Thursday, 26 January 2023

The British Times Lists Their Favourite Croatian Hidden Gems

January 26, 2023 - Foreign media loves Croatia indeed. And not only during or just before the tourist season, either. They're starting to discover it sooner and talking about it more than ever before. It's only the start of the year, and though it is mainly a summer destination, there are articles already popping up left and right about the beauties of one of Europe's most recent tourist hits. The British Times calls it Secret Croatia, and goes on to list their favourite Croatian hidden gems.

This time around, the Biritish Times dug deeper and decided to praise the hidden spots of our beloved land of wonder. They speak of paths undiscovered, waters unswam, and food uneaten. Granted, no mention of eastern Croatia, but we’ll be patient and they might just take us seriously when we say it’s a place like no other.

In the meantime, let us also give praise where praise is due. Deeming the country’s former currency, the kuna, as... obscure, the Times sees the introduction of the euro as one of the things that will further boost tourism in Croatia in 2023. And with most visitors concentrating in and around the hotspots such as Dubrovnik, Hvar and Rovinj, they set out to find alternative routes and hidden gems. And so they did.

First off, the fishing village of Vrsar in Istria is presented as a place with which even the legendary lover Casanova fell in love, going back twice and saving it for eternity in his memoirs. Vrsar is a typical little Istrian village of cobbled streets, old churches, and the most charming of chilling spots overlooking the nearby islands. Go there for dolphin spotting, seafood eating, kayaking and paddleboarding, or just life living.

Second on their list, Rastoke, inspires one of those mixed feelings in me, as a local. I almost selfishly wish they haven't listed it. Rastoke, in my humble opinion, is one of the most magical little places in Croatia. It is a small village nestled on the banks of the Korana River, whose source is at Rastoke’s big sister, the Plitvice Lakes. Though absolutely stunning and deserving of every praise, the popularity and therefore, crowdedness of the Plitvice Lakes national park is exactly what might inspire visitors to pivot towards Rastoke. The river creates over 30 waterfalls, making it perfect for adrenaline lovers, and the walking trails of its banks are ideal for a relaxed time in nature. And an abundance of places where you can enjoy trout directly from the river always comes in handy.

Eastern Mljet found itself on the list for its sandy beaches and the famous Odysseus cave. Though the part of the island with the national park receives plenty of visitors, its eastern side is unfairly neglected. If you’re looking for the full spectrum of blues and green to soothe your soul, though, this is the place to go. The pines provide the perfect shade to balance out the sunny moment in eastern Mljet’s beautiful bays.

As further spots to find perfect privacy, Times brings up Drvenik Veli and Drvenik Mali. The big brother, Drvenik Veli, for its Blue Lagoon, and Drvenik Mali for the Vela Rina sandy beach. Both live a wonderfully laid-back, perfectly relaxed lifestyle ideal for a getaway.

Lastly, the Times regards Korčula’s main town almost as the second Dubrovnik, which has no trouble attracting the same crowds of visitors as the southern capital of Croatian tourism. Lumbarda, however, is the antidote, and it’s right there. This lively little village offers beautiful beaches and an island lifestyle with long summer nights. Its main attraction, as the Times emphasizes, is the wine scene with the grk and plavac mali varieties.

Hats off to the Times; they found a few truly stunning Croatian hidden gems.

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

 

 

 

 

Thursday, 26 January 2023

Former Split Software Agency Typeqast's New Name is Valcon

January the 26th, 2023 - One year has passed since the former Split software agency Typeqast was taken over by the Dutch company Valcon, and it is now operating under that same name.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Split software agency Typeqast began operating in the largest Dalmatian city back in 2017 as a team consisting of 11 people, and in the first year alone they grew to 45 employees. They celebrated their fifth birthday with almost 450 employees and 70 active projects, engaging in work mainly for clients across Western Europe in countries like Great Britain, as well as across the pond over in the USA.

Last year at this time, they were acquired by the Dutch company Valcon, which sought to strengthen its technological and data business segment by taking over the Split software agency Typeqast, and one year after that acquisition, the Split-based agency became a full member of the wider Valcon Group. Accordingly, it now operates under a new name - Valcon - and boasts a new visual identity.

Valcon, which is otherwise a consulting, technology and data company, came into the Croatian sphere with the acquisition of the Split software agency Typeqast and further strengthened its ambitions for significant growth across the Southeastern European region. Through Typeqast, Valcon got its hands on a company with rich experience and knowledge in software development for both Western European and American clients and entered the challenging field of IT.

The former Typeqast, and the current Valcon, have offices in Zagreb, Split, Rijeka and Osijek, the Netherlands, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Romania, and the aforementioned rebranding applies to all of those offices. Here in Croatia, Valcon continues to operate in the same way as it once did and through the same offices.

When it comes to this country, the agency has recently been increasingly involved in low-code development and have the largest team of all working on the Mendix platform. A Data team was formed within Valcon, which grew beyond all expectations in 2022, and significant growth is expected in the future as well.

A low turnover of employees, as well as increased employment, generated the need to expand the capacity of the agency's Croatian offices, so the Split, Osijek and Zagreb offices were all expanded.

Marko Baric, one of the co-founders of Typeqast and now the director of Croatian Valcon, believes that this partnership with Valcon has given the company additional strength and that it will speed up the next stages of development going forward.

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

Thursday, 26 January 2023

Brodotrogir Cruise Confident in Securing Jobs for Both 2023 and 2024

January the 26th, 2023 - The Croatian shipbuilding industry has been unstable for several years now, but Brodotrogir Cruise has confidently stated that the company hopes to fully secure contracted work for both this year and next year soon.

As Marija Brnic/Poslovni Dnevnik writes, state guarantees for shipbuilding are increasingly rare items on the table at government sessions, and the first one this year was approved for Danko Koncar's Trogir shipyard.

After restructuring with state support and then new settlement processes through pre-bankruptcy procedures, shipbuilding on the Trogir peninsula now takes place through the company Brodotrogir Cruise, but in a significantly reduced scope and within an even more significantly altered market niche.

The former trend of the construction of large chemical tankers, which dominated the entire Trogir area, has been replaced by the construction of small cruisers, yachts and workboats for fishing. This is how the new guarantee of the Ministry of Finance was issued for the second phase of the started construction, a fishing boat for Norwegian clients.

The state has already followed Brodotrogir's cooperation with the Norwegian Moen Marina with a guarantee issued back at the end of 2021, for one vessel (Nov. 369) and the construction of the hull for the other (Nov. 370), and these two contracted constructions have now been completed, and the equipment guarantee has been approved for the second ship (Nov. 370), for which the hull was built back during the first phase.

For the completion of construction, the Croatian Government approved a guarantee of four million euros, which is 80 percent of the entire value of the contracted work. The condition for the implementation of this state guarantee is, among other things, the return of the guarantee for the loan from HBOR, which was previously issued to Brodotrogir for the first phase of that project, more specifically for the construction of the hull, which amounted to 0.5 million euros.

Brodotrogir, unlike the much larger shipyards located in Split, Rijeka and Pula, is undergoing a new phase of recovery more quickly and quietly, and that, at least according to Brodotrogir Cruise Board member Mateo Tramontana, exclusively thanks to its own resources.

"Our companies went through a pre-bankruptcy settlement, and everything coincided with the coronavirus pandemic that hit our business hard. The main problem was that we lost jobs, but we had no loans and obligations, we sold a marina and two tankers, and made the decision to preserve the backbone of the shipyard and, in simple terms, to cover ourselves for as long as we could,'' explained Tramontana.

The lack of jobs is also visible in the financial results for the pandemic-dominated year of 2021, in which the shipyard experienced a large drop in revenue, which fell to a mere 17 million kuna, and a serious loss of 10.6 million kuna was also recorded.

However, Tramontana noted that at the end of that year alone, their business situation began to improve, and in the last year, according to him, twice as much income was achieved and the year ended with a profit of around two million kuna. Brodotrogir's manager is convinced that 2023 will be a much more successful business year.

In the order book, Brodotrogir Cruise already has five service ships scheduled for the Norwegians, one yacht for a Croatian company whose founder is from Switzerland, another yacht for a Croatian client and several more constructions in their more advanced stages of contracting.

"Over the next month or two, we'll have secured jobs for the whole of 2023 and 2024," Tramontana pointed out, for whom the big change in business is the fact that the company has been managing to secure financing for the majority of new jobs itself, without needing to rely on state guarantees.

Brodotrogir Cruise otherwise currently employs 150 workers and cooperates with around 15 subcontractors.

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

Wednesday, 25 January 2023

Croatia and the Netherlands to Meet in UEFA Nations League Semi-final

January 25, 2023 - Croatia found out its opponent in the UEFA Nations League semi-final after the draw was held in Nyon on Wednesday.  

Croatia will thus play against the Netherlands on June 14 in Rotterdam. Spain and Italy will meet in the second semi-final on June 15 in Enschede.

The winners of the semi-final matches will play in the final in Rotterdam on June 18, while the losers will play for third place also on June 18 in Enschede.

In the third season of the Nations League, Croatia reached the final tournament and was the only debutant in this mini-tournament. Croatia went to the final four after finishing first in a group against defending champions France, Denmark, and Austria.

Croatia was impressive in the third edition of the Nations League after poor results in the first two editions. After opening against Austria with a shock 3:0 defeat in Osijek, Croatia still had to face the national teams of France and Denmark. Dalić had to apologize to the fans, and there was little belief in this Croatia after the debacle against Austria.

The show at Poljud in front of 30,000 fans started Croatia'ss revival in the Nations League. A draw against the then-current World Champions, France, was a sign that Croatia could turn everything around. In the end, Croatia defeated Denmark twice, one of the best European teams then. For the first time in history, Croatia also beat France at Stade de France in front of more than 70,000 fans and confirmed their spot in the final tournament with a victory against Austria in Vienna.

Dalić commented on Croatia's semi-final opponent:

"We will play against the most difficult opponent, the hosts, who will play in front of a full stadium and led by a new coach. The Netherlands is a truly great team. However, whichever team we draw, we would be playing against a strong opponent, as all four teams are in the top ten in the world. We know what our goal is, a place in the final, and we will try to achieve it. The Netherlands has a new coach, and is very good, especially in defense. They have young, powerful players, and they will play in front of their audience, but I also expect great support from our fans in Rotterdam. A big match awaits us, it will be a big challenge for us, but we will be ready, and I expect our victory," said Zlatko Dalić.

The first semi-final match will be played on June 14 in Rotterdam at 20:45, and the second in Enschede on June 15 at 20:45. The game for third place will be played on June 18 in Enschede at 15:00, and the final is the same day in Rotterdam at 20:45. It was decided in advance that the Netherlands would play its semi-final match in Rotterdam.

The Croatian Football Federation delegation in Nyon included assistant coach of Croatia Vedran Ćorluka, team manager of the national team Iva Olivari, and official spokesperson Tomislav Pacak.

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

Wednesday, 25 January 2023

Croatian Unicorn Infobip Organising Their First Conference in Miami

January 25, 2023 - The first Croatian unicorn is organising its first Infobip Shift conference outside Europe on May 23, 2023, in Miami, USA, which is the first such conference organised by a Croatian company on another continent.

As Index reports, announcing the first American edition of their developer conference, Infobip board member for developer experience Ivan Burazin and Infobip Shift Miami project manager Nikola Radisic say that they are expecting five hundred to a thousand visitors with prominent names from the developer world in Miami.

"We will present and share the Croatian conference in Miami with the local and regional scene and lay the foundation for future editions," says Radisic.

Miami is also said to be a growing tech hub in the US, with a growing community of developers and startups.

"More and more young people are interested in the developer profession"

Infobip board member Burazin says that the plan is for Infobip Shift USA to remain an annual developer event.

"Whether it will always take place in Miami is hard to say, but it is a city that has an active and growing tech scene and an attractive energy, so for now, we see it as a long-term host," says the board member of Infobip, the first Croatian unicorn.

Asked about the importance and growing popularity of developer conferences, he replied that these conferences are important because they connect developers from all over the world, bringing them to one place where they can meet and exchange ideas.

He believes this is a form of investment in the knowledge of developers, who, in addition to trends and experiences at conferences, can also find a new employer, client or partner, or a new solution.

As the popularity of this profession grows, so does the popularity of these conferences and the need for "networking" and learning, especially among young people who, according to Burazin, are increasingly interested in the developer profession.

Greater international visibility

"Infobip, like most global technology companies, invests increasing efforts in building relationships with developers and improving the developer experience," says Burazin.

When asked about the expectations and differences between Infobip Shift Miami and Infobip Shift in Zadar in autumn, he says that the Zadar edition has already been recognised as one of the largest and highest quality in Europe, which is also confirmed by the fact that in 2022 it attracted visitors from more than 50 countries around the world.

That's why there are high expectations for Infobip Shift Zadar 2023, and the company announced a top program and production for September 18 and 19.

"I believe that the conference in the US will confirm the strength of the Infobip Shift brand and that we will be able to transfer the energy of Zadar to Miami. I also expect that all the participants of Infobip Shift in Miami will leave the conference with new knowledge and contacts and excellent impressions quickly transmitted in developer circles," concluded Burazin.

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

Wednesday, 25 January 2023

Croatian Regions Locals Love the Most and Where They go for Food

January 25, 2023 - A survey was carried out to gain insight into the extent to which specific Croatian regions spark curiosity and desire of the local population to visit, what images are associated with which region, and at what time of the year which region is the most attractive.

Dalmatia, Istria, Lika, and Gorski Kotar are the Croatian regions most attractive for domestic tourists, with Slavonia following in the fourth place, while Zagreb is the urban centre that offers the most opportunities for shopping, culture, and entertainment.

At the same time, writes Poslovni, Istria did the best when it came to gastronomy and a longer tourist season, which is where Dalmatia and other destinations have enormous room for improvement. This was found in a survey conducted at the end of last year by the Improve agency in cooperation with BlueRock Consulting.

In the recently adopted Croatian tourism strategy until 2030, year-round and more regionally balanced tourism is set as one of the strategic goals, and it is thought that the unique tourist identity of certain regions should be developed, that is, the umbrella brand that connects tourist destinations. Accordingly, target groups of guests should be clearly defined, explains BRC.

The leaders

"The results show that the key brands are the tourist regions themselves, and there is no dilemma about the name of a particular tourist region either. Short and clear names were adopted, and regions were recognized as such. This is great for these tourist destinations and their further communication and the development of tourist products. It is great that Lika and Gorski Kotar are already almost as attractive to domestic tourists as developed coastal regions. Preservation of natural beauty is essential, but how much the other reasons for coming are lagging shows how wide the room for improvement is," emphasizes Emanuel Tutek, a partner in BRC.

For Dalmatia, natural beauty is a far more important asset than cultural heritage and gastronomy. Admittedly, in comparison to Istria, entertainment facilities are somewhat more attractive in Dalmatia, while quality and attractive private accommodation is the slightly less attractive factor. In addition to peace and relaxation (79%), the most common associations of those who chose Dalmatia are fun and joy, more than other regions except Zagreb.

Istria is perfectly positioned as a gastronomic destination, rich in culture and natural beauty, and guests associate it with comfort and romance. The authors note that Istria most successfully promoted the breadth of its offer, as those who chose that region to cite relatively more different motivating factors.

The most common are natural beauties (80%), followed by gastronomy (62%) and culture (heritage or events, 56%). Quality and attractive private accommodation is the fourth most common factor. However, recreational or sports activities are rarely mentioned as the motivation for visiting Istria.

New discoveries

Among those who are attracted to this region, the top associations are peace and relaxation. More than other regions, it attracts people with higher household incomes and higher education as well. For Lika and Gorski Kotar, natural beauty and peace, and relaxation are the leading reasons for visiting, but the region stands out by associations with health and opportunities for recreational, sports, and adrenaline activities.

Associations that stand out more than in other regions are health, adventure, and adrenaline, but also peace and relaxation and "new discoveries." In Slavonia, besides natural beauty, there is a very strong motivation for choosing gastronomy (61%), and it is just as strong as in the most successful region of Istria. Cultural heritage holds the third place, while recreation and entertainment rank poorly, and quality accommodation is hardly mentioned. Slavonia attracts older people (over 55 years) more than average. Motivation for local guests to visit Zagreb includes shopping (32%), cultural heritage and events (27%), and entertainment (for adults, 24%, for children, 26%), and the top associations are entertainment and variety.

The longest season is guaranteed in Lika and Gorski Kotar, which attract guests almost all year round. The spring and less warm summer months are chosen the most for both Istria and Slavonia. For Dalmatia, the focus is on the summer months, from June to September, and very few consider the spring months to be the best time to visit Dalmatia.

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

Wednesday, 25 January 2023

Chiriboo, First Regional Digital Car Sale Platform Launched in Croatia

January 25, 2023 - The conventional vehicle sales market in Croatia is stepping into the digital era. The Chiriboo platform is backed by well-known faces of the automotive, financial, and developer scene, including Juraj Sebalj, Darin Jankovic, Marko Stojakovic, Mladen Herceg, and Damir Skrtic.

As Poslovni writes, digitization has changed how we buy and is slowly making its way into the automotive industry. Of course, everyone still likes to look at cars physically before buying one. But that, too should change with new digital solutions, and one of these, a local one, should be on the market within a month.

"We developed the first regional digital platform for presenting and selling cars. This is our answer to the industry's requirements, which should significantly simplify and shorten the purchase time," said Darin Jankovic, CEO of Chiriboo, at the first public presentation of the platform.

Compare and decide

It will make it easier for the industry by bringing in new customers inclined to digital tools, added Jankovic, without the need for them to invest in developing their own solutions and marketing. In addition to the presentation and purchase of a car, Chiriboo also provides an overview of various financing and insurance options.

Juraj Sebalj, general manager of Chiriboo and one of the best experts on the car market, complained that buying a car can take too much time. "With the Chiriboo platform, you can do it in only seven minutes," demonstrated Sebalj in front of the many gathered participants of the event.

In addition to the visual display of the car, which can be rotated 360 degrees, the users can change the colour and rims. They also receive all the technical data and information on additional equipment for each model.

Another advantage of the digital platform is the compare tool for filtering, so the user can easily and quickly get an overview of, for example, all hybrids, all cars in the Golf class, or those with a trunk larger than 600 liters... Or they can opt to compare options by power, consumption, etc.

"In addition to technical information, you can compare much more complex categories such as comfort, safety, entertainment, connectivity, dimensions, performance, exterior, interior, drive.

The goal is to expand

But the most important thing is that by using Chiriboo, the user immediately receives information on whether the desired car is available, as well as a price calculator that contains financing and insurance offers," explained Sebalj. The engine of the platform, Jankovic added, is the database. It works based on official car price lists, which will be regularly checked and updated.

The platform, explained the CEO of Chiriboo, will be free for the customers. "We will create several categories to give users certain privileges, but we will do that in the second phase. We will finance ourselves by participating in the success of our partners," said Jankovic. Their partners are general representatives and their dealers.

To begin with, by the end of the year, they hope to take a few percent of the car sales market, but their hopes are truly high because all research shows that the online sales market will grow, as well as the overall market, which with 240 billion dollars, according to estimates, should rise to 722 billion by 2030.

Also, the Chiriboo team is not only counting on conquering the domestic market but, much more broadly, specifically, the Adriatic region. First, the expansion should start in Slovenia, and they are working on entering foreign markets through franchises. For now, they explain, they have about five major foreign competitors, and they all focus on the German market. Chiriboo is a platform that was developed in a year and a half.

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

Wednesday, 25 January 2023

The Ups and Downs of Life in Croatia - Comparison is the Thief of Joy

January the 25th, 2023 - When it comes to life in Croatia, especially for a foreigner, there are many ups and downs that you won't be remotely acquainted with. The special little quirks of life in Croatia (be they good or bad) are the spice of life. Sometimes those spices are invigorating, and other times they just give you diarrhoea.

One trap you will naturally end up falling into, whether you express it or not, is comparing Croatia to your home country. This is something that is absolutely unavoidable and we all do it. Anyone who tells you that they don’t do it is lying. Perhaps they don’t do it anymore, but they are certainly guilty of having done it in the past. It’s completely natural to compare, no matter how often some ‘woke’ yoga instructing faith healer has told you not to on Instagram. No offence to yoga instructing faith healers at all, but you know the type of person I’m referring to, and it’s time we stop trying to pretend human nature can be controlled, because to some extent - it can’t. Comparing things to other things is part of perfectly normal human cognition, and while it isn’t always helpful, there’s little you can do to stop it. The key is to not let it affect you, and for that you need time.

Croatia shocks in many subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways. If you’re not used to a country so bizarrely obsessed with paperwork, documents, copies of documents and flashes of ID cards at every semi-official turn, this will more than likely be your first surprise. Many (but not all) countries have moved on from this, and Croatia is also progressing and has been since the coronavirus pandemic forced it to. There are now many more things available to obtain from the comfort of your own home and online, but it would be a lie to say that the country isn’t still clinging on to queues, clerks and pieces of paper. 

While you might find what should be a very simple task to be an arduous, laborious venture full of unhelpful government officials and clerks, you’re also just as likely to find what should be an arduous, laborious venture easy and with a lot of help along the way. Croatia is as much of a country of balance as it is paradoxes. I can’t count how many situations I’ve had that should have been easy turn into ridiculous wild goose chases, and in the same breath, I also can’t count the amount of difficult problems I’ve had made so much more simple. Life in Croatia is a balancing act of sorts, to say the least.

Here’s a funny example for you; I once had to get a certain tax document. I went to the main tax office in Zagreb and a large, burly security guard told me that they don’t do that here. I insisted on speaking to the woman sitting behind the glass like some sort of museum piece for a second opinion. She, annoyed at me having disturbed her game of Angry Birds (and in fairness she was on a high level), confirmed what the aforementioned large, burly security guard had said. I eventually got the document I needed, although nobody from two institutions who should know, the tax office and the finance ministry, seemed to know who was supposed to give it to me (or even what it was). An argument even broke out between three women in one room at another tax office who couldn’t agree on what the document was and who was supposed to provide this document while I just stood there twiddling my thumbs. Explaining everything in Croatian had zero effect.

You’d think the tax office might be able to give you a pretty run of the mill tax document. More fool me, I suppose.

A few weeks later, I had to go to MUP for something which needed quite the explanation, and I had mentally prepared myself for the waiting, the random children running around in circles in an attempt to cure their terminal case of boredom, the clerks getting irritated at people for forgetting documents and the vending machine which, quite like the infamous McDonald’s ice cream machine, appears eternally out of order. 

I entered the building, bypassing the policeman by the door who is paid to stand and do, well, not a lot, taking a number and sitting down. One random circle-running child appeared from behind a pair of jean-clad legs, but I wasn’t made dizzy watching them spin around and around in their boredom for long. Up came my number, I handed over what I had, I was given what I needed, and the clerk barely even looked at me, let alone spoke. I was in and out in ten minutes. No questions (even the ones which should have been) were asked.

I have several such stories. For every bad one, I have a good one. Sometimes two.

I could have let myself get hung up on the whole tax document ordeal and compared it to the UK, where, honestly, not only would you never need to get such a document, but I’m not sure it even exists there. I would be lying if I said that in the throes of my frustration at the time, I didn’t think about how utterly ridiculous this entire quest was, how it was taking up my whole day, how incompetent every person I’d spoken to was, and how this would never happen in Eng… and then I stopped myself. No, that wouldn’t happen, but something else equally as absurd likely could and would.

The administrative bodies in Croatia, even in Zagreb, need a lot of work. Nobody can deny that. There is far too much paperwork, far too many things which require you to show up in person and take time out of your day to do so, and honestly, far, far too many people employed to do next to nothing but enjoy weird little power trips. Think of it like the meme about how many meetings could just be emails, that’s Croatian administrative bodies down to a tee.

For as much as expats complain about how such and such is not like that in their country in a negative sense, there is also such and such which is not like that in their country in a positive sense. Sure, you might be asked to obtain a tax document which not only does the tax office not produce, but apparently nobody has ever heard of. But you might also be pleasantly surprised by a MUP clerk who just wants to get home and who asks you nothing and couldn’t care less about the rules even when you’ve come armed with papers (and copies of said papers) and detailed explanations.

It takes time, a hefty dose of patience and a long exposure to the realities of life in Croatia before you can truly reach Nirvana, which is where you simply accept it for what it is, you pick your battles, and you realise that two realities can co-exist and don’t need to be compared to each other. Dealing with incompetent clerks and difficult-to-navigate rules is a headache wherever you might find yourself, but when you’re enjoying an ice cold cheap beer, looking over the glorious Adriatic to the rugged mountains and watching what Alfred Hitchcock once described as the most beautiful sunset in the entire world, it all seems worth it.

We all live our lives in a kind of process. Things are peeled away gradually, and different ‘levels’ are reached along the way. What we found difficult ten years ago, we likely don’t now. What we spend our time worrying over now, we likely won’t even remember in five years. Getting to know a new country also forces you to get to know yourself. It opens up and exposes parts of you that no other experience could, and forces you to give yourself a long, hard look in the mirror. You might find that you actually don’t particularly like yourself, and while that is a jarring experience, it will open the door to transformations. Nothing builds character like being forced out of your comfort zone, and nothing makes you more self aware than being plunged into unknowns.

Croatia is an onion. It has many layers, some parts of it might appear rotten, and other parts are white and pure. It has taught me many, many things, and while it has well and truly put my pre-Croatia definition of stress to shame, it has also taught me what true appreciation really is. It has taught me that comparison, despite being an unavoidable part of being human, doesn’t have to be given a voice that influences anything, and while there are many things in this country which absolutely do need to be changed, I wouldn’t change that part.

Comparison is definitely the thief of joy, as Theodore Roosevelt once rightly said, but only if you allow it to rob you.

For more on life in Croatia, from tips and tricks about renting a car and using the ferry services to opening a bank account and obtaining citizenship or residence, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section. Our How to Croatia series is published every Wednesday.

Tuesday, 24 January 2023

CNN Showers Croatian Coast With (Well Deserved) Praise Once Again

January the 24th, 2023 - CNN is no stranger to Croatia or showering it with praise on a regular basis. This time, CNN has turn the spotlight onto parts of the Croatian coast which are not the gorgeous but rather predictable Dubrovnik and southern Dalmatian areas.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, despite the fact that the City of Dubrovnik and other parts of the extreme south of Dalmatia get more attention than the north of the Adriatic does, it is precisely up noth that you can find some of the most beautiful regions in all of Croatia. The Istrian peninsula, the Kvarner coastline and the surrounding islands reveal a different side of endlessly rich Croatian culture and history.

These parts of the Croatian coast offer visitors so much history - traces left behind by the ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Venetian and Austro-Hungarian Empires, and Italy. All of them influenced the architecture, language and gastronomy of this part of the Croatian coast, as reported by CNN.

Truffles, olive oil, wonderful juicy clams and mussels in Istria, lobsters in Kvarner, lamb from the island of Cres which is full of flavour... All of these delights pair fantastically with Istrian wine, as well as wine from the island of Krk.

If you aren't planning to explore ancient Roman ruins, Venetian villages or Habsburg cities, you can enjoy hundreds of parts of the long Istrian coast, the Opatija Riviera or Kvarner. After that, you can visit the islands of Krk, Cres, Losinj and Rab by ferry, CNN recommends to its loyal readers.

Istria

Tourists who visit the heart-shaped coast of the Istrian peninsula might wonder if they accidentally wandered into neighbouring Italy. Throughout its long history, Istria was part of the Roman, Venetian and Habsburg empires, and their legacy is visible absolutely everywhere.

In Pula, visitors can admire one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheatres in the entire world, and on the west coast sits the impossibly beautiful Rovinj. If you move away from the coastline, you'll find medieval villages, vineyards and forests full of hidden truffles. Above the vineyards rises the medieval town of Motovun, from where you can quickly reach Groznjan, where tourists can visit many open-air summer concerts. One of the most attractive ways to explore Istria is by hiking or cycling in Parenzana.

Opatija

When the Habsburgs discovered the mild climate of Opatija back during the 19th century, they turned that previously small fishing village into the cradle of Croatian tourism. Pastel Belle Epoque-style houses were soon built, and many of them became large hotels.

This elegant town can be seen from Angiolina Park, where the Croatian Museum of Tourism is located today. A walk along Lungomare - a promenade over eight kilometres long, is a great pleasure.

Rijeka

The largest Croatian port is not only a point for ferries to reach the surrounding islands. This cosmopolitan city – the European Capital of Culture back in 2020 – is worth a more honest visit. Korzo is the main part of the city, intended only for pedestrians, where you can walk past the Habsburg houses and drink coffee on one of the cafe's terraces.

If you want to travel even further back into history, climb the 528 steps to Trsat, a fortress from the 13th century with a view over the entire city and islands.

Krk

Along with the island of Cres, Krk is the largest Croatian island, connected to the mainland by a long bridge. Many tourists visit Baska in the south of the island, but Krk is full of beaches. The village of Vrbnik is a place where you can taste Zlahtina, white wine from Krk.

The City of Krk, which is also the largest settlement on the island, reveals the complex history of the region with its old town, which is home to a medieval fortress, a Roman monastery and Venetian houses with narrow alleys winding through it all. Look for the paths that can lead you to some hidden beaches.

Cres

The long and thin island of Cres winds around the western coast of Krk. It is a relatively untouched part of the Adriatic where sheep roam freely through the pastures. Here you can taste one of the most delicious cuts of lamb in all of Croatia. There are only a handful of settlements on Cres, including the small Venetian town of Cres or the much smaller Roman town of Osor.

This is a sleepy place, full of quiet pebbly coves, a small lake and, surprisingly, a vulture reserve. When you get tired of relaxing on the beaches in Valun or Lubenice, you can explore the almost 80 kilometres of hiking trails that will allow you to discover the wilderness of the interior of the island, as well as the enchanting beauty of the coast.

Losinj

Connected to the southwestern part of Cres by a suspension bridge, Losinj may not be that easy to get to, but it's definitely worth going. Full of wild plants, Losinj is a soothing and fragrant place, which you will discover by walking along the paths hidden among the pine trees.

Rab

The second royal dynasty made the island of Rab famous. Back in 1936, the unsuspecting British King Edward VIII and his lover at the time, and later wife Wallis Simpson, bathed naked in the waters of the Frknja peninsula and thus started a tradition of nudist beaches that has never disappeared.

There are at least twenty sandy beaches on this small island - which is quite a lot when you consider that you're in a country dominated by rocky and pebble bays. You can go hiking in Lopar and right there you will find some of the most beautiful beaches of all. It isn't only the crystal clear waters of Rab that delight blue-blooded tourists. The beautiful and fantastically preserved medieval architecture of the city of Rab is equally enchanting.

For more international coverage of the glorious and rich Croatian coast, make sure to check out our news section.

Tuesday, 24 January 2023

VeeMee: Largest Web Platform for Croatian Food Sales Coming Soon

January the 24th, 2023 - Despite being founded half a decade ago, the newly updated VeeMee platform is coming soon, and it aims to be the largest web platform for the sale of Croatian food yet.

As Josipa Ban/Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the VeeMee platform, founded five years ago with the aim of increasing the competitiveness of domestic agricultural production, should be upgraded by the end of this year and thus become the largest market place, or online store of food produced in all of Croatia. This was announced by Marko Kozjak, the co-founder and director of VeeMee.

VeeMee has brought together more than thousands of Croatian food and agricultural producers, as well as some from Greece and Spain, and by the end of this year, Kozjak pointed out, all of them should have a unique online place to sell their products. The director of VeeMee explained that his main motive for starting the platform, which should be the largest in Croatia when it is launched, is the chaos that currently reigns strong in the online sale of local food.

"Just as an example, if someone wants to buy kale from a Croatian producer today, it can get extremely complicated for them. When they enter kale in the search engine, they'll get thousands of pieces of information about kale, but it will be difficult to find the actual producer, that is, the person from Croatia selling it.

VeeMee was conceived as a Google of sorts, but designed for people shopping for local food. When a consumer enters, again let's say kale, into our search engine, they will be able to select a region and get an overview of kale producers from that area, so they'll be able to buy their desired food easily and directly online.

Therefore, VeeMee's goal is to centralise the web shop, to unite manufacturers in one single place, because now they're scattered around and so often invisible to consumers," explained Kozjak. Currently, he stated, they're working on upgrading the VeeMee platform, on payment solutions and organising logistics.

"We want to enable more logistics options. We want to offer a solution to the route and cost of delivery to the small producers, and to the large ones the establishment of a central warehouse through which their sales would go," he said.

In addition to all of the above, for existing users who have a producer identity (PID) on the VeeMee platform, web sales would be a bonus as the price of the packages they currently pay for wouldn't increase, revealed Kozjak, adding that by launching a digital market place, their goal is to attract new, small producers who are want to carry out more web sales.

The additional competitiveness of the VeeMee platform is precisely the price, because the premium package paid by producers on the VeeMee platform is currently 300 euros per year, and when the market place, i.e. online sales, comes to life, the price will remain the same. VeeMee's solution should also increase internet sales achieved by Croatian agricultural products, which are currently very low, and which even the state platform Trznica.hr/Market.hr, launched back during the coronavirus pandemic, failed to increase.

''By setting up the VeeMee web shop, peoples' orders will arrive via SMS, WhatsApp or email, and the manufacturer will then have to confirm it,'' explained the co-founder of VeeMee, who, together with his former partner Nikola Vid, launched the first neutral identification of origin (PID) and thus made it possible (through a QR code) for customers to digitally check the product and manufacturer, i.e. where the products are coming from and what path the food they're planning consume has taken to arrive to them.

More than 25 thousand tonnes of food is ''sitting'' behind that QR code, which allows customers to easily check their food's origin and traceability. It is precisely this concept that gives them a sense of security because they know where their food originates and what path it has taken before arriving at their doorstep. The manufacturers, through marketing campaigns run by VeeMee, get to enjoy more visibility, and suppliers get a verified manufacturer and traceability of their goods.

"Last year, our visibility on social media increased by 36 percent to 700,000 people," Kozjak pointed out. In addition, he added, their entire concept contributes to socially useful goals, such as reducing the amount of wasted food and greenhouse gas emissions.

"With smart logistics, we save more than a thousand tonnes of food annually from being discarded, and we reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by that much," said Kozjak, emphasising that they're focused on the end result in everything they do, and the same will be true with the VeeMee web shop.

The company, whose primary goal is complete data transparency when it comes to domestic agricultural production, food traceability and increased production, finances all of its new projects from its own income.

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

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