Monday, 8 August 2022

Outrage Caused by Treatment of Reporter Matijanić Continues in Croatia

August 8, 2022 - After the news of the death of index.hr investigative journalist Vladimir Matijanić first became public on Friday, it turned into a scandal, which should have far-reaching consequences.

There are several various investigations into the circumstances of the medical care (or lack thereof) he received prior to his passing, as we already reported. Yesterday, index.hr made public the audio recordings of Matijanić's and his partner's conversations with the emergency services. The conversations are, obviously, in Croatian and they're extremely difficult to listen to, as the medical personnel keeps being dismissive and diminishes the seriousness of the situation, even as his limbs turn blue and it's obvious he's in a dire situation.

Those recordings caused another wave of backlash against all involved, and a famous Croatian journalist Boris Dežulović, known for his honest and often emotional texts, published a FB status (see below)

He says that it took him three days to publish anything on Matijanić's death, because he didn't want to write anything he'd regret afterwards. Then he continues to pose three questions to Vili Beroš:

- if a black limousine with Archbishop Bozanić came to the emergency infectious disease department, and he had all the diagnoses and symptoms like Vlado did, would he also be told that there's no need for hospitalisation?

- if it were Prime minister Plenković's wife who called the ER, just once, not twelve times, with all the diagnoses and symptoms like Vlado's, would they tell her that she didn't need to be admitted to the hospital and that she should pee in a pot?

- if the ER arrived after three days into a home of any HDZ's high-level county official with the same diagnoses and symptoms like Vlado's, would they tell him that they won't take him to a hospital and that he should just have crackers (note: not a precise translation) and leave?

He goes on to say that those are simple, trivial, "yes or no" questions, and that every possible answer should lead to the resignation of the minister, the Prime minister, the entire government, installation of the Day of Defeat and the Homeland Futileness and calling it quits on the entire meaningless Croatian state. 

He finishes his status with a few expletives, whose meanings you'll easily find here.

 

And the third incident in yesterday's very outrage-driven news cycle came courtesy of a Split physician, Hrvoje Tomasović MD, a former politician with extremely right-wing leanings, who also decided to post on his Facebook, insulting the late reporter Matijanić and suggesting that he (Tomasović himself) would've helped any journalist "he was friendly with" in that situation, if they'd called him. He added that Matijanić was obviously not even able to get help from "his Yugo doctors", so the only thing he had left to do was to call - an ambulance. The outrageous post concludes by stating that it's Matijanić's "quasi-honest opinions" about not needing unfairly privileged treatment that lead to his death, because there was nobody for him to call who could get him the help he needed. Obviously, there's at least one doctor in Croatia who believes and is not afraid to publicly write that the emergency services in Croatia are just for those who don't have friends in high places, and they are themselves to blame when they don't get the help they need.

Tomasović has since deleted the post, but luckily, there are screenshots:

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Many professional medical associations, including the association of the hospital doctors, gave statements condemning Tomasović's post and the sentiment it carries.

Monday, 8 August 2022

Croatia to Pay €16m in Penalties for Failure to Finish Railway Line on Time

ZAGREB, 8 August, 2022 - Croatia will have to pay at least another HRK 120 million (€16m) from the state budget for the Dugo Selo to Križevci railway line because the project will not be completed within the time frame agreed with the European Commission, Jutarnji List said on Monday.

Under the co-financing agreement, the modernisation of the existing track and the construction of a new one should be completed before the end of 2023 in order for the agreed sum to be paid out in full, which Jutarnji List says is unlikely to happen.

The people contacted by Jutarnji List claim that around 90 per cent of the work is expected to be completed by the end of 2023, and the whole project would be finalised in 2024. In that case, Croatia would have to pay the remaining 10 percent or so of the value of the work from its own budget.

The value of the contract with a domestic consortium is HRK 1.2 billion (€160m), and the European Commission is co-financing the project with 85 percent.

Around 70 percent of the work has been done so far, the newspaper said.

The contract for the construction of this section of the railway was signed in 2016 and should have been completed in 2020. The deadline has now been extended until 2024, which means that the work on the 38.2-kilometre-long section would take as many as eight years to finish.

In that way, the completion of this section would coincide with the completion of work on the Križevci to Koprivnica line, which started in 2020, four years after the work on the Dugo Selo to Križevci line began, Jutarnji List said.

Jon Worth EU Cross Border Rail Project Comes to Croatia: Oh Dear!

ULTRA Europe Festival's Joe Basic Talks Split Tourism Development

August 9, 2022 - Last week's TCN editorial, Is Split Tourism 'Strategy' Killing the Goose with the Golden Eggs? caused a lot of discussion. Now listen to the viewpoint of one very switched-on stakeholder, ULTRA Europe Festival founder, Joe Basic. 

It takes a lot to succeed in Croatia, especially when you are bringing a new product. And especially when that product is the largest music festival on the Adriatic coast.

Canadian Croat Joe Basic returned to the Homeland over 25 years ago to try his luck in the newly independent Croatia and to do his bit to help shape the country's future. Despite many falls along the way, he has achieved considerable success, the most notable of which is undoubtedly the ULTRA Europe Festival, which will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary next year (9th edition, with a break during the pandemic). 

Unlike the majority of expats living in Croatia, both Joe and I well remember how Split was ten years ago. It was the year I started Total Split, which was the first meaningful portal in English about the city, with many places written about for the first time in English. Back then, Diocletian's Palace was a little bit intimidating, especially off-season, when it became a ghost town with a medium-sized drug problem. 

Split itself was better known not as a tourist destination but as 'the Gateway to the Dalmatian islands.' It was undoubtedly beautiful - with a spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site and Riva just metres from the ferry - but a far cry from what we see today. Joe, meanwhile, was busy trying to put his country - and particularly Split - on the global map. 

Something that the ULTRA Europe Festival most certainly did. 

And so, for a few days in July, the Dalmatian capital gave way to the ULTRA party, which attracted 75,000 people in the first year, and which has been growing ever since. Nine years later, Split is beyond recognition as a destination, and the current problems with drunkenness, nudity, and anti-social behaviour are the cause of much discussion. Some point the finger of blame at ULTRA, saying that everything went downhill from there. 

I disagree. And for those who have followed me for 10 years, you may recall how against ULTRA Europe I was on my adopted island of Hvar. But for Split, I think ULTRA has been a good thing. It would have been even better if the biggest problem that has arisen had a solution in place - a strategy and operational plan to manage the rapid growth in tourism. Such a thing does not exist, and that is the main cause of Split's current issues. At least in my opinion. 

And the good news is that things are solvable. I have little faith in the current Split Tourist Board, which has been worshipping at the temple of numbers, numbers, numbers for years without coming up with any kind of discernible strategy. But I do have hope in the new mayor, Ivica Puljak, who has recently been returned to power with a much stronger mandate, after calling a snap election to strengthen his position earlier this year. Mayor Puljak's active participation in the TCN Split Winter Tourism Roundtable initiative is evidence of his involvement and positive engagement.

I thought it would be useful for the debate to get the perspective of Joe Basic. As the man who brought the ULTRA Europe Festival to Croatia and Split, he is very well-positioned to comment. He also understands the scene and the Croatian way much better than I do. Additionally, he understands the trends and can clearly see where Split is going wrong - and how to (relatively easily) fix it. I will be tagging Mayor Puljak and the Split Tourist Board when I publish this, in the hope that they will take on board Joe's insights and recommendations.  

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A Canadian-Croatian returnee, it was only when I sat down with Joe that I realised what a proud Croat he is, and how much he is working on several fronts for a better Croatia. 

Our conversation took us back a decade, a time when Split was not recognised globally or in Europe as a travel destination.  Back then, Split was seen as the biggest Croatian city on the Adriatic coast, a city known for its sports teams Hajduk, Jugoplastika, and the home town of athletes Goran Ivanisević and Blanka Vlasić.  A city people only visited on their way to other destinations such as Hvar, Bol or other Dalmatian islands connected by ferry in Split.  When the ULTRA Europe Festival was presented as an event to be organised In Split, many locals commented that they could not see how this event could be organised here, and that there were many other locations more attractive than Split for this event. 

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Split was a VERY different place to today. The average stay for tourists was less than two days, and as I pointed out in last week's editorial, there were less than 5,000 registered private beds, with hotels also lacking. The spreadsheet above, provided by the Split Tourist Board, shows just what an (uncontrolled) explosion there has been, particularly in private beds. 

According to Basic, the ULTRA Europe Festival recognised that Split offered an attractive destination with access for guests from around the world by plane, car, train, boat and other means of transport.  As the largest city on the coast, it ensured potential local support and attendees of the event.  With its historic old town, beautiful sea views, beaches, and other attractions, it provided the opportunity to create the first destination music festival where guests not only attended the music festival but had an opportunity to experience all that the destination offered.  A chance to maximise the overall experience of festival goers with all that the city of Split offered.

Pulling off the first ULTRA Europe 

Given the fact we live in a bureaucratic country where foreigners have to produce an original birth certificate no more than 6 months old for their annual residence permit renewal, I can only imagine the nightmares he must have had pulling this off for the first time.

Basic explained that initial support from local authorities to organise the first ULTRA Europe Festival was minimum and almost zero.  The city of Split and other government authorities did not financially support the event and ULTRA had to organise everything. The city did not have the infrastructure to support events of this scale, and as a result, ULTRA needed to secure equipment from all over Croatia and Europe.  Local services and agencies, including security, cleaning and others, did not have the required number of staff, so they were sourced from other cities, thereby increasing the overall costs.  Transfer vehicles, hotel rooms, and presidential suites in 5-star hotels were limited and/or non-existent, making it difficult to meet the expectations of artists arriving to perform at the ULTRA Europe Festival.  In the first year, there were over 75 000 people attending the event, in a city with less than 200 taxis available. And of these, very few offered their services after midnight.  Today, there are over 2000 taxis are in the city of Split during the ULTRA Europe Festival.

People who arrived to attend the ULTRA Europe Fetvial in 2013 from around the world were, for the most part, introduced to Split and Croatia for the first time.  Most people had never heard of Split and were coming to attend the ULTRA Europe Festival, not visit the destination.  For instance, many people who attended didn't even know Split was a coastal town with beaches and arrived without bathing suits.  No matter how much Croatians believe everyone in the world knows about Croatia and Split, this was certainly not the case In 2013, especially in countries outside of Europe.  Basic says he and his team spent a lot of time and money presenting and promoting the destination worldwide to inform and educate our attendees about the destination.

What was the ULTRA Europe effect?

The ULTRA Europe Festival was very controversial when it first came, but Split locals quickly got to like the tourism boom it brought for a few days in July. I asked him about 'the ULTRA effect' in Split during those festival days, including some numbers. 

He told me that the ULTRA Europe Festival is very powerful as it generates a high level of awareness globally, generating over 200 million impressions which present Split and Croatia in an attractive manner.  It has branded the City of Split as a leading global destination, and today it is clear that Split and Croatia are definitely more well-known, and the ULTRA Europe Festival has a lot to do with this, especially in the young adult segment (18-35).  These are the most sought-after tourists in the world and most difficult to attract as they seek relevant and trendy activities to animate them. At the same time, they tend to generate the greatest financial impact as they spend more than the average tourist.  This higher level of expenditure and increased intensity of activities when visiting generates a higher level of impact as these guests seek more while visiting.  For instance, according to Basic, boat excursions and taxi boats In 2013 compared to 2022 have increased 1000%. Taxis, restaurants and other activities have all grown 10X since the first ULTRA Europe Festival.  The average night cost less than 50 EURO in 2013, whereas today the average room is over 200 EURO, with rooms in hotels costing more than 350 EURO / night during the ULTRA Europe Festival.

In 2013, the first two weeks of July were known as SRPANJSKA RUPA (the July Hole/Gap), where there was a drop in tourists and occupancy numbers. This would increase and peak in the season starting after July 20th to the end of August.  This was a problem for hotels and apartment owners, and for this reason, the second weekend of July was chosen for ULTRA Europe. Today you have 10x more capacity, and you are unable to find a room in the first two weeks of July. It is now considered to be peak season for many hotels and other accommodations in Split, based on the average price per night.  This is not true for other cities in Croatia, such as Dubrovnik, Zadar and Rovinj.

What about the perception of Split as a destination 9 years later and the ULTRA effect on that?

Basic answered that the image of Split has changed immensely since the ULTRA Europe Festival started.  It has become a global destination recognised as a vibrant city and a perfect destination to visit.  This is especially true for young adults as the ULTRA Europe Festival has made this more attractive and welcoming for these guests.  Over 1 million people have attended the ULTRA Europe Festival since 2013, and the positive experience and word of mouth promoting this destination from these guests alone have created a tremendous amount of interest to visit Split.  It needs to be recognised that young adults (18-35) are the hardest target group to attract to any destination.  They are a target group that tends to spend the most on average and are especially valuable guests as they will repeat their visits over an entire life span, returning with their families and children later In life.  Typically, destinations in the world who can consistently attract young adults are those destinations which will become leading world destinations recognised for being trend-setting and top of mind in the world.

Basic also believes that the ULTRA Europe Festival has also been a catalyst in generating changes in the overall offer In Split, with many new restaurants, cafes, shops, hotels and other openings catering to an international market. This was not the case before 2013.  When comparing Split to other coastal cities in Croatia in the period since 2013, Split has changed much more by far in its overall offer than any other city.

Which brings us to the problems of today and a younger crowd with access to cheap alcohol and pub crawls through the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Diocletian's Palace. 

Basic explained that Split has become a GLOBAL TOURIST DESTINATION attracting guests of all ages seeking a vibrant and attractive place to visit.  No longer is Split a transit city, where people do not wish to stay and visit.  It has now become a primary destination when visiting Croatia.  With average night stays exceeding 5 days from less than 2 in 2013, Split has truly become a destination of choice for travellers from around the world.  The fact that young, hard-to-attract travellers are visiting Split is a confirmation that Split has become an attractive destination, offering something special and unique.  ULTRA has definitely helped to generate this interest and draw people to Split, highlighting its old town, beaches and other attractions in a modern and attractive manner.  Basic believes this is what every destination seeks, and this success should be recognised as a positive and not a negative result.  However, issues being experienced today in Split are common issues with any city transforming itself and dealing with the changes required in a process of change which Split has faced in the last 10 years.  This amplitude of change has happened In Split much quicker than typical due to the high interest the ULTRA Europe Festival generates each year for Croatia and Split. However, it is something that can be managed and is In the interests of all as they transform and improve their overall potential and financial prosperity.

This growth needs to be managed and a strategy defined and put into place to determine what Split desires to become.  At the moment, no clear strategy exists, especially a strategy that will unite all key decision makers. The changes occurring are beginning to reveal the weaknesses.  One example of this are young adult visitors who are coming to visit Split for a weekend of drinking and low-cost fun.  With Split now being recognised as a cool and trendy destination to visit for young adults, tour operators are taking advantage of this and organising trips to Split, focusing on bringing In as many people as they can for the least amount of money.  With communication like „THE BEST NIGHT YOU WILL NEVER REMEMBER, “ it is clear that the interests and positioning of this type of event are not In the interest of the City of Split or Croatia.  This is the least attractive type of guest for any destination as these guests simply seek to come for 3-4 days, to spend as little money as possible while getting drunk with their friends. 

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These tour operators are not investing any money or organising anything in the destination; they are simply using the destination and negotiating the cheapest deals possible to maximise the number of attendees.  This includes famous PUB CRAWLS, which attract young adults to drink as much as possible for less than 30 USD In 2 hours.  ULTRA Europe Festival guests coming to Split on average are spending over 3000 EURO to travel and visit Split.  These PUB CRAWL guests are coming to Split trying to spend less than 250 EURO for 3 days of partying. These tours present the worst of Split by bringing people to C-category venues, offering questionable alcohol, and encouraging people to get drunk as quickly as possible.  The more the merrier, without any controls in place with security guards or registration of events with city. 

By law, events in public places with more than 40 people are required to be registered, and an organiser and responsible person must be defined.  Approvals and registration of this event are needed to be allowed to operate, and the organiser needs to have all the required documentation, insurance policies and good standing with tax authorities, ZAMP and others to guarantee a safe and responsible event.  Unfortunately, this is not the case with PUB CRAWLS In Split, and organisers are taking advantage of this and basically raping the city as a result of its current popularity, leaving behind all that destinations want to avoid.  This is similar to a town where gold is found, attracting people from all over the world to get rich, mining the rich ore while it lasts, not concerned with what is left behind.  However, cities and countries where gold mining is regulated and managed invest and develop themselves, prospering from the riches mined and are successful well after all the gold has been mined.

Below are examples of the positioning and offers being presented by organisers of PUB CRAWLS.  This is the lowest possible offer that can be made for visitors to Split and is something that is not representative for the city and is potentially dangerous, as these events are being organised without a responsible person or entity.  You also need to ask yourself how taxes are being paid for these organised pub crawls.

 

Basic was keen to point out that as an organiser of the ULTRA Europe Festival, he is responsible for ensuring that his guests are supported and safe. This requires big investments in production, infrastructure and security.  Without these investments, approvals and other such things, he would not be able to organise the ULTRA Europe Festival.  PUB CRAWLS are below the radar and are being organised without any approvals and infrastructure, and the security required to support this is not being invested and/or required. As a result, this is now out of control, and issues are occurring.  This needs to be regulated and or stopped as it is damaging to the city of Split and for all those trying to develop quality and responsible development of the City of Split into a respectable and attractive destination.

Is ULTRA Europe partially responsible for the direction Split has taken?

All the above makes a lot of sense, and the issue of no plan or strategy was one that consultant Mario Seric homed in on during my editorial. But was the ULTRA Europe Festival at least partially responsible for the direction Split has taken?

Basic answered that ULTRA was responsible for generating a high level of interest for Split and Croatia, with over 200 million impressions being generated each year and over 35 million in promotion and advertising to attract people to come to Split for the ULTRA Europe Festival.  However, ULTRA is not responsible for the issues the city is now experiencing. This is occurring because nobody is managing or controlling the rapid development of the city into a global destination.  Since 2013, the infrastructure and people managing tourism in Split have not changed, while the number of beds registered has increased from 4000 to over 40,000 (see the spreadsheet above).  No strategic investments in the city have been made to support or improve the visitor experience by the city, including public washrooms, water stations, or signage.  These are crucial investments required to be made by a city to ensure this increased number of visitors can be managed.  For instance, PUBLIC WASHROOMS in the city of Split that do exist are usually locked and closed after midnight.  Based on this, where are tourists supposed to go to the toilet after midnight other than in public areas?  Unfortunately, PUB CRAWLS for the most part occur after midnight, and the end result is clear.  For the ULTRA Europe Festival, Basic is aware of this problem, and as the organiser, he invests each year in providing temporary washrooms throughout the city to give his guests options to go to the washroom when walking home from the venue.  He claims to have minimal / no issues with this during the ULTRA Europe Festival.

As a result, a strategic plan needs to be clearly defined, defining what type of destination Split wants to become.  Once this strategic plan is defined, it can determine the pace and required investments needed to support this plan.  This plan needs to be accepted by the public, and all need to support it in a coordinated method to achieve maximum results to the satisfaction of all participants.  When this is achieved, it will also be clear to visitors what expectations are for the City of Split and what it represents.  This strategic plan should be organised with representatives from all key sectors of tourism and involve government institutions required for implementation.  There is a clear consensus that this is required, and Basic is confident that very quickly a working group of highly qualified and professional people can be developed to tackle the issues the City of Split is facing.

So what kind of destination should Split be, attracting which type of tourist?

Basic thinks that Split needs to become a vibrant and active global destination attracting guests of all ages and walks of life.  It needs to become a city with visitors coming all year round to enjoy the historical and cultural attractions the city offers along with organised activities highlighting what makes Split special.  The City of Split needs to maintain the importance of remaining a city where locals live and work, as tourists always comment on how friendly and welcoming the people of Split are, while offering accommodations, restaurants and cafes which will make guests feel comfortable.  Split needs to focus on international guests travelling by plane, seeking an attractive hotel or b&b, aged between 20-45, who will establish the city as a relevant tourist destination while maximising expenditure while visiting.  Split has been able to achieve this in the last 10 years, and now it needs to be supported with infrastructure and support. Without this, it could lose all the benefits gained

I made him Mayor of Split and Split Tourist Board director for a day and asked him about his strategy to develop the city's tourism.

He was quite clear about what he would do. The first step would be to establish a consensus on what the City of Split wants and desires to become in 2 years, 5 years and 15 years.  When this is defined, form a working group of qualified and respected people from each sector of tourism to be joined by public offices from the city and county required for implementation, including  the tourist board:

  • Large hotels
  • Medium hotels
  • B&B / apartments
  • Tour Operator
  • Organiser of large events
  • Organiser of small events
  • Taxis
  • Bus Operators
  • Day Trips / Excursions
  • Boats and Ferries
  • Restaurants
  • Cafes
  • Bars
  • Media
  • Other

When this working group would be formed, its objective would be to develop a 2, 5 and 15-year strategy within 6 months to be presented and discussed In a public forum for final approval.  During this process, public debate in the media would be organised to get a better understanding of what the public desires and to challenge certain options.  This process would fllter and ensure that the strategy developed will achieve its required objectives and have the public support it needs for success.  Once this is defined, a leader / manager needs to be put into place to take responsibility and ensure that the defined objectives are being achieved, publicly sharing results (good and bad) during the process of development.  The success of the manager will be monitored based on results and milestones being achieved.  This would include qualitative and quantitative objectives like

  • number of guests per month
  • countries from where guests are visiting from
  • % of accommodations In 5-star hotels available and number of apartments
  • Managing surveys and feedback from guests visiting the city of Split
  • Promotion and advertising messages to support strategy
  • Organisation of events and other to support the development and reinforce key communication
  • Required infrastructure

How about some quick wins to improve the current situation?

Only three? Here is what he suggested:

  • Inspection of how PUB CRAWLS are organised and elimination of the same with regulations and controls of venues.

      • No tolerance policy

  • Introduction of a working group defined above with clearly defined dates and milestones for development

  • Improved communication and presentation of issues, results and requirements with the public to gain understanding and support of the process of change the City of Split is going through.

Being such a key player in Croatian tourism, what were his thoughts on the direction of Croatian tourism in general?

He said that he believed Croatia was doing an excellent job in positioning and developing tourism In Croatia.  Based on his work with other countries in the world, Croatia is looked upon as a great example of what can be done.   However, during this transition, continual changes need to occur and methodology improved.  Instead of focusing on numbers of overnights, shift to average spending by guests. Total nights and return visits need to be monitored and communicated to ensure long-term success.  Segmentation and specialisation of the market will occur and needs to be supported as certain destinations will transform themselves to certain niches and will not be for all types of guests.  This process of change also needs to be managed and supported properly if it is to be successful

And finally, what next for Joe Basic?

He told me that he is currently working on a number of potential major international acts who have not been to Croatia as of yet to perform in 2023 and 2024.  Negotiations are positive, and it is clear that these artists desire to perform in Croatia, which is a pleasant change, as it was very difficult to convince major artists in the past to consider or accept Croatia as an option.

You can check out the ULTRA Europe Festival website and reserve your spot for 2023.

Read more - Is Split Tourism 'Strategy' Killing the Goose with the Golden Eggs?

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What is it like to live in Croatia? An expat for 20 years, you can follow my series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years, starting at the beginning - Business and Dalmatia.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.

Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners will be out by Christmas. If you would like to reserve a copy, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject 20 Years Book

Monday, 8 August 2022

Croatian Diaspora Celebrates Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day on Mljet

August 8, 2022 - Members of the Croatian diaspora from San Pedro, California, celebrated the Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day last Friday on the island of Mljet. A closer look at the celebration organized by Niko Hazdovac and his wife Lucija, the team behind San Pedro travel agency Adriatic Travel. 

Niko Hazdovac, his wife Lucija, and their family run the successful travel agency Adriatic Travel in San Pedro, California. They host a celebration (fešta) every year the night before Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and Day of Croatian Defenders in his small hometown of Kozarica on Mljet for his friends and locals. The fešta took place again last Friday.  

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“Everyone had a great time with the songs of the Dubrovnik pop artist Ilko Đivanović. With local food, Mljet wine, and good music, we danced until late into the night, and celebrated Oljua with fireworks,” said Ane Mljeċka, a well-known Croatian emigrant who was born on Mljet and now lives in the USA.  

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Every year the fešta organized by the American emigrants has a humanitarian aspect, and this year, donations were collected for the restoration of the church in Kozarica. 

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Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and Day of Croatian Defenders commemorates the military victory on August 5, 1995, known as Operation Storm (Oluja), when the Croatian army took over nearly one-third of the Croatian territory occupied by the Serbian paramilitary forces and Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA). In only 84 hours of the military-police operation Oluja, in which almost 200 thousand Croatian soldiers participated and where over 10,000 square kilometers of the occupied territory was freed, the Croatian army restored sovereignty over occupied central and southern parts of the country, paving the way for the peaceful reintegration of eastern Croatia in January 1998.  

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What a night! 

Photos credit: Ane Stražičić Rodriguez 

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Monday, 8 August 2022

Ambulance Vehicle on Fire near Osijek, Crew Safe [video]

August 8, 2022 - On Sunday, August 7, an ambulance vehicle of the Vukovar Public Health Institute caught on fire on the Bršadin-Pačetin road near the village of Bobota. The crew managed to escape, saving over HRK100,000 worth of medical equipment. Thankfully, tere were no patients in the vehicle.

As RTL reports, on the Hitna Uživo 194 (Ambulance Live 194) Facebook page, they published a dramatic video of an ambulance engulfed in flames with explosions. On the video, you can hear: “Run, run, f*** it, it's not a joke!”.

The original video of the incident 

On the page they posted: “ZZHM (Instititute of Emergency Medicine) VUKOVAR-SRIJEM COUNTY! Returning from an intervention. An ambulance vehicle over 10 years old. They said it was in a good condition. So, gentlemen from the Government of the Republic of Croatia, how are your Audis doing? All going well? Thank God, they all saved themselves at the last minute. The media is free to use the link to the video”.

The video shows a burning vehicle, as well as explosions on the road near a corn field. Multiple items from the vehicle were thrown by the side of the road.

The firefighters of the Public Fire Department Vukovar confirmed that everything happened last night: “The accident happened last night and the fire was localized”. It occured around 20:30 on the Bršadin – Pačetin road.

RTL have unofficially learned that last night's drama took place on the road between Vukovar and Osijek near the village of Bobota. Allegedly, no patients were in the vehicle, and the vehicle in question was an ambulance.

The firefighters also posted a video on the Facebook page Vatrogasci 193 (Firefighters 193) of extinguishing the fire, which seems to have started to spread to the surrounding vegetation.

The Firefighters' Facebook video

To follow the latest news in Croatia, check out TCN's dedicated news section.

Monday, 8 August 2022

SuperSport HNL Round 4: Bad Weekend for Dinamo, Osijek, and Rijeka

August 8, 2022 - The SuperSport HNL 4th round was held from August 5 to 7, 2022. This round was without the originally scheduled Hajduk and Gorica match, as Hajduk requested a postponement due to Conference League obligations. And it wasn't a good weekend for Croatia's top clubs, Dinamo, Osijek, and Rijeka. A look at SuperSport HNL round 4. 

Varazdin v. Dinamo (1:1)

Varazdin and Dinamo opened the 4th round in Varazdin on Friday, August 4, in front of 7,132 fans. Dinamo went into the match coming off of a 2:1 win against Ludogorets in the Champions League qualifiers earlier in the week. 

The Croatian champion was the first to score with a goal from Spikic just before the ref blew the whistle to end the first half. But former Hajduk player Sego made sure they didn't stay ahead, scoring the equalizer in the 63rd minute for 1:1 and the final result. 

 

Varazdin is currently in 8th place with 4 points, while Dinamo sits in first with 10 points. 

Slaven Belupo v. Sibenik (0:0)

Belupo and Sibenik met in Koprivnica on Saturday, August 5, in front of 473 fans. 

The match was uneventful, displayed in the 0:0 final result. 

 

Belupo is currently in 5th place with 5 points, while Sibenik is in 4th with 5 points. 

Istra 1961 v. Osijek (1:0)

Istra and Osijek met on Saturday, August 6, in Pula. 

Tensions are already high among Osijek supporters who have been calling for coach Nenad Bjelica to be sacked. Losing to Istra on Saturday did not help. 

Istra scored first in the 62nd minute when Bakrar found the back of the net, though his goal was ultimately called offside after consulting VAR. But that didn't stop Bakrar from killing Osijek's hopes again with a goal in the match's final minutes (90+4') for the 1:0 Istra win. Coach Bjelica has yet to resign, nor has he been asked to step down as coach by the club. 

 

Istra is currently in 9th place with 3 points, while Osijek is in 6th with 4. 

Lokomotiva v. Rijeka (3:1)

Lokomotiva and Rijeka closed out the 4th round on Sunday, August 7, in Zagreb. 

Lokomotiva took the lead in the 14th minute when Gorican scored for 1:0, and Cokaj made it 2:0 just five minutes later. Karrica gave Rijeka some hope in the 34th minute scoring for 2:1, but Vasilj settled all doubts about the winner with Lokomotiva's goal in the 79th minute for the final 3:1. 

 

Lokomotiva is currently in 3rd place with 6 points, while Rijeka is in 7th with 4. 

Hajduk v. Gorica (Postponed)

Hajduk asked to postpone their 4th-round match against Gorica due to Conference League obligations. After beating Vitoria at Poljud on Thursday 3:1, Hajduk plays the return match against the Portuguese club on Wednesday in Portugal. Hajduk has played only two rounds in the SuperSport HNL thus far, as Rijeka postponed their 2nd round match against Hajduk due to Conference League obligations. 

 

As it stands now, Hajduk is in 2nd place with 6 points and only two games played, while Gorica is in the last place with 2 points and three games played. 

You can see the HNL standings here

To follow the latest sports news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 8 August 2022

Realities of a Female Football Journalist in Croatia: The Good, Bad, and Not So Ugly

August 8, 2022 - What's it like being a female football journalist in Croatia? A look into my life for the last 5 years. 

It all started when a former colleague told me I'd never see a press pass for Croatia national team games. Well, it actually started well before that.

I was born with a love for football and likely kicked my way out of the womb. My family history probably has something to do with it.

My grandfather was a sports journalist in Split for Slobodna Dalmacija in his early 20s and friends with many Hajduk players at the time. After swapping Split for NYC in 1958, he became one of the top football referees in New York and worked the line during Santos v. Benfica at Yankee Stadium in 1968. In other words, Pele v. Eusebio. My dad was the ball boy and met the entire Santos team in the locker room, including Pele, who signed his match program. And that wasn't my grandpa's only time reffing Pele, either. 

 

A few years later, my grandpa was chased down the streets of New York by the unhappy fans of a local Italian club. I guess they weren't pleased with his decisions during the match. The incident even prompted Split's most famous journalist (and my grandfather's dear friend), Miljenko Smoje, to write about it in Slobodna Dalmacija.

"If Miro wanted to get chased by fans, he should have stayed in Split."

My dad went on to play football, attended the 1974 World Cup in Germany as a fan, and was a coach in San Diego. He and my grandpa raised a team of players in my small hometown of Fallbrook, developing their talents from the ages of 10 to 18. It was only a matter of time before I swapped ballet shoes for Copa Mundials. 

My football career started at the age of six, playing recreational soccer for a team called the 'Spiders.' Often seen dancing on the pitch and confusing my ballet talents with what I was meant to do with a ball, I ultimately had to choose between ballet or soccer. Soccer won primarily because of the friendships I had made at the time. In ballet, everyone was looking out for themselves. 

I played competitively in San Diego from that point on, with practice three times a week, tournaments every weekend, and parents who had to sacrifice any free time they had. It took me to the Gothia Cup final in Sweden, Varsity all four years of high school, and friendships that turned into sisters to this day. 

Opting out of playing in college, my football career ended at 17, opening space for other things - like moving to San Francisco. But my love for football never dwindled, and I never missed a Hajduk match at Poljud during my summer visits to Croatia or cheering for the national team in the Euros or World Cup no matter where I was and no matter what time the games were. 

Fast forward to 2015. I move to Croatia, can attend every Hajduk home match of the season, and catch the Croatia national team playing around the country during international breaks. This was heaven. One year later, I joined Total Croatia News as the editor of Total Split. The sports editor position had already been filled, but we decided that I would write about specific events, which was how I eased my way in. I took over as Sports Editor in 2017 and told myself I would make the most of it. 

I had been writing about sports for maybe a month or so, getting my bearings around handball, water polo, and other sports I wasn't all too familiar with. What I knew was football, and what I wanted to write about was football, but I had to grip the ropes of all sports to justify my place in this role. Croatian athletes also excel in almost everything, meaning I had much to learn. 

The Croatia national team had a World Cup qualifier against Ukraine in Zagreb that March, which made me think: "Why couldn't I attend as a journalist?" Considering my new role and all. I sent a message to my colleague and asked if he knew about the protocol for applying.

"I wouldn't even bother - you'll never get a press pass for Croatia games." 

Okay, that was encouraging. I knew I was young (26 at the time), a woman, and new to this whole thing, but to shut someone down so quickly was not something I'd stand for. I found out how to apply through HNS, did, and waited for a reply. I was an accredited journalist at my first official international football match on March 24, 2017. 

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The season press pass for Hajduk came shortly after that, and I covered my first Europa League campaign between Hajduk and Everton - at Goodison Park in Liverpool and Split.

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I was maybe in over my head covering my first away match, considering it was Wayne Rooney's Everton at the time. While I will never forget the euphoria amongst the fans of your club in another city, the feeling inside a Premier League stadium for the first time, and watching Nikola Vlašić against Rooney, what really got me was the return match a week later.

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I nearly fainted in the press box when Radošević scored a screamer against Everton at a sold-out Poljud. It had never been louder. And not advancing past Everton didn't matter. From that moment, there was no turning back. 

I wanted to be a football journalist. 

Later that year, Croatia continued their World Cup qualifiers. After an unimpressive 1:0 against Kosovo at a flooded Maksimir (so flooded that the game had to be stopped and finished the next day), the next match was the one that mattered, and Croatia needed a win against Finland.

The match ended 1:1 at Rujevica, forcing coach Ante Čačić's sacking and Croatia's fate at the 2018 World Cup uncertain. It was as if the life was sucked out of Rijeka, and Croatia, that night, though it was the draw that changed it all. And likely the most depressing post-match press conference I have attended. 

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But there was hope when the relatively unknown Zlatko Dalić came in to save the day, winning 2:0 away against Ukraine and pushing Croatia into the World Cup qualifying play-off against Greece. Croatia was going to the World Cup, and the chaos of writing through these qualifiers certainly took a few years off my life. 

As I was still quite new at this, I didn't expect to get a press pass for Russia, and looking back; I would not have wanted to be anywhere but Split that summer of 2018. But I definitely was not prepared for what was in store. 

Okay, the World Cup is a big deal. Still, considering Croatia's rather frightening display in the qualifiers, I don't think Croatia fans expected too much - and with tensions still high between Hajduk fan group Torcida and HNS, many were hesitant to get too excited in Split. "Maybe that'll take off some of the pressure," I thought. And then Croatia beat Argentina 3:0.

I knew I had to prove myself on the international stage reporting about the World Cup for Total Croatia News, as it was the biggest tournament I had covered thus far. Getting your fingers to type fast enough when covering these matches live is hard enough, but it's another thing when your country is at stake and you owe a quality match report to the enthusiastic Croatian diaspora, even during those nail-biting extra-time finishes and penalty shootouts. How I survived that, I'll never know. 

But there was another layer to my football journalism that summer - radio interviews. 

Given TCN's non-stop coverage of Croatia at the World Cup, coupled with Croatia's impressive play and Modrić and Lovren's fresh perjury charge in the Mamić case, all eyes were on Croatia that summer. And being one of few covering Croatia at length in English, my phone started ringing - especially once Croatia was matched up against England in the semi-final.

I thus became the Croatian correspondent for several radio stations in the UK that summer, one of which is the largest sports radio station in the world - talkSPORT. I counted over 20 radio interviews once all was said and done and Croatia became the 2018 World Cup finalist. I realized just how important it was to be a native English speaker and football journalist in a foreign country - especially when you're on the international stage.

Later that year, I had my first star-studded press experience at Wembley Stadium, when England gained revenge on Croatia in the UEFA Nations League, and even went into the TalkSport studio in London to recap the match.

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2018 ended with an interview request from BBC. And a year after that, I interviewed THE Mark Bosnich in Sydney, Australia thanks to Total Croatia News.

Covering football during the pandemic was not nearly as fun, but being amongst the select few allowed at a stadium when the ban on fans was still in force definitely brought necessary excitement to staring at the walls of your house. 

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And seeing Cristiano Ronaldo in action on Hajduk territory holds a special place in my heart. 

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As Nations League continued, so did qualifiers for the 2020 Euros, which Croatia clinched at Rujevica Stadium against Slovakia. With the tournament postponed by a year and a press application process that had to be repeated multiple times due to tournament delays, I wasn't feeling too confident that I'd be attending this one. But less than a month before the tournament began, I got the email: 

CONFIRMED: Accreditation Request for UEFA EURO 2020

And I was off to cover my first international tournament. 

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With the tail-end of the pandemic making it an absolute nightmare to make this happen, I persisted. After vaccinations and repeated Covid tests, exemptions from UEFA needed even to enter the UK, and QR codes necessary to grab a bite in London and Glasgow, I was one of few Croatian journalists that endured a Covid-riddled EURO 2020, covering Croatia from London to Glasgow and Copenhagen. And I was one of few women journalists at all. 

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The round of 16 match against Spain was undoubtedly the highlight, especially when a fan launched a full beer at my laptop after Croatia took the game to extra time at Parken Stadium. While I could have lost my job had my laptop died and I couldn't finish writing about that game, I would have left the Euros satisfied.

And while international football has given my career an unexpected boost, the best football experiences are the ones at home, at Poljud Stadium. Especially when you witness Hajduk win their first trophy since 2013, in the Croatian Cup final, just a few months ago. 

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What has being a female football journalist in Croatia taught me?

That anything is possible in Croatia, so long as you put your mind to it, especially when you love something as much as I love football. If you're passionate enough about something, it will show in your work, which will ultimately be recognized. In my case, my passion brought me to an international stage that 26-year-old Daniela would have never believed possible. Now, if I get a press pass for the World Cup in Qatar this year...

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Secondly, being a woman in a man's world is empowering. No matter which match I attend in Croatia or around Europe, I am always one of few women, if not the only, reporting from the press box. I have not been treated differently, nor have my opportunities been any different. The radio shows prove that - and TalkSport even called me a Croatian football expert. Even with my silly Californian accent. 

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And finally? Don't listen to your colleagues. At least when they tell you that you can't do something. You should always set out to prove people wrong. Football, especially, has that effect on people. 

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To follow the latest sports news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

 

Monday, 8 August 2022

Hvar Fire Still Burning, Man from Jelsa Dies

August 8, 2022 - The major Hvar fire continues to burn, with one man from nearby Jelsa tragically killed, reports Index.hr

The fire that broke out yesterday around 1 pm on the island of Hvar between the towns of Dol and Vrbanj has not yet been extinguished.

Ten hectares of dense pine forest have burned, and at one point houses were also threatened. One local man died while trying to save the machine from the fire. The man was from Jelsa, although his identity has not officially been made public yet. 

During the morning, new forces are expected to arrive from Split, with the help of which the fire should be brought under control today.

The commander of DVD Hvar Nikola Škare told Hina last night that the fire is not yet under control considering that it is still burning on the western side.

The fire broke out at 12:50 in the area of ​​Dol-Vrbanj on Hvar, where a dense pine forest caught fire. At one point, the fire came close to the houses, as a result of which one local tried to save the excavator, and died.

The firefighters, who at one point numbered 55 with 15 vehicles and all of them from the island, were also helped by the air force. At one point, three Canadairs and two air tractors were fighting the fire.

Fire near Dubrovnik under control, burning on Velebit
Shortly before midnight, a forest fire broke out below the town of Gornji Brgat near Dubrovnik. Members of the Public Fire Brigade Dubrovački vatrogasci and the Dubrovačka Parish DVD came to the intervention.

Despite the strong storm, the fire was brought under control after 1 hour and the peripheral parts are being repaired.

At the same time, two fires are burning on Velebit for the seventh day, on Panos hill near the settlement of Rizvanuša and near Lovinac on Mali Golić, and the danger of spreading is increasing due to occasional explosions of residual mines and a strengthening storm.

More information, photos and videos on this Hvar fire from yesterday's report.

Sunday, 7 August 2022

Frano Ivkovic Wins 307th Sinj Alka, Third Victory in 8 Years

August 7, 2022 - Frano Ivkovic has won the 307th Sinj Alka, winning the prestigious tournament for the third time.

Ivkovic achieved the victory at the 307th Alka after a double pinning, collecting nine winning points. He was the winner of the jubilee 300th Alka in 2015, and he also took the prize-winning flame to the 304th Sinjska Alka in 2019.

In the first race of the Alkar competition, 17 Alkar spearmen hit only 19 shots, and only Ivo Zorica was above average with a shot in the smallest circle.

The town band of Sinj, which is celebrating its 160th anniversary this year, played more often in the second race, in which Mihovil Zupa, Kristijan Bikic, Frano IvkoviC and Frano Talaja scored three points each.

After Bara and Coja, the rematch also happened at Alka, where Alkars with six points each fought to the end - Bikic, Zorica and IvkoviC. Bikic missed in the first round, Zorica and Ivkovic each won a pin, and Ivkovic secured the title with a "two" shot in the second round.

Mario Susnjara, the Duke of Alkar, tied a flame to the spear of the winner as a sign of victory at the 307th gathering. 

The Duke of Alkar, newly elected by the Assembly of the Knights of Alkar in April, said that since the magnificent victories of the people of Sinj over the Turks in 1715 and the Homeland War in 1991, a lot had happened, highlighting Croatia's entry into NATO and the European Union and the connection between the north and the south by the Peljesac Bridge.

He warned, however, about the emigration of the population. "There are fewer of us. Slavonia, Lika and Krbava, Primorje and Dalmatia remain desolate. Young people are leaving and building other countries," he said, warning that all our achievements will be in vain if we are left without people.

He called on all citizens, especially politicians, businessmen and scientists, to join forces, do their best and stop negative demographic trends.

The President of the Republic of Croatia, Zoran Milanovic, who is Alka's patron, at the end of the competition, wished the winner whom he presented as a gift, to win in the future.

Alka was accompanied by the state leadership, but also at the invitation of President Milanovic, Slovenian President Borut Pahor, which is the first time that a president of another country has come to Alka.

Original article in Croatian here.

Sunday, 7 August 2022

Canoeist Anamaria Govorčinović Takes World Silver and Bronze in Canada!

August 7, 2022 - Croatia's best canoeist Anamaria Govorčinović, who won the silver medal at the World Championships in Halifax, Canada, on Saturday, finished third in the 1000 meters race on Sunday, adding bronze to her medal collection from major competitions!

The current 2021 European runner-up distributed her strength brilliantly and tactically rowed the race in which Australian Alyssa Bull won the world champion title, completing the course in 4:27.65 minutes. Hungarian Eszter Rendessy won the silver 1.31 seconds behind the winner.

Anamaria Govorčinović stayed in fifth place until the halfway point, but when approaching 250 meters from the finish line, she moved into third place and managed to defend her spot until the finish. Govorčinović came in 5.96 seconds behind the new world champion. 

Govorčinović became the world runner-up in the 500-meter race on Saturday. 

Croatian canoeist Vanesa Tot returns from the World Championships in Halifax with sixth place in the 500-meter singles race and eighth in the 200-meter race. The Croatian Olympian from Slavonski Brod only had half an hour to rest between the two races on Sunday. She first started in the 200-meter race, and when she realized she could not compete for a better finish, she decided to save some strength for the 500-meter race. 20-year-old American Nevin Harrison was named the world champion in the 200-meter race for the second time in her career. She also won the Olympic gold last year in Tokyo. Tot was 3.37 seconds behind Harrison. In the dead race for silver, Spaniard Maria Corbera beat Lin Wenjun by one-hundredth of a second. Wenjun thus settled for the bronze medal. 

The new 500-meter world champion is Ukrainian Ljudmila Luzan, who finished behind Vanesa Tot in the 200-meter race. Canadian Sophia Jensen took silver, 87 hundredths of a second behind the winner, while Chilean Maria Maillard took bronze (+2.09) and finished fourth in the 200-meter final. In her second competition, Vanesa Tot was also in the fight for fourth place but ultimately crossed the finish line in sixth place, 7.51 seconds behind the winner.

Source: Index.hr

To follow the latest sports news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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