Winter Sailing in Croatia: Huge Op, Industry Ready But Adriatic Empty

November 16, 2022 - Last January, a sailor from New Zealand spent 8 days with his boat from Kastela to Lastovo for an unforgettable winter sailing in Croatia experience. He saw one other boat in over a week. A look at why the winter sailing in Croatia opportunity is one that is golden, and with an industry keen to get involved and develop. 

Sometimes one has to be so far out of the comfort zone to notice the very best opportunities... 

Back in March, I received an email invitation requesting a meeting from a Croatian yacht charter booking software company with a global audience inviting me to speak at their conference in November. We met for a coffee, liked each other, and agreed to work together. I was a little distracted by other things at the time and did not really think about exactly what I would present, but I knew it would be good exposure and networking for TCN (just how good I found out at the actual conference), and anyway, it was 8 months away, so there was plenty of time to plan for it. 

Eight months can pass by incredibly quickly if you are not paying attention. 

A few weeks before the conference, I was asked to give the title of my presentation, which was to be Croatia and sailing-related, and informed that I would have a 50-minute keynote slot, which is longer than I have ever spoken in public. I may know a lot about Croatia, but as I don't sail, swim or even like the sun, the panic began to settle in. 

Comfort zones?

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I decided to look at my strengths, take advice from my sailing friends at 45 Degrees Sailing, and try and come up with an angle which would be a little different. And so the presentation Croatia, Digital Nomads and Winter Sailing was born

It was an absolute hit at the conference, and my inbox has been busy ever since, with charter companies and other sailing-related businesses keen to discuss the opportunity of winter sailing in Croatia. And the more I talk to people, the more I see that here is another golden opportunity for Croatia which is being totally ignored. 

Croatia and the tourism and sailing stereotype

Let's start in the comfort zone - talking about Croatian tourism. The stereotype is still that Croatian tourism is essentially sun, sea, and summer, and the same is true for sailing the beautiful Adriatic Coast and its thousand-plus islands. The Instagram images of life on the water during a Croatian summer are among the most beautiful on the planet. 

But the stereotype of the Croatian coast in the winter could not be more different. There are hardly any boats in the water, and much of the coast, especially the islands, close down for the winter months. Developing winter tourism in general, never mind winter sailing, is a challenge. 

It was not always that way. When I wrote an article last year asking why Split did not have winter tourism, the discussion got very lively indeed, especially when I published an interview with a British tour rep based in Split back in the 1980s who told wondrous stories of flights all year and Americans flying in to Dalmatia for 6 weeks in January.  You can read the full interview here - Croatian Winter Tourism in 1990: Full of Life! Tour Rep Interview

This led to a TCN initiative, the Split Winter Tourism Roundtable, which brought together the key stakeholders from the public and private sector to explore ways of extending the season and bringing in flights. Read more in Split Winter Tourism Roundtable Meeting Minutes & Action Plan. Progress has been made, and a year later, KLM is now flying 12 months a year to Split from Amsterdam, and the roundtable committee is in discussions with a low-cost airline to bring in an additional 81 flights from London, Paris and Amsterdam either side of the existing flight schedule. Things are starting to move. 

A key finding at the roundtable discussion, however, was that there was little point in putting on flights if everything was closed and there was no content for visitors to enjoy. As such, the second roundtable focused on winter tourism content providers, which is when I first became aware of the winter sailing opportunity, as Nick Hathaway of 45 Degrees Sailing outlined his vision of the winter sailing in Croatia opportunity. 

It was the first time I had heard anyone discuss the winter sailing opportunity, and it was this presentation and concept which was to save my ass for my keynote speech. We will return to Nick below shortly. 

Digital Nomads - the new kids on the block

One gradual but increasingly relevant change in the mix in Croatia and its tourism has been the rise of the digital nomad and remote work culture. Nomads are not interested in 2 weeks on the beach in peak season, but they often come out of season, for longer, in search of community and authentic experiences. They work through the laptop by day from anywhere in the world, and they want to experience different cultures and experiences once they leave their 'office.' And they need a community. 

Last year, 5 digital nomads took part in the World Championship of Olive Picking in Postira on Brac. They had a wonderful time, raving at the authentic experience. A week later, the James Bond movie was shown in a vineyard outside Zagreb, with guests sitting on straw bales with blankets, eating roast chestnuts and drinking young Portugiesac wine. While talking about that opportunity with the regional tourist board director, she suggested I go truffle hunting in Turopolje, just outside Zagreb. 

And then it hit me - Croatia was the capital of authentic (and often unique) experiences, all over the country, 365 days of the year. 

Rather than focusing solely on the beach and the summer, why not work with this emerging trend of remote worker staying longer, often out of season, looking for community?

The concept of CROMADS was born, a platform that focused on presenting Croatia's authentic experiences through the eyes of digital nomads to digital nomads, with five key pillars: natural Croatia, adrenaline Croatia, traditional Croatia, gourmet Croatia, and 5-star Croatia.

I first presented the CROMADS concept at Digital Nomad Week, based in Bali, last year.  

If we could show just how alive the Dalmatian coast actually was, and how many things there were to do (even locals would be surprised), then that community could be built, and the season extended, especially if we had success with the flights. 

In order to show that there was life, we started to build experience videos. Looking for a community in the winter - check out the weekly Nomad Table in Split each Friday.

Nothing to do during the winter on Dalmatian islands? I persuaded Nick and his family to give up a weekend in early November and spend it on Hvar in the rain. 

They were very dubious, but came back ecstatic - the Peskafondo squid and big game fishing championship was among their best experiences during their time here. Check it out below.

In just two videos, the perception of Dalmatia in winter is changed. Imagine a whole platform documenting all the opportunities and experiences. Croatia, your safe, authentic, lifestyle destination.

Winter sailing in Croatia - meet Nick

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Somewhat ahead of me in the winter tourism opportunity, especially related to sailing, was Nick Hathaway, a Kiwi in Kastela and Trogir, who has been running his own luxury sailing charter business for six years. Unlike the majority of the industry, he sails (and swims) 12 months a year. He cannot believe how fantastic life is winter sailing in Croatia. One of the best and most diverse places in the world for sailing, he has the entire Adriatic to himself.

Literally.

Back in January, in order to showcase the opportunity, he took his cameras and his drone and set sail from Kastela to Lastovov and back via a number of islands, documenting the beauty and the different sailing conditions. 

He saw one other boat on the water in 8 days. 

I am not a sailor as I mentioned earlier, but Nick is passionate about winter sailing in Croatia because it offers all sorts of sailing conditions, and with so many islands to choose from, one can almost select the type of sailing you would like to do when looking at the weather. Heading out into the water in New Zealand exposes you immediately to the open sea. 

The Royal Yachting Academy has about 100 centres for courses to train skippers. According to Nick, some 85% are in the UK, and the well-heeled wannabe sailors of Kensington are happy to drive three hours to UK sailing courses, where they return with a certificate after a week. 

Travel just a little bit longer to Split, and spend a week where, in addition to the certificate, you come home with a spectacular experience and a lifetime of memories. 

Pioneers such as Nick know where the magic lies, and which restaurants will open - it truly has the potential to be a stunning hidden gem in the sailing calendar, and at a time when almost all boats are out of the water.

Just how many boats are out of the water Nick explained in his latest video on winter sailing, including footage of a week-long flotilla he ran along the Dalmatian coast and islands last month.  

They had the Adriatic pretty much all to themselves.

Tourism used to work well in winter in Croatia, and little has changed since then, except that the offer has improved immensely. Winter flight baby steps are being taken, there is a new community of remote workers looking for activities, and many more would come if we could show people the magic we have here. With a little investment, more restaurants and other service providers could be persuaded to be open to grow this initiative. All the ingredients are there, apart from organisation and implementation.

Conference reaction to the winter sailing in Croatia opportunity

My presentation (you can find it below, one day I will learn to tuck my t-shirt in) was over, and I felt relief. Total relief. I had survived. Almost exclusively due to Nick's winter sailing initiative and excellent videos. Thanks, mate.

But then the strangest thing happened. Conference participants approached me to exchange business cards and express their interest. I have 40 boats in Zadar doing nothing in the winter, I would love to join an initiative. I have 80 in Sibenik. We have boats all over the coast. We have lots of boats in Turkey, but we would be very interested in getting involved. 

How do we meet Nick, and how do we move this forward? 

Is anyone brave enough to join a roundtable initiative for winter sailing in Croatia?

How indeed?

Having been heavily involved in the digital nomad visa and general promotion, as well as the Split Winter Tourism Roundtable, I can clearly see how we can move this forward quite easily, but I don't think that Nick and I should do that alone, especially as we are not Croatian. So if anyone is interested in getting involved in this initiative, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject Winter Sailing Initiative. 

As for Nick and the sailing, check out the excellent 45 Degrees Sailing.  

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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 is now available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

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Wednesday, 16 November 2022

Croatian Wildlife: The Big 5 - Sharks, Snakes, Bears, Wolves and Lynxes

November the 16th, 2022 - Croatian wildlife is abundant, and while the vast majority of the furry, scaled and feathered inhabitants of this country are harmless, there are some characters that you'll more than likely never even catch a glimpse of, but if you do happen to run or swim into one - you'd better know what to do.

Nobody can really talk about mountains and the less inhabited areas of Dalmatia without talking about some rather venomous residents of those areas, and I’m not talking about a local baka armed with the latest gossip about who is getting divorced or who is pregnant.

Snakes (zmija, or zmije if we’re talking in plurals)

Croatia is home to large, potentially dangerous animals like wolves and bears. The ‘big three’ here are wolves, brown bears and lynxes. You’ll likely never see any of them unless you’re deep in the forests of Gorski kotar or Lika, but we just keep on disturbing snakes, and the poor things truly couldn’t want less to do with us if they tried.

Croatian snakes, much like any other snake, prefer to stay as far away from human activity as possible and truly want absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with you. They are not outwardly aggressive, they do not seek confrontation, and contrary to popular (and unfortunate) belief, they do not bite out of ill will.

If cornered, surprised or in fear, they can and will take a swipe at you. If you see a snake, especially a horned viper, make sure to give it a wide berth and show it some respect. You'll likely get the same back and you'll both merrily go on your way. Here's what to do if you find yourself hiking out in the Dalmatian mountains and happen to sit or step on a snake.

Snake bites

There are fourteen known species of snake living in and around Croatia, of which only three are venomous, the horned viper (poskok), the Common European viper/adder (riđovka), and the Meadow viper (planinski zutokrug). Although the distinctive horned viper is slightly more venomous than the Common European viper and the Meadow viper, all three of these snakes are less venomous and as such less dangerous than, for example, African or Asian venomous snakes, and their bite is very rarely fatal.

The horned viper (poskok) is ash-grey in colour and grows up to around one metre in length. The head is heart-shaped, with a characteristic ‘horn’ on the tip of its nose, from which it draws its rather ominous-sounding name. Along the spine of this snake there is a dark winding line that goes from the head all the way down to the tip of the tail and is characteristic of every viper. There are dark spots running along the side of this line. The horned viper lives mainly in the southern, more rugged Croatian regions.

The Common European viper (riđovka) is found throughout Europe. It is about 60 to 80 cm long and also has a zigzag-like line running along its body. There are two species: Vipera berus bosniensis and Vipera pseudoaspis.

If you are bitten by a snake, the most important thing is to determine whether it is venomous or not. Unlike non-venomous snakes, venomous snakes have a triangular head and narrow elliptical eyes. Croatian snakes who are venomous also differ from non-venomous ones in the shape of their bodies, which are short and stocky, in contrast to non-venomous snakes whose bodies are thin and elongated. It should be noted, however, that distinguishing venomous snakes in this way is valid only in Europe and for native European species.

Species from the Viperidae family from North and South America and Asia, such as rattlesnakes, also have a depression between their eyes and nostrils that are used to detect heat. However, European species from the Viperidae family do not have such indentations, so this cannot serve as any sort of criteria for distinguishing venomous and non-venomous snakes in our climate.

When it comes to self-help procedures, it is stated that a bitten individual should absolutely not try to find and seek revenge on the snake. Snakes do not bite out of malice and should not be harmed. Seeking out an irritated or frightened snake again may lead to an additional attack. If the snake is found and killed, which, once again, should absolutely not be done, then it is preferable to bring the body to the hospital with you for accurate identification.

At the bite site, two puncture wounds from the snake's teeth are usually visible, and they're around 6-8 mm apart, although it is possible that there is only one wound or even just a small scratch. The finding of a wound doesn't mean that the venom was injected into the body. According to data, as many as 22% of proven bites have no signs of venom within them.

Symptoms of a snake bite

Pain and swelling appear at the bite site typically occur within two hours. In severe cases and where a lot of venom has entered the body through the wound, the pain appears quickly and is unusually sharp; the swelling also spreads quickly and may be accompanied by severe subcutaneous bleeding. Along with redness, blisters with bloody content may appear on the skin.

Immediately after the bite, almost half of those bitten experience general symptoms such as dizziness, nausea and vomiting, an overall feeling of weakness and swelling of the regional lymph nodes (this can also occur in and around the groin in the case of a bite in the leg, or in the armpit in the case of a bite in the hand). Pale and cold skin, profuse sweating, a rapid heart rate and drop in blood pressure are signs of shock, which generally develops gradually and is the main cause of death.

Snake bite procedures

If the snake you've been bitten by is not venomous, the wound should be washed very well with water, smeared with antibiotic ointment and wrapped with a clean bandage. It should be checked when the person who was bitten was last vaccinated against tetanus, and if more than five years have passed, a booster vaccination is required.

If you've been bitten by one of the venomous Croatian snakes, the person must remain absolutely still, the slightest of movements should be avoided, and the arm or leg with the bite wound should be immobilised as quickly as possible. Do not try to suck out the venom from the bite site. Any compression of the wound must be performed by specially trained healthcare professionals in extraordinary cases.

It is necessary to take the bitten person to the hospital immediately. In principle, every case of a person being bitten by a snake sees them hospitalised, without thinking too much about whether the snake is venomous or not.

Antidote for snake bites (antiviperinum) comes from horse serum, and contains antibodies that the horse produced after being injected with snake venom. Antiviperinum is given only in hospital conditions intravenously, and only when strictly indicated, since the antiserum itself can cause serious and even life-threatening reactions.

Snake bite prevention

Some snake bites, such as when a person accidentally steps or sits on an unsuspecting and understandably rather disgruntled snake, are almost impossible to prevent. However, there are precautions that can significantly reduce the chance of being bitten by Croatian snakes in summer:

Leave any snake you might come across minding its own business completely alone. Many people get bitten when trying to kill a snake or get as close to it as possible. This is cruel and absolutely not necessary. You are invading the snake's territory and it, like all animals, should be respected. If you want to take a photo or a video of the snake, do so from further away and use your zoom feature! Snakes usually try to avoid you entirely, and only very rarely do they decide to attack. If a snake bites you, you can almost guarantee that you are the one who has caused it.

Avoid tall grass and plants if you don't have suitable footwear on (thick leather boots) as Croatian snakes enjoy lying around and hunting their prey there, and use existing paths as much as possible.

Do not put your hands or feet in places that cannot be seen or inspected properly for any potential threat (for example, don't put your hand in a bush or behind a rock or stone). Do not pick up rocks or pieces of wood unless you are far enough away from a potential snake attack. All of these locations are enjoyed by Croatian snakes, including the horned viper and the Common European viper.

Be especially careful and prepared if you're into rock and mountain climbing. Croatian snakes are, like all others, cold blooded, and enjoy lying on heated rocks to provide them with energy. They aren't fans of being disturbed by climbers and hikers.

Dogs and cats (and other animals) are just as susceptible to being fatally harmed by a bite from a venomous snake. If your pet is bitten, take them to an emergency vet immediately for treatment. Do not allow your pet to approach a snake under any circumstance. Curiosity killed the cat, and in this case it will kill the dog too.

Croatian snakes have no interest in you whatsoever, show them the same grace and don't tempt fate.

Can a bite from a Croatian snake be fatal?

Yes. According to the Croatian Institute of Public Health, over the last twenty years or so, three cases of a snakebite being fatal have been recorded in Croatia, in 2006, 2007 and 2013, they occur sporadically with an average number of cases of 0.2 per year for the analysed period, and the counties in which the cases occurred are Zadar, Split-Dalmatia and Lika-Senj.

Most of the victims who died from bites from Croatian snakes were adults. The absolute number of recorded deaths from this cause is small, so it can only be concluded that cases of deaths caused by Croatian snakes are extremely rare. Men are more often victims of snake bites than women. The most recorded bites were from the Common European viper (riđovka), which is the most widespread venomous snake in Europe.

Sharks (morski pas or morski psi if we’re talking in plurals)

Morski pas translates to sea dog, and it almost makes them seem like they’d be pleasant to meet, doesn’t it? Rest assured, while the Croatian Adriatic is home to many species of shark, including potentially dangerous ones such as the shortfin mako shark, meetings are extremely rare, and attacks are almost without precedent. The last fatal attack occurred in the waters surrounding Omis in 1974. Not the best timing for the release of the iconic Jaws film.

Mako sharks are believed to have been responsible for surprisingly few attacks on humans, despite their frightening looks and even more frightening speed. We are far more dangerous to them than they are to us.

Brown bears (Smeđi medvjed, or smeđi medvjedi if we’re talking in plurals)

Croatia is home to the brown bear. This large, cuddly and rather cumbersome looking animal is in fact not that cuddly and can move more quickly than you. There are around 900-1000 brown bears in Croatia, and most of them live in Central Croatia, including Lika and Gorski kotar, but they can be found further south in the mountains of Mosor and Biokovo in Central Dalmatia. They have also been seen in other parts of the country, with one encounter occurring in the hills above Dubrovnik. You’ll also find them in your pocket, more precisely on the back of a 5 kuna coin.

Brown bears like to stay out of the way of people and rarely attack on sight, but they are known for their ill temper and general lack of patience. They can be unpredictable and will be even more easily triggered if they have cubs. In fact, a female bear (sow) with cubs is one of the most dangerous animals you could run into. These easily disgruntled animals will usually walk away from you, but should that not occur, you should remain perfectly still and not make eye contact with the bear. The bear may stand on its hind legs to get a better look at you, but this isn’t necessarily a show of aggression. If the bear is not approaching you, walk away from it without turning your back on it while speaking in a calm, neutral tone. Never, ever run from a bear.

Never approach a bear. They really will do their best to avoid you but brown bears are aware of their size, weight and speed and aren’t as quick to flee from a perceived threat as other smaller animals are.

If you’re going to be spending time hiking in the more remote areas of the country, especially in Lika or Gorski kotar, carry bear spray with you. It is highly unlikely you’ll come face to face with a bear, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

If you do see a bear and it makes chuffing noises, sticks out its lips or chatters its teeth, it is trying to warn you that you’re pushing it and getting too close. Back away. 

If you want to meet a Croatian brown bear in a much more safe and friendly environment, there is an amazing bear sanctuary called Kuterevo in Lika-Senj County. Founded back in 2002, volunteers help orphaned brown bears live a decent and natural life here, and being able to spend time around them is absolutely worth it. You’ll find the sanctuary in the Otocac Municipality, and it’s a great stop on the way from Zagreb to the coast or vice versa.

Wolves (vuk or vukovi if we’re talking in plurals)

In Croatia, the wolf is permanently present throughout the Dinarides, with the Croatian population mingling with wolves from the border areas of Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro to the south, preying primarily on wild ungulates such as deer, and unfortunately livestock.

The distribution of the Croatian wolf population used to be far greater than it is now, but time and human activity has seen their numbers and their territories dwindle. Today, wolves are distributed across nine different counties: Sisak-Moslavina, Karlovac, Lika-Senj, Primorje-Gorski kotar, Istria, Zadar, Šibenik-Knin, Dubrovnik-Neretva and Split-Dalmatia, and like both bears and snakes, they do their absolute best to stay away from humans and human activity, living in sparsely populated and rural areas from the Dalmatian hinterland to the border with Slovenia. You will likely never see one, unless you’re a farmer or you just have a lot of sheep for some reason.

That brings me to the two realities that wolves face in Croatia. One part of the population adores these stunning, almost ghost-like animals and wants to protect them at all costs, and the other hates them and would prefer they weren’t present at all. It’s true that wolves cause tremendous issues and financial losses for farmers who lose livestock such as sheep to attacks. A hatred of wolves and profit that could be earned by hunting and killing them drove wolf numbers down, and by the 1980s, they remained solely in Lika and Gorski kotar.

Fortunately, their numbers have since recovered and they are protected by law. Despite that, people are sadly still killing wolves. 

Wolves are naturally fearful of humans and will typically run away if they see you. That said, there are still some precautions you should take if you do happen to encounter a wolf in Croatia which isn’t so quick to run in the other direction:

Stand tall and make yourself look as large as you possibly can. Calmly but slowly back away from the animal. If the wolf still does not run away from you immediately, continue making yourself large and backing away slowly, avoiding sudden movements. Do not turn your back on the wolf or run away at any point.

The risk of a wolf attack in general is very low, especially in Croatia, and any wolf eyeing you up is more than likely just curious.

Lynx (ris)

Croatia is home to the lynx, and their numbers are desperately dwindling. These gorgeous big cats with their beautiful eyes and fluffy ears look almost magical, and unfortunately their numbers have been driven so low by hunting and habitat encroachment. Croatia currently only has between 40 and 60 lynx living in the wild. Following a severe decline in numbers, some areas of the country have been partially repopulated with this native cat species using individuals imported from Slovakia and Romania. The absolutely stunning Risnjak National Park in Gorski kotar draws its name from these elusive and utterly magnificent cats, and wolves, snakes and bears all live there, too.

There is little to no threat from a lynx. If you do happen to come across one, which is unfortunately extremely unlikely owing to the reasons stated above, face the animal, speak in a firm voice, back away slowly, don’t make any sudden movements, and always leave room for the cat to escape the situation on its own terms. Don’t ever crouch down or attempt to pet a lynx.

 

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

Tuesday, 15 November 2022

Wild Grass That Never Goes Away: Vukovar Volunteer Jean-Michel Nicolier

November 14, 2022 – The 18th of November is around the corner. The day that inspires the most twisted mix of feelings in many of Vukovar's residents. Sadness at the base. Heartbreak, nostalgia, frustration, gratitude. Hope. All of Croatia comes together to commemorate the sacrifice of Vukovar for its homeland. Remembering those who gave their lives to defend our home almost feels like a new experience every time. Reading their names is one dimension; reading the years is an entirely different one. One more painful than the other. A different story stands out every year. This time, we will take a moment to share the legacy of one of the youngest foreign volunteers, Jean-Michel Nicolier.

On the 18th of November 1991, Vukovar fell into the hands of the occupying forces. Our families, neighbours, friends, all those who spent three months locked away in underground shelters, were let out and sent on their way towards Zagreb, Belgrade, Novi Sad, who knows. Some of them were lucky enough to reunite with their loved ones, but many of them learned that their loved ones were gone or couldn’t find them anymore. All of them had to say goodbye to their city. November 18, 19, and 20 were days when many families of the volunteers who came to fight for Vukovar received the worst kind of news. Or the only thing even worse than that – no news at all.

Jean-Michel Nicolier, “the Frenchman,” was born in Vesoul, France, in July 1966. In July 1991, at barely 25 years of age, he travelled to Zagreb to fight for Croatia. He had seen the news of war on TV and decided that he wanted to help. I want to help these people; they need me. I must go, but I'll be back. You know I'm a wild grass that never goes away. Those were Jean-Michel’s words to his mother, who begged him not to go. He was mobilised into a HOS unit and spent two months fighting at Duga Resa. In September, he was among the last groups of volunteers to arrive in Vukovar. He fought in the Sajmište area, where the battle was extremely difficult and constant. On the 9th of November, he was wounded and had to remain hospitalised.

In the hospital, he was interviewed by a French TV crew, and this is how Jean-Michel Nicolier described his days in Vukovar: “I've lost too many friends, I've seen too many people cry too much suffering. I have been advised several times to leave Vukovar and return to France, but I stayed. We lost. I knew it would be difficult, but I didn't think it would be this terrible, especially for civilians. I came to Vukovar as a volunteer. It's my choice, for better or for worse.

Journalist: Why as a volunteer? – Because I think they need help. That's why I chose their side.

Journalist: What does Vukovar mean for you? – A slaughterhouse. A slaughterhouse. Slaughterhouse.”

Nine days later, Jean-Michel Nicolier, the Frenchman, was taken to the Ovčara concentration camp, along with many other volunteers and civilians from the Vukovar hospital. According to Dragutin Berghofer Beli, he stood up even when his name was called at the camp, where he suffered torture. On the night of the 21st of October, he was murdered by Spasoje Petković, nicknamed Štuka, who then proceeded to rob him of his last 20 Francs. The murderer himself confessed to this at the Belgrade War Crimes Court. Claiming that he was a frightened soldier who feared for his life, Petković went from being the defendant to a penitent witness, earning a privileged status, freedom, and the position of a protected witness, which guarantees that he will never be extradited to Croatia.

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Grad Vukovar

Jean-Michel Nicolier’s body is yet to be found. It is possible that he was buried in one of the ditches of the Ovčara mass grave which were moved, or that he ended up in the Danube, but there has been no evidence to confirm either. His family still visits Vukovar, his mother and brother have been in several interviews, and his mother has written letters to Jean-Michel, and about him to the Croatian Government.

Not many knew a lot about Jean-Michel until Višnja Starešina’s documentary film on Siniša Glavašević, Zaustavljeni Glas, came out in 2010. In 2011, the NGO Veterans' Association, Dr. Ante Starčević from Tovarnik, led by Antun Ivanković, took a particular interest in Jean-Michel, his life, and his story. They contacted his family, wrote about him to the president’s office, and eventually ensured his name was listed among the volunteers. Jean-Michel was posthumously awarded the Vukovar-Syrmia County Tribute for love, loyalty, and bravery in the Croatian War of Independence. In 2012 Nevenka Nekić published the book Jean ili miris smrti (Jean, or the Smell of Death). In 2014, the renovated main pedestrian bridge in Vukovar city centre was named after Jean-Michel, and in 2015 his bust was installed next to the bridge. May Jean-Michel rest in peace.
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View of the Jean-Michel Nicolier bridge (right)

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

Tuesday, 15 November 2022

Oldest Bakery in Zagreb is Closing After Nearly a Hundred Years

November 15, 2022 - Zagreb's oldest bakery is closing after nearly a hundred years of business. The owner Miroslav Trajković says that the city center is not what it used to be, and not even the neighborhood is what it used to be. He says, the traffic that used to be there isn't anymore.

As HRT and Poslovni write, in addition to morning hygiene, some people cannot imagine their mornings without fresh pastries from the nearby neighborhood bakeries. One such has been in operation in Zagreb's Nova Vesa for almost a hundred years. It is unique in many ways, and they are most proud of the bread baked in a wood-fired steam oven. However, after almost a century, the bakery is closing its doors. On the last day of this year, the smells of far-known rolls, pretzels, cocktail pastries, and various breads will stop spreading from Zagreb's oldest artisan bakery.

What did the citizens say to that? "One of the symbols of the Upper Town is retiring and closing. It's unfortunate", said Mario.

"I think it's the only artisan bakery that really stands out," said Martina.

"Everyone is nice and kind; we are practically a family," Jadranko said.

The bakery was opened in 1925

The bakery is unique in many ways. The recipes have stayed the same since it was opened in 1925. It stood out for its quality and flavours; they say the secret lies in the old wood-fired brick oven. Even though he is counting down to retirement, the boss Miroslav Trajković continues to work with the same enthusiasm but admits to mixed feelings.

"On the one hand, it's difficult, and on the other hand, you can't come to terms with the fact that it will be closed. It has to come to an end. I achieved what I could achieve. Everything has its own why and how, but I am closing the business. Enough is enough; 50 years of service is a lot," said Miroslav Trajković, owner of the oldest bakery in Zagreb.

More than 200 kg of bakery products every day

His grandfather started the bakery business, which his father and mother then carried on. Every day they produced more than 200 kilograms of bakery products. Owner Miroslav Trajković adds that the city center is not what it used to be, nor is the neighborhood; he says, the traffic that used to be there is not there anymore.

Craftsmanship in the old part of the city is slowly dying out, and when the doors of Zagreb's oldest bakeries close and the ovens are turned off, only memories of the old flavours will remain.

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

Tuesday, 15 November 2022

Spanish Monarchs Visiting Croatia for the First Time Tomorrow and Thursday

November 15, 2022 - Their majesties King Philip VI of Spain and Queen Letizia will pay an official visit to the Republic of Croatia tomorrow, and on Thursday, which will be the first official visit of the Spanish monarchs to our country, the Office of the President announced on Tuesday.

As Index writes, the Spanish king and queen will be hosted by the president of the country Zoran Milanovic with his wife, Sanja Music Milanovic, and after the ceremonial welcome on Wednesday in Pantovcak, a bilateral meeting between the two delegations will be held.

Strengthening cooperation in science

The King and Queen of Spain are making an official visit to Croatia in the year that marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Croatia and the Kingdom of Spain to confirm exceptionally good interstate relations and provide incentives for their further development.

To this end, on Thursday, on the second day of the visit, the Croatian-Spanish IFMIF-DONES forum will be held, in which President Milanovic and King Filip VI will participate, and which also includes the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education and the Spanish of the Ministry of Science and Innovation on cooperation in the creation of the DONES Program, the press release states.

This project is planning a partnership between Croatia and Spain in fusion research, in addition to a partnership in the development and construction of the DONES accelerator and a partnership between Croatian and Spanish companies in the construction of equipment for large scientific projects.

The DONES project, the press release added, is also an opportunity for Croatian high-tech companies. In 2018, DONES was included among the ESFRI projects, strategically important for the EU, as a Spanish-Croatian initiative.

Meetings with the Speaker of the Parliament and the Prime Minister

As part of the ladies' programme, Music Milanovic and Queen Letizia will visit the SUVAG Hearing and Speech Rehabilitation Polyclinic in Zagreb on Thursday, where they will be presented with the way the polyclinic works with children, including the medical rehabilitation of preschool children.

In the same way, Queen Letizia will be presented with the project "Healthy living at school - training grounds for physical activity" on the polyclinic's multi-sensory playground.

During his official stay in Zagreb, the Spanish King Philip VI will also meet with the President of the Croatian Parliament, Gordan Jandrokovic, and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic.

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

Tuesday, 15 November 2022

Foreign Workers Have Started Discovering Croatia: Good Conditions, They Say

November 15, 2022 - It has become common to see foreign workers from third countries performing various jobs in tourism and hospitality, as well as on construction sites in Croatia's summer and winter seasons. Recently, more and more Nepalese, Indians, Filipino, and workers from many other countries can be seen in more and more jobs in Rijeka, especially in delivery jobs.

As written by Novi List and Poslovni, according to data from the Primorsko-Goranska Police Administration, 13,116 requests for residence and work permits were received in nine months of 2022, while a total of 7,617 submissions were received in the same period last year. Only in ​​the city of Rijeka and the Rijeka ring, 4,355 requests were received, while their number last year was 2,732.

A better life in Croatia

One of the foreign workers in Rijeka is the Nepalese Dhirendreom Tamanga who, like many of his compatriots, came to find what they call a better life, but also a better income because he sends a large part of his earnings to his family. "It's better for me to work in Croatia than at home, and with the money I earn here, my family in Nepal can live happily and comfortably," says Dhirendra. He explained that he lives in Rijeka with a group of workers who also arrived from Nepal, and their rent in the city center is paid by the delivery company they work for.

Significantly more permits for foreign workers this year

Marin Šušnjar, director of the Wolt platform in Croatia, confirmed the trend of foreign workers in delivery jobs. According to him, the partners who employ delivery drivers noticed that they could not secure a sufficient number of people only through the applications of Croatian citizens. They decided to expand the base of potential employees and turn to the import and employment of foreign citizens. "The countries with which our partner companies cooperate the most are India, Nepal, and the Philippines, but also North Macedonia, Albania, and other countries closer to us. However, the current percentage of foreign nationals working on the Wolt platform in Rijeka as delivery partners is less than 5 percent of the total number of delivery drivers," said Šušnjar.

Differences in mode of operation

Desanka Babić from the Star employment mediation agency explained the process of hiring foreign workers. Croatian agencies for mediation in employment enter into contracts with local and foreign agencies that, based on their requirements, search for a qualified workforce. Upon arrival, the foreign worker pays only for the plane ticket, while the agencies who bring in the workers, if both parties are satisfied, charge the employer a monthly fee. In this way, says Babić, they worked with GP Krk and many other companies.

"The only and biggest problem will be bringing in a quality workforce trained and familiar with our labour market. Workers who come from India, Pakistan, and Nepal, apart from experiencing culture shock, are not familiar with our way of working and working conditions. At the same time, it cannot be said that they do not know how to work, but they have experience with different work principles, and several months should be found for them to learn and get used to it. Therefore, we have posted relevant information on working conditions on our website and what we are trying to achieve. I think the Government of the Republic of Croatia should also come up with a way to train foreign workers before they start working and arrive in our country. This would reduce the gap according to what foreign workers think is expected of them, and employers would be provided with a quality workforce", concludes Desanka Babić.

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

Tuesday, 15 November 2022

Croatian Startup Green Energy Pal Develops "Energy Consultant"

November the 15th, 2022 - The Croatian startup Green Energy Pal has taken the energy crisis into its own hands and developed something that will help individuals and companies alike to keep the numbers on their electricity bills down.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Josipa Ban writes, reducing energy costs due to the ongoing energy crisis is a priority for both households and companies. However, it is almost impossible to achieve savings, or energy efficiency, without undertaking any proper analysis of your consumption.

Ivan Pavic, one of the members of the Croatian startup Green Energy Pal, explains that although energy efficiency is talked about a lot, most people don't know how they can increase theirs properly and concretely.

"The reason lies in the fact that they don't have the basic prerequisite solved, that is, they don't know when they spend the most, how much that is and which devices cause that consumption. If we don't know that, how can we plan the actions that will have the most effect, and with the least investment, and then result in the reduction of consumption, and thus the electricity bill?'' asks Pavic.

Guided by this problem, four colleagues from FER, Ivan Pavic, Domagoj Badanjak, Alen Hrga and Ivan Sudic - developed Enpulse. It is, as Pavic explained, a private energy consultant which explains to users in a simple way how to achieve greater energy efficiency and how to reduce their electricity bills.

The reality that their idea and product on which they worked for 18 months to develop has great potential has also been shown by the fact that they were declared the best in the competition of startups from four countries of the region at the BASF Adriatic competition. With this, they entered the grand final of the BASF Innovation Hub 2022 as one of the six best solutions in the field of sustainable development in all of Central and Eastern Europe. This recognition, as expected, means a lot to them, and for several reasons.

"First of all, the expert jury, with excellent comments and questions, drew our attention to the segments of the product and its presentation on which we need to work further. Second, we gained recognition, which contributes to better marketing and the better acquisition of new customers, and in the end, the monetary award we received is very useful for us,'' stated Pavic, a member of the team at the Croatian startup Green Energy Pal.

However, there is still a lot of work ahead of the team who are developing their private energy consultant which is composed of three parts (an electricity metre on location, a backend system that stores data, and the user interface) in their spare time. Pavic explained that they have set themselves three goals - increasing the number of users, expanding the features of Enpulse and attracting investments.

"The increase in the number of users brings us financial support and enables us to develop new product features. Namely, a good part of our background tools are based on big data analysis and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, which also require a large amount of data. In other words, without new users and data, we can't even develop any new features," noted Pavic.

In addition to all of the above, for further growth and development, they will need a financial injection, so their plan is to find an investor. "We need an investment so that we can fully devote ourselves to product development and employ experts from various fields of IT, AI development, energy, sales and marketing," they announced from the Croatian startup Green Energy Pal.

The reactions to the product so far, which has only been on the market for a few months, are very positive. "The current users from the household category are very satisfied with the product," said Pavic, adding that, although their target group of users is both companies and households, they still give preference to companies.

"SMEs have significant energy costs, often accounting for 10 to 30 percent of their total costs. However, these costs aren't so high as to require extensive analyses by energy experts and consultants. This is precisely why we're developing a ''digital energy consultant'' which can give people advice on increasing energy efficiency at a very low cost. Our idea is that the investment in hardware companies pays off within one or several months, and that the monthly software subscription is only a small part of the savings achieved with our product,'' noted Pavic, adding that the use of their product in households is still less profitable than it is in companies.

It's worth mentioning that this is one of the very few startups that is actually benefiting from the energy crisis, although they didn't count on such a development when they started developing their product.

"Now we have more open potential collaborations with different companies. We assume that the demand for our product will grow significantly,'' concluded Pavic.

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

Tuesday, 15 November 2022

Brodosplit Shipyard Builds Innovative Buoy for French Ocergie

November the 15th, 2022 - Brodosplit has built yet another large and valuable structure for a well known company, this time an innovative buoy for the collection of data out at sea.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Suzana Varosanec writes, OCG-Data, an innovative buoy for collecting/recording biodiversity and metocean data, was successfully launched in the port of the Split's shipyard. It was built for the client Ocergie, the French branch of the American company Ocergy, Brodosplit announced. As they stated, with this project, the Split-based company is proving its capabilities on the wind offshore market, and it is realistic to expect the signing of new contracts for the construction of more new similar buoys and floating platforms soon, which implies the delivery of structures with an annual steel consumption of more than 100,000 tonnes in the period up to the year 2030.

The American Ocergy is otherwise a relatively young company, but according to its CEO Dominique Roddier, it wants to become one of the leaders in the field of offshore solutions for offshore wind farms (Floating Wind Foundation Design), which is "the result of the progress they have made over the last few years".

“This new innovative data collection buoy will gather information that will be used to better understand everything from wind turbulence to air and marine life around the project site. The pilot unit, part of Ocergie's ''Blue Oracle'' project (buoys with Lidar-optical radar and underwater equipment to assess ocean resources and characterise life in the environment) has received approval from the French authorities to be deployed at a site where several of the first floating wind power plants in the French region of Occitanie will be situated,'' they stated from Brodosplit.

The project itself is also supported by ADEME within the Investment Programme for the Future, and according to Roddier, this innovative buoy is important in multiple ways, both as an integral part of their wider business plan and as the first step in the development of the ''OCG-Wind FOW'' platform.

"We have an increasing number of pre-commercial projects before the year 2030, until the offshore wind industry implements large GW commercial FOW (Floating offshore wind) projects worldwide," said Roddier. The innovative marine data collection buoy made by Brodosplit will be deployed near one of the windy ''macro-zones'' in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of southern France.

"Despite the financial problems you've been facing at Brodosplit, we are extremely grateful for the full engagement of your team and employees, and very satisfied with the excellent work that Brodosplit has done in creating our platform. While you're discussing different business projects with investors, I believe that companies like Brodosplit can play a significant role in the energy transition and become a strong driver of the commercial development of the FOW industry, not only for projects here in the Mediterranean but throughout Europe," emphasised Roddier.

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

Monday, 14 November 2022

10 Hvar Facts That Blew My Mind When I Bought a House in Croatia

November 14, 2022 - Thought the island of Hvar was all beaches and nightlife? Think again. Ten Hvar facts that blew my mind about the Adriatic island I had never heard of before I moved there 20 years ago.

Imagine spontaneously buying your new home on a Dalmatian island that you had never heard of 2 days before your purchase, whose name I still can't pronounce properly 20 years later, only to find that this was a magical island, often acclaimed as one of the most beautiful in the world.

But leave the beaches and the nightlife to one side for a moment if you can, for this is an island of incredible depth, tradition, culture, wine and, well, just some pretty far-out stuff.

Having lived in Jelsa full-time since 2003, it was only when I decided to write the first modern guidebook about the island of Hvar in 2011 that I began to discover what a truly special island it was, with many of its secrets not only unknown to most tourists, but also to many locals as well. The Total Hvar portal I started over a decade ago led to over 9,000 articles about the island over the next 10 years, the most articles one person has ever written about the island (and I am not saying they were all good...).

But the more I explored, the more blown away I was by what I discovered about this incredible island. It was a true pleasure to document my findings for the benefit of others.

Here are 10 things that blew my mind about my adopted Croatian island home, where I lived for 13 happy years. Want to learn more? And do stay around for the bonus at the end. I am willing to bet that many Hvar residents will find something new in these ten things:

Video thanks to:

Igor Duzevic

The fabulous Hvar TV

Hvar Tourist Board

Video editing by Miranda Milicic Bradbury, filmed by Igor Vuk

Want to discover more about Croatia beyond the beach? Subscribe to the new YouTube channel, Paul Bradbury, Croatia and Balkans Expert

****

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 is now available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

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Monday, 14 November 2022

A Hotel that Inspires Many - Promotes Croatia & Gives Away 10 Years of Free Stays to Its Guests!

November 14, 2022 - The summer of 2022 and another successful #reelstoryofcroatia contest at Marvie Hotel & Health in Split

This summer has been yet another amazing sun-soaked Mediterranean adventure as seen in the bright and colorful footage which inspired Marvie Hotel & Health guests shared for the 2nd edition of the hotel’s popular contest. For those who are still unfamiliar with the details of this creative and fun contest, as well as its mind-blowing prize - #reelstoryofcroatia was first launched by Marvie Hotel & Health in the summer of 2021.

Already known as the first health hotel in Dalmatia and one that has embraced many innovations such as long-term offers for digital nomads as well as the possibility of paying with cryptocurrencies, this popular hotel in the beautiful city of Split came up with the Instagram contest of the decade - an incredible opportunity for all Marvie guests to win 10 years of stays at the hotel!

3 nights for 2 persons in our Superior Room for 10 years!

It is not hard to imagine why so many took the chance to win 3 nights for 2 persons in a Superior room at Marvie’s, with breakfast included – EACH year for 10 consecutive years. The task was easy - all the hotel guests had to do was enjoy their vacation, shoot their favorite summer moments with a smartphone and finally share their days of fun in the sun with friends and family on Instagram!

The whole concept of this contest is aimed at promoting the beauties of the city of Split, the nearby islands, the magnificent coast and generally the irresistible charm of this region. With that in mind, the creative contestants focused on having fun and being themselves, while filming great footage of the incredible Dalmatian scenery. The goal of promoting this mesmerizing Croatian destination was indeed accomplished as the shared Reels have so far generated more than 250.000 views from all over the world!

Last year’s 1st #reelstoryofcroatia winner was Patrick Whelan from Britain, known as @patrick.films on Instagram, whose creative winning video entry served as an inspiration for many of this year’s contestants. The hotel management has informed us that Patrick has already started reaping the benefits of his prize and has completed his first free stay at Marvie this summer, in July!

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Photo description: Patrick Whelan, the winner of the 1st #reelstoryofcroatia 

 #reelstoryofcroatia 2022 contest of the decade

Following the success of the 1st edition, Marvie Hotel & Health decided to give a green light to the start of a new version of the #reelstoryofcroatia contest for the summer of 2022.

Once more, during this year’s summer season Marvie’s guests were invited to jump into a new exclusive contest and grab the opportunity to win free three-day stays in a Superior Room for two persons EACH year from 2023 to 2032!

Even though no high-end production was needed to take part in this competition, this year too, some creative guests have outdone themselves and have posted authentic, as well as truly exciting videos of their seaside experiences! Just as was the case upon the end of the first edition, this year the hotel’s management admits having had a very hard time selecting the lucky winner!

This season’s #reelstoryofcroatia fabulous prize has gone out to winner Ronnesha Jackson! The top contestant @amorxnesha won the 2022 contest by posting a truly feel-good, groovy and stylish video and has now unlocked her 10 YEARS of stays at Marvie Hotel & Health!

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Photo description: Ronnesha Jackson, the winner of the 2nd #reelstoryofcroatia 

Click below to view Ronnesha’s winning Reel.

 

The GM of Marvie Hotel & Health, Diana Rubić Radman is thrilled with the results:

“Last year we had already noticed that guests readily accepted the challenge of this contest. They had fun filming their videos and the results accomplished our goal – the Reels generated over 250.000 views in two years! The decision to relaunch the contest in 2022 was an easy one to make. This is a win-win situation – the guests happily embrace the contest, while we manage to promote the destination at the same time. By participating in #reelstoryofcroatia our guests also become ambassadors, promoting the beauty of Split, Dalmatia and Croatia as one of the most beautiful destinations in the world. The fact that last year’s winner has already used 1/10 of his prize this July, is proof of how thrilled visitors are to return to our destination. Once again, we thank all our guests of participating!”

If you’d like to make the most out of your upcoming Croatian holiday, Marvie Hotel & Health might be your optimal choice. Feel free to check their availability calendar, and book directly via their website for the best price online.

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