My Couchsurfing host in Osijek is Tatjana, who came up on my search for “vegetarians” (there aren’t many vegans or anarchists in Croatia). As I’m about to leave Vukovar I get an email from her confirming I can come, but saying I can only stay one night and she hopes I feel like “Saturday night going out” as she can’t leave couchsurfers alone in the house. Oh god, I really don’t. I think about trying to get a new host short notice but decide to just see what happens when I get there.
It’s not so far from Vukovar to Osijek – about 40km, and Slaviša cycles with me the first part of the way.
Tatjana has a friend staying too and there are also two French Round-the-World travelers staying for the night, so it’s a full house. The French guys don’t seem to want to go out any more than I do, but there isn’t much of a choice. We drive into the old part of town where there are lots of trendy bars. It looks a lot like any place in England, or anywhere else in Europe for that matter, on a Saturday night. Girls wearing not much, drunk guys leering at them, music, smoke and loud noise. Me and the French guys have one beer each while we’re waiting for the girls to get bored of dancing and talk about how much we hate places like this. I feel worse for them as they have to get up early the next morning and hitch. They are allegedly hitching around the world, but they don’t like the rain, so if it rains they get the train instead.
In the morning I have breakfast and do yoga and somehow get embroiled in a debate with Tatjana and her friend about the migrant situation in Calais. The two girls have sickeningly liberal views. Tatjana says that anyone can make whatever they want of their lives if they just put their mind to it. She says the best thing we can do for the migrants in Calais is to help them to “change their minds”, by which she means mindset. They are not really oppressed you see, they just think they are. She is a psychologist and I notice some NLP books on her bookshelf. I am reminded once again that one of the key parts of privilege is not seeing that you have it.
By some strange coincidence I unwittingly pick Tatjana’s brother and his partner as my next hosts in Osijek. Fortunately we have a lot more in common. Mili and Valent are also perfect hosts and spoil me rotten. I have a luxurious bed in the lounge, all to myself, with a vegan cookie bowl that magically refills when I’m not looking. Mili cooks the most wonderful food and leaves a seat laid at the table for me when she goes out with little notes saying what the ingredients are. They even let me watch an episode of Black Books on their widescreen TV and give me use of their spare laptop. I haven’t watched TV in years and it’s funny the things you start to miss when you’re away for a long time. We also share some good conversations of course and I know that these are people I will keep in touch with.
I stay a few days in pampered luxury and then Pete arrives to pick me up in the van. He has managed to make it across the Croatian-Hungarian border without a green card for the van, something he’s supposed to have for the insurance. The border guards are much more interested in pointing and laughing at the wood-burner in the back and a crowd of them gathers, each calling over the next highest in rank until finally a very officious looking man with lots of stars on his jacket waves him through. This is good news for me as I would have to cycle to the border to meet him otherwise and the weather is atrocious – it has rained for four days solid. I am pleased my cycling adventures are at an end for now, although I have loved it and learned a lot.
We decide to head to Zagreb before going back up to Hungary for the retreat – an “Outer Rushen” retreat with Keith Dowman – more on that later. On Mili and Valent’s recommendation we stop off for three nights on the way in a beautiful natural place called Jankovac, not so far from Osijek. It’s by far the most beautiful place we have wild parked yet and has woods, rivers, waterfalls, caves and lots of lovely walks. It’s right up in the mountains and although I can imagine it heaving with people on weekends and public holidays, we don’t see another soul outside the occasional cars or motorbikes passing through.
The weather is drizzly, but we don’t care. We spend a lot of time reading in the van and resting from our long respective journeys, snoozing, eating and going for walks. We get into foraging and gather elderflower, nettles and discover an abundance of wild garlic, which tastes amazing in sandwiches with miso and tomato. I wish I could identify more wild plants. Inspired by my stay with Slaviša in Vukovar, I’m also inspired to eat a lot more raw foods as part of my meals and have been experimenting with raw vegetable salads. I also discover it’s possible to make baked potatoes in the woodburner by keeping the fire mostly to one side and the potatoes stacked up on the other. It’s a delicate balance but seems quite successful. It takes about an hour, or an hour and a quarter if you want them really soft. I’m preparing to start a recipe page on this blog soon with some of the recipes I have leaned from people while traveling.
Pictures of Jankovac –>here<–