On the whole I didn’t much care for Croatia. I recall food resembling slabs of boiled elephant, ‘fruit’ liqueurs so lurid they should have been served with a HAZMAT suit and a mournful nation preoccupied with folkloric dirges so dour the national anthem might as well have been ‘For the love of my tractor’ or ‘My heart belongs to donkey’.
Conde Nast Traveller and numerous friends have long waxed lyrical about Croatia so evidently I was there when it was having a bad hair (shirt) day, but such was my disenchantment at the time that I wondered why the sign for the town of Split hadn’t included an exclamation mark after its name as a blunt travel tip of sorts.
But Froggyland – that quixotic caravan of amphibian folly located just near the Krka National Falls – made everything better.
Froggyland was a direct consequence of last century’s deep fascination with taxidermy, which was recognised as an artistic pursuit of great importance. In the taxidermy rock star pantheon, Croatia’s Ferenc Mere was, alas, one of its quiet achievers and forgotten heroes.
In the early 1900’s Ferenc painstakingly stuffed hundreds of small frogs and then applied his singular artistry to fashion them into all manner of tableaux; a schoolroom of diligent froggy pupils hunched over desks, a seamstress whipping up a creation in spots on the Singer. A froggy circus troupe forming human(!) pyramids.
The attention to detail on display was only outshone by the willful absurdity of Ferenc’s pursuit. That after more than a century, his creations remained housed in an unprepossessing caravan off the beaten track of a small town near a waterfall in Croatia only made for a more delicious experience.
That was some years ago now. For all I know Froggyland has since been granted the national importance it so richly deserves and Ferenc has been cast in bronze somewhere (and hopefully taking on an appropriately green patina).
Either way, Froggyland will remain one of a clutch of truly serendipitous travel moments. For that alone, I dip my lid, ‘One Froggy Evening’ style, to Croatia.