Croatia/Slovenia/Italy: Two Borders and a Supermarket

A couple of days ago my host Nina mentioned she was going to the supermarket.  Normally this wouldn’t be *that* interesting to me, but this supermarket was in Italy, and we are in Croatia.  Immediately this got my interest and I asked if I could tag along for the ride.Being from NZ, its impossible for us to drive to another country, and while the concept of going “overseas” for shopping isn’t new (kiwis are always travelling to Sydney or Melbourne for the weekend to go clothes shopping) the idea or crossing not one, but two foreign borders to go to the supermarket sounded completely crazy to me.  Turns out its a regular occurrence for people in europe living close to the borders as they take part in some form of supermarket geographical arbitrage. This is helped of course by the distance of Muggia, Trieste  being approximately 110km from Pula.To put this in perspective, thats the same distance as driving from Pukekohe to Warkworth, and crossing two international border crossings (though to be honest I didn’t even notice crossing the border between Slovenia and Italy due to the whole borderless concept of the EU).

So off we set, and within 40 minutes we were in another country, this time Slovenia.  Border crossing was painless and was literally a case of showing the police our passports, no customs, nothing.  We drove through Slovenia and off towards the highway where a tiny roadsign indicated we were now in Southern Italy, going paste the airport town of Trieste and to nearby Muggia.

What was interesting was the car numberplates – which in the EU show not only the country of origin, but also the city it is registered to.  I’d say 50% of numberplates (bear in mind we are at a supermarket in a industrial area in Italy) were registered to Pula, Croatia, while another 20% of numberplates were belonging to Ljubljana, Slovenia – leaving just 30% of numberplates belonging to actual Italians.

The reason, as indicated earlier – cost.  It turns out general supermarket items are 30-50% cheaper in southern Italy than in Croatia, and at least 100% cheaper than New Zealand.  I literally did not see a product in one supermarket over 2 Euros. What I did see though was loads of amazing cheeses, pastries and meats that would only be found in the specialty sectons of places like Nosh or Farro Fresh at home, at a massive markup.  And some rather interesting products such as…

…. Horse Burgers… and no we didn’t buy any … yet..

This is what 95 Euros got us in the Italian supermarket – or approximately $150 NZD. This is full of specialty cheeses, pasta, meat, milk (it seems people are mainly buying UHT stuff), dairy products, anchovies and other similar stuff. Basically – food is a complete and utter rip off back home. Anyone who says Europe is expensive hasn’t ventured outside of the major cities.  The NZ Dollar goes really far over here.

After the supermarket we checked out the Bata Factory store (remember Bata Bullets), where I almost cried on seeing the prices of Nike trainers.  You could pick up brand new trainers for anywhere from 20-50 Euros, which would normally cost $100-200 NZD back home. Literally half the price of back home.

Once we were done, we decided to venture back home, again via Slovenia, where I’d been promised “the best burgers in the world” by Jasen and Nina. They weren’t lying.  These things sure as hell give Burgerfuel and GBK a run for their money, and check out the view from our table!

3 massive gourmet burgers, 2 beers and a coke for 24 Euro, not bad for $12 NZD each, you wouldn’t even get a Maccas combo for that!  After that is was back through the border (where I have still yet to actually get my passport stamped, after the 3rd border crossing – I don’t get it) and home to Pula where its going to be a stormy night.

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  1. A bit of history — Kiwi troops garrisoned Trieste immediately after WWII finished, and had Tito’s revolutionary forces ringed around the heights with guns trained on the Kiwi’s — very tense time — Trieste was the only major strategic port in that part of the world — hence, stayed Italian, and Tito got the rest of what then became Yugoslavia.

  2. Fabulous post. I felt & experienced exactly the same thing…I am staying in Zagreb for 12 months & have also experienced the travel through Slovenia to get to Venice.

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