After Zagreb, I headed to Osijek, the fourth largest city in Croatia. My Couchsurfing host had recommended it to me, and I figured why not. I took the noon bus and 4.5 hours later, arrived in eastern Croatia. As I stepped off the bus, my heart sank. It happened to be a Croatian national holiday on August 5, and all the shops were closed. There was almost nobody at the bus station, and you could almost hear the sound of grass blowing in the wind. It was that quiet.
The first thing that went through my head:
“Am I in the right city? Was it a mistake to come here…”
Well, it was time to give this little abandoned town a shot. What’s the worst that can happen? I pack up my bag and head out in the morning.
My hostel happened to be located in a convenient part of town, quite central to both the city center and the old town, so that was the first good thing. The hostel owner suggested that I walk towards the river and see the pedestrian bridge, so I followed his advice. As I got closer and closer to the bridge, I started hearing loud music playing, children laughing, and people chattering. Wait, there are people here? The town isn’t deserted?!
The Pedestrian Bridge
The bridge was quite beautiful but the most exciting part was that I found out where the entire city was. Everyone was hanging out at the river having themselves a dance party. It was hot and humid as hell, so it made sense that people would be playing and relaxing near the river.
After the initial scare of Osijek being an abandoned town, it actually ended up being surprisingly amazing.
I went to eat dinner at this boat restaurant called El Paso, which not only had a great view of the Drava river and served delicious pizza, but for the portion size, was actually quite reasonably priced (42kn or $6.29 USD for one ginormous pie).
The Slavonian Pizza
My Slavonian pizza had tomatoes, cheese, ham, mushrooms, sausage, bacon, pepperoni, a sunny-side-up egg in the center, onions, and chili peppers. The tomato sauce was served on the side so as not to make the crust soggy. The pizza was pretty darn good, but definitely served the European way: super thin crust and to be eaten with fork and knife.
Tvrda – the Old Town
I also visited the old town of Osijek, which has well-preserved 18th century Baroque-styled architecture. I also happened to visit on the first Saturday of the month which is when the locals set up stands and sell their antique collections in the middle of the old town square.
I saw everything from a victrola to a rocking horse to candlestick holders up for sale. It was quite interesting seeing what people had collected over the years and what they were willing to part with. The antique market is open on the first Saturday of every month in the morning and closes around 1pm.
Would I recommend visiting Osijek?
Absolutely. It is a charming little city with not a whole ton to do per se, but you can soak in the sun, relax by the river, swim and frolick with Croatians, and enjoy some beautiful architecture while eating very affordable yet mouth-watering food. I really enjoyed my two nights’ stay in Osijek. I didn’t see anything phenomenal or mind-blowing, but I left very pleasantly satisfied.
Not a lot of travelers visit eastern Croatia as it is slightly off the beaten path, but if you have an extra day or two, I would definitely add Osijek to the list.