Friday, 5 August 2022

20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years: 19. The Mighty State of Uhljebistan

August 5, 2022 - Twenty years a foreigner in Croatia. Part 19 of 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years. An introduction to the State within the State, the Mighty State of Uhljebistan.

Can you imagine living in a country for around 12 years as an expat and have absolutely no clue what was really going on, or how the country actually functioned?

Actually, looking at the hundreds of thousands of Brits in Spain who have little to no interaction with local customs, culture or language, I guess you can imagine. But having travelled to 96 countries and having lived in 10, I pride myself on at least understanding a little of the basics of my temporary new home. 

And yet Croatia kept me fooled for SUCH a long time, showcasing its glossy exterior in my tourism bubble of Hvar, while hiding its darker realities of the daily grind. 

Life on Hvar was good, and although I found the bureaucracy slow and public officials generally quite slow, lazy, and disinterested, I just assumed it was part of the Mediterranean charm.

I miss those days. 

It was an era of innocent living in a beautiful country on a gorgeous island with an incredible lifestyle and very few stresses. And had I chosen to work in a field that did not touch Croatia too much, I could quite possibly have continued in that blissful ignorance. It sometimes amazes me how little expats of 20 years here know about the country or even the town they live in outside their bubble. But if their bubble gives them everything that they need, then perhaps it is understandable. 

Writing about how wonderful Hvar was made me very popular on the island. Finally, someone was writing about more than the beaches and the nightlife, and in English too. And all was well until I started writing some constructively critical articles about certain topics, or echoed online (in a language that tourists could read!) some of the complaints doing the rounds in the local cafes. 

And it was on one such topic that opened a Pandora's Box and led me to hear the 'U'-word for the first time, the entry point to the Mighty State of Uhljebistan, a State within a State that I had been blissfully unaware of for more than a decade in my adopted homeland.

As one would expect with the randomness of my life, the topic that introduced me to the word uhljeb - a word that would bring me one of my first two lawsuits in life 5 years later - was a simple attempt to get the bus timetables updated at the Jelsa Tourist Board. Somehow it became a national debate.

uhljeb.JPG 

And here was the then Jelsa Tourist Board director announcing in the national media that he was not an uhljeb.

What the hell was an uhljeb, I wondered.

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I shared the link on Facebook and asked for help

uhljeb-meaning.JPGI became intrigued and I delved in deeper. And as I delved deeper into TCN and Croatia, I came across the Mighty State of Uhljebistan at every turn. And slowly, very slowly, I started to realise how Croatia really works, And that the main reasons for the crushing emigration in the 30 years since independence had more to do with the corruption and nepotism that rules this country. 

But I am getting ahead of myself on this journey of discovery, for first we have to understand the meaning of this uhljeb word. I have been asked SO many times how one would translate uhljeb into English. Probably the best short explanation that I have found is the following:

Uhljebiti - to be fucked around by lazy and incompetent timeservers and dogsbodies appointed to positions in which they hold no qualifications or experience. Uhljebništvo - the act of appointment/employment of such a person to continue to behave in the manner and affect others with it - with an added point that there is no direct English translation because it is so scarcely seen in Western Europe.  

The origins of the word itself seem interesting - U (in) plus hljeb (hleb is the Serbian word for bread). In bread, so I guess someone who is earning something. Given that many of the jobs are reserved for the family, I came up with my own definition.

An inbred in bread. 

I think it sums it up rather well.

My viewpoint and appreciation of Croatia changed considerably after learning of the uhljeb world, so much so that I wrote an article called A Tale of Two Croatias: Before and After the Uhljeb Discovery back in 2016. This was followed by Welcome to Uhljebistan: A Foreign Appreciation of the Cult of Uhljeb.

My friendships with some Croatian friends changed. It was almost as though I had come over to the dark side, and they could now be freer in their interactions with me, now that I was beginning to understand what Croatia was really like, and what a struggle their daily lives were. It made me feel a little less in love with Croatia, the country, but much more so with the humans I was engaged with. I mourned the loss of my idyllic Croatian bubble, while trying to summon the agility and strength to navigate the murky waters ahead of me.  

Suddenly, things became a lot clearer, and a lot more depressing. The useless official who hardly did anything was not due to him being lazy or incapable, it was more to do with the knowledge that his was a job for life, in exchange for his vote to keep the status quo of power. Be in the right party, help them stay in power, and a comfortable job for life, with guaranteed payment from the State budget on time every month was the reward. 

The system was easy to spot once you knew what you were looking at, especially in smaller communities. Years ago, when I was starting Total Hvar, I went to the tourist boards on the island to support the project. I was told:

"We fully support this project, it is great, and we can give you any assistance you need, apart from one thing - money." The thing I needed most.

"You will not get any money for one reason only," a local friend told me cheerfully over a beer a decade ago. "Because you are not in a political party." Why on earth would I want to be in a Croatian political party, I asked myself. 

That was before  I had come across the Mighty State of Uhljebistan. From watching communities in Dalmatia, I have seen how it works. In theory, the tourist board director should be the best candidate to promote tourism. Given the high level of English proficiency in Croatia, it is astonishing how many local tourist board directors cannot speak English well, or even at all. 

And the local tourist board director is not chosen from within the tourist board framework, but by the President of the local tourist board, who also happens to be the Mayor. And the tourist board job is a very nice job indeed. A position the mayor can allocate with political patronage, or perhaps a job for his girlfriend. Apart from a nice comfortable life and existence, it also comes with a budget for events. And whose events get the funding? Perhaps those who deserve a thank you for their loyal votes. 

Or perhaps the useful position of deputy mayor could be offered to someone whose husband was a popular figure around town, and very persuasive. Persuasive enough to get people to vote for his choice, with his wife as deputy mayor to show how wise the choice is. And if there was a guaranteed job in return, in which he didn't really have to show up, apart from on pay day, well, where was the harm in that? 

But it goes far deeper than this, as I learned when the Mayor of Jelsa, Niksa Peronja, announced in a public meeting (see above) that he was suing me (he never did). People turned away as I walked down the street, while messaging support and thanks privately for investigating the murky inner workings of a public tender. You have to understand, a local friend told me, that it is not personal, but that cafe owner over there supports you, but if he does so publicly, he might lose some extra outdoor tables next season. This is how Croatia works, so don't take it personally. 

I was shocked at how many people contacted me privately to thank me, then sent me more examples of alleged corruption, asking me to report on it. 

"Sure, we can do it together."

"No, no, please no. My name cannot be associated. I have children, you understand?"

And I don't?

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Who could I give all these alleged corruption cases to if not the Prime Minister? He was due in town the following week, and so I wrote him an open letter. He was gracious enough to call me over for a chat and ended by promising that he would never sue me.

So far, he has been true to his word. Thanks, PM!

There are many creative ways that these relationships are maintained. If I wasn't currently being sued twice by the Croatian National Tourist Board (ironically one of them for a meme with that word uhljeb in it), I might have written the story someone had sent me regarding grants given by a certain ministry to businesses who were also donors to a certain political party. The person had collected the data over years, and the alignment of interests was astonishing. If I was a cynical chap, it would seem that the donors were putting cash in the party coffers, then receiving grants to their businesses to get their money back, with a bonus. Some of the businesses had little to do with the tender, but the party seemed to benefit quite nicely. Obviously I am not a cynic and so I am sure that was not what was going on. 

That level of fear is very much alive in Croatia today, and sadly people will go along with the party line in return for those favours. I don't judge them for it; it is a survival mechanism for many. But it will also slow down the pace of change.

Once one enters the world of the Mighty State of Uhljebistan, one learns that there are rules for those who have and those who have not. Those who are in the system, and those who are not. Those who can commit the most enormous crimes or steal large sums (let's throw in the word allegedly there) with impunity, versus the cafe owner who will get a huge fine if the inspectors find so much as one extra kuna in the till compared to the paperwork. 

The inspectors terrorise and they always find something. They have to, for how else is the Mighty State of Uhljebistan going to pay its army of uhljeb soldiers playing Angry Birds and the like in offices all over the country, so that they can continue to vote for the status quo?

And there are LOTS of mouths to feed. The number of municipalities is quite extraordinary, and (as is my understanding), far from being a legacy of the socialist era, the number of municipalities has actually increased since independence. When I moved to Hvar, for example, there were 5 tourist boards, each with their own director, and 4 municipalities, each with their own mayor. For a population of 11,000. And the best bit was that the tourist boards did not speak to each other - one of the reasons I started Total Hvar back in 2011. Many years ago, a friend of mine went into the Jelsa Tourist Board and asked for information about Stari Grad. 

"This is the Jelsa Tourist Board, and we have information about Jelsa. These are the bus times for Stari Grad, where they have their own office. Ask them about what there is in Stari Grad."

The efficiency of having two directors over one, at double the cost. A small snapshot of a much wider problem all over Croatia.

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A few years ago, the Voice of Entrepreneurs Association did some incredible big data research in an attempt to come up with suggestions to reduce administration costs through data-driven solutions. Their findings suggested the reduction and merging of some municipalities, which would save some 1.29 billion kuna a year. You can read the article here. In one municipality, a staggering 72% of annual expenditure went on salaries of the administration, leaving only 28% for things like education and garbage collection. 

But reducing the municipalities would mean reducing some of those patronage jobs, which would reduce those precious votes.

Not gonna happen.

And for those who do not like this system, or are excluded from it (and therefore many of the jobs and other opportunities), there has been one main option until now - emigration. People are voting with their feet on the streets of Dublin, Stockholm and Frankfurt. 

It is easy to criticise Croatians for being sheep and voting for the same parties time and again. It seems illogical on the surface, but it becomes a little more understandable once you begin to understand the workings of the Mighty State of Uhljebistan. It also explains why the smart and young people are leaving.  

I sometimes wonder how I would react if I had been born into the system, my family all from the same party, my parents' jobs dependent on the party.  It is easy to be a rebel in a cafe, less so when your livelihood is on the line. And so I don't judge. 

Happily, I think things are slowly changing. The outer walls of the Mighty State of Uhljebistan are starting to crumble. The twin viruses of technology and transparency are here, and EU membership has brought some extra scrutiny. 

But there is also a new breed of Croat - the entrepreneur - headed up the first Croatian unicorns of Infobip and Rimac - who are bypassing the system and doing their own thing. 

As I wrote previously, I have come to accept that things are far from perfect in this lovely country, and to accept Croatia with its faults. Choosing to live in Croatia is like being an alcoholic in Norway.  There, the beers are 10 euro, compared to 2 euro in Croatia, an alcohol tax the alcoholic is prepared to pay for the Norwegian lifestyle.  So too in Croatia. Pay the uhljeb tax in return for the lifestyle, then plug into the MANY positive bubbles that are growing by the week, and discover really why Croatia really is one of the best places on the planet to live. 

With the right mindset. 

****

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

Friday, 5 August 2022

Croatia Celebrating Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day

ZAGREB, 5 August, 2022 - Croatia is celebrating Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day, War Veterans Day and the 27th anniversary of Operation Storm,  a joint military and police operation that ended a Serb armed rebellion in August 1995, and restored Croatian sovereignty over occupied central and southern parts of the country.

The offensive was launched at 5 am on August 4 along the line running from Bosansko Grahovo to the south to Jasenovac to the east, the front line being more than 630 kilometres long. Within the following 84 hours slightly less than 10,500 square kilometres of territory, almost a fifth of the country, was liberated.

The operation culminated on August 5, when the Croatian Army's 4th and 7th Guard Brigades liberated Knin, the heart of the Serb rebellion, displaying a 20-metre-long Croatian flag on the town's fortress at noon.

About 200,000 Croatian soldiers and police took part in the biggest operation of the Homeland War.

Operation Storm marked the end of the war in Croatia, created conditions for the peaceful reintegration of the eastern Danube River region, helped break the siege of the northwestern Bosnian town of Bihać, and enabled the return of refugees and displaced persons.

This year's central commemoration will be held in Knin, and the event will be addressed by retired general Mladen Markač, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković and President and Commander-in-Chief Zoran Milanović.

Friday, 5 August 2022

Milanović: We Should Speak against Oblivion, Downplaying of Homeland War

ZAGREB, 5 August, 2022 - President and Commander-in-Chief Zoran Milanović on Thursday called for speaking against oblivion and downplaying of the Homeland War, noting that Croatia's path to independence was a right one and that it does not have to apologise to anyone.

Milanović was speaking in Knin at a reception for Croatia's wartime commanders, held on the occasion of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and War Veterans Day and the 27th anniversary of Operation Storm, a combined military and police operation that ended a Serb armed insurgency in August 1995 and restored Croatian sovereignty over occupied central and southern parts of the country, paving the way for the peaceful reintegration of eastern Croatia in January 1998.

At the reception, President Milanović decorated and promoted a number of members of the Armed Forces.

"We should speak... against oblivion and against the downplaying of what we achieved in the Homeland War, relying on facts because Croatia was in a very difficult situation and from 1991 on, nobody has given it anything," Milanović said in his address at the event.

Croatia is not frustrated by that even though it is still recovering from the war, and nobody has ever thanked it, he said.

He recalled that during the war, people who fought to liberate the country lacked ammunition, which was why they had to be efficient.

"Croatia's every move was looked at with skepticism, and when I say this, I don't think I sound like a frustrated president of a small frustrated country, quite the contrary - I speak in a commonsensical way as a leader of a self-confident and finally historically defined country. Our path was a just and right one," Milanović said.

He recalled that Croatia had been suspected all along of trying to partition Bosnia and Herzegovina, which, he said, was not true.

"The siege of Bihać would have never ended without the Croatian army," Milanović said, adding that the role of the Croatian army and the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the war was great and that nobody had thanked them for it.

"Bosnian Serbs, who were the enemy in the war, would have never surrendered and been brought to the negotiating table in Dayton... if the Croatian army had not defeated them in the last operation in October 1995," he said.

In 1995 Croatia did not have a choice. "Croatia did not expel anyone; Croatia did not want it. I am fully confident that a vast majority of people did not want it, but it did not have any choice."

"Croatia was offered a peace agreement, a plan known as Z-4, which was unfavourable for it, much more unfavourable than the Minsk agreement was for Ukraine," Milanović said, adding that Croatia had been ready to sign it.

"The then leadership was willing to sign it, President (Franjo) Tuđman... was ready to sign it to prevent bloodshed... Our adversary did not want it. And that is what our children must know and what must be repeated," Milanović said, adding that he would continue to be open to different opinions and criticism, "but this is how things stand, as far as we are concerned."

He repeated several times during his address that there was no need for Croatia to apologise to anyone for anything because its struggle had been a just and right one.

Friday, 5 August 2022

Vučedol Culture Museum Invites You to Out of the Box Virtual Exhibition

August 5, 2022 – The Vučedol Culture Museum in Vukovar remains a truly special place. Its unique location, architecture, and the dedication of those who make things happen there day after day, all keep drawing you back and leave you longing for more. This time, the invitation is out for all who like anything digital, 3D, and in general thinking out of the box. A new interactive exhibition nicknamed Vučedolac izvan okvira (The Vučedol Man Outside His Box) is open until the end of August.

Tportal followed up with the author of the exhibition, Darko Bilandžić, who is also the head of marketing at the Vučedol Culture Museum. He points out that, thanks to their approach to marketing and the possibilities of the digital world, he decided to offer the museum’s visitors a digital insight into the life of the prehistoric people of Vučedol.

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Photo: Vučedol Culture Museum

“The people of Vučedol were advanced as a culture and in many ways ahead of many at that time. We could say that they thought outside the box. I believe that we have passed the time of static museums, which require visitors to walk through them and read the materials next to the exhibits. In addition to improving our website, we decided to go a step further and create an interactive exhibition using augmented reality technology”, says Bilandžić.

He explains that ten tablets are available to visitors, which they can use to scan ten posters to find the corresponding 3D, audio, text, or video content.

“With this type of presentation, we want to get even closer to the younger generation and keep up with the modern ways of presenting museum material, and thus further build our digital archive. I must admit that the feedback of our visitors pleasantly surprised me, as it clearly shows how important it is to continue working in the direction of new technologies”, says Darko Bilandžić.

He adds that even as a child he was interested in advanced technologies and that robots were his favourite toys.

“That passion for new and advanced technologies always stayed with me. Back in 2016, at the Vučedol Culture Museum, we had visitors take a virtual walk through the museum with the help of VR glasses”, he recalls.

He added that the “trigger” for greater involvement in the digital presentation of cultural material was the coronavirus pandemic when many museums were closed.

“It made apparent that a lot of museums were not ready for online work. We saw our chance there and I dove into learning and education, and this exhibition is the first result of that”, he says proudly, adding that without digital technologies in the future it will be difficult to imagine the operation of any museum.

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Photo: Vučedol Culture Museum

This marketing expert believes that augmented reality offers museums unimagined opportunities for development and getting closer to citizens of all ages.

“We especially want to get closer to young people and get them interested in everything that the Vučedol Culture Museum offers, and it offers many things that define today's life and reality”, concludes Darko Bilandžić.

Darko is a marketing expert who has a passion for a reality that is virtual, augmented, or extended. If you would like to know more about that, make sure to check out TCN’s interview with Darko on Culex, a successful VR company that he co-owns.

For more on lifestyle in Croatia, check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Friday, 5 August 2022

As Habits Change, What are Tourists in Croatia Now Seeking on Holiday?

August the 5th, 2022 - The global coronavirus pandemic changed the world and most peoples' habits as we once knew and accepted them. With the habits and desires of tourists in Croatia having altered, precisely what are foreign visitors to these shores now looking for when on holiday here?

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the director of the Croatian National Tourist Board (CNTB/HTZ), Kristjan Stanicic, recently commented on the ongoing tourist season for Novi dan (New day) on N1. Currently, there are more than one million and one hundred thousand tourists spending time in the Republic of Croatia, Stanicic said. 57.7 million overnight stays and 10.8 million arrivals have also now been officially achieved.

"In terms of overnight stays, we've exceeded our previous estimates, the results so far have been excellent and this will probably continue throughout the month of August," he added.

The beautiful Istrian peninsula exceeded its results from the record, pre-pandemic year of 2019 and Zadar County is at almost the same level, he added. All coastal counties, according to Stanicic, have achieved excellent results, and even the continent is following this trend despite it having always been less popular than the coastline and the islands.

"The results are significantly better than they were last year. The German market, which is growing compared to 2019, is recognising the continental part of the country as a tourist destination more and more as well," he said.

He emphasised that Croatia is one of the top destinations in the entire Mediterranean once again this year thanks to the excellent cooperation between the public and private sectors. "Croatia is also a destination many people can drive to, which is a great competitive advantage for us," he pointed out.

As he explained, the habits of tourists in Croatia have changed, and they're now looking for a stay in nature, more mobility, the ease of availability of information, diversity and richness in the overall offer, not to mention high quality accommodation.

"Higher quality accommodation units are the ones which have been occupied for the longest time so far. What is of better quality sells best,'' concluded the director of the Croatian National Tourist Board, Kristjan Stanicic.

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

Friday, 5 August 2022

Porec Tourism Booming as 2 Million Overnight Stays Achieved Early

August the 5th, 2022 - Porec tourism is absolutely booming, with 2 million overnight stays having been achieved earlier than last year. While Istria has always been popular, this charming coastal city on the Istrian peninsula is making a massive name for itself and seeing this gorgeous part of Croatia emerge from the shadow of Dalmatia.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, this tourist season is seeing the entire country make a huge tourism comeback, recording better and better results. Porec tourism is doing excellently. This Istrian city is one of the country's most visited destinations and it has achieved two million overnight stays an entire month earlier than it did last year. Everyone hopes that the continuation of the summer season will remain as it is now, as reported by HRT.

"Porec tourism achieved a record three and a half million overnight stays back in the pre-pandemic year of 2019, and this year it seems as if the same is absolutely achievable," said Nenad Velenik, the Porec Tourist Board's director. He emphasised that Porec has defined itself as a 4 to 5 star destination, about 80 percent of the accommodation capacities are of this type and they fill up first. He added that earnings from tourism will be better than they were back in 2019, given that the tourist tax has increased.

Two million overnight stays in the City of Porec have been achieved earlier this year than they were last year, when the same figure was only achieved at the end of August, which speaks volumes about just how successful this season has been and continues to be. It should be added that on August the 3rd of the record year 2019, that same number of two million overnight stays was reached.

Currently, 30,000 tourists are staying in Porec, and they are accommodated primarily in hotel accommodation, then in campsites, and then in private accommodation. The most frequent guests are Germans, followed by Austrians, Slovenians, Croats, Italians, and in sixth place are guests from the Czech Republic.

"We've come to 2019's level, the index is at 100. When we look at the fact that we have 700 beds less in our destination due to work on accommodation facilities, then we can really be satisfied with all of this. The result of all this is sport tourism. We combined public and private, tourism and sport and in this way extended the season,'' said the mayor of Porec, Loris Persuric.

"We encourage content in the pre-season and post-season where we still have opportunities for growth and development. This tourist season has shown that we definitely do have that potential. Back during the pre-season, we achieved a 30 percent better result than we did back in 2019," said Nenad Velnik.

With Porec tourism booming, they don't plan to stop there. Investments will continue to be made in the city's infrastructure and cultural heritage. In Porec, they expect a good continuation of this situation throughout the month of August, and the announcements are excellent for the postseason as well.

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

Friday, 5 August 2022

PicoPACK: Neglected Knin Making Entrepreneurial Comeback

August the 5th, 2022 - Knin in inland Dalmatia has unfortunately been left to ''go to the dogs'' in the economic sense, but the arrival of PicoPACK's new entrepreneurial centre and factory could see that neglect overturned.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Darko Bicak writes, despite being one of the most economically deprived and neglected parts of the entire country, every year at the beginning of August, on the occasion of Victory Day and the Day of Croatian Veterans, the City of Knin comes into the public spotlight. This isn't only in the historical and political sense, but also in an economic one.

According to the data presented by the Financial Agency (Fina) for the year 2021, and according to the processed financial statements, 105 enterprises with 615 employees were operating in the City of Knin, which is a reduction of the number of employees there by 36 or 5.5 percent when compared to 2020.

DIV is the largest employer in Knin

Back in 2021, Knin-based companies achieved 255.4 million kuna in total income, which is an increase of 18 percent when compared to 2020, and total expenses of 242.7 million kuna, marking growth of 21.3 percent.

The share of enterprises based in Knin in the number of enterprises in the wider Sibenik-Knin County back in 2021 stood at 3.9 percent, in terms of the number of employees it stood at 4.9 percent, in terms of total income, three percent, and in terms of net profit - 4.8 percent.

Among companies based in Knin, ranked according to total revenue, the first small enterprise is Sirovina Benz transport with sixteen employees. Last year, the company achieved 41.4 million kuna in total revenue, which is a share of 16.2 percent in the total revenue of all companies headquartered in Knin.

Transport beton Lubina took second place with almost 37 million kuna in revenue and 2.6 million kuna in profit, followed by Production Shopping Centre Krka Knin with 24.8 million kuna and Efficient Powerful Successful with 21.7 million kuna in total revenue. This company, from the wider DIV group's system, is also the largest employer with as many as 164 employees to boast of. The Top 10 companies by revenue also include Logistika, Ljekarne (Pharmacies) Silvija Saric, G.O. Gradjevinar (Builder) Vrbnik, Komunalno Poduzece (Municipal Company), Cistoca i zelenilo and Agro Herc.

By the end of this year, according to all indicators, the economic situation in Knin should be improved because, according to announcements, the factory belonging to the wider PicoPACK Group Austria, a multinational company for the production of packaging with branches in several countries in Europe and Asia, should be opened in that inland Dalmatian city.

As they stated, their team specialises in the development and production of industrial solutions for the packaging of any type of bulk materials in both the food and non-food sector, as well as the packaging of dangerous substances and transport solutions for bagged cargo. As one of the largest suppliers of this type of goods in all of Europe, and being motivated by a significant increase in the costs of transportation from India and China, as well as the inability to ensure timely deliveries, the PicoPACK Group plans to transfer its product production facility from India to Europe.

An additional reason is the impossibility of ensuring adequate product quality in a remote facility in India. If everything goes well, they would install their future production and distribution centre in the Knin Enterprise Centre, which is currently under construction. This represents one of the most significant projects from the Intervention Plan of the city of Knin, with a total value of 33.3 million kuna, which will convert the former Kninjanka factory into an Entrepreneurship Centre, as a key element of the city's entrepreneurial infrastructure.

According to the already prepared Business Plan, PicoPACK Group initially plans to employ around seventy employees, with the fact that by the end of the year, if they succeed in realising their plan, they expect to employ a total of 300 workers in their future Knin-based plant.

The special advantage of the City of Knin for PicoPACK as a location for stationing their central production and distribution centre, lies in the possibility of the relatively quick activation in the newly renovated Entrepreneurial Centre, without the obligation of designing and building a brand new facility, then in the possibility of finding a sufficient number of employees with an adequate qualification structure, and last but by no means least, in the fact that Knin is in geostrategically favourable location with a branched traffic network.

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

Friday, 5 August 2022

NASA Astronaut Thomas Marshburn Visits Istria's Damjanic Winery

August the 5th, 2022 - There are celebrity sightings all along the Croatian coast during the summer months, and NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn has paid a visit to Istria's popular Damjanic winery.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, after returning from the impressive 66th expedition beyond the Earth's atmosphere, NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn decided to visit Istria, which seemed look like the most beautiful place on earth from space in his opinion. During his tour of the Istrian peninsula, he visited the well known Istrian Damjanic winery, where he tasted a top quality selection of wines and discovered all the secrets of the winemaking of the owner, Ivan Damjanic.

Dr. Thomas H. Marshburn became part of the NASA crew back in 2004, and before becoming an astronaut, Dr. Marshburn served as a flight surgeon, assigned to spacecraft medical operations. Last year, he was the pilot of the NASA SpaceX Crew-3 mission that launched on November the 10th, 2021. It was NASA's 66th long-duration expedition to the International Space Station.

Looking down at planet Earth from space, he was enchanted by the sight of the sun-drenched western coast of the Republic of Croatia. The coast of Istria and Kvarner seemed to him to be one of the most fascinating and dramatic coasts on the entire globe. After the expedition ended, the decision was made that he must visit this perfect place. Istria enchanted him twice, once from space and now with his feet firmly on the ground.

What kind of visit would it be without tasting the best that Istria has to offer? Istrian wines are known for their loyal fans around the world, and the Damjanic winery is among the most well known of them all. Together with his family, Dr. Thomas Marshburn visited the Damjanic winery and tasted the entire selection of their wines. The wines completely delighted him and he has assured that he wasn't wrong about Istria being stunning from space and that he definitely plans on returning.

As a memento and gift, the Damjanic winery was left a signed sticker of the space station ''Route 66'' with a summary of the mission of Expedition 66. The interesting thing behind this sticker is the shape of the American highway shield, the same type of sign that is found along the "historic" route 66 in the USA, which stretches from Chicago, Illinois all the way to Santa Monica in California. On the emblem, Blake Dumesnil, a graphic designer, depicted a road stretching from the station to beyond the Earth's horizon and into deep space as the idea that the journey itself is as important as the destination.

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

Thursday, 4 August 2022

Hajduk Impresses at Sold out Poljud with 3:1 Win against Vitoria!

August 4, 2022 - Hajduk beats Vitoria 3:1 at Poljud in the first leg of the UEFA Europa Conference League 3rd round qualifiers. 

Hajduk kicked off their European season tonight at Poljud in the 3rd qualifying round of the Conference League against Portuguese club Vitoria Guimaraes. 

The match was refereed by Swede Mohammed Al-Hakim. 

If Hajduk manages to advance past Vitoria in two games, their opponent in the Conference League play-off will be Spanish club Villarreal, who won the Europa League last year and reached the Champions League semi-finals this year.

Lineups

Hajdkuk Kalinić, Mikanović, Simić, Elez, Melnjak, Vuković, Grgić, Krovinović, Sahiti, Biuk, Livaja

Vitoria: Varela, Ogawa, Villanueva, Mumin, Miguel, Thiago Silva, Alfa Semedo, Andre Almeida, Da Luz, Lameiras, Andre Silva

Match report

Hajduk had their first corner of the match already in the 2nd minute, which came to the top of the box and found Livaja. Livaja crossed the ball back in, but it went out for a goal kick. 

The match was back and forth for the next five minutes; both teams held their play at the midfield line. 

Livaja’s fancy footwork had Poljud shaking in the 9th minute when he danced around the Vitoria defense and forced a free kick. Unfortunately, the ball into the box was unsuccessful. 

Grgic had the first shot of the match in the next play. Sahiti’s skill also impressed in the minute that followed, and Vitoria’s defense was weak at clearing the ball from the back. 

Hajduk had another chance from a great attacking play a minute later. Elez found Livaja in the midfield and onto Krovinovic, who played down the right wing to Sahiti. Vitoria had a dangerous play next, but Hajduk’s defense was certain to clear the ball out. The first yellow card of the match was given to Vitoria in the 12th minute. 

Mikanovic played another ball into the box two minutes later, which was cleared by Vitoria’s defense. Vitoria was definitely playing more nervously than Hajduk, who was hungry to attack. 

Hajduk was awarded their second corner in the 17th minute, which was saved by goalkeeper Bruno Varela. 

Krovinovic was given a yellow card in the 22nd minute. 

Vitoria had their first corner in the 24th minute, which was headed out by Livaja. Vitoria’s second corner came not even a minute later, and another one after that, which was punched out by Kalinic. 

Hajduk’s best chance came in the 27th minute. A quick counter found Biuk, who played through to Sahiti on the opposite side of the pitch. Sahiti was one second too slow to get a shot off. 

The next five minutes were back and forth with no real chances. Livaja was found on the left wing in the 34th minute, which went out for a corner. Melnjak shot from 40 meters out and over the crossbar a minute later. 

A questionable missed call by the ref resulted in a free kick for Vitoria, which Hajduk’s defense ultimately cleared for a quick counter. Hajduk called for a handball in the box in the following play, but the ref said to play on. The replay showed that it hit the Vitoria player’s leg first and then into the arm, which is not a penalty. 

Hajduk continued to attack in the remaining five minutes of the half and was easily intercepting Vitoria’s as they tried to move the ball up the pitch. 

Three minutes of stoppage time were added to the first half. Livaja immediately had a one-on-one chance with the keeper, which he hit out for a corner. 

The match went into halftime without any goals - 0:0. 

The second half started without any changes for Hajduk, but Vitoria subbed on Daniel Silva for Almeida. 

Hajduk pressed into Vitoria’s half for the first five minutes, but Vitoria had a close encounter in the 52nd minute. Fortunately, the ball went out for a free kick. 

Biuk put a fantastic move on the Vitoria defense and shot at the keeper in the 55th minute. 

Hajduk had a series of chances in the 56th minute but couldn't find the back of the net. Vukovic missed the far post in the next play, too. 

Hajduk was playing brilliantly in the next few minutes, with Vitoria’s defense just barely stopping their momentum. However, a quick Vitoria attack was all they needed to catch Hajduk’s defense off guard. There was a fast play up the right wing and around Melnjak and Vukovic. Miguel got the shot off and found the upper left corner of the goal past Kalinic for the Vitoria lead. 

But it didn’t take long for Hakduk to equalize. Livaja took a shot in the box, which bounced off the far post and right to Sahiti, who scored for 1:1 in the 67th minute!

Atanasov was subbed on for Vukovic two minutes later. 

And Hajduk didn’t stop there. Elez sent a long ball from the back in the 75th minute, finding Melnjak in front of the goal for 2:1 Hajduk! Poljud had never been louder. 

Colina was subbed on for Sahiti and Lovrencsics for Mikanovic a minute later. Josip Elez was subbed off for Chidozie Awaziem, making his Hajduk debut in the 81st minute.

Hajduk was awarded a corner in the minute that followed, which was cleared out by the Vitoria defense. Livaja was unsuccessful with a free kick in the 86th minute. 

But that didn’t matter. Filip Krovinović settled all doubts of the winner at Poljud tonight, nailing a rocket near post for 3:1 Hajduk in the 87th minute! 

The ref added 4 minutes of stoppage time, in which neither team scored. The final result was 3:1 for Hajduk. 

The second leg is scheduled for August 10 in Portugal.

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

Thursday, 4 August 2022

20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years: 18. Croatian Food & Drink

August 4, 2022 - Twenty years a foreigner in Croatia. Part 18 of 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years. The incredible world of Croatian food and drink. 

There were not many things that I knew for sure when I was a small boy, but one of them was that becoming an adult would mean that I would never again have to eat the things that were forced on me as a child. 

Cabbage, broccoli, and the biggest evil of all - Brussels sprouts - would be banished from my diet forever on the occasion of my 18th birthday. I would eat what I wanted and eat when I wanted. 

And then I moved to Croatia.  

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(If you want to understand the magic of Dalmatia, all you need is Tisja Kljakovic Braic Art

Of all the things I never thought I would do in life, craving cabbage was right up there at number two, just behind craving Brussels sprouts.

And yet, here I was, lusting after one of the finest dishes known to man - sarma. 

Delicious cabbage leaves wrapped around a tasty mix of mincemeat, rice and spices, and served with mashed potato. I honestly think I could eat it every day and not get bored of it. Especially if made by my wife or mother-in-law.

After years of living in the consumer society in the 'civilised' West, where bland and watery fruit and veg were available  24/7, 365 days of the year, Croatia was a revelation.  Things might only be seasonal, but when they were available... wow!

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(Wild asparagus by Romulic & Stojcic)

Asparagus was close to cabbage for the Olympic bronze in my childhood diet, but wild asparagus in Croatia in March - a totally different league.  I have yet to go foraging for wild asparagus, but if none was available then I would be in the forest searching. And this being Croatia, I would have to pay a tax on the wild asparagus I picked (yes, really).  

For cabbage and asparagus, read just about any fruit and vegetable that grows in Croatia. Taste, freshness, quality, seasonality. A different world. 

And yet, for the first couple of years - until I tasted my mother-in-law's cooking - I had really no idea that Croatian cuisines was that special. I was a bit like that Anthony Bourdain chap, who came across Croatian food a decade ago.

This is world-class wine, world-class food, world-class cheese. If you haven't discovered Croatian cuisine, you are a f*cking idiot. I am a f*cking idiot. 

Bourdain came to Croatia a decade after me, and he had better connections and introductions than I had. With the notable exception of my punica (mother-in-law). And I will confess that initially I was not overly impressed with the food on my newly adopted island of Hvar. 

Back in 2003, there was a joke among the small expat community. Somewhere in Croatia, there was a factory which produced restaurant menus. The menu was the same for all restaurants around the country, with two blank areas - the name of restaurant and the prices. For the menus were all the same.

Back then, the quality of the restaurants was really not that great, and the fare was very standardised. The only thing that really stood out as somewhat exotic (albeit unappealing) was octopus salad. 

We Brits are a bit funny about our food, and octopus is not a staple you will come across in the UK.  I had tried it in a curry in Zanzibar, but in Croatia it seemed to be a very popular dish,and one which my Croatian friends recommended a lot. I finally took the plunge.

Delicious! It remains my number one starter recommendation to newbies to Croatia. An absolutely gorgeous dish.

As I got to know the local ways a lot better through my new Croatian girlfriend, suddenly a whole new world opened up.  Fresh produce, grown in the family field, provided the bulk of the food needs - what was in season could be found on the table. And you knew it would be delicious and fresh. And with my wife and punica preparing age-old simple but highly tasty dishes, food would never be the same again.

During the pandemic, we took the decision to spend the lockdown on Hvar rather than in Varazdin. We figured that whatever happened, there would be more freedom on the island, as well as access to the family field if things got really tough. I remember debating how much toilet paper to buy (remember that global panic?), and in the end, I decided on a pack of 20 only, explaining to my wife and daughters that we would have 5 each. And after that, if the crisis continued, we would have to find more natural solutions. 

"Six each for us, Daddy, and 2 for you. You are a boy."

I was less concerned at how long my two rolls of toilet paper would last than the food. If the predicted food shortages did happen, then islands would hardly be the priority to restock. I need not have worried. Money might have been tight due to cancelled clients, but the family field, and the culinary magic of my wife and punica, delivered some of the tastiest meals in my time in Croatia during that restricted period. You certainly could not buy those flavours in a Manchester supermarket. 

I learned very early on in Croatia to take every day as it comes, and to try anything once. I have never lived in a country where the unexpected happens all the time, as it does in Croatia. Meat shopping? On my first week on Hvar, I was taking the bus from the ferry to Jelsa through the inland village of Vrbanj, when the driver screeched to a holt. There was a man selling half a dead pig by the side of the road, and the driver fancied a piece for lunch. Unfortunately, he had no money, and so had to borrow from the passenger ticket revenue. There was just enough for two kilos.

One of the nicest traditions I enjoyed out of season was the fisherman who landed a particularly large fish, and who would have difficulty finding a local buyer at a good price with all the restaurants closed for the season. A raffle ticket system was introduced - 10 kuna a ticket, with enough tickets sold to compensate the fisherman for his catch, with one lucky winner taking the fish home for lunch for the price of a coffee.

Dalmatia at its finest. 

Trying anything once in the Croatian context can land you in some interesting waters. My favourite example of this was back in 2012, when I decided to write the first modern guide book for Hvar in 20 years. I had no idea what I was doing as usual, but I embraced the new challenge with enthusiasm and set about trying to learn even more about my adopted home to make the book more interesting.  

I learned some really amazing things about Hvar - that it was home to the oldest public theatre in Europe, that organised tourism in Europe began on Hvar back in 1868, and that the biggest festival on the island celebrated... wait for it...

... the edible dormouse.

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Not quite believing this to be true, I headed off to the village of Dol to the annual Puhijada ('puh' is dormouse in Croatian), a festival with its very own currency - the superpuh.  

I wasn't quite sure where to go and ended up in the village restaurant, where an American yoga instructor friend was having dinner with six vegan clients on the last day of their yoga retreat. They had heard about the dormouse festival and were a mixture of disgusted and intrigued.  So intrigued that they decided to come with me, then egg me on to try a dormouse. Odd behaviour for vegetarians, I grant you, but their curiosity got the better of them. 

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I exchanged 50 kuna for 10 superpuh, which was enough for one dormouse (whole) in a bun, washed down with a beer. Six vegans looked on, holding my beer, while  I did battle with the little rodent.  There was not a lot of meat, but what there was was very tasty indeed. 

I learned that dormouse is only actually eaten in three places in Croatia. on the grill on Dol on Hvar and Dol on Brac, and in a stew in Gorski Kotar. It was part of my initiation into the wonderful world of Croatian cuisine, which is VERY individual.

I learned very quickly that there are two truisms about the Croatian gastronomic space. Firstly, if it grows, Croats will make a festival out of it.  I have been to some really weird food festivals in my time here (not that I am saying that a dormouse festival is mainstream) and tried some super weird shit on that journey. Lavender ice cream at a lavender festival on Hvar,  fava bean ice cream at a fava bean festival in Kastela, and pumpkin beer at the annual Bucijada pumpkin festival in Ivanic Grad. Want to know about the weird and wonderful food festivals that await you in Croatia - Natural Food Festivals: 25 Things to Know about Croatian Gourmet Goodness

The second truism about Croatian gastronomy is that if it grows, a Croat somewhere will make rakija out of it. Croats make rakija from EVERYTHING, and the third truism about Croatian gastronomy is that every Croat will tell you that their home-made rakija is the best. 

99% of them are VERY wrong. 

I have come to fear the drinks cabinet back home. Glass bottles with no labels filled with liquids of varying threatening colours, whose origins I have long forgotten. Some of the nice rakijas in the world come from Croatia - and those from honey, sage and mistletoe can be superb - and some of the very worst too. I have had rakija from olives made by a priest, one from tree bark, and several spurious varieties in between. For more about this essential part of Dalmatian life, check out my rakija guide in Rakija, Disconnecting People: Production, Flavours, Types

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(Goat brain kebabs were a tough sell to the kids, but delicious when prepared by Mario Romulic in Baranja)

Croatia doesn't have a national cuisine - how cool is that - but it does have some outstanding, and very individual regional cuisines. Seafood and blitva (Swiss chard) might be all the rage in Dalmatia, but truffles and variations of pasta were large in Istria, whereas Slavonia was a meat-eating heartland, the land of kulen, one of the finest things known to man. Wherever I travelled in Croatia, I knew that high-quality and fresh food awaited. 

But I also noticed something rather strange. While Croatia is strong in regional cuisine, it is actually quite rare to find a region's cuisine represented in the form of a restaurant in another region.  Dalmatians love kulen from Slavonia, but how many Slavonian restaurants have you come across in Dalmatia? Or Dalmatian restaurants in Istria, for example?

If there is one person more than anyone who enhanced my knowledge and understanding of Croatian food, it is Karin Mimica of Gastronaut. One of the finest humans on the planet, Karin has been tirelessly promoting Croatian food and wine for longer than I have been in Croatia. She also organises what - for me at least - are the best foodie tours in Croatia with her team from Gastronaut, a club of foodie journalists, hoteliers and restaurateurs. And me. 

With Karin, I have come to explore so many different regions in Croatia, both the cuisine and the tourism. Medjimurje, Djurdjevac, Koprivnica, Ozalj, Hvar, Krk, Rogoznica, Pag and several more, as well as an international trip to Slovenia, and soon to Egypt. 

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One of the many highlights was the 9-course lamb menu at Restaurant Zganjer near Ozalj, superbly entitled Her Majesty, the Lamb. And what an entrance with course 8, above. You can see the whole menu, dish by dish, here

Croatian cuisine has developed in the last 20 years, although the adherence to the finest and freshest local ingredients remains. The old expat joke about the factory with the same menu no longer holds true, and there have been some truly creative twists on traditional Croatian cuisine in recent years. 

There has also been a steady expansion in the international culinary scene. It was a curious thing that I noticed when I went to Albania for the first time in 2001. There were about 20 restaurants offering international cuisine - Mexican, Japanese, German etc. At the same time in Zagreb, there was a Chinese and an Indian, and that was it. In Sarajevo, despite thousands of NATO troops for years, almost nothing. Albanians and those from former Yugoslavia emigrated and were refugees. The Albanians seemed to embrace the places they lived in and returned with things that they had picked up there - in this case in the form of international restaurants, whereas the former Yugoslavs tended to stay in their communities and so bring back little culinary innovation. 

It was a long time until Croatia started to have any noticeable international food scene, and even when it did come, it was not welcomed by many locals. 

I remember breaking the story of the first Japanese restaurant in Split back in 2013, a lovely retired Japanese man, whose Split connection I have now forgotten. There was glee among the small expat community.  And dismay among the locals. Why do we need foreign food? Dalmatian food is the best, and tourists should eat Dalmatian food when they are here. If they want to eat sushi, they can go to Japan.  

Ah, Dalmacija. 

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The one thing I never really came to terms with in Dalmatia, much to my father-in-law's disappointment, was blitva (Swiss chard). It is probably the favourite of my wife and her parents, but I never got into it. And I think I accidentally rather offended my father-in-law the first time I appeared in the Croatian media back in 2012. 

I was in the Saturday edition of Slobodna Dalmacija, and I was on the back page, talking mostly about my new Hvar guidebook. The journalist had asked me lots of questions, and everything was very positive. 

"What do you not like about Dalmatia?"

"Blitva," I replied, thinking no more of it until I saw the back page headline - Jelsa has become my home, but I don't like blitva.

My father-in-law was not impressed. 

It was three years before I could make amends, trying blitva on national television on a tourism programme about Jelsa tourism. You can see how I got on in the video above - the blitva moment starts at 03:58.  

There is one really big negative about Croatian cuisine, with all its seasonal goodness and freshness. Once you get used to that quality, it is really hard to go back. After years of living here, I went back to Manchester to a big supermarket. I was stunned at the choice (Jelsa in 2007 was not exactly blessed with much), but that initial feeling turned to shock when I took a closer look. The tomatoes were almost orange and looked as though they were mostly water. Compared to the enticing red tomatoes from the family field, it was no contest. Many Croatians living abroad tell me that they feel that they are truly back home in Croatia when they get to see, feel and taste the local fruits and vegetables. They just taste so much more wholesome and, well... so Croatian.

(I suppose you might expect something about Croatian wine in this section, but that has already been done in an earlier chapter.)

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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

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