I’m always intrigued when I discover an aspect of American culture that has been adopted outside the States. Croatia has its share of fast food, and restaurant owners even like to use the English phrase “fast food” in signage to enhance the perceived authenticity.
But I was more interested in borrowings beyond burgers (alliteration unintended), like when I discovered that one of Croatia’s home-grown music store chains is named the Dallas Music Shop. Inside, you may find the odd Tom Petty album, but the store specializes in Croatian music, some of which undoubtedly borrows from American pop and rock.
Holding up this Western theme, I found this poster outside a café in Trsat:
Forget all that nonsense about the Beatles being from Liverpool, England. According to Croatians, the Beatles hailed from America’s very own Route 66! I knew something was suspicious when Paul McCartney sung Rocky Raccoon in a faux-faux American accent.
But Croatia is not content with merely soaking up the musical themes of America. At every newsstand in Croatia, I was never able to fully grasp the country’s penchant for boilerplate spaghetti western stories.
Rio Grande Western! Stampedo! Western Hit! But how about the stories themselves? Well, I can’t read that much Croatian, but the name of a protagonist Jack Spade requires no translation. “Indijanac” comes from Indian. Using my limited Croatian vocabulary, “Smrti” has something to do with death. “Usamljeni Junak” – Lone Hero. Aside from that, the illustrations flesh out just about every Western cliché—smoking pistols; skulls; dead-or-alive posters; a naked woman, with a scheming smile, rising from a bathtub (or she may be an employee of a local brothel, I don’t understand enough Croatian to tell)—all the stuff that I thought went out of style years ago in the States. How could this be? Do Croatians yearn for hundreds of miles of open space, something that ran out in Europe a millennium ago? Or could it be a desire for a Wild West won by lone romantic heroes—an image that serves as a counterbalance to Croatia’s history of various European empires and armies having seized her prime coastline on the Adriatic?
If you wish to get in touch with America’s tradition of Western storytelling and can’t readily find it on America’s newsstands, worry not. Croatia’s got your stash. You just have to be able to read Croatian to get at it. Does anybody know how to say “This town’s not big enough for both of us” in Croatian?