Sunday, 19 June 2022

International Children's Festival Kicks Off in Šibenik

ZAGREB, 19 June 2022- The 62nd International Children's Festival began in Šibenik on Saturday evening with the "At last an orchestra" musical play performed by the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra and directed by Petra and Paola Radin.

The 18 June - 2 July festival will feature 27 shows, 21 foreign performances in streets and squares, 14 domestic performances, 12 film screenings, four exhibitions, seven book launches, four sports programmes, and 47 workshops for more than 1,000 children.

Ten states will participate in the programme - Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Poland, Portugal, and Ukraine.

This year the festival is hosting 150 children from Ukraine, some of whom will be part of the audience and some, pupils from an art school in Lviv, will perform.

The opening of the festival was attended by Culture Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek.

The festival is taking place under the auspices of President Zoran Milanović and with the financial support of the Culture Ministry.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Sunday, 19 June 2022

The Rise and Rise of the Hvar Wedding Destination

June 19, 2022 - The Hvar wedding industry is booming - why wouldn't you get married (and honeymoon) in Paradise?

When I first moved to Hvar 20 years ago, having discovered it quite by accident, I realised what a wonderful and romantic island I had landed on. It truly was the most beautiful place I would ever live. 

I met lots of tourists in those initial years, who were also blown away by the island's beauty - it would be a wonderful place to get married, commented more than one loved-up couple. 

Back then, foreign weddings did take place, but they were the exception rather than the rule. Our old friend, Croatian bureaucracy, was always on hand to blunt Cupid's arrow when it came the idea of a happy 'I do.'

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And things started to change slowly. Some enterprising locals started businesses as wedding planners, offering a bespoke service for foreign couples who had fallen in love with Croatia and wanted to celebrate their own love there in front of family and friends. 

Organising a wedding in a foreign country was not without its challenges, especially in the early years, but the bureaucratic obstacles were slowly overcome, stunning wedding videos appeared online, and it seemed that the concept of getting married in idyllic Croatia was a very realisable dream. 

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Especially on Hvar, where leading hotel group Suncani Hvar have turned the opportunity into an occasional wedding into an impressive part of their already impressive portfolio. With so many outstanding in-house locations for weddings, the full hospitality facilities of a leading hotel group, and gorgeous Hvar as the perfect backdrop. 

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Over the years, there has rarely been a summer Saturday when newlyweds cannot be found having their photos taken on the main square and in other Instagrammable spots. The Hvar wedding industry has been one of the quiet growth areas for tourism in recent years, helped perhaps by the high costs of weddings back home in the UK. And where better to continue the wedding than on honeymoon on a gorgeous island, with many of your friends and relatives enjoying a holiday to keep the party going.

It is almost 5 years since I interviewed the Suncani dedicated Hvar weddings coordinator, Nikolina Pijanovic, on the rise of Hvar weddings (you can read that interview here), and the options and popularity have only grown ever since. With capacity to cater for weddings up to 400 guests, as well as much smaller numbers, the Suncani team is able to cater to almost all wedding requests. 

And the locations are outstanding.

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There are few places on the island that can match the elegance of Beach Club Hvar, a spectacular colonnade in front of Hotel Amfora which can seat 250 and house a reception for 350. And with the island's main family hotel just a few steps away, no need to worry about and drink-drive issues. The colonnade is one of the island's most iconic buildings and adds a touch of class and style to that special day. 

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Gorgeous by night, gorgeous by day, as well as an essential part of your post-wedding detox, with luxury private cabanas with cabana service and massage on offer to kick start married life in style. 

More than 250 guests? Not a problem, and you can invite up to 400 guests who will trade being on the water for magnificent views of the Pakleni Islands on the terrace of Hotel Amfora. 

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With space for 600 to the reception party, the walk home to the hotel room is even closer. Amfora's legendary cascade pools are just below the terrace, only adding to what is truly a magical setting. 

There are also other location options for smaller gatherings and lesser budgets, with the Splash Restaurant and Bar (by Hotel Amfora) offering a private and intimate setting on the water.  

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Capacity is for 100 guests to sit, and a reception maximum of 150. The views to the Pakleni Islands are divine. 

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Or perhaps you prefer the historic inside of the first 5-star heritage hotel on the island, Palace Elisabeth, hvar heritage hotel, which has quite a history. Did you know that organised tourism in Europe began on this very spot, with the founding of the Hvar Health Society back in 1868? Share your memorable day with up to 80 guests. 

Each wedding location comes with a range of packages, or you may of course devise your own. 

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As any stressed bride will tell you, the big day is only part of the wedding planning, and the range of additional services that have been developed in recent years has really added a touch of class to the Hvar wedding offer.  

Get set for your big day stress-free, with style, class and glamour. Our team is ready to spoil your taste buds with a delicious rehearsal dinner combined with a world-class wine and services with soul and sunsational style. Our Sensori Spa will be your safe haven of relaxation and rejuvenation and treatments with locally produced plants and oils will make you glow inside and out.

With special discount codes for wedding attendees, what a great way to prepare for your big day in the company of your closest and dearest. 

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Your special day may be over, but the fun is only just beginning. Whether or not you have chosen Hvar as your honeymoon destination (why would you choose anywhere else?!?), take a few days to enjoy your new-found status and relax with friends and family who have come to share in your special day. 

The post-wedding services are just one more reason to consider this amazing island, with your dedicated wedding coordinator and team of local partners on hand to continue delivering the magic:

The amazing smell from fields of blooming lavender; the sumptuous taste of spectacular wine that has been cultivated here for more than 2000 years; the stunning view of an ancient stone village surrounded by olive groves; the rush of wind as you race across the sea!

This is Hvar, not just the Mediterranean as it once was, but the essence of island life. An island of adventure and hedonism as well as intimacy and legend. The chosen destination of the rich and famous and commoners alike. From bottles of bubbly, to in-room spa treatments and picnics in the nature or surrounding islands, live it up with lots of luxury delivered right to your room.

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And don't forget another essential part of your special day - the photos! There is no more beautiful island in the world in my opinion, and your expert hosts know exactly where to take you for those shots which will stay with you forever. Lavender fields, anyone?

Still need a little convincing? A little video overview perhaps?

For more information about getting married on Hvar, click here.  

 

To learn more about this gorgeous island, check out the Total Hvar in a Page guide.   

Sunday, 19 June 2022

Annual Terezijana Festivities Taking Place in Bjelovar

ZAGREB, 18 June  2022 - Over 500 costumed participants walked through the centre of Bjelovar on Saturday evening within the annual Terezijana festivities in memory to Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa during whose rule in the 18th century Bjelovar developed into an urban centre.

On Saturday evening Croatian President Zoran Milanović attended the costumed procession through this city 80 kilometres east of Zagreb.

The first edition of the annual festivities called "Terezijana" was launched 26 years ago. Every June since then, Bjelovar prepares this tourist and entertainment programme.

This year, the festivities are being held from 15 to 19 June, and feature regional rock and pop stars.

Typical meals of the local cuisine were also offered to visitors.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Sunday, 19 June 2022

ACAP 2022: A New York Room Full of Croatian Excellence

June 19, 2022 - The Association of Croatian American Professionals conference, ACAP 2022, has been an unqualified success. So much excellence in just one room in New York City. 

A lot of my Croatian friends laugh at me when I am positive about the future of Croatia. I can understand why, after the disappointments and dashed hopes they have been forced to endure of the 30 years since that hard-won independence. The corruption, nepotism and emigration was certainly not part of the deal they thought they were signing up for in developing a newly independent country. 

One thing I have learned about Croatians is that positive new initiatives are mostly embraced by skepticism. Something might worked wonderfully in every other country in the world, but in Croatia? 

But things are changing, and I genuinely believe that. Overcoming that skepticism and turning the mindset into a positive direction is one of Croatia's key challenges, but - at least from where I am sitting - I see more and more bright spots, new initiatives, success stories, and a strengthening of the eco-system of Croatia 2.0 to realise that we are an a path of change. 

Being a fly on the wall in a room in New York this week was probably one of the best snapshots of how far Croatia has come, and an indication of the direction it is heading. So many examples of Croatian excellent in so many sectors came together and networked, bonded, and connected. My social media feed and inbox has been flooded with positivity from New York these past few days from the ACAP 2022 conference. 

So who was there and speaking? The ACAP 2022 Facebook page did a great job keeping us all updated. Congrats to the organisers and participants - the future of Croatia is looking just a little brighter. 

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For more news from the Croatian diaspora, follow the dedicated TCN section

Sunday, 19 June 2022

Meet The Luka Mozaika, A World Record Contender

June 19, 2022 - The Port of Mosaics (Luka Mozaika) project aims to become the world's longest recorded mosaic walkway. This innovative Luka Mozaika project can be explored in Vela Luka, a coastal town situated at the very western end of the Island of Korčula.

Currently, at forty metres in length, Luka Mozaika has already been laid and is still an ongoing project which is growing steadily. The recent global coronavirus pandemic slowed down the Vela Mozaika project and even halted it for some time, but it has now regained full motion once again. The project was started back in 2017 by Udruga Likovno Stvaralaštvo Vela Luke (the Vela Luka Artistic Creation Association). Each mosaic involves a detailed picture with four thousand stones per masterpiece. The mosaic pieces that are used to create the final image are between one and two centimetres long, and they are all cut in an old and unused factory, which has become the workshop where this utterly exquisite artistry is designed.

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Photo: Adriana Tasovac/Total Croatia News

The creative head of the operation is Ante Marinovic who also lead a smaller-scale mosaic project on Proizd island, which contains seventy mosaics and are all under Vela Luka’s ownership. The Port of Mosaics in Vela Luka aims to cover the entire walkway with mosaics along the shore belt, which is just under three kilometres long.

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Photo: Adriana Tasovac/Total Croatia News

Over three hundred mosaic pieces make up the walkway in Vela Luka already, and tourists, as well as locals with an artistic flair, can participate in adding to the project, which will forever make them a part of the culture and history of this ever-growing walkway. Even novices who are unfamiliar with the process have the opportunity to become skilled in this artistic field as part of a truly impressive move Vela Luka has made.

For more on travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Sunday, 19 June 2022

World Karate Federation Youth League Tournament Coming to Porec!

June 19, 2022 - Porec is set to welcome the World Karate Federation! Typically seen as a popular Istrian summer holiday destination, Porec is also known as “a city with a thousand-year history”. This year, the city is looking forward to the Croatian Karate Union’s second spectacular World Karate Federation Youth League Tournament.

After an extremely triumphant event last year, Porec will be hosting the championship once again. Despite the global coronavirus pandemic and all of the issues it caused, the organisers are excited to welcome a larger and more successful event to be held between the 1st and the 3rd of July this year.

The tournament will take place at the Intersport Sports Hall and recreation centre in Porec, and the organisers are hoping to break the world record for the number of competitors, and simultaneously raise the standard of the tournament's overall quality.

Over six days, ambitious Karateka (karate students) will be given the opportunity to learn and train with world-class athletes and renowned coaches in the training camp, which takes place before the tournament. The 2022 Youth Camp will be open to receive competitors and athletes between 10 and 20 years of age. There are over 500 youths from 36 countries that have enrolled in the training camp as it is, which bodes very well.

Originally staged in Umag, the training camp and tournament were moved to accommodate the overwhelming number of athletes expected to participate in these events for the second year running.

The Karate Youth League tournament was conceived to emphasise the influence of karate on youths globally, and the tournament will highlight those athletes who are aiming to reach higher positions in their World Karate Federation international ranking. This league aims to become a platform to develop the skills of these young athletes and their sporting careers with maximum progression at the fullest potential.

Since the Japan 2020 Olympic games, and with the increasing interest of youth in this sport, it's more than inspiring to see that the organisers of the event are taking extra measures to ensure that the competitors participate in an experience that they will never forget.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page.

Sunday, 19 June 2022

The Outsiders, by Joomboos: First Bilingual Teen Series (Trailer, Episode 1)

June 19, 2022 - An interesting and innovative initiative from the hit YouTube channel, JoomBoos, as they launch 'The Outsiders', the first bilingual teen series in the region. Watch the trailer and first episode below.

Finding a more global audience and reaching the diaspora has always been a challenge for Croatian-language media, and one of the reasons why I enjoy running TCN so much. There is so much amazing content taking place in Croatia every day all over the country, the majority of which sadly remains in the Croatian language, and as such is only consumed by a tiny percentage of its potential audience. Simply retelling those stories on TCN in English immediately widens the appeal and interest, and I have been fortunate to have had so much incredible content to choose from over the years. 

Reaching more international markets as a Croatian broadcaster can be particularly challenging, with few Croatian-language productions making it to the international stage (the excellent The Paper on Netflix) is a notable exception. 

And so I am intrigued to follow the progress of an interesting new teen series called The Outsiders, which aired its first episode on the phenomenally successful JoomBoos YouTube channel this week, and which will be broadcasting a new episode each Thursday. It is I think the first bilingual teen series in the region, predominantly in English, but with a sizable amount in Croatian, from different dialects (subtitles are available). I have to say that I like the format and the way it is put together. A little more on the plot and the project as it was introduced on 24Sata, and you can watch the trailer, first episode, and trailer for the second episode which will air next Thursday.

 

But it's time to officially meet the first bilingual series in the region - JoomBoos' new hit 'The Outsiders'! The first, official trailer for our new series, which you will be able to watch exclusively on JoomBoos from June this year, has just been released on our YouTube channel.

The plot of the series follows a young boy named Noah. Because of the work his mother does, he moves to a new country, a new home, every few years. This time he arrives in Zagreb from London and starts again. New school, new rules, new apartment, new social life ... yet to be found. Shortly after arriving in Zagreb, he 'invades' a society that everyone at school calls 'outsiders'. They are unusual, they have their own rules, they have their own passions and ambitions, they love to hang out in their little box and they try to force the rest of the world out.

Elena, Vito, Patrik, Andrija and Noah become friends after his arrival in Croatia and their private school, but their journey does not go too smoothly and without quarrels, drama, anger, jealousy ... The whole story is further complicated by the main mean girl at school, Nina, who wants to ruin the plans of the 'outsider' team at any cost.

Digital Nomad Series This series is about a new generation of kids. About digital nomads who don't tie their lives to one place, even though they are constantly looking for a sense of belonging, a sense of home. They’re some new kids, they’re third culture kids. This is exactly the character of Noah, who, in his travels, is always looking for a safe haven, no matter how much he enjoys the process. In addition to enjoyment, there are also torments because every now and then you have to adapt to new people, a new environment. Well, the same story awaits him in Zagreb ... Will he really have to change in order to fit in, or will he find people like him who will give him a sense of security, friendship and love? Will he find just that in the 'outsiders' with whom he will go through really different things during all the episodes of this new JoomBoos series? 

One of the authors of the series, Bruno Mustić, claims that a totally natural symbiosis of this project and JoomBoos, which was the ideal platform for presenting the idea of ​​this series, took place during this exciting period. "This 'symbiosis' was so natural followers will recognize the potential and fall in love with our characters and our story ", said Bruno. Apart from speaking English in the series, which is natural for Noah (Josh), other actors come from different parts of Croatia and will present several dialects and slang that will blend perfectly into this ‘bilingual’ project.

"Given that content in the local language is difficult to pass outside the home country, we came up with the concept of a bilingual series, but we were guided by the fact that bilingualism must be dramaturgically justified," Bruno explained the idea behind it all. And this very moment is just one of the reasons why this series is already being talked about far beyond the borders of Lijepa Naša. And we will talk about him ... Follow 'The Outsiders' this summer exclusively on JoomBoos The main character was played by English actor Josh Thorley, who really traveled to Zagreb from London for filming. And he really liked staying here for those few weeks, he admitted in an exclusive interview, which you will be able to watch on the YouTube channel 24sata Oriđiđi! In the series, in addition to the main characters, there are also some other famous faces such as the famous local actor, Goran Grgić, and the most famous local Tiktokers and JoomBoos' Mimiermakeup.

For more on lifestyle in Croatia, visit the dedicated TCN section.

 

Sunday, 19 June 2022

Exploring Croatia's Intangible UNESCO Heritage: Lace-Making from Hvar, Pag and Lepoglava

June 19, 2022 - Continuing her look at the intangible UNESCO heritage of Croatia, Filipa Marusic looks at three Croatian communities whose heritage is bound by lace.

There is one UNESCO protected heritage that unites these different regions with same heritage – traditional lace making. This unique handiwork that presents different types of lace comes from island of Hvar (aloe lace), island of Pag (needle point lace) and the small town Lepoglava in northern Croatia (bobbin lace).

Lacemaking in Croatia dates back to Renaissance times, and it has been UNESCO intangible heritage since 2009, as well as ethnographic and cultural heritage for Croatia. The main difference between lacemaking in Croatia and other European countries is in the makers of the lace. In Europe, lacemaking was exclusively done by nuns in convents and nobility, while in Croatia is primary done by countryside women in small villages who got their knowledge from convents and mansions. Treasuries of Croatian monasteries, convents, churches and museums show lacemaking was first developed there and then it was shared with common people.

These women used lace for traditional clothes and furnishing and as an additional source of income. The technique and appearance is a bit different to lacemaking in Europe. Lacemaking has a centuries-long tradition in Croatia, and the skill is passed on from generation to generation in families but was also taught in schools. Lace schools lasted until the mid-20th century on Pag and in Lepoglava.

One of the definitions of lace is “handmade openwork made from linen, silk, aloe, silver and gold thread “. There are many different kinds of lace but the finest lace in terms of craftsmanship and quality is needlepoint and bobbin lace. The development of lacemaking has its roots in different textile handicrafts, like weaving and embroidery. The type of lace depended on cultural influences in the region. As an example, needle lace from Pag was spread in other Mediterranean countries while bobbin lace was influenced by central Europe.

The ribbon bobbin lace from flax fibres from Lepoglava was used as decoration for the folklore costumes and clothes or for sale at village fairs. To celebrate this lace making tradition, there is an International lace festival each year in Lepoglava. The lace strips were used as trimming for different clothes and the patterns are mostly geometrical, animal and floral. For the lace heritage in Lepoglava it is considered that Paulins order brought it to peasents. The golden era for lace making is definitely end of 19th and beginning of 20th century thanks to Zlata pl. Šufflay and Danica Brossler who held classes, workshops and a school of lacemaking. The lace from Lepoglava was sold on different fairs and exhibitions, in Zagreb, throughtout west Europe. The international lace festival is held from 1997 in Lepoglava and its 20th anniversary was in Septmeber 2016. They have various lacemaking events, live music, international projects which make this heritage even more valuable. There is also a lacemaking high school which nurtures lacemaking heritage and lacemaking cooperation where new generation of lacemakers is formed and they are the ones who keep this tradition.

Pag needle lace is ornamental decoration which first appeared in folklore textile as garments, tablecloths and clothes and then as an independent decoration. It has a spider web pattern and geometrical motifs and the lace making is taught by elderly women. It characteristic form is reticella and gothic geometrical patterns which are the main characteristics of renaissance lace – this was quite common on islands. The origin of the Pag lace comes from city of Mycenae, and the lace-making tradition dates back to the late 15th century when it was first connected to Benedictine convent that also held lace making school. The convent keeps the lace collection with more than 127 exhibits throughout 150 years and it presents Croatian cultural heritage. Lace from Pag is unique because it doesn’t have set template or blueprint but the way of making it is being transmitted from generation to generation. Pag had a lace school from beginning of 20th to mid 20th century, and it produced more than 200 new lacemakers. Lace making is part of the school programme – this, lace association and lace festival are important factors for preserving this heritage on Pag island.

The third lace inscribed as UNESCO heritage, is Hvar lace and it is made from aloe in form of a net or some other pattern. This lace is still connected to the Benedictine convent unlike lace from Lepoglava and Pag. The aloe leaves are picked during a specific time of the year and are processed to get this white thread. Nuns from this convent came from Pag in the 17th century when the lace-making tradition was more than 100 years old.
Lace as part of clothing is mostly used as ornament on shirts and as part of traditional Pag costume called “pokrivača”. Pag lace is successfully implemented as part of jewerly. The lace is used as decoration for bed linen and as part of church vesture. The most common way of displaying lace is to put an ornament on the table or hang it on the wall and this is common both for Pag and Lepoglava lace. In this way, the beauty of lace is the best presented.

Source: Ministry of Culture, Culturenet – Eckhel N., Ethnographic museum Zagreb, Paška čipka, Lepoglavska čipka, Tourist board Lepoglava, Tourist Board Hvar, Tourist Board Pag, Festival čipke Lepoglava

Photos: The Ethnographic Museum, Zagreb; The Museum of Varazdin; Paška čipka, Lepoglavska čipka, Tourist board Lepoglava, Tourist Board Hvar, Tourist Board Pag

10 Istrian Gourmet Specialities Not to Miss

June 19, 2022 - You have probably heard that Istria is a culinary treat, but what are the dishes to try? 10 Istrian gourmet specialities not to miss. 

If you ever find yourself in Istria, don't miss on a chance to indulge in some of the truly best foods this region has to offer. And if that happens to be in wintertime, make sure you start with the so-called istarska supa. Though it is often mistakenly referred to as Istrian soup, this is, in fact, a hot beverage made by flavoring lukewarm red wine (typically Teran) with sugar, black pepper and olive oil. The wine is traditionally served in either a clay or ceramic jug, poured over slices of grilled sourdough bread, and the name supa stems from the Istrian dialect word supati, meaning 'to soak,' which refers to an old custom of soaking the bread in wine. Not a meal in itself, but rather a little something to warm you up and get you going, this culinary curiosity perfectly embodies the essence of Istria. To start your gastronomic journey across the region popularly known as Croatian Tuscany, we bring you the list of 10 Istrian gourmet specialities which are not to be missed:
 
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ŽGVACET
 
The name žgvacet stems from the Italian guazzetto which refers to a braised dish. Though the most common version is one made with chicken, there are numerous other variations of this dish, and you really can't go wrong with trying either one. Particularly tasty are those made with game meat like rabbit and venison. Veal and lamb also make for a good alternative, but probably the most prized and sought after žgvacet today is one made with the meat of boškarin, a free-range ox indigenous to Istria. Regardless of the choice of meat, žgvacet is traditionally served with either fuži (pasta variety), gnocchi (potato dumplings) or cornmeal polenta. This rustic dish was once prepared only for the most festive occasions like weddings or christenings, but nowadays it is one of the most popular Istrian specialities found on menus of a wide range of different eating establishments throughout the region.
 
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JOTA
 
Winter comfort food at its best, jota is a one-pot dish made by stewing together sauerkraut and/or sour turnip, kidney beans, potatoes, pork sausages, and often a variety of smoke-cured pork meat like belly, ribs, shanks and trotters. This hearty stew is typically flavored with garlic, onion and laurel leaves, though some add even marjoram or thyme. Jota is a staple in virtually every Istrian country-style eatery, and it is one of those peasant dishes that will keep you full without emptying your wallet.
 
OMOBOLO AND SAUSAGES WITH SAUERKRAUT
 
Depending on the local dialect, the dry-cured boneless pork loin most commonly known as omobolo can also be found on tavern menus under zarebnjakzarebrnikžlumpertžlomprtkanicaribica... In fact, it is often said that every village in Istria has its own name for it, although the method of preparation remains the same across the region. Coated with an aromatic dry rub of salt, black pepper and ground laurel leaves, the whole loin is first cured for at least two weeks before it can be prepared in this dish. Ombolo is then sliced, and either pan-seared or grilled with pork sausages, and served sided with sautéed sauerkraut. Once reserved only for special occasions, this Istrian classic is today found anywhere from typical trattorias and osterias to numerous agritourism households.
 
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MANEŠTRA OD BOBIĆI
 
While the star of this Istrian staple is sweetcorn, or bobići in local dialect, the dish itself is merely a variation of the classic Italian minestra, a thick soup of vegetables and most often mixed beans and legumes. This version is traditionally prepared by stewing together red kidney beans, potatoes and sweetcorn with either prosciutto bones or, if available, some cured pork meat. For a truly rich flavor, this minestra is finished off by adding pešt or zaseka, an aromatic coarse mash of bacon fat, garlic and parsley, which is typical for Istrian cuisine.
 
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LABINSKI KRAFI
 
Exclusively emblematic of the town of Labin, krafi are a type of ravioli filled with an aromatic mixture of grated young and aged sheep and/or cow cheese, rum-soaked raisins, egg yolks, breadcrumbs, sugar and lemon zest. In any other part of Istria you can find some type of savory ravioli but in Labin there is only the sweet version of krafi, enjoyed both as a dessert as well as a side to various meat main dishes. Being somewhat labor-intensive and rather expensive to make, krafi were traditionally served only at weddings, topped with chicken žgvacet. Today, local restaurants in and around Labin serve them mainly for dessert, either flambéed or more typically smothered in a salted caramel walnut sauce.
 
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ISTARSKI BRODET
 
Undoubtedly one of the most popular fish mains, not only in Istria but along the entire Adriatic coast, brodet refers to a rustic fish stew. The dish has evolved from the Italian brodetto and is today found in a myriad of different varieties. In Istria, brodet is traditionally served with cornmeal polenta only, and prepared with the sea bottom-dwelling fish like grouper, conger, monkfish, and squid or cuttlefish. If available, crustaceans also make for a nice addition to this one-pot wonder which is typically flavored with white wine, olive oil, tomatoes, onion, garlic, bay leaf and parsley. And although recipes vary from one place to another, there is one rule for making brodet that everyone agrees on: you should never stir it; only shake it.
 
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SARDELE NA SAVOR
 
Like it is the case with many other dishes, sardines marinated in white wine and vinegar were brought to Istria by Venetian merchants and seafarers who developed this centuries-old marinating technique as a way to preserve fish.
 
However, while Italian version includes raisins, pine nuts and capers, here in Istria, sardele na savor are traditionally made with onions only, and the finished dish is flavored by adding garlic, peppercorns, bay leaf and rosemary. A popular appetizer, the dish can be found not only in coastal parts of the region but also in the Istrian hinterland.
 
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PASUTICE
 
An essential part of every traditional Istrian Christmas Eve spread, pasutice are a simple square-shaped pasta variety typically served with either salted anchovies preserved in olive oil or the creamy bakalaj na bjanko, originally also a Venetian specialty best described as salt cod paté. As an alternative, pasutice are often enjoyed paired with sautéed savoy cabbage.
 
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FUŽI
 
This traditional Istrian pasta variety is recognized as the trademark of Kanfanar though it is omnipresent throughout the peninsula. It originated as a variation of the square-shaped pasutice but with the two opposite corners folded, and while pasutice were typically used for preparing more humble dishes, fuži were reserved for special occasions. They are traditionally served with different meat-based sauces including žgvacet, or the prized Istrian truffles.
 
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FRITAJA OD ŠPARUGI
 
Come spring, you don't want to skip on the delicious wild asparagus which are abundant in Istria and particularly favored along its east coast. Though there are countless ways of preparing the so-called 'queen of Mediterranean woodlands,' one of the most popular recipes is also the simplest one: fritaja, which is a local word for frittata, of course. This delicious omelette-like dish is sometimes made with the addition of black bryony, the more widespread and thus less prized cousin of wild asparagus.
Sunday, 19 June 2022

Fancy a Cool Drink? Early Tourism and the Ice Caves of Biokovo

June 19, 2022 - Before household appliances became a thing, keeping drinks cold used to be a much more complicated endeavour. Meet the ice caves of Biokovo.

Located in Dalmatia between the rivers of Cetina and Neretva, Biokovo is the second-highest mountain range in Croatia. It's a natural border between the coast and the Inland Dalmatia, and close to 200 m2 of its area is protected as a Nature Park.

The majestic range is sometimes described as the mountain that has 'its roots in the sea and a head crowned with lightning'. Its peak, St. Jura (St. George) stands at an elevation of 1762 metres, providing a spectacular view of the Adriatic Sea and Italy in the distance, inland Dalmatia, and mountains of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Biokovo is home to more than 1.500 species of flora and fauna; it houses 87 churches and chapels built at various moments in history. Apart from all the wonders proudly showing their faces in plain sight, the mountain keeps treasures hidden away: more than 400 caves.

Here's a question for you: have you ever thought about where the ice in your drink comes from? Probably not, as today the process isn't really that complex; someone poured some water in an ice cube tray, slipped it into a freezer, forgot about it for a couple of hours, and voila. Whether your ice was technically made by a waiter in a beach bar or bought in those massive bags of ice you can find at gas stations and in supermarkets, it's not really that big of a deal –as long as there's enough of it available.

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Okay, how about we rewind the timeline a couple of decades? Fridges and freezers that are now standard household appliances have only been in use since the 1940s, and speaking of these parts, you might probably slap a few extra years on top of that. As you might have heard, organised tourism in Croatia has been happily trotting along for almost a century before our coast experienced the luxury of refrigerated goods. We might get heat waves these days, but at least we can run into a room equipped with AC and a mini fridge. What about heat waves in 1910? 1925? How did the poor tourists cool down?

That's where Biokovo comes in. Some of those 400 caves used to be (and still are) filled with eternal, ever-present ice. The locals who resided in various parts of the mountain range thought of a way to add to their budget in hard times: they harvested ice from the caves and transported icy blocks all the way to Makarska riviera, where the first hotels in operation used the priceless goods to refrigerate food and, supposedly, serve it in drinks. The icicles were first wrapped in beech leaves and sack cloth so they wouldn't melt too quickly, then loaded onto donkeys and mules. A whole process, one that entailed a long, wearying overnight journey from the caves to the coast in order for the ice to arrive on time, in good condition.

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It's hard to guess if the guests wondered about the origin of their cold beverages. Imagine a random tourist in the first half of the 20th century asking where the ice comes from – what could the waiter even say? Underground? From the core of that mountain you can see in the distance? Or maybe... You wouldn't believe me if I told you.

 

Read more about Biokovo here. While you're at it, we have a great series about the National Parks of Croatia going on; learn more about the Kornati islands and the Brijuni islands.

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