Thursday, 17 November 2022

Infobip Enters World of Fashion With Techno Hoodies

November the 17th, 2022 - Just when you thought the remarkable Croatian technology company Infobip had done everything, it turns its hand to fashion. Techno hoodies, to be more precise.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Josipa Ban writes, many would assume that a successful combination of fashion and high technology is impossible, the two couldn't be more different, right? Wrong. Apparently. The Vodnjan-based Infobip has definitely made sure that technology has no limits, and also now that it can be combined with fashion. It recently presented its very own technologically advanced hoodies.

According to Infobip, these impressive techno hoodies were made in collaboration with IUTD Studios and a young Canadian designer with Croatian roots, Joshua Cirjak.

This leap into the world of street fashion for the most famous domestic cloud communication platform will certainly delight all lovers of hoodies, but at the same time disappoint them because the series is limited to only 300 pieces.

They decided on this move, they say from Infobip, because they want to strengthen their image among developers and in the wider technological community which is, rather surprisingly to many, somewhat dominated by hoodies of all things.

"Developers absolutely love hoodies, and almost every tech company has promotional items which belong to it. However, at Infobip we decided to make a limited edition fashion piece. In addition, we have added some advanced technology to the hoodies," said Ivan Burazin, a member of the Infobip Management Board for developer experience.

"Each hoodie also contains a special NFC chip that, when scanning it, gives the owner the possibility to own it in both of the parallel worlds in which we live - the physical one and the digital one," explained Joshua Cirjak, the creative director of IUTD Studios.

For more on Croatian companies and domestic creations, make sure to check out our dedicated business section.

Wednesday, 16 November 2022

How to Croatia: Practicing and Mastering the Art of Produzeni Vikend

November 16, 2022 – Croatian people work very hard. When they do. But when they take time off, they like to make it count. And they’ll work even harder for that. Introducing the national sport, the art of produzeni vikend.

With today’s busy lifestyle, any extra time off is beneficial for the nation’s well-being. In some European countries, the systems have adapted to provide people with such, like bank holidays in the UK. Without long weekends scheduled, the working people of Croatia had to become creative in their planning. And they did not lack proper leadership. If you’ve ever had to deal with bureaucracy in Croatia, a phenomenon in its own right, you might have noticed that your local institutions had different or non-existent office hours on the days adjacent to public holidays.

Introducing the national sport, the art of produzeni vikend. This beautiful tradition has become a part of the Croatian lifestyle. A way to deal with the stress of always trying to catch up. Naturally, people with children plan their holidays around school, and most other people also try to use their summers to enjoy some beach time. Once most people are steadily back to work, with Christmas and New Year lurking behind the corner, it is time to plan for the following year. Might as well do it right.

To do it right the Croatian way, you will need the calendar of mandatory public holidays, and the school calendar could come in handy if you have children. If the holidays fall on Fridays, that’s your job done for you; sneak out of work early on Thursday and enjoy your long weekend. The next step is locating the holidays that fall on Tuesdays or Thursdays. Book your Mondays or Fridays off, and you will successfully produce your own produzeni vikend (eng. long weekend).

While this is excellent material for plenty of jokes, this tool, if you like, is a precious one. So much so that even Croatian news portals have started publishing summaries of calendars to indicate which dates would work best each year. Poslovni published the list of public holidays in 2023:

January 1, New Year's Day - Sunday

January 6, Epiphany - Friday

May 1, Labor Day - Monday

May 30, National Day – Tuesday

June 8, Corpus Christi – Thursday

June 22, Day of Anti-Fascist Struggle - Thursday

August 5, Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and Croatian Veterans Day - Saturday

August 15, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Tuesday

November 1, All Saints' Day - Wednesday

November 18, the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Homeland War and the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Vukovar and Škabrnja - Saturday

December 25, Christmas Day - Monday

December 26, Saint Stephen – Tuesday

Now, the moment you didn’t know you’d been waiting for. For the ultimate convenience, let us introduce and fully endorse Laknerad, where you can find it all in one place. The website name is a wordplay: kalendar = calendar; lak nerad = easy slacking off. Our favourite feature is the Holiday Efficiency Class rating, which is B for the year 2023.

And to round it all off, we share this Twitter gem with our full support.

 

In English: Can we have a national holiday commemorating the opening of the Pelješac bridge? We can call it Spojevo, and it should always fall on a Thursday so that we can ✨merge✨ it with the weekend. 

arn*Spojiti = to connect, merge; Spojevo is a wordplay on many Croatian holidays ending in -evo/-ovo.

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

Wednesday, 16 November 2022

Israeli Brown Hotels Group Takes Over Jadran Hotels, Rebranding to Follow

November the 16th, 2022 - The Israeli Brown Hotels group has taken over the Rijeka-based Jadran Hotels, becoming the new majority owner of the company which boasts numerous hotels and other facilities. Ambitious plans are now in the works.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Israeli investor Brown Hotels Group is officially the new majority owner of Jadran Hotels from Rijeka, which includes seven hotels, two restaurants and a campsite in the wider Kvarner area, including Rijeka, Kostrena and Kraljevica.

The investors intend to carry out a comprehensive rebranding process at all seven locations where facilities owned by Jadran Hotels are currently located. This is otherwise their second investment in the Republic of Croatia, they are the owners of Trogir's Brown Beach House Hotel, and they bought Jadran Hotels from Ivan Franolic and Zoran Lustica.

"The potential of Rijeka as a city are absolutely enormous, we are convinced that it can become an important tourist centre in both the Croatian and global contexts and a destination that will attract tourists from all over the world. This is strongly supported by the significant investments made by foreign investors in the wider Rijeka area," stressed Leon Avigad, the founder and co-owner of the Israeli Brown Hotels Group, which also operates in Germany, Cyprus, Greece and of course outside of Europe in Israel.

In the coming period, the Israeli Brown Group will implement its model of lifestyle, cultural and nightlife attractions, along with bringing in internationally famous restaurant chefs, attractive rooftop bars, clubs, swimming pools, spa zones and other similar recreational activities.

The first focus of the new owners will be on three hotels: Continental, which will be renamed Brown Continental Rijeka, Jadran, which will become Brown Beach Jadran Rijeka, and Neboder, which will become Brown Lighthouse Rijeka.

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

Wednesday, 16 November 2022

Croatian Project in Competition for Title of Best European Project

November the 16th, 2022 - One Croatian project is in the running for the title of best European project as we approach the marking of the anniversary of the Regiostars award.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the European Commission (EC), the executive body of the European Union (EU), will mark the fifteenth anniversary of the establishment of its popular Regiostars award on Thursday in the Portuguese city of Evora. The Regiostars award works to promote projects co-financed by EU funds.

At the ceremony, the European commissioner, Portuguese Elisa Ferreira, will present a special award to one of the projects that has already been awarded since the establishment of "Regiostars" back in 2008. Among the fifteen candidates, who could be publicly voted for until Tuesday on the Regiostars website, is the Croatian project, e-school.

With it, 151 primary and secondary schools across the country received IT equipment and digital teaching aids, which accounted for 10 percent of all schools across the Republic of Croatia. The initiator of this pilot project is CARNET, a public institution that operates in the field of information and communication technology in this country.

Back in pandemic-dominated 2020, this Croatian project received the "Regiostars" award in the Belgian capital of Brussels, based on votes collected over the internet. Previously, CARNET had applied for that tender. With its cohesion policy, the European Commission tries to reduce inequalities between different parts of the EU, so through funds filled with taxpayers' money from 27 member states, it co-finances projects in the maximum amount of 85 percent. The rest is provided by the member states in which the projects themselves take place.

In the elementary school in Velika Ludina, which is around 30 kilometres from Sisak, students solve math problems on tablets and the smart board in the classroom gives the correct answers by itself.

"Just a decade ago, things looked completely different. If the professor wanted to visualise something, he had to be good with chalk and a blackboard, and the students learned exclusively from books," said Croatian journalist Boris Abramovic, the author of a five-minute film about the Croatian project that will be presented in Evora.

"In just seven years, the classic classroom has turned into something that the previous generation only saw in science fiction movies," adds Abramovic about that school in the north of Croatia. Damir Belavic, the professor of mathematics in the school in question in Velika Ludina, says that he himself has an "online notebook".

"Students have online notebooks, so even those who aren't at school can follow what is being done. On top of that, everything remains stored in these notebooks, so it's easy for me to distribute materials to students. I direct them to various links and we do various online exercises,'' he explained.

Classic paper notebooks, however, are still used. Juraj Bilic, the deputy director of CARNET, says that this Croatian project proved to be successful, but that it is not finished yet and more plans are in the works.

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

Wednesday, 16 November 2022

The Mirror and CNN Shine Spotlight on Zagreb Advent 2022

November the 16th, 2022 - Foreign media including The Mirror (UK) and CNN (USA) have been giving Zagreb Advent 2022 some love of late, and with things coming back in full swing following the coronavirus pandemic, it's something we're all looking forward to.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, after CNN included Zagreb Advent 2022 on the list of the best Christmas markets for this year, the British Mirror has also been writing about Zagreb Advent 2022 and the most magical time of the year here in the Croatian capital city. According to the conducted research, Zagreb took an incredibly impressive second place as the city with the best value for money to visit this December, and that news was also reported by the some of the other most popular British media: The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The Independent, and several others.

The list also included the stunning Latvian capital city of Riga, which took first place, followed by Krakow, Stockholm and Vienna, not to mention the likes of Budapest, Prague, Berlin, Lille, Tallinn and Copenhagen.

"As the article itself says - Zagreb's Advent has recently established itself among the best in Europe, so we're particularly happy with promotions and publications like this, as they further position our city on the European map of Christmas markets. I'd also like to point out that the news about Zagreb Advent 2022 was also conveyed by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) in its monthly newsletter.

Just by checking the booking.com platform, we can see that the capacity occupancy in Zagreb for the first weekend of Zagreb Advent 2022 already stands at more than 82 percent, so I expect that this year, after two pandemic-dominated years, will once again show that this is one of the most important events for Zagreb and Croatian tourism. I'd like to note that the Tourist Board of the City of Zagreb started with international offline and online promotion via Google, social media, native articles as well as mobile advertising in Europe, the USA and Canada, spanning a total of 21 markets. We're especially promoting Zagreb Advent 2022 on Expedia on the US market, as well as on the Smithsonian portal as part of a multi-month destination campaign. Likewise, we achieved our traditional promotional cooperation with Croatia Airlines, Turkish Airlines and HZPP, with whom we secured special ticket prices for people visiting Zagreb Advent,'' stated Martina Bienenfeld, the director of the Tourist Board of the City of Zagreb.

The opening of Advent Zagreb 2022 is scheduled for Saturday, November the 26th, when the first Advent candle will be lit on Ban Jelacic Square at 17:00.

For more, make sure to keep up with our dedicated news section.

Wednesday, 16 November 2022

Kramarić Scores in Croatia's 1-0 Friendly Win in Riyadh before World Cup

November 16, 2022 - Andrej Kramarić scores in Croatia's only friendly match ahead of the World Cup. Croatia beat Saudi Arabia 1-0 in Riyadh on Wednesday. 

In the only preparatory match before the World Cup in Qatar, the Croatia national team won 1-0 against Saudi Arabia. Andrej Kramarić brought the victory to Croatia with a great goal in the 82nd minute.

Coach Zlatko Dalić started this match with Croatia's reserves. As announced, Dalić chose a mixed lineup, mostly with players who will not start against Morocco next week. 

Croatia Lineup

Livaković, Stanišić, Lovren, Erlić, Barišić, Sučić, Brozović, Majer, Pašalić, Vlašić, Petković

Croatia looked rough in the first half and only had one shot on goal. Saudi Arabia proved to be a formidable opponent until the very end. Saudi Arabia had several attempts and even hit the post. On the other hand, Croatia was mainly invisible. At halftime, Dalić subbed off Vlašić and Sučić for Kovačić and Oršić. In the 58th minute, Lovren and Petković were subbed off for Vida and Kramarić. 

Kramarić scored in the 73rd minute, but it was called offside. Luka Modrić and Ivan Perišić entered the match only in the 65th minute. 

Croatia finally secured the victory in the final 10 minutes of the match. A great ball by Luka Modrić found Kramarić in the 82nd minute. He shot from about ten meters and hit the near post of the goal for the Croatia lead and ultimate win. Croatia had another goal disallowed after Ivan Perišić scored in the 87th minute. 

This was Croatia's fifth win in a row, coming off a successful Nations League campaign. 

Croatia's first World Cup match in Group F is against Morocco on Wednesday, November 23, at 11 am Croatia time. Croatia travels from Riyadh to Qatar tomorrow. 

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

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.  

****

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.

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