Saturday, 23 July 2022

Comment on Doctors' Wages Prompts Croatian Medical Chamber to Hit Back at Prime Minister and Health Minister

ZAGREB, 23 July 2022 - The Croatian Medical Chamber (HLK) on Friday said that Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's comment on doctors being among the better-paid public employees was inappropriate and it countered with the explanation that those higher salaries were the result of their working additional hours.

Asked about reports that a thousand doctors in Croatia had handed in their resignations, Prime Minister Plenković said earlier on Friday that he did not know about it, adding that doctors were among the better-paid public employees in Croatia.

"The only ones that perhaps have a higher salary are air traffic controllers, who are complaining about HRK 50,000. A stressful job. Come on," he said. The Prime Minister underscored that the government had increased salaries in health care in general, and that he didn't know when someone would be satisfied.

I think everyone needs to realise what kind of global crisis we are in, and understand that this is a time when we have to return to our joint contribution to solidarity, Plenković said.

However, the Croatian Medical Chamber accuses Plenković of having intentionally kept silent about the fact that the examples of high salaries of some doctors, revealed in media, were actually the result of of their overtime work with even 150 or 200 extra hours a month.

The Croatian Medical Chamber explains that so many hours worked in excess by doctors in hospitals were the result of shortage of specialist doctors and some of those employed professionals employed work double time to keep the hospital system functioning and make it available to patients.

The press release signed by the medical chamber's president, Krešimir Luetić blames Prime Minister Plenković and Health Minister Vili Beroš of poor management of the hospital system, "irrational public procurement in the healthcare system" and long waiting lists.

Saturday, 23 July 2022

29-Hour Train Ride from Split to Rijeka? Yet Another Shocking Croatian Railways Journey

July 23, 2022 - Ever wondered about the train ride from Split to Rijeka? A look at the travel options between Croatia's second and third largest cities. 

Croatia is a tourist country, where around 20 percent of the national budget depends on income from tourism. Despite this, the traffic connection between Split and Rijeka, the second and third largest cities in the Republic of Croatia on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, is very poor.

Foreign tourists or Croatian citizens who want to travel from Split to Rijeka during the summer have limited options.

The first option is, of course, traveling by car. For those who do not go to the sea by car, there is only one more option: the bus. The fastest bus ride from Split to Rijeka takes about seven hours. You don't go on the highway, which would take 2-3 hours less, but it would cost more because of tolls.

So, what about the train? A search on the Croatian Railways website shows that the train journey from Split to Rijeka takes between 22 and 29 hours, with a minimum of one transfer. Allow us to repeat - if you want to travel by train from the second largest Croatian city to the third largest Croatian city, it can take more than a day - 29 hours, writes Index.hr.

For comparison, a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Vladivostok takes six days, covering 9,289 kilometers. Split is slightly more than 400 kilometers from Rijeka, or 416 kilometers, according to Google Maps. A Trans-Siberian Railway train covers about 64 kilometers in one hour, while a Croatian Railways train covers an average of about 14 kilometers in one hour on a full-day journey from Split to Rijeka. No wonder it takes a whole day if you decide to travel from Split to Rijeka by train.

Regarding air transport, there is no direct route from Split to Rijeka. It was operated by Trade Air, but the Ministry of Transport did not extend its contract in time. As a result, they stopped flying on the Split - Rijeka route at the end of April this year.

The official Trade Air website states that they hope to connect Split and Rijeka (as well as Osijek and Pula, etc.) by air again from August 15 of this year.

It is also worth noting that the Split - Rijeka flight is a PSO line. PSO stands for Public Service Obligation. This program enables countries within the European Union to co-finance airlines for flights that are not always directly commercially profitable but are of public importance.

And what about by sea? There is no longer a night ferry line that connects Split and Rijeka, on which the famous Marko Polo ferry used to travel. The Jadrolinija Rijeka - Dubrovnik line was discontinued in 2015.

Index asked Jadrolinija why:

"The decision to cancel the Rijeka - Dubrovnik line was first made in 2012 by the then Government due to the constant decline in passenger and vehicle traffic, which was caused by the construction of highways to the south, which made vehicle journeys to destinations in Dalmatia significantly shorter, so the line recorded fewer passengers. In 2015, the line was discontinued," Jadrolinija said. 

However, it seems that this could change.

"Given all the circumstances and the development of highways, cooperation with the Maritime Faculty on a study on redefining the line is underway. Jadrolinija primarily maintains state lines connecting the islands with the mainland, and currently, there is no Rijeka - Split line maintained by Jadrolinija," Jadrolinija revealed.

"Croatia, as a tourist destination, is well connected to the most important markets, both by road and by air, i.e., airlines, and there are also shipping lines as a link by sea," says HTZ.

They also add that this is one of the essential prerequisites for attracting foreign guests, whose pleasant and quality stay requires a good transport infrastructure and connections within the destination, that is, the country where they are staying. The above applies to domestic tourists as well.

"Namely, with the quality transport connections of Croatian cities, we can further encourage our guests to discover other destinations and increase tourist consumption," says HTZ. 

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

Saturday, 23 July 2022

Manchester City Academy Training in Istria with Three Premier League Stars

July 23, 2022 - The Manchester City Academy is training in Istria for the sixth consecutive year, but this time including three Premier League champions. 

For the sixth year already, the academy of the English giant arrives in Novigrad in Istria for preparations. Young Istrian footballers had the privilege of playing with them and taking selfies, reports Gol.hr.

The U-18 and U-23 teams of the Premier League champions arrived in Istria for a nine-day training session, and with them are three first-team players - Phil Foden, John Stones, and Ilkay Gundogan.

Due to strict COVID restrictions, the star trio could not go to the preparations in the United States with the first team, so Pep Guardiola sent them to Istria to prepare with the young players. 

Gol.hr writes that despite all efforts, getting a short statement from one of the most expensive footballers today, Phil Foden, is practically impossible. The English club's PR team had done an excellent job hiding him. 

"He is very humble, full of respect, works hard every day," City's academy director Jack Wilcox said of the England international team player and added:

"He wants to improve every minute of every day, and that is why, according to many, he is the best young player in the world."

The talented young City players, some of whom have already made a few appearances for the first team, really admire Croatian footballers, especially Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić, and Mateo Kovačić.

Although City can bring today's best players, they invest considerable money in their football academy. 

"Any team in the Premier League can buy top talent from around the world, not just Manchester City, but the academy is much more than that. It tries to develop players who live in the local community and inspire them," said Wilcox.

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

Saturday, 23 July 2022

The Rise of Quality Hotels in Hvar Town and Stari Grad

July 23, 2022 - The Four Seasons may have never opened, but that didn't affect the quality of hotels in Hvar town and Stari Grad over the last few years. 

International media has not been shy about Hvar as the hotspot of summer, but that's to no one's surprise. However, instead of praising Hvar Island as one of the best in Europe (well, it was named that again, too), a different aspect of Hvar is in the spotlight this time around, outside of the sun and sea - its hotels.

Hvar Island has seen its accommodations enhanced to another level in the last few years as the rise of quality hotels have taken the front seat - and Hvar Island is now the only Croatian island with three 5-star hotels! 

So, who is international media raving about?

A look at the quality hotels in Hvar town and Stari Grad. 

Let's kick things off with Hvar town jewel Palace Elisabeth, a 5-star heritage hotel and historic landmark that opened in 2019.

With a vibrant history that dates back to the 13th century, Palace Elisabeth was rebuilt in 1898 and renamed Spa Hotel Empress Elisabeth, after the Austrian Empress Sisi, a crucial asset to its construction. Hvar's oldest hotel and Empress Sisi inspired Sunčani Hvar's 100 million kuna investment to transform the 3-star Hotel Palace into Palace Elisabeth, the first 5-star hotel on the island. Costing nearly 300,000 euros per room, Palace Elisabeth was also one of the most significant investments in the Croatian hotel industry. With 45 rooms and suites, Palace Elisabeth offers refined luxury and timeless design and is a member of the prestigious The Leading Hotels of the World. And things have only gone up from here. 

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Suncani Hvar

Sunčani Hvar continued their investments to heighten Hvar town's hotel accommodation this year, also recognized by American business magazine Forbes

Namely, the newly refurbished 4-star Beach Bay Hvar Hotel opened earlier this month as Hvar town's first-ever sustainable hotel, located just around the bend from the busy town harbor. The hotel's renovation revamped 21 rooms with many eco-friendly features for guests to enjoy an interpretive travel experience inspired by sustainable development and care for the environment. All rooms and suites also have a sea view! 

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Suncani Hvar

Sunčani Hvar also pumped 40 million kuna into the newly renovated Riva Marina Hotel, one of the first hotels in Hvar town, which opened in 1914, or 15 years after Palace Elisabeth. Targeting guests primarily from the British and American markets who are after superior service and high-quality accommodation, Riva Marina offers 50 new unique rooms and suites and an upgraded restaurant and bar concept. And it's pretty hard to beat its iconic outdoor terrace with a view of the Hvar town's yachts and marina.

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Suncani Hvar

Conde Nast Traveller also couldn't forget to mention the family-friendly Amfora Hvar Grand Beach Resort as one of the best hotels in Croatia this year, another product of the Sunčani Hotels brand. 

Newcomer Moeesy Blue & Green Oasis Hotel was also applauded by Forbes as Hvar town's newest 5-star hotel just 10 minutes from the city center. With foundations dating back to 1929 (formerly known as Hotel Croatia), Moeesy has 37 rooms and four suites, pools, and a beautiful garden, spa, and Mediterranean restaurant. Its green area spans approximately 5000 sqm! 

And that's just Hvar town. 

The Daily Mail recently revealed it was smitten with Stari Grad, especially the 5-star Maslina Resort, a Relais & Chateaux hotel that opened in August 2020. Applauding its 'Mindful Luxury' philosophy which is seen at first glance as the facade 'blends seamlessly into the pine-tree-clad hillside,' Maslina Resort has revived Maslinica Bay with 50 rooms & suites and three villas, a standout spa, Michelin-recommended restaurant, beach bar and beach area where high-end hospitality is king. Conde Nast Traveller also named Maslina Resort one of the best hotels in Croatia this year, where Hvar's history as a well-known healing destination (since 1868) is reflected in its philosophy. A savvy, safe and serene choice away from the hustle and bustle of Hvar town. 

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Maslina Resort

But Maslina Resort isn't the only newcomer to Stari Grad. The Valamar [PLACES] lifestyle hotel brand launched last year with the opening of HVAR [PLACESHOTEL] by Valamar, designed for travelers seeking "freedom of choice and a vibrant Mediterranean holiday in a hotel by the sea." Taking over the former hotel Lavanda, HVAR [PLACESHOTEL] by Valamar welcomed a 53 million kuna investment to reinvent accommodation suitable for the millennial generation. Offering 179 rooms, a pool complex, bars, DJs, modern design, and smart features like cashless payment and contactless check-in, this hotel is also only 50 meters from the sea.  

And all this without the Four Seasons ever opening.

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

 

Saturday, 23 July 2022

Foreign Service Institute Ranks Difficulty of Learning Croatian Language

July the 23rd, 2022 - The Foreign Service Institute has ranked the world's most difficult languages to learn, but just where does the Croatian language sit on the list?

Many people struggle endlessly with it, many native Croatian speakers also get quite confused with certain rules, oh, and not to mention the sheer amount of dialects there are... Try putting someone from Brac and someone from Zagorje in the same room alone together and see how they manage. The Croatian language is, for most people, extremely difficult.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the FSI ranking system consists of five categories, ranked from easiest to hardest based on how many hours of study it would take a person to achieve a professional skill in a particular language.

Category I, as reported by N1, covers the languages ​​that typically require about 24-30 weeks of study, or 600 to 750 hours of instruction, in order to reach the S-3/R-3 level, which is roughly equivalent to the B2/C1 level. This group includes languages ​​such as Danish, Dutch, French, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish and Swedish.

The German language requires about 30 weeks or 750 hours and is classified in a separate category (category II).

Category III includes languages ​​that require 36 weeks of study, or 900 working hours in total. These are languages ​​with linguistic and cultural differences compared to English, such as Indonesian, Malaysian and Swahili.

The Croatian language is among the more difficult languages...

Category IV refers to those languages ​​with even more significant linguistic and cultural differences compared to English, which requires about 44 weeks or 1100 hours of study.

This category includes: Albanian, Amharic, Armenian, Azerbaijani/Azerbaijani, Bengali, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Burmese, Croatian, Czech, Estonian, Finnish, Georgian, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Khmer, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian , Mongolian, Nepali, Pashto, Persian, Polish, Russian, Serbian, Sinhalese, Slovak, Slovenian, Tagalog, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Uzbek, Vietnamese, Xhosa (Niger-Congo language), and Zulu.

Category V, also the last, contains languages ​​which are extremely difficult for English speakers and require 88 weeks, or 2200 hours of study. The most effort is needed for Arabic, Japanese, Korean, Cantonese (Chinese) and Mandarin (Chinese) languages.

The Croatian language is far from easy, but it isn't impossible to learn. It's by far the most phonetic language I have personally come across, and as a translator who uses both languages professionally and casually on a daily basis, the differences between Croatian and English structure, syntax and grammar continue to interest me. I've no idea how it's somehow easier to get out an extremely (and needlessly, honestly) long sentence in Croatian without taking a breath, but if you attempted that in English, you wouldn't get far without needing to shove a comma somewhere in there.

Try telling someone from outside of Dalmatia about how you once lost your wallet (Croatian: novcanik), but use the Dalmatian word ''takuin'' or better yet, ''portafoj'' and see a blank expression returned to you. Better yet, ask for a glass (casa) of something strong in a Zagreb cafe, but say you want your rakija in a zmul, and be met with that same expressionless glance. It's best we don't even get started on the Dubrovnik dialect (Dubrovacki dijalekt/govor), and as for how people understand each other in Zagorje goes... well, that's another story.

The Croatian language is varied, difficult, and there are people from all different regions of the country who have an incredibly difficult time understanding each other, so if you're getting a bit tongue twisted, don't worry - you're far from the only one. If you want to learn to swear, which is actually more colourful than it is vulgar, click here.

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

Saturday, 23 July 2022

Choose a Bike Project Reaches Trogir, New Trogir Bike Paths Coming

July the 23rd, 2022 - The Choose a Bike!/Biraj Biciklu! project has reached yet another coastal Dalmatian city - Trogir. Some new Trogir bike paths are set to be arranged as part of the project which is rapidly spreading and resulting in much needed environmental change.

As Morski writes, as part of the wider European Union (EU) project "Choose a Bike!", the first system of public bikes in Trogir was presented recently on the Trogir waterfront near the Kamerlengo tower. There are three terminals with ten electric and ten classic bicycles, and work on the first of the Trogir bike paths is now nearing completion.

This praiseworthy project connects the wider Split area by implementing a total of 41 terminals with 242 electric and classic bicycles. In addition to the areas of ​​Trogir, Podstrana, Klis and Dicmo, through this project, bikes will also be made available in nearby Kastela, Solin, Dugopolje, and the existing system in the City of Split itself will also be expanded.

''We can be happy and satisfied that Trogir has become part of this project and that by opening the first three stations of the public bicycle system, we've taken the first step towards a more sustainable way of urban mobility owing to which we'll be less dependent on cars. This is a healthier and cleaner variant of transportation for our residents and our guests, especially when we know how busy Trogir can get during the summer months. Now someone will sit on a bike in Arbanija and get to Kula on two wheels, and those in slightly better shape will be able to cycle Kastela or Split, and then go the same way back. Every car less in the city centre means a lot,'' said Trogir Mayor Ante Bilic.

The points with public bicycles on offer to the public in Trogir are located along the waterfront near the Kamerlengo tower, at the entrance to the city (the Brigi-Lokvice embankment) and in Arbanija (Sv. Kriz).

As far as Trogir is concerned, a significant benefit of this project is the construction of the first of the Trogir bike paths with a pedestrian path running alongside it, which is 450 metres long and is part of the promenade and the Brigi-Lokvice coastal belt, and according to the mayor of Trogir, this path should be opened to traffic in the next month and a half.

The total value of the project stands at 13,609,435.83 kuna, and it was co-financed by the European Union from the Cohesion Fund with 10,893,396.68 kuna, as part of the ITU Call "Urban Mobility - The Development of Public Bicycle Systems in the Urban Agglomeration of Split''.

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

Saturday, 23 July 2022

American Billionaire Investing in Croatian-Irish Startup Fonoa

July the 23rd, 2022 - The Croatian-Irish startup Fonoa is set to be richer following an investment from no less than an American billionaire linked to the likes of Snapchat and TikTok.

As Novac/Jutarnji/Bernard Ivezic writes, the Croatian-Irish startup Fonoa, which offers automated tax calculation services on a global level and has Spotify, Remote.com, Uber and Zoom as clients, has received a 60 million euro investment. This is one of the ten largest investments in a startup by Croatian founders so far. The success is all the greater, because this is Fonoa's second investment round in just six months. In the first, the company collected an impressive 20.5 million dollars.

The investment in the Croatian-Irish startup Fonoa has been led by Coatue, a VC fund started by American billionaire Philippe Laffont, who is among the first investors in TikTok's parent company Bytedance, followed by Snapchat and Spotify. He was joined by the largest European B2B institutional investor Dawn Capital and one of the most successful European VCs, Index Ventures, as well as OMERS Ventures, FJ Labs and Moving Capital.

The Croatian-Irish startup Fonoa was otherwise the first in the entire world to develop a cloud platform for the automation of tax calculations on a global level. This Croatian-Irish startup was started by the former leaders of Uber in Croatia - Davor Tremac, Filip Sturman and Ivan Ivankovic. Fonoa's platform allows companies to instantly, by connecting to their cloud platform, gain insight into the exact calculation of taxes in a certain country, and all this is done in real time.

Because of these possibilities, Fonoa promises its users not only speed, but also savings and an increase in the level of compliance with tax rules in a particular country.

Here in Croatia, for example, due to frequent changes in tax rules, as well as very complex tax legislation and accompanying regulations, it is often difficult for companies to enter the market. The Croatian market is small, and it is necessary to invest a lot in following these often cumbersome and frankly ridiculous regulations, so entering the market would not be profitable for some companies and thus would limit their market potential. In such cases, which are sadly commonplace, Fonoa becomes a useful tool.

Davor Tremac, the CEO and co-founder of Fonoa, says that they were helped by the fact that online shopping is booming and has been since the pandemic, so many of those who sell online are looking for the most efficient way to expand their businesses globally.

''Last year, we recorded a sevenfold increase in income. Since taxes are part of almost all online payment transactions, more and more companies are ready to switch to Fonoa's platform, and the value of online payment transactions is expected to reach 8.5 trillion dollars in 2022,'' says Tremac, explaining that with the development of their business, they noticed that a large number of companies wanting to reduce their operating costs and increase their levels of efficiency in the field of indirect tax management.

At the same time, they noticed that countries around the world were passing new regulations related to VAT, which leads to an increased demand for the tax compliance of companies. He emphasises that Fonoa provides the only tax software solution designed for use in the digital age.

''We make sure that companies pay the correct amount of taxes, that they're paid to the right place and at the right time, and they can devote themselves to their business. We're extremely glad that Coatue and other investors have supported our vision and are aware of the enormous opportunities that await us this year and in the coming years,'' says Tremac.

Lucas Swisher, a partner at Coatue Fund, says that regulatory compliance is essential for companies to expand internationally, and tax management, processing and filing are extremely complex processes.

''When we met Davor, Filip, Ivan and the rest of their team, we were taken aback by the simplicity and efficiency of Fonoa's platform, which turns an extremely complex process into something very simple and easily feasible. All of us at Coatue are excited to support Fonoa in scaling the platform and meeting the growing demand for solutions that enable tax compliance,'' says Swisher.

Hannah Seal, a partner at Index Ventures, says managing taxes is navigating the bureaucratic maze of a country and represents a real nightmare for anyone trying to build a business with customers around the world.

''The Croatian-Irish startup Fonoa makes it all very simple. Companies are aligned with existing regulations and don't have to deal with increasingly complex international taxes. This platform is an obvious choice for any digital company that operates outside the borders of its country,'' says Seal.

''We're really glad to be able to support the top team which make up Fonoa. I'm looking forward to working with Davor, Filip and Ivan to further attract outstanding talent and deliver technology to companies around the world,'' says Mutafchieva. Tremac says that in the next year to a year and a half, Fonoa plans to present some new products in its field of activities.

''In order to achieve this, over the last twelve months, the company has quintupled the number of employees to 140 people of 35 different nationalities in 20 countries around the world and this year it intends to close things with even more employees,'' concludes Tremac.

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

Saturday, 23 July 2022

Love Croatian Brunch? Zagreb Declared Second Best Brunch City in Europe

July the 23rd, 2022 - Do you love a good, hearty Croatian brunch? If marendas, as they're commonly referred to here, are your thing, then Zagreb is the place to come to. This city has just been voted the second best European city for brunch.

As Ana Blaskovic/Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Croatian capital has been ranked as one of the top cities in Europe this summer for a good brunch. The City of Zagreb was crowned the second best city for eating brunch, or as we call it, marenda, a meal that falls somewhere between breakfast and lunch, with a score of 8.85 out of a maximum of 10.

Only Athens in Greece was ranked better than Zagreb with a total score of 8.88 (out of 10). This conclusion was reached following research conducted by the portal Uswitch.com, which combed the ratings of visitors to 235,000 restaurants in a number of European capitals.

Despite th city's high ranking, the average price of a meal in the best restaurants is also the seventh highest in Europe. A visitor will thus pay 32.48 euros for their Croatian brunch in Zagreb, almost twice as much as they'd need to fork out (no pun intended) in the Greek capital, where it will cost around 16.6 euros.

For tourists looking for a good meal, Athens is the first choice thanks to the choice of 1136 restaurants where the average brunch is the fifth cheapest in Europe. Side by side with Athens is Bratislava, with a brunch being only 24 cents more expensive, or 16.42 euros on average.

Zagreb and a good Croatian brunch is followed by Malta's Valletta with a minimally lower restaurant rating of 8.84. Not only does Malta's capital city offer some of the best dining experiences in all of Europe, it also took the second best rating among European capitals in the vegetarian restaurant segment.

At the same time, the average brunch on that Mediterranean island is almost 10 euros more affordable than it is here Zagreb, and cheaper meals are also offered in Lisbon, Sofia, Prague and Bratislava.

In anticipation of another record-breaking summer tourist season in which visitors will be on the prowl for a good restaurant after seeing the capital city's sights and attractions, it is worth recalling the last one. Last year, 13.8 million arrivals and 84.1 million overnight stays were registered in the Republic of Croatia.

Compared to the pandemic-dominated year of 2020, domestic tourism workers, as well as everyone who indirectly lives from tourism, were able to rub their hands together with satisfaction with 77 percent more arrivals and 55 percent more overnight stays. At the same time, the City of Zagreb has been successfully building its image of an extremely desirable destination in the continental part of the country for the last ten years, with 638 thousand arrivals registered officially.

According to the latest data from the City of Zagreb, in the first four months of this year, there were 221.6 thousand arrivals and 510.3 thousand tourist overnight stays. Compared to last year, Zagreb achieved 165 percent more arrivals and 132 percent more overnight stays, but tourism in the capital hasn't yet fully recovered from the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic. By the end of April 2022, there were about 30 percent fewer arrivals and almost 17 percent fewer overnight stays realised in the city by tourists.

Over the last decade, as the attractiveness of the Croatian capital as a destination and its offer grew, with hostels, apartments, hotels and numerous restaurants being opened. The coronavirus pandemic stopped the upward trend in its very tracks, since the largest number of tourists to Zagreb mostly arrive by plane, and that mode of transportation was suspended for several months for tourism purposes.

With the summer now in full swing and with 2022's figures looking extremely promising, even outdoing 2019's in some areas, a Croatian brunch being given number two in all of Europe will certainly help place Zagreb on the gastronomy map.

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

Friday, 22 July 2022

20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years: 13. Dalmatian Wikipedia, The Bench

July 23, 2022 - Twenty years a foreigner in Croatia. Part 13 of 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years - an ode to one of the icons of Dalmatian life, and some say the original Google. One of my favourite obsessions - the bench!

When you live full-time on a Dalmatian island, the off-season can be a bit of a challenge for entertainment. Indeed, it can be hard to meet anyone at all in winter - all restaurants in Jelsa were closed, as were many of the cafes, and the bura kept all but the hardiest of fat British bloggers off the streets. 

But if you were desperate to see proof of life, the place to be each early evening was in front of the mayor's office, where one could find the wisest heads of the community - always male - sitting on the bench which was allocated to them.  

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The same guys every evening, sometimes more than others, but always sitting in that prime location looking out to sea and majestic Biokovo through the Jelsa palm trees. I never saw anyone smoke or drink alcohol. But talk? Boy, could these guys talk.

I learned that the bench was a Dalmatian institution in every village, a font of knowledge, where one had to be invited to sit on the bench. One could not simply join them. So much conversation, so many olive picking techniques exchanged. There were known as the Dalmatian Google, the island Wikipedia. There was nothing that these guys did not know, or have an opinion on. 

I could feel myself starting to get a little obsessed. I REALLY wanted to be invited to sit on the bench with the guys. Bench lifestyle seemed perfect to me - a cool place to chill at the end of the day, admiring the view and chewing the fat. 

Local friends laughed at me. A seat on the bench? So young? And you a foreigner! No chance! Locals often had to wait almost a lifetime. 

My mild obsession spilled over into my blogging on my Total Hvar portal. I was writing 5-6 articles a day back then, and content was a little hard to find some days. I started to write about the bench and how I had one remaining ambition in life. I had travelled, married a beautiful wife, had two gorgeous young children, loved my job, and I lived in Paradise. I only had one thing left to achieve in life.

An invitation to sit on the bench.

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Local friends laughed, and I would walk past the bench wistfully, sometimes taking pictures. The one above is one of my favourite -I call it Rush Hour.  

I just wanted to be part of the team. 

Of course, I would fantasise when there was nobody around - if the bench was empty, it seemed, it was ok to sit.

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And then one day, just 13 years after my arrival in this slice of Dalmatian heaven, something quite extraordinary happened.

I was late for an important meeting, the first meeting with the marketing guy from the proposed Four Seasons Hvar project. I could see him in the distance, and we made eye contact just as I was passing the bench. We smiled in anticipation of the handshake and greeting in about three seconds time when I heard a male voice to my right.  

"Ugh, Debeli English," grunted the voice (Hey, Fat Englishman). I turned, and the man motioned for me to sit with them on the bench. There was room for me on the bench!

But the timing was poor. What would this Australian guy think, and how could he take me seriously if I sat on a bench with some oldies instead of greeting him? What a dilemma at this potentially historic moment in my life in Dalmatia. 

Sometimes, the heart has to rule the head. I smiled at my bench partners, shook hands with the Aussie, and said:

"Look, I know this is a bit weird as we have not even met yet, but do you mind taking a photo of me sitting on this bench with these guys. I know it sounds odd, and I will explain, and the beers are on me."

He looked at me like I was a total nut job, but did as I asked.

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It was one of the great life achievements of my sad little existence. And the Four Seasons never did get built. 

News spread of my fine achievement. In ONLY 13 years, and a foreigner! My local friends were incredulous.

I blogged about it of course, and then the Jelsa bench started to attract a little bit of tourism for the town - the birth of a new type of tourism - bench tourism. 

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Rock bands jetted in from San Francisco to play on Dalmatia's hottest bench, with the Jelsa mayor (second right) granting permission for Cellar Doors to play what we believe to be the first live concert on a Dalmatian bench by an American band. 

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And then the influencers and bloggers started to tread the path to the Jelsa bench, with the team from Chasing the Donkey one of the original pioneers. 

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The inbox was insane, with young Mariana contacting me from Sydney to ask if I could have a selfie with her on the bench. She was coming to Imotski, but made the trip to the island especially for the bench experience (yes, really). 

Bench tourism was becoming a thing. 

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We even had Masters of Wine using the bench for promo material - Jo Ahearne MW, who makes excellent wine from Hvar grapes - highly recommended.

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The wise old men even shared the bench on the occasion of the UNESCO Za Krizen procession on Maundy Thursday, as pilgrims who had walked the 22 km through the night rested after a sleepless night. 

Life was good. Perfect even. 

And then disaster struck. 

The bench in Jelsa - an icon of Dalmatian tradition, a paragon of virtue, and a database of the most fascinating bits of information - was sent into permanent exile. For something called progress. 

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The iconic white bench was removed to make way for a new restaurant under some quite questionable circumstances. There were a couple of solutions offered to appease Jelsa's Google Brigade, with benches on the street the permanent solution. 

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And for a time, the bench was banished to another part of the waterfront entirely. But I had to laugh at this presumably paid feature on the clever and influential people who came from Jelsa, including the current Prime Minister and Minister of Health. But the lead photo? The brains from The Bench.

Partly due to the fact that I was outraged at the removal of the bench, and partly because the whole deal with the restaurant seemed a little fishy, I did quite a lot of research on the awarding of the tender for the restaurant, which caused quite a furore when I published. So much so in fact, that the mayor announced he was suing me in a public meeting, see above. He never did, and the article I published remains one of the best researched on my time in Croatia, and one of which I am immensely proud.

But boy, fighting for bench freedom is a dangerous task. 

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And then, a few years ago, the Jelsa Tourist Board let their website domain lapse, and I managed to pick up Visit Jelsa and use it to promote bench tourism, as well as a polite request to transfer ownership of the website if only we could have our bench back. 

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But there was much more to the culture of the bench than what one found in Jelsa, and I found myself seeking out benches of all kinds on the island.

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Chilling in Svirce at the first Boganusa festival.

And then I went in search of the best bench view. Is it this one high above Hvar Town?

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Or this gem on Korcula?

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As we learned in the first article in this series, do not try and change Dalmatia, but expect Dalmatia to change you

But sometimes change does come, and a teenager from Solin became an overnight sensation, as Ivan Mrvos presented the smart Dalmatian bench 2.0. Imagine what the wise old men from Dalmatian Google would come up with on this type of bench.

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I started to expand the concept of bench tourism beyond the shores of Hvar, and I went off in search of unusual benches, or those in spectacular settings for bench tourism. The biggest I have found in Dalmatia was this beauty in Trogir. 

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And it was hard to beach bench tourism with a view in Dubrovnik. 

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But for posh benches, the two-tier benches of Imotski are beyond impressive. 

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Some of my favourite benches in Dalmatia are these on the island of Zirje. With no bar open on the island in the winter, this IS the social life and gathering point in front of the small supermarket. 

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A supermarket like no other I have seen in Croatia - 50% alcohol, mostly beer. 

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With a very handy bottle opener attached to Bench 3. That is what I like about bench culture in Dalmatia - it is adaptable to the specific needs of the day. 

It should be pointed out that the bench is primarily part of Dalmatian culture, and not really as important in other parts of the country. But it should also be pointed out that when a weird foreigner starts writing about his love of benches, the inbox can get quite colourful. 

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Probably the most unusual bench submission in the inbox - and the only all-female one - on bales of hay in Medjimurje. 

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Extreme bench tourism in Rastoke. 

And, of course, I kept my eyes out for bench tourism trends on my travels throughout the land. 

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Vinkovci, the oldest continuously inhabited town in Europe, probably took the prize over Trogir as the biggest bench I have seen in Croatia. 

And Vinkovci DEFINITELY has the coolest bench of all - the only bench I have seen where you can switch the view. Check it out in the video above - beyond awesome. 

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International bench tourism on the Danube - the morning view to Serbia from Dalj. 

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Religious bench tourism was a new departure - the fabulous cathedral in Djakovo. 

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Or mass Mass tourism in Ivankovo. 

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Slavonia seems to have benches for religious bench tourism in very random places, this one in a field in the middle of nowhere.

But imagine my joy when I discovered the first bench MUSEUM in Koprivnica-Krizevci county.

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How cool is that?

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Bench life in Croatia. For solo thought or intense debate, it is an essential part of the mix. 

I accept that I may be a little more passionate about the bench than most, but trust me; there are worse cases out there than me. 

Take this chap, who came up with a calendar for the Benches of Redditch calendar, a town near Birmingham in the UK not known for its bench tourism. 

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Imagine the calendars he could produce of Dalmatia...

****

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, 22 July 2022

Looking for a Job in Croatia: This Week's Top 10 from Posao.hr

July 22, 2022 - Looking for a job in Croatia? A new weekly feature on TCN, in partnership with leading job site agency, Posao.hr, who present a selection of weekly job listings.

How hard is it to find a job in Croatia, and what is on offer?

We spoke to Ines Bokan, director of leading jobs site Posao.hr, who kindly took the time for this excellent interview overview.  

Ines has kindly agreed to work with us on a new weekly feature on TCN - a weekly selection of 10 job listings, as chosen by Posao.hr.  Details and links to the job opportunities below.

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Posao.hr selected specially for you

WEEKLY SELECTION OF JOB LISTINGS

Gi Group HR Solutions d.o.o. is looking for a Research and Development manager (m/f) in Zagreb. If you have a bachelor's degree in a science-related field, great communication skills, and an eye for details this might be the job for you! Apply by Aug 15th via this link.

AA Euro Croatia d.o.o., a specialist Recruitment Consultancy, is looking for a Senior MEP Manager (m/f) with over 8 years of previous experience. They are offering a competitive salary, paid-for accommodation, flights, transport, and subsistence allowance. Applications are accepted until Aug 14th, and find out how to apply by clicking here.

CHEP is searching for a Customer Service Specialist (m/f) for remote work in Croatia. They offer an annual bonus depending on performance, the option to purchase shares within the company group, professional and self-development programs and 3 days off for volunteering. Apply now by clicking this link! Applications are open until Jul 31st.

CCPORTER Sp. z o.o. is looking for a Sales Advisor with Croatian (m/f) for remote work. If you are passionate, driven, with excellent negotiation skills and experience in call center sales, you would make a great addition to the team. Apply by Aug 19th by clicking this link.

Gi Group Staffing Solutions d.o.o. u potrazi je za Aftersales managerom (m/f) u Kastavu. Ako imate dobro poznavanje talijanskog jezika i rad na računalu, barem dvije godine iskustva na sličnim pozicijama i spremni ste na česta putovanja prijavite se do 01.08.2022. klikom na ovdje.

Accenture Services Sp. z o.o., a leading global professional services company, is looking for a Junior Data Reviewer with English and Croatian / Bosnian / Serbian / Macedonian (m/f) for work in Warsaw, Poland. You can apply by Aug 18th by clicking this link.

Mamut Fortis d.o.o., poznatiji kao Arena bet & Casino, traži Business Development Managera (m/ž) na području grada Zagreba. Poslodavac nudi mogućnost napredovanja, stimulativna primanja i stalni radni odnos nakon probnog roka. Natječaj je otvoren do 31.08.2022., a kako se prijaviti možete provjerite na linku.

Strabag d.o.o. is looking for a Site Manager – Water Technologies (m/f) for work in Zagreb. If you have completed civil engineering studies, have a minimum of 5 years of similar experience, IT skills, and are oriented towards teamwork, you would be a great fit! Apply by Aug 13th via this link.

Falkensteiner Hotels & Residences is searching for a Head of Marketing / Commercial Lead Camping Division (m/f) in Zadar. If you have over 5 years of professional marketing experience, experience in leading a team, excellent organisational abilities and more, this might be the position for you! Apply by Aug 04th by clicking the link.

VIP Digital d.o.o. zapošljava Novinara na portalu (m/ž). Ako imate prethodno iskustvo rada u novinarskom poslu, razvijene vještine u korištenju MS Office paketa i interneta te sjajne komunikacijske vještine, prijavite se do 02.09.2022. klikom na link ovdje.

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For more career options and job listings visit posao.hr.

These weekly job listings will appear in the weekly TCN newsletter - you can subscribe here.

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