What do five Slavonians, one Dalmatian, and an American-Herzegovinian girl have in common on a Friday evening? Firstly, they’re all located in the same dining room. Secondly, they’re all enjoying the same cheese from Livno, Kulen from Novska, wine from Istria, and giggling about everything – from current affairs to sauerkraut. And thirdly – a love for all things Croatian.

Trips like these are the best way to really understand the habits and traditions of a place, indulging in the culture of a small town (just about 8.000 people) with familiar faces, a different scenery, and hearty local people who will do their best to offer you a stay to remember.

I’ll admit it – before I met my friend, I had no idea that Novska even existed. As part of one of Croatia’s most fruitful regions in the past, my mom always proudly says: “Slavonia was once known as the America of Croatia!” (We know, mama…)

But, what’s left of Slavonia today is the real question.

After two full days of history lessons and car rides, here’s some random trivia that I brought back home:

– did you know that the small town of Lipik has thermal spas with supposedly amazing healing properties where the Romans used to bathe? I didn’t.

– did you know that only 25 years ago, the area surrounding the town of Pakrac had almost 28.000 inhabitants, whereas today it has merely 8? Way to go, centralization.

– did you know that Slavonian oak trees are the wood of choice for Italian furnishing companies?

Last but not least – am I the only one that didn’t know that Slavonia was once a Kingdom?

The evening called for a feast. What was on the menu? Čobanac. A national stew dish made of meat, meat, onions, meat, and different spices. And meat. Basically, a lot of meat that’s cooked in a huge pot for at least three hours. Delicious!

Sunday’s decompressing involved walking through the forest along the frozen lake of Novska, and the realization that there is so much left to see and learn about the region of Slavonia. This is only the beginning!

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