Ottoman Empire has been present in Europe since 14th century and they were one of the most powerful empires of all times. The greatest victory of Ottomans was defeating the Byzantine Empire and conquering Constantinople (todays Istanbul).
In 1493 the Ottomans started what is called today Hundred Years Croatian-Ottoman war which ended with the defeat of Croatia. Beside Croatian, the Osman Empire ruled over most of the Balkan country. Their influence today is most visible in Bosnia and Hercegovina where Ottomans were present until 1908. when Bosnia was annexed to Austrian-Hungarian Empire which ended 445 year of Ottoman ruling in Bosnia.
The influence that Ottomans had on Balkans is still present in the form of culture, customs, religion and food. As the Bosnia, as well as Croatia, Serbian, Montenegro and Slovenia were once one country Yugoslavia, the culture spread within them, although, not so much in Slovenia where there is more present Central Europe influence.
In Bosnia there are three main Ethnic Groups, Bošnjaci (which are Muslims), Serbians (Ortodox) and Croats (Catholics). Croats are present mostly in South part known as Hercegovina from where a lot of them moved to Croatia and brought parts of the culture with them. Considering the facts that Bosnia is border country with Croatia, a lot of the culture is spread around the borders and especially in East part of Croatia known as Slavonija.
Most of that culture is very similar or same as Turkish one. And even today Turkey is a big alley of Bosnia, helping the Muslim community there by financing building the mosques, schools, even offering scholarships for Bosnian Students.
If you ever visit Bosnia, you will feel like you came into the small version of Turkey. A lot of mosques everywhere, the same food, Turkish coffee, lokum, the style of older people, the words, the customs. In Croatian, you will not have the same feeling. Croatia is a country that has been under a lot of different influences and their culture there is mixture of a lot of thing originating from other countries. In Croatia, depending on the part of the Country the influence is different. You can see Turkish Influence mostly on East, Mediterranean and Italian (Roman Empire Influence) on the coast, in the continental and North side, you can see the influence that Habsburg Monarchy and Austro-Hungarian Empire. This influence is most visible in the form of food, architecture style, music, customs, dialects, language in general.
So lets start with the food in Croatia that is similar or even the same as Turkish one. First and the most common one is borek, which is a pastry filled with cheese, potatoes or meat, although. This dish can be found in every bakery in all the Croatia, it is mostly eaten for breakfast or as meal for young people after a night out. Beside the bakeries, a lot of families are making the home version which is called pita, which is not round shaped, but made in a form of squares, let say. And the pastry is thinner in pita, but it is a very similar thing. There are version also with spinach, pumpkin, intestines. In general, Croatian people eat a lot of meat, but mostly pork ones, while in special occasion they eat lamb or goat meat. And bread is added to everything.
The baklava is also one of the things present in Croatia, but is is mostly made with walnuts, and it is very rare and uncommon to find a baklava with pistachio, because the area is not marching for their production so there are imported and very expensive.
The other meal that is very common is sarma (which means rolled in Turkish). Sarma in Croatia, unlike in Turkey is made with sour cabbage leaves, while in Turkey they made it with grape leaves. In Turkey there is also dolma (which means stuffed), and it is mixture of rice, meat and spices stuffed in the zucchinis, peppers and other vegetable. In Croatia there is stuffed paprika (peppers). The main difference is that when boiled, the mixture of spice red sweet peper and flower is added to give a thickness to the mixture.
Avery small percentage of people in Croatia are Muslims and this also before of history of Turks who brought and spread their religion on Balkan area.
When listening Balkan songs, you can notice very similar sounds, tones, key in the music as in Turkey, especially the traditional music.
In Turkey, when entering the households, you take off your shoes and live them in front of the door. In Croatia you enter the hallway and then you take of your shoes. This custom is used to maintain the cleanness of the home and not bringing dust and dirt from outside.
On villages, older ladies and grandmas wear scarf around their head, it can be tied in the front part or behind. In Turkey that is also a custom. When woman are entering into old age, starting to get grey hairs or become grandmas they usually start wearing scarfs.
Turkish coffee is also ubiquitous habit in Croatian households and people there are drinking it even more then in Turkey. In the morning, after lunch, when someone is visiting, before dinner. Unlike Turkish style of cooking where coffee is added into the cold water, in Croatia the coffee is added into boiled water and after the rising, the foam is removed and the rest is left to boil. After the coffee is added to the cups the final touch is distribution of the foam into the cups.
In Croatian official language there are words that has been taken from other languages, and they are called “tuđice “. (tuđe means someone’s else). Tuđice are incorporated in official language, but by they sound is is noticeable that they are not native words. So these word are not completely adapted to Croatian language. The word coming from Turkish language are called “turcizmi” and there are omnipresent in everyday speech. Some of those word are:
HR: Čarapa or čarape (plural), TR: ÇORAP, meaning of the word is sock/socks
HR: Sat, TR: Saat, meaning hour
HR: džezva, TR: cezve, (c is read the same as dž, it is pronounced like in the word jacket), meaning: small pot with handle for making coffee
HR: badem, TR: badem, meaning: almond
HR: višnja, TR: vişne, meaning sour cherry
There are also some words in unofficial language like HR: pantalone, TR: pantalon, meaning: pants.
So these are some of the things that Croatians took over from Turkish culture. The Ottoman impact was strong and it is present on all the Balkan area. Although in Croatia their influence today is not so visible like in other Balkan countries, we still share some things which makes us closer to Turkish people.