Sunday, 5 February 2023

Kastela's Feliks Lukas Only Sports Manager at National Prayer Breakfast in Washington

February 5, 2023 - He has done more for tennis in Croatia than anyone, and the efforts of Feliks Lukas are being rewarded with a prestigious invitation to the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.

One of the secrets of a happy life in Croatia is to surround yourself with positive people. There are a lot of people who love to complain here, but if you choose the path more positive, you really do get a different perspective.

I was first introduced to Feliks Lukas about 8 years ago in Bol, where he was delivering the only WTA women's tennis event on an island, and not even in peak season. A champion of networking and promoting Croatia, his contribution to promote Croatian tennis and the country in general has been immense. And so it was with some satisfaction the other day that I saw Feliks - along with another of my legendary besties, Marko Rakar - representing Croatia at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, which was attended by USA President Joe Biden and many other dignitaries. More on that from this translated report from Kastela.org.

Feliks Lukas from Kaštela is the only sports manager from Europe at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington

Few can boast that they had breakfast with the President of the USA. One of them is sports manager and director of the WTA Makarska Open tennis tournament Feliks Lukas, who was invited with 600 other guests from 90 countries to the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. This is a great recognition for a sports manager. He has dedicated his entire career to tennis and has been successfully running the WTA tournament for years, which moved to Makarska last year after Bol.

The centerpiece of this traditional event took place on Thursday in Washington in a somewhat different edition than previous years when the National Prayer Breakfast gathered a larger and more diverse audience, from prominent religious leaders to political lobbyists.

This tradition was started by President Eisenhower, who gave a speech on the relationship between religion and government at the first, more informal and much smaller meeting, so since then the speeches of the American president have been a key part of the event.

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(Lukas and fellow Croatian legend Marko Rakar (extreme left) with Congressman Moolenaar)

Joe Biden is the first American president who is a practicing Catholic believer since J.F. Kennedy, and at this year's event, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and King Abdullah II of Jordan addressed the guests via video link.

This is a great recognition for the WTA Makarska Open tournament and its director Feliks Lukas, the only sports manager from Europe who also had several meetings with American representatives and senators and presented them with the successful project of the WTA tournament, which after Bol last year moved to an attractive Makarska.

"Magnificent experience. I'm still impressed. It is a great honor to participate in the traditional National Prayer Breakfast with President Biden and representatives of Congress and the Senate, and with you at this event are famous world names such as Evander Hollyfield, the world boxing legend. I had the opportunity to promote Croatia, Kaštela and our tournament in Makarska and talk to high-ranking politicians such as Congressman John Moolenaar from Michigan; Stan Holmes and Bill Wall, leaders of the US Senate and House Prayer Breakfast Group; Bill Wall, president and CEO of XP International, a company that is involved in the organization of major sports events such as the Tour de France and the Olympic Games," said Lukas.

You can learn more about this year's WTA Makarska Open on the official website.

Sunday, 5 February 2023

Protest Due to Death of Journalist Vladimir Matijanić in Central Zagreb

February 5, 2023 - 6 months after the death of journalist Vladimir Matijanić, a protest will take place today, reports Index.hr.

Today, a protest called "Sorry to bother you, I can't breathe" will be held in Zagreb, exactly six months after the death of journalist Vladimir Matijanić, who died on August 5 last year, after five days of not only not being provided with medical care rather, he did not even receive an adequate medical examination.

The protest is organized by the Croatian Journalists' Association (HND), which announced that the gathering will begin at 12:00 in front of the Journalists' House, and then at 1:00 p.m. the procession will start to St Mark's Square.

It is protesting against the system that killed Matijanić and for all other victims of the healthcare system, which does not work in Croatia. HND advocates for an independent investigation into the circumstances of Vladimir Matijanić's death, as well as for the resignation of Minister of Health Vili Beroš.

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Petition for a new investigation and resignation of Vili Beroš
Andrea Topić, journalist and life partner of Vladimir Matijanić, Vice President of the Split-Dalmatia County HND Branch Gabrijela Radanović, Index journalist Ilko Ćimić, HND Vice President Branko Mijić and HND President Hrvoje Zovko will speak on St Mark's Square.

With this action, HND insists on the demands set out in the petition signed by almost 5,000 citizens, in which they demand that a new, independent commission conduct investigations and determine whether there are failures in the treatment of colleague Matijanić, and that the Minister of Health, Vili Beroš, who in the failures of the system he manages, does not sees nothing controversial - step down from that responsible position.

This is not a protest against healthcare workers, they are equally victims of a system that does not work. And there are fewer and fewer of them left to work in Croatia. And that's why we protest.

Against the system that killed our colleague Vladimir Matijanić. For an independent investigation into the circumstances of his death. For the resignation of Minister of Health Vili Beroš. So that it doesn't happen again to anyone...", reads the HND press release on the eve of the protest.

ZET announced a schedule change
During the protest over the death of journalist Vladimir Matijanić, ZET warns, the timetable will change.

They say that from 12:45 to 2:30 p.m. tram traffic will be suspended on Ilica from Ulica Republike Austrije to Trg ban Josip Jelačić, Jurišićev and Ulica Franje Rački, then Zrinjevac, Frankopanski and Savska to Vodnikova Ulica.

Tram lines will operate on changed routes in both directions:

Line 6: Črnomerec - Ulica Republike Austrije - Vodnikova - Main station - Bus station - Sopot
Line 11: Črnomerec - Ulica Republike Austrije - Vodnikova - Main station - Draškovićeva - Vlaška - Dubec
Line 12: Ljubljanica - Savska cesta - Ulica grada Vukovara - Držićeva - Šubićeva - Kvaternikov trg - Dubrava
Street 13: Zitnjak - Vukovar Street - Savska - Vodnikova - Main Station - Draškovićeva - Kneza Mislava Street - Victims of Fascism Square - Kvaternikov Square
Line 14: Savski bridge - Savska cesta - Vodnikova - Main station - Branimirova - Draškovićeva - Mihaljevac
Line 17: Prečko - Savska - Vodnikova - Main station - Draškovićeva - Kneza Mislava Street - Trg žrtava fašizma - Borongaj

Sunday, 5 February 2023

Red Alert Issued for 2 Croatian Regions. Official Advice: "Don't Travel if Not Necessary"

February 5, 2023 - It is windy out there - don't travel unless you have to - official advice, reports Index.hr.

The Croatian Meteoroglogical and Hyfrological Association (DHMZ) has issued a red warning for today for the Velebit Channel and southern Dalmatia due to a strong, in places, storm surge with the strongest wind gusts of 35 to 90 knots, and an orange warning for the Rijeka, Split and Dubrovnik regions, the western coast of Istria and Kvarner due to strong and very strong bura wind.

"Due to the stormy wind speed in combination with locally high waves, which have already or will be generated, the management of a vessel in these conditions requires great experience and adequately equipped vessels," DHMZ said in a warning for Sunday, February 5.

"Expect and be prepared for gusty wind speeds combined with locally high waves that have already or will be generated. Operating a vessel in these conditions requires extensive experience and adequately equipped vessels. It is recommended that mariners without adequate experience seek a safe harbor before starting potentially dangerous wind and waves.

It is likely that many catamarans and ferries will not be sailing so if you are travelling, keep an eye on traffic information. Be aware of the dangers and pay attention and follow the latest weather reports. We advise the public to avoid traveling and staying near threatened coastal areas. Be prepared for disturbances, damage to structures and the risk of injury due to uprooted trees, broken branches and flying debris. Interruption of traffic and interruption of electricity supply is possible," said DHMZ.

On Dinara -14, on Mosor -10. Storm speed 155 km/h
In the greater part of Dalmatia, Sunday dawned with mostly sunny weather, especially on the coast and islands, while there were slightly more clouds in the area of Zagora. Minimum temperatures ranged mostly from -5 to 0°C in Zagora and from 1 to 4°C on the coast and islands.

The coldest stations were Dinara-Sinjal with -14.7°C and Mosor-Veliki Kabal with -10.3°C, while the warmest were Komiža, Hvar and Supetar with 4°C.

The night and morning were marked by a stormy, gusty and hurricane-like storm. The strongest wind gust was measured in Split around 10 pm and was 155 km/h, with an average wind speed of 97 km/h. Let's remind you, the strongest storm surge ever in Split was 176.5 km/h, measured on February 23, 2019 at 2 am.

For the rest of the day, we expect mostly sunny weather with moderate to strong, and in places, stormy weather and tramontana. Maximum temperatures will range mostly between 5 and 8°C.

The storm broke the sailboats in JK Labud
Dalmatinski Portal published footage showing that the storm did not spare even the sailboats of the Labud Split Sailing Club.

The stormy wind caused chaos throughout Croatia yesterday
Let us remind you that the stormy wind caused problems all over the country on Saturday. DHMZ announced a red alert for the entire coast, except for Istria, for which an orange alert was in effect. An orange alarm was on for the whole of northern Croatia, and a yellow one for the rest of the country.

Uprooted trees fell on cars and roads in Zagreb. All available teams went out in the field, and two people were slightly injured. An 11-year-old boy was injured on a soccer pitch in Split. He was transferred to KBC Split. In Osijek, the wind damaged part of the market canopy, and in Virovitica, the roof of a nearby garage fell on a school.

Parts of the facade fell from the buildings, there was damage to the roofs, and there was also damage to the electrical lines, so some areas were left without electricity.

HAK announced the traffic situation
The A1 Zagreb-Ploče-Karamatići, A6 Rijeka-Zagreb, the Solin-Klis expressway, the Maslenica-Zaton state road Obrovacki, Paški, Krčki and the bridge Dr. Franje Tuđman, but the wind slows down traffic on some sections, HAK reported on Sunday.

There is a ban on traffic for double-decker buses, vehicles with caravans and motorcycles on the state roads DC1 Vaganac-Korenica-Udbina-Gračac and DC217 between the town and the Ličko Petrovo Selo border crossing, and on the section of the Adriatic highway between Senj and Sveta Marija Magdalena there is an additional ban for delivery vehicles and vehicles with a covered cargo space.

The strong wind also slows down traffic on the A1 Zagreb-Ploče-Karamatići highways between the Sveti Rok tunnel and the Božići viaduct and the A6 Rijeka-Zagreb between Kikovica and the Tuhobić tunnel, driving at the speed limit.

On certain roads in the coast and inland, driving is difficult due to the strong wind. There are occasional delays on road sections where works are ongoing.

Difficulties in maritime transport as well
Due to unfavorable weather conditions, the following ferry lines are suspended: Prapratno-Sobra, Prizna-Žigljen; catamaran lines: Korčila-Hvar-Split, Vis-Split, Jelsa-Bol-Split, Ubli-Vela Luka-Hvar-Split, Mali Lošinj - Cres - Rijeka and Novalja - Rab - Rijeka and the Komiža-Biševo boat line.

For the latest travel info from HAK in English, click here.

Sunday, 5 February 2023

Davis Cup Qualifier: Croatia Leads 2-0 Over Austria

February 5, 2023 - Croatia took a 2-0 lead against Austria on Saturday in the Davis Cup qualifier at Zamet Hall in Rijeka. Borna Ćorić played first and beat Dennis Novak as expected, before Borna Gojo surprised the favorite Dominic Thiem for Croatia's big 2-0 lead on day one.

On the first day of the Davis Cup qualifier in Rijeka, Borna Ćorić beat Denis Novak (144th on the ATP list) 6:3, 7:5, while Borno Gojo was better than Dominic Thiem, once the #3 player in the world - 6:3, 7:6(2).

"I am very satisfied with my performance, especially when serving, which has not been at the expected level in the last few months. However, the feeling is slowly coming back," said Ćorić after his victory. 

"I think we both played well. In the second set, he put a lot of pressure on me, but the break at 5:5 broke him," concluded the Zagreb native.

"A good match for me; mentally, it's always a little easier when you enter the match with a 1-0 lead. Thanks to Borna Ćorić for making it possible for me. However, even though we are up 2-0, nothing is over. I hope we can finish everything already in the doubles, but one ball often decides that. Regardless, Borna and I are ready to finish the job if necessary," assures Gojo.

Croatia's national team coach Vedran Martić praised Gojo but warned that the winner is still not resolved. 

"Borna did a fantastic job. He served exceptionally well. He was aggressive when needed and defended when required. His volleys were better and better throughout the match. In the tie-break, he played bravely, going to the net. Then, when it was the most difficult, he pulled out some moves that the best players in the world do, which is the quality of a champion. I am looking forward to the continuation of the Davis Cup," Vedran Martić said at the press conference.

Although Croatia has a significant advantage, they need to be cautious. 

"An ideal scenario for us after the first day. Both our players played great matches. Ćorić, as expected, defeated Novak, and Gojo surprised Thiem. A tough doubles match awaits us on Sunday. Nothing is over yet. It's not football when you lead 2-0 and wait for the referee to play the end. We have to win the third point. Everyone in the team is aware of this, and there is no relaxation," warned the coach.

Vedran Martić adds that they do their best when everyone comes to play in the Davis Cup.

"Borna Ćorić, Borna Gojo, and Marin Čilić give their all when they play. All matches are open; we can also lose just as we lead. We have had excellent results in recent years, and we should be grateful for that. We are leading, but we haven't won yet," he pointed out.

The first match on Sunday starts at 1 pm. Doubles team Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic will compete against Alexander Erler and Lucas Miedler. 

After the doubles match, if necessary, Ćorić and Thiem should play, and then Gojo and Novak.

Source:  HTS

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

Saturday, 4 February 2023

Zagreb Kneeling Men Met by Croatian Women's Network Counter-Protest

February 4, 2023 - If you live in Zagreb or were lucky enough to visit on the first Saturday of the month in the last four months, you might have witnessed the unforgettable sight of a bunch of fully grown men kneeling in the Ban Josip Jelacic square, praying in unison. This Saturday, the Zagreb kneeling men were met with a counter-protest by the Croatian Women's Network, joined by MEP member and SPF presidency member Fred Matić.

As 24Sata writes, the Zagreb kneeling men organized another one of their protests at the Ban Josip Jelacic Square, praying for the chastity of women in Croatia. This time, though, they were met by a counter-protest of the Croatian Women's Network on the Square, in which Fred Matić was one of the participants.

He pointed out that he is afraid that the Zagreb kneeling men are a prelude to what happened not that long ago in Poland, which resulted in the ban on abortion and encroachment on other women's rights.

"I came to support these people standing around me. What is happening on the other side of the Square is irresistibly reminiscent of Poland and Hungary, and when we mention those two countries, we have no reason to be too optimistic. In addition to so many problems and so many women who are beaten and killed every day, the biggest concern in Croatia is how women dress, whether they will be polite, or whether they will cook them lunch. It would be smarter to show women that they are equal and that they love their wives. Many Iranians are not proud to be Iranian because of all that is happening in their country. Only in Croatia can you see people who want to be those Iranians, and we will not allow them to do that. I stand very proudly on this side of the Square. I have nothing against anyone praying. What is hidden behind those prayers, however, we have seen where it leads historically - to the bonfires. As long as I am alive and engaged in politics, I will not allow my female colleagues, wife, and sister to be treated as secondary. Women are certainly not to blame for what Croatia is like. I think that women bring an additional quality of life and lead to betterment. All these prayers and stories of theirs cause a quiet chill in me. They take us back to the Middle Ages", concluded Matić.

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

Saturday, 4 February 2023

New Split Rules on Public Drinking, Dress Code Reach UK Media

February 4, 2023 - A new year and a new approach to improving tourism in Split, and the UK media is spreading the message, as new Split rules for dress and public drinking take effect.

Back in 2015, some drunken Australian tourists were arrested for climbing onto the roof of Hvar Cathedral, causing some 5.000 kuna of damage. They were very remorseful when they sobered up, with one of them agreeing to an anonymous interview with me, which you can read here

And what is the reputation of Hvar as a destination among Australians?

Priority number one it is a party place. The heritage and buildings like the cathedral are lost in the party culture.

He went on to say after the interview that he would never drink like that at home, but it seemed to be ok to do so in Croatia. There didn't seem to be any rules. If he had been aware of rules, he would not have broken them. 

The balance between party and excess has been a constant topic in the media in Croatian tourism over the last few years, with several destinations introducing fines for public drinking and improper dress in cultural centres.

The Dalmatian capital of Split was in the news for all the wrong reasons last summer, with a stream of stories of public drinking, urination and fornication in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Diocletian's Palace. 

It is a subject that TCN covered in some depth, with various interviews on the subject with experts and stakeholders.

These included:

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

ULTRA Europe Festival's Joe Basic Talks Split Tourism Development.

Luxury Hospitality Expert Zoran Pejovic on Split Tourism Development

Mayor Ivica Puljak promised to act, and it seems that he has. A new bylaw has come into effect, which - among many other things - addresses some of the issues. Public drinking will now be fined to the tune of 150 euro, and walking around historic places topless or in swimwear will no longer be tolerated. An additional benefit of the new law is that these rules will be enforced by patrolling wardens. 

Early days, but it seems that that message is already getting out, with the London Metro among others to report the news. A little like the Australian on the Hvar cathedral roof, hopefully a little education and PR for the season will set expectations of behavior. 

****

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.

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Saturday, 4 February 2023

Red Dress Day Croatia Raising Awareness of Stroke Specifics in Women

February 4, 2023 - The public health campaign "Red Dress Day," celebrated for the fifth year in a row in Croatia, aims to raise awareness of the specifics of stroke in women.

As 24Sata writes, one in five women will have a stroke, and each year stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer, but 80 percent of strokes can be prevented. This was the message on Friday at the celebration of the "Red Dress Day" campaign, supported by President Milanović and Zagreb Mayor Tomašević.

The public health campaign "Red Dress Day" in Croatia is being celebrated for the fifth year in a row with the aim of raising awareness about the specifics of stroke in women, warning of the disastrous consequences of ignoring symptoms and the need for lifestyle changes.

The President of the Republic, Zoran Milanović, under whose patronage this year's action is being held, pointed out that he was not aware of this problem in the female population until last year, and he is one of those who were reached by this public health initiative.

"I learned something new - awareness of the importance of stroke prevention and treatment in women. I want as many people as possible, in this case, women, to know about this, this message to reach them, to fight the risk factors," President Milanović told the event organizers. The president is familiar with stroke personally because of his mother.

For Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević, the action is also significant on a personal level. In the film shown, his friend and former colleague spoke about the experiences of women who survived a stroke.

"What particularly touched me was the courage of the women who spoke about this experience. It is important to talk about symptoms and prevention. It is not easy to talk about your health problems, but it is crucial to make the public aware of this problem," said Tomašević, adding that they will always support this action.

State Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Marija Bubaš, stated that women are the mainstay of society and that stroke also happens to younger people, so it is essential to talk about their health, which can be improved through prevention.

The president of the Organizing Committee of Red Dress Day, Arijana Lovrenčić-Huzjan, pointed out that she was glad that the whole of Croatia accepted the action and that women realized how important their health is.

Ignoring symptoms can be fatal.

A stroke can happen to anyone at any age, but women are more vulnerable. In Croatia, stroke is the second leading cause of death, with more than 6,000 deaths each year, of which 60 percent are women.

Risk factors for stroke include obesity, smoking, physical inactivity, and inadequate diet, while women have additional specific risks for stroke - taking birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy, pregnancy, migraine, and cardiac arrhythmia.

Diseases whose timely detection and treatment can reduce the risk of stroke are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

The signs of a stroke are slurred speech, weakness in the hands, and loss of feeling in your face or body. Minutes count, and an urgent emergency call on 194 or 112 is crucial.

The program of the ceremony was led by Ivana Roščić, who survived a stroke last year, and Joško Lokas. The musical guests were Nina Kraljić, Luka Nižetić, and Barbara Suhodolčan and the C'est La Vie ensemble.

The address was followed by a fashion show by Croatian designers, worn by women who had recovered from a stroke.

The "Red Dress Day" public health campaign was launched in 2002 in the USA, and 50 countries worldwide have joined it to date. The organizers of this year's action in Croatia are the Croatian Medical Association - the Croatian Neurological Society, and the Croatian Society for Gender Differences in Neurology in cooperation with the City of Zagreb, the Faculty of Medicine in Zagreb and the Andrija Štampar School of Public Health.

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

Saturday, 4 February 2023

Zadar Airport Investing Over 2 Million Euros in Expansion

February 4, 2023 - Zadar Airport is preparing for Schengen and traffic growth with an investment of 2.2 million euros in the renovation of additional passenger terminal annexes and a runway extension.

As Hina / Poslovni report, the airport will, like other airports, officially enter the Schengen regime on March 26.

This is a capital investment with extensive work at that airport, which in 2022 had more than one million passengers for the first time, 1.1 million to be exact. Since the plans and predictions for 2023 are even higher, they expect this investment will allow accepting intercontinental flights.

"The arrangement of additional annexes of the building, which will house the international arrival/departure of "non-Schengen passengers," will also be arranged, and everything is part of a larger project by which the airport aims to become the first airport in Croatia using solar energy and an electric bus, to strengthen its "green and sustainable business," they emphasize.

From the moment they enter Schengen, they expect an easier flow of passengers, especially since most passengers will be domestic, who do not have to go through passport control, but only a security check.

Part of the passengers who are not in that regime will still go through passport control, but given that this has been the case until now, there will practically be no changes for them.

"We have great announcements for 2023, and we expect 5 to 10 percent more passenger traffic compared to a record 2022 when we recorded a million for the first time. This is an exceptional result, considering that we are the first Croatian airport to exceed pre-pandemic traffic", they say from the Zadar airport.

In accordance with the announced increase in traffic, they say that they will also hire more people, which is why they had a call for seasonal workers in January, for whom the selection process is ongoing.

They believe that they will be able to cover all the needs for seasonal workers, all the more so because they see that there is sufficient interest in working at the airport, and they also state that last year in 2022, they had an average of 248 employees per month, while in 2023 they plan to their increase that number to 254.

Currently, in the winter flight schedule, they (only) have daily domestic flights of Croatia Airlines (to Zagreb and Pula), which, as they announce every year, will change significantly with the summer flight schedule.

"Although it is still too early to discuss the flight schedule, we can already confirm that there will be new lines and airlines. For example, this year, we have S.A.S. with a line to Copenhagen, and three new lines of the Italian carrier Milano Malpensa (MXP), the German Munster, and the Polish Rzeszów have been announced so far," they revealed for Hina.

Their now traditionally largest partner for the summer flight schedule, Ryanair, offers 46 routes.

When asked about the financial results of operations in 2022, they estimate that Zadar Airport will have a profit of around HRK 24.47 million in 2022, which would be 203 percent more than the profit in 2021, but also 262 percent more than in 2019.

This was also driven by a significant increase in income in 2022, but considering that the annual reports on operations for 2022 have not yet been completed, they only amount to the revenue for nine months of 2022, of almost HRK 95 million, while in the whole of 2021, they achieved over HRK 65.5 million in revenue.

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

Friday, 3 February 2023

Exploring Croatian Recipes: Twist on the Favourite, Deconstructed Sarma

February 3, 2023 - As the cold weather persists and sour cabbage keeps calling our names, it might be time to rethink the nation's favourite and treat yourself to deconstructed sarma. We know you want to shout blasphemy, but just hear us out. Don't tell us you've never wished you could have it baked.

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Sarma (no English equivalent, I'm afraid) is a traditional winter dish of Croatia and the Balkans.

It's made of minced meat, rolled into sour cabbage leaves, and cooked with more sour cabbage. It's also one of those meals a woman should know how to make to get married (so they say).

Although sarma is considered a national dish in Croatia as well as in Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia (even Bulgaria and Romania), its historical roots come from the Ottoman Empire, all the way back in the 16th century. And they stole the idea from the Persians! So, it's little to say that sarma has been around for some time.

The original version was meat-free, made with wine leaves and stuffed with rice, then boiled in hot water, which is the recipe known today as yaprak sarma (yaprak is the Turkish word for leaf). This kind of sarma is still eaten in more Muslim-oriented countries like Turkey and Bosnia. Other countries prefer the meat filling and sour cabbage combination, although in the south of Croatia and Herzegovina, they use leaves of a plant called raštika (wild blitva), and that dish is called Hercegovački japrak. Many nations, twice as many varieties of sarma.

The most common sarma in these areas is the one with cabbage and meat. Each household has its own ''unique'' recipe, and while some use only minced pork meat, others use a pork/beef mixture. Some put more spices in the meat mixture, while others keep it clean with salt, pepper, and paprika. Some make the sauce more flavourful by adding a bit of ajvar to the whole story; others don't. Some roll big sarmas; some make them small. And there's also a dispute over the right amount of ''sourness'' regarding the cabbage. As it usually goes in Croatia, everyone is right and wrong at the same time.

Now, if you're looking to ride an emotional rollercoaster when you say you're now going to deconstruct the almighty sarma (they'll hate you before they love you for it), just get your normal sarma ingredients and a little bit of patience. Let's recap what you'll need to feed a family of 6, twice (the right way).

Ingredients for deconstructed sarma:

- 1 kg of shredded sour cabbage or a cabbage head that you can chop up 

- 1 kg of mixed minced meat

- 2 cups of rice

- 2 medium onions

- 1 tbsp of lard

- salt, pepper, sweet paprika

- sour cream

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Instructions:

1. Boil your sour cabbage in enough water to cover it. Cook for about 30 minutes.

This is to soften it up a little and release any extra sourness (depending on how sour you like it, you might want to leave it on for a bit longer).

2. Chop up and saute the onions in lard, add the meat and spices, cook until 80% done. Drain and save the flavourful liquid.

3. Cook the rice in the meat liquid; add water if needed (about 6 cups of liquid for the 2 cups of rice). Season to taste.

4. Heat the oven to 180 °C.

5. Layer the ingredients in a mirrored fashion: cabbage, rice, meat, rice, cabbage. Finish off with a thin layer of sour cream.

6. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the sour cream starts looking golden.

7. Eat way too much deconstructed sarma.

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

Friday, 3 February 2023

Natural, Luxury Lustica, Breaking the Montenegro Overbuilding Stereotype

February 3, 2023 - It is always instructive to observe tourism in other countries. Some surprising and delightful discoveries in the natural, luxury Lustica peninsula in Montenegro, far removed from the Montenegrin coastal overbuilding stereotype. And VERY accessible.

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January is not traditionally the most popular month for tourism in Croatia or the wider region, but increasingly I look forward to the start of every new year. There are no crowds, and many places are shut, but it does give an opportunity to explore regions stripped back to their bare essentials. If you have never visited Dubrovnik in winter, for example, I heartily recommend it. The old town, with most of the cafe tables and chairs in hibernation, is brought back to its original stone - and is truly magical without the crowds. Of course if you happen to be here today, for the Feast of St Blaise, there is no finer time to visit. 

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After a great start to the year at the epic Osijek Wine Fest recently, I was delighted to accept an invitation from The Chedi Lustica Bay to come and explore the Lustica Peninsula in Montenegro in late January. 

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Montenegro. As soon as I mention the word in some quarters, I immediately get comments (as I will from this article) from my Croatian readership informing me how the Montenegrin coast has been ruined by overbuilding, and how many decades Montenegro is behind Croatia in tourism. 

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And each time, I smile. For while there is often a large element of truth to a stereotype (and the chronic overbuilding of Budva is indefensible, for example), it is also true that not everywhere is tarred with the same brush. 

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I want to take you on a journey - a journey which starts for many at a roundabout, to a Montenegro that was my reality for a week last month, and which does not change that much, even during the season. 

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As you can see from the map above, the main road (and the main overrbuilding) from Dubrovnik to Albania passes through Herceg Novi, Tivat, and Budva. Here you can find pockets of true beauty, and several examples of overbuilding. A short drive from Tivat Airport (an airport connected 365 days a year to Belgrade and the world via the Air Serbia network) brings you to a roundabout, probably the most important roundabout for tourism in the whole country. 

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(The most important roundabout in Montenegro, approaching from Kotor. To the left, Budva, to the right Tivat and airport, and straight on to where the real magic happens - Lustica Peninsula)

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Turn left from Tivat Airport, and you head through the tunnel to spectacular Kotor and the majestic World Heritage Site of Boka Bay. Continue straight, and I wish you luck on your Budva odyessey.

Or take a right, and take The Road Less Travelled. 

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Welcome to Lustica! Wikipedia introduces the Lustica peninsula as follows (excerpts):

The peninsula has an area of 47 km² and is 13 km long. The highest point of the peninsula is Obosnik peak, at 582 m. It has 35 km of coast, which accounts for 12% of Montenegrin coastline. 

The area has twenty churches, out of which eighteen Orthodox and two Catholic ones. Once an isolated community, there are farms and smallholders producing their own olive oil, cheese, prosciutto, wine and rakija from local ingredients.

Luštica is largely undeveloped with populations of wild boar, mongoose, jackal and edible dormice. Nightingales and Scops-owls can also be heard in abundance. Olive groves are also plentiful although many are uncultivated and overgrown.

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It is an area of extreme natural beauty, as I hope the accompanying photos in this article demonstrate. The kind of underdeveloped, traditional way of life so at odds with that Montenegrin stereotype. 

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But Montenegro is a tourism country, and it is to be expected that an area with 12% of its tiny coastline would be geared towards tourism. However, far from going down the route of mass apartments and cheap summer tourism, Lustica has a far more positive and sustainable destiny, all meticulously planned in one project, the largest single investment in the history of Montenegro - Lustica Bay.

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Swiss-Egyptian company Orascom Development Holding, in partnership with the Montenegrin government, is developing a whopping 7 million square metre section of the peninsula for a higher level of tourism, with a strong strategy to put nature and the traditional way of life mixed in with a more luxurious tourism offer. In an age of illegal building, where one neighbour's 'vision' can destroy the look of an entire street, having a responsible masterplan for such a large area offers a new perspective on luxury tourism, not only in Montenegro but the entire region. 

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Two marinas, seven hotels, a village of 2,500 people (with units selling very fast at the current price of 4,500 euro/m2, and about to go higher), and an 18-hole golf course as well. That still leaves a lot of space in that 7 million m2 to enjoy the nature and traditional way of life. 

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The initial flagship hotel, The Chedi, is marking its fifth anniversary this year. Unlike the majority of Croatian hotels, it is open all year, has an incredible team spirit, and if there is a better guest experience on the Adriatic, I have yet to hear about it. And probably the most surprising fact I learned in my week on Lustica was something which I doubt can be emulated on the Croatian Adriatic. 

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As Croatia's hotels, mostly open only 6-8 months a year, scramble to find seasonal guests each summer, The Chedi has no less than 35 full-time employees who will celebrate 5 years of employment at the hotel this year, as well as another 12 who have been there for 3 years and more. An investment into a 12-month product that provides careers, not seasonal jobs, for its staff. 

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And The Chedi is not alone. The Regent and Porto Montenegro, as well as One&Only and Portonovi are also open all year. Feeling hungry? A restaurant from Lustica to Porto Montenegro in January will give you a choice of Montenegrin, Indian, Spanish, Chinese, French, Italian, Asian, and Mexican, with Austrian ice cream for dessert. With the exception of Split, how many coastal destinations in Croatia could match that offer in peak season, never mind January?

(Author's note - this is not about bashing Croatia at all, it is about understanding - and perhaps learning from - what is happening in the neighbourhood)

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The Chedi will be joined this year by the second 5-star hotel, luxury Mamula on the tiny island of the same name, thereby offering two very different top-end tourism experiences on the peninsula.

But while the luxury is all very welcome for guests with money to spend, the true magic of Lustica is not the luxury, but the space and stunning nature that it offers, as well as the seamless proximity to the essence of Lustica and its traditions and nature for visiting guests. 

 It is an exceptional adventure playground, on land and on sea. Traffic is a fraction of the rest of the coast, and there are so many ways to explore - kayak, sailing, hiking, cycling, and quadbiking. Here is your favourite fat Englishman on a quad on Lustica in October, 2020 - and with all the restrictions of lockdown, never have I appreciated the freedom and nature as much. You can more about this trip in Lessons from Montenegro: Wild Beauty & The 'Old Normal' at The Chedi Lustica Bay.

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Some even choose to swim... in January!

Of course, having a luxury adventure playground without interacting and involving the local population misses the point of sustainable tourism. Working with locals to enhance the authentic tourism experience benefits all stakeholders. And it was here that I came to appreciate the magic of Lustica most of all on this trip. 

As part of our week filming in Montenegro, star Chedi employee Aleksandra took us on a tour of her favourite spots on Lustica - all accessible to guests and the general public - but she saved the true magic of the tour to the very end.

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"There is a very interesting local guy I want you to meet. He has a really interesting tourism project, and our guests love it."

 And so it was that I was introduced to Bogdan, founder of the extraordinary Klinci Village Resort in the tiny village of Klinci.

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A village which has been beautifully restored thanks to the efforts of Bogdan and his wife. 

A village of just 8 people, but with a wonderful 4-star authentic eco-resort, with all food sourced from within one kilometre. 

A village of 8 people but 5 churches.

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A village of 5 churches, but just 4 that this fat blogger could enter.

A village of 5 churches, one of which was built in just 24 hours on New Year's Eve in 1799, and which celebrates the Feast of St. Sava on January 27. So small is the church that only the priest and his assistant can enter. The service is conducted with them inside and the congregation of 20 outside. We will be producing a video story on my YouTube channel for anyone interested. 

Bogdan was kind enough to invite us back two days later for the church service and obligatory rakija and cakes at 09:30 with spectacular views out to the Adriatic. The small gathering of 20 included a Canadian woman who is a regular guest and discovered the magic of Klinci more than a decade ago.

And after such a stimulating morning of local culture and conversation, it was back to The Chedi for a waterside lunch at The Spot, followed by an afternoon of pool, the golf simulator, and massage. 

Natural, Luxury Lustica - truly the Montenegrin coastal story which bucks the stereotype. 

It would be wrong of me not to acknowledge that there are challenges, both in terms of infrastructure and connectivity, but these are both improving too. The Lustica Bay development is building better roads to service the needs, but there is also one intriguing development that will be a huge plus for luxury tourism in the Boka region. 

It is no secret that the border crossing from Dubrovnik Airport leads to delays in summer, something that will probably be exacerbated with Croatia now in the Schengen Zone. Tivat does a fine job connecting Lustica to the world all year, but its capacity is somewhat limited. Onward travel from Tivat Airport is about to get MUCH easier with the development of a harbour at at the end of the runway. Whether or not it will happen for this season is open for discussion, but it is coming. 

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(My bedroom view at The Chedi, January 2023)

And then imagine. New York - Belgrade - Tivat - speedboat - Luxury Lustica, a seamless connection, with not a car in sight. 

You can learn more about the magic of The Chedi from the official website

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Paul Bradbury was a guest of The Chedi in January 2023

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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.

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