he looked his watch, turned down the music, asked us to be quiet, and looked out the window.

“Did you hear that?” as a train passed by along the nearby track. “That is the only sound I hear all day from a neighbour.”


Life in your very own English pub in a field in the middle of nowhere, with opening hours to suit you, and your own selection of beer and music.  And what tune did our dour Yorkshireman choose to highlight his contented status in life. You guessed it, Heaven Knows I’m Mierable Now by The Smiths. Which goes something like this when sung by a man from Leeds.  

Croatia off the beaten path is a constant voyage of unique discovery, even though I have been here for 20 years. There are lots of similar bubbles of contentedness such as Steve all over the country, and discovering them one by one is yet more magical reason to live in Croatia. 

And yes, The White Boar really does exist. You can follow it on Facebook


And if you are curious about how a red London telephone box came to reside in central Vinkovci, read on…

I am always in search of undiscovered stories and bubbles of contentedness in Croatia, so if you have one you would like to share, contact me on [email protected] Subject Bubbles. 


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