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Europe › Day 72: Croatia

Osijek, the unassuming town in eastern Croatia

“Flying high in the friendly sky
Flying high without ever leaving the ground”

—Marvin Gaye

I spent over four months traveling in Europe with diabetes, an ambitious backpacking adventure — in winter — through unusual places far from the usual tourist trail. This article is part of a series of daily travelogues about my adventures and blood sugars over one hundred thirty-one unbelievable days in Northern, Eastern, Central, and Southern Europe.

Today's BGs: 315, 342, 129, 280, 270

7-day avg 196 (31x)  /  Trip avg 189 (340x)

A fine day for travel today was soured somewhat by some terrible blood sugars. Masayo and I took a bus from Croatia’s capital city, Zagreb, to the town of Osijek deep in the eastern sliver of Croatia known as Slavonia. The bus ride was fun, and we even saw snow on some distant mountains. But I checked my BG five times today, and four times it was very high.

Everyone who’s traveled with diabetes has had a day like this – you enjoy the non-diabetic parts of the day and just struggle through the bad readings, vowing to do better tomorrow. Always tomorrow!

#bgnow 315 in the morning. Why?!

After excellent post-dinner BGs last night I was surprised to wake up at 8:00 am today and find that I had risen to 315 overnight. 315! That must be some shenanigans from my liver.

Our final breakfast in Zagreb was another good one: eggs and bacon as cooked by Masayo, plus a chocolate croissant, yogurt, fruit, and coffee. I took a large shot – I had to take care of all this food plus get that 315 down.

We bought bus tickets to Osijek (pronounced “oh see yeck”) online last night so we had to be at the bus station at a certain time. We left the apartment key on the table as instructed, locked the door behind us, and walked to the tram stop outside. Today was the day after Christmas, and while Zagreb was a little more lively than yesterday it wasn’t by too much.

As our tram neared the bus station we noticed some mountains to the north of Zagreb that were covered in snow, or at least a light dusting of white frost. Snow is always exciting for us and I wondered if we’d be seeing any as we kept moving south along the warmer Adriatic coast. Probably not. Osijek might be our last good chance for a while for snow.

The tram leaving the bus station where we got off, and you can see the snowdust-covered hills in the distance. They weren't like that yesterday.

#bgnow 342. Not related to my food intake and Humalog. Something else is afoot. Probably my liver. Yes, my liver is afoot.

We found our bus and our seats, and we pulled out bound across northern Croatia for Osijek. On the way I checked again to see how my BG had done after breakfast but it was even worse: 342. Mathematically offensive: I blame extra glucose from my liver. I took a large Humalog shot with no food.

Go away, liver, you aren’t helping.

The rare foodless Humalog injection. Desperate situations call for desperate measures.

We pulled into cold and sunny Osijek at 2:00 pm as the sun was already starting to head downwards in the big open sky above. It was a 1.5-km walk to our guesthouse, which I’d booked on as usual. Osijek seemed nice but a lot of things were closed. I wondered if enough things are going to be open through the entire holiday season for us to eat reasonable food.

Osijek station seemed bigger and nicer than it need be.

Our room is at a place called Sobe Lišnić (“so-beh lish-nitch”); it’s attached to a bar and we had to go in to find the owner. We checked into a pleasant, dark-green room on the second floor with only a small ceiling window, and then went out into Osijek to check out our new surroundings.

We walked along the Drava River, a wide, flat and placid waterway arcing over the north part of town, and noticed a couple of supermarkets. They were closed today but would be open tomorrow.

The Drava River as seen in Osijek.

Osijek reminded me in some ways of Ptuj, Slovenia, with a kind of restless and idiosyncratic creativity being expressed in courtyards and on buildings. Colors and interesting graffiti enlivened flat surfaces, and a large “OS” installation sat prominently in a plaza. I like a place that bares its artistic soul like this.

A late lunch was at a place called Strossmayer Bishof, just down the street from our guesthouse. The restaurant was nice, and even had cloth napkins – with our budget we could probably count on one hand how many times we’ve seen that on this trip. I ordered ćevapi (a.k.a. ćevapčiči) which are little ground beef sausages; it came with bread, rice, and fries. It was a terrible amount of carbs for a diabetic, especially one who had been so high all day. But I was now 129 so I thought I could handle it. I took a large Humalog shot and ate the food which was fantastic and very filling.

#bgnow 129. Fixed that 300+ nonsense. For now.

The tallest church spire in Croatia is here in Osijek. See, it doesn't even fit in photographs!

Then we saw some more of Osijek, including its small main square which is dominated by The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul and its 90-meter spire, Croatia’s tallest building outside of Zagreb. I couldn’t even fit it into one photograph. The town itself is very pleasant. Families strode around, dogs ran and played, and trams would pass by every few minutes. One of them was draped in thousands of white Christmas lights. Very festive.

We weren’t that hungry for dinner so Masayo agreed with me that we could eat the leftover chocolate cereal we’d brought ffrom Zagreb. But we had no milk and nothing was open.

I suggested we eat it with water and to my surprise Masayo was fine with that. But then I got a genius idea: there was a McDonald’s in town that was open. We could go buy a carton of milk there!

So we ventured out into the dark Osijek night and entered, for the first time on this trip, an American chain store. There were quite a few people inside, mostly younger people hanging out and laughing. McDonald’s are similar the world over.

But this one had no regular milk, only chocolate. We bought a carton, considering that the cereal was chocolate anyway.

#bgnow 280 before a cereal dinner. I knew that lunch was too carb-heavy for the shot I took.

Back in the room I checked to see what the ćevapi meal had done to me and the news wasn’t great: I was 280. Masayo and I poured half the cereal into coffee mugs, then half the chocolate milk into each, and then a little water into each to water it down somewhat. Now that’s cheap and simple self-catering for world-weary travelers!

I took a large shot. This better get my BG back down in range once and for all today, I thought grimly.

#bgnow 270. Why not? A fitting end to this day of mostly terrible BGs. Tomorrow I get a fresh start.

Nothing doing. Later at 11:00 pm I was still about the same, 270. Not for the first time today I let out a sigh and took an unscheduled Humalog injection. Sometimes things just don’t work out.

But tomorrow we have a full day to go explore Osijek some more and it looks like a really absorbing and interesting place. High-BG grumpiness aside, I’m looking forward to it.

I hope my liver sleeps in though; it’s done more than enough for me for a while.

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What's the grubbiest road meal you've ever had? Leave a reply

Read next: Day 73 › Croatia

Buildings and bullet holes in Osijek, Croatia

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