You know that feeling when you arrive somewhere new and realise there’s some cultural difference that you haven’t quite grasped?
Within a few hours of arriving in Zadar in Croatia we were only too painfully aware that something was eluding us.
It was lunchtime. It was hot. We fancied a drink and we were ready for our first snack in Zadar; some local goodie which would get on famously with a bottle of local beer.
On our initial exploration of the shiny, cobbled streets of Zadar, a city that had more charm, personality and curious corners than we had dreamt of, we’d spotted intriguing looking sandwiches with the appearance of filled pita bread and cheesy meaty savouries galore wrapped in delicious looking overcoats of puff pastry.
We were going to be spoiled… and probably end up fat and happy gorging ourselves on Zadar’s ‘too tempting to resist’ snacks. We randomly picked one of the old city’s attractive pavement cafés and plonked ourselves down on a seat.
Strike 1: The café didn’t serve snacks, only drinks.
We moved on to another café located in one of those ridiculously pretty squares full of history, atmosphere and bubbly locals that Europe does so well.
Strike 2: The café didn’t serve snacks, only drinks.
By this time, we’d entered the ‘isn’t that odd?’ phase with the faintest alarm bells in the back of the mind ringing out ‘you’re missing something here.’
With stomachs bitching and feet muttering mutinously, we continued on – glancing at menus in café after café. All were the same; drinks galore but not the slightest sniff of anything to snack on. There were places that sold snacks but not beer as well.
The obvious solution here was to buy something from one of the pastry or sandwich shops we’d seen. But by now we were on a mission. We were going to find a café/bar that served beer and a snack.
Finally, at a pavement café next to the Roman Forum, we spotted people tucking into savoury pastries as they supped their icy Karlovako beer.
We sat down and the waiter was at our table in a flash.
Strike 3: The café didn’t serve snacks, only drinks.
Then fate intervened and we were handed the reason why people were eating even though the bar didn’t sell snacks. A couple sat down next to us and whilst the guy ordered the beers, the girl toddled off to a nearby pastry shop, bought a couple of Croatia’s version of sausage rolls and brought them back to the table where they scoffed them.
So we did the same.
From then on we noticed this happening in cafés and bars all the time. People would sit at a table with French fries or burgers bought elsewhere.
It was one of those bizarre little cultural differences (well it’s bizarre if you come from a country where you’d be shown the door if you started chomping on food you’d bought elsewhere) that nobody tells you about. Knowing what the local snacking etiquette is would have saved us a lot of time.
We did actually find a place called Skala that served both beers and sandwiches. But for some reason the waiter totally ignored us even though it wasn’t busy.
After waiting 20 mins we decided it was far easier to stick to the tried and trusted method and left.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to lots of other places. Follow Jack on Google+