Sunday, 19 December 2021

From Zero to European Champion: a History of Advent in Zagreb

December 18, 2021 - It may not be as lively as 2019, but things are warming up nicely in Zagreb. A good time to reflect on the incredible history of Advent in Zagreb since 2010. 

It has always been an event that has fascinated me. How to create something from nothing in Croatian tourism, away from the coast, and out of season? And not only, but to do it so well that the event was voted the best in Europe for three years in a row. 

And then came the pandemic.

But still the event survived, albeit is in a much more modest and virtual format, before getting a little bigger in 2021. After a slow start, the streets of the Croatian capital are buzzing once again, as a very different Advent in Zagreb 2021 runs its course. 

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(2014 Ice Park - J. Duval)

Everyone seems to have their opinion on Advent in Zagreb this year, and I thought it was worth putting everything into context and taking a look back at the last decade since it became a thing. I contacted the Zagreb Tourist Board and asked them to send me some information and old photos so that I could do a piece on the history of Advent in Zagreb. 

Their response was more than impressive - they did not just send information and photos, they sent this amazing overview - much more detailed than anything I had been planning.  

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(2014 Fuliranje - I. Nobilo)

PROJECT DEVELOPMENT/ FINANCING / PROMOTION / CONTENT

Advent in Zagreb is a project that has been intensely developed over a number of years through a synergy of relevant city offices and the Zagreb Tourist Board. It was branded as “Advent in Zagreb” in 2010. A new concept of Advent in Zagreb that was introduced in 2014 has been cultivated and upgraded over the years.

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(2014 Advent on Europe Square - M. Mehulic)

The promotion campaign started with a promotional video about Advent in Zagreb that was screened at fairs, convention industry summits and professional workshops, and distributed to all reporters and agents coming to Zagreb on organized professional tours. The video has also been mass distributed with bottles of drinking water and other promotional materials about the city of Zagreb to travellers stopping at the tollbooth in Lučko during peak season weekends in late July and early August, to invite the tourist to visit the Advent market and explore the tourist offer in Zagreb. The Zagreb Tourist Board designed a unique and inspiring visual for Advent in Zagreb, suggestive of the happy colours and aromas of winter holidays, that was used on City Light posts and billboards at busy locations in Croatia and nearby countries, including Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, Austria and Hungary.

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(2014 Live Nativity - M. Mehulic)

A special Internet site was launched at www.adventzagreb.hr with all textual material available in five languages, Croatian, English, German, Spanish and Italian. Attractive souvenirs have been designed that included a box of traditional ginger biscuits, a mug, a glass, an apron, matches, Christmas tree ornaments in the shape of ginger biscuits, glass balls and blankets. The live entertainment stage on Ban Jelačić Square has been branded, as well as the Advent House, in order to create an unambiguously familiar brand of Advent in Zagreb. In 2011, the Zagreb Tourist Board organized a multi-media 3D mapping Advent screening outside the Mimara Museum. Every year between 2010 and 2015, the city of Zagreb gifted a Zagreb Christmas tree decorated in the traditional style typical for Zagreb to Vienna, Rome, Berlin, Budapest, Ljubljana and Sarajevo, inviting the residents of Zagreb’s friendship cities to visit Zagreb during the Advent season.

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(2015 Artomat - S. Kastelan) 

The outstanding success of Advent in Zagreb has been the result of many years of work on the part of the Zagreb Tourist Board to upgrade the Zagreb tourist offer during winter months, of brand development and highly effective promotional effort in collaboration with important stakeholders such as the national Croatian Tourist Board, the tourist industry and the City of Zagreb. A multitude of interesting content and daily events have helped create a unique image of the Croatian capital city as a centre of culture and tourism during the holidays that continues to be upgraded and promoted as a prime tourist product. Advent in Zagreb, the events that bring life to the city streets and squares during the season of Advent and other content that have enhanced the city tourist offer during winter months, have contributed to a favourable evaluation of the city in the international tourist market and the branding of Zagreb as a must-visit tourist destination during Advent season.

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(2015 Fuliranje - S. Kastelan)

Over the years, the content has expanded and new features introduced in addition to the original programming that continues as a standard in many new and attractive locations. New marketing activities have been developed accordingly. Since its inception in 2010, Advent events in Zrinjevac Park and Ban Jelačić Square and the Christmas market have been a mainstay feature of Advent in Zagreb. Starting in 2010, many other projects have been developed to become part of the Advent in Zagreb, including Artomat (since 2011), Fooling Around (since 2012), the Ice Park (since 2014) and Advent at the European Square (since 2014). Another location was added to the Fooling Around project in 2015 and the programme has been featured in two different locations since then (Tomićeva Street and Kurelčeva Street).

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(2015 Strauss at the Octogon - S. Kastelan)

In 2016, the Zagreb Tourist Board collaborated with partners to introduce a number of new Advent features to Zagreb visitors and residents, especially the Upper Town segment that has included Courtyards – The Advent Edition, Advent on the Vranyczany Plateau, Advent at the Klovićevi Dvori Gallery and Advent on Stross. Also, in 2016, Advent happenings reached the New Zagreb area across the river with New Advent and Santa Klaus Icy Fairy Tale. Other novelties have included, to mention just a few, the Fashion Advent, Chez Rudolf, Advent in the Design District and Advent in the Tunnel.

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(Christmas concerts from balconies in 2015 - S. Katelan)

Additional emphasis in 2017 was placed on improving the quality of existing Advent locations as well as on carefully planning new locations, all in order to enable the most pleasant stay of all visitors to Advent in Zagreb. ZTB and its partners have implemented new programs: Advent in the Croatian Railway Museum, Advent in Marićev prolaz, Caffe de Matoš, Fooling Around at a new location - Trg J.J. Strossmayer, and the special cooperation with the Office of the President of the Republic of Croatia was established, which joined Advent with the Advent program at Prekrižje.

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(2016 Ice Park - A. Markezic)

Traditional programs have been realized in the Lower Town such as Advent on Zrinjevac, Ice Park on Tomislav Square, Advent on the European Square, Zagreb Christmas Fairy Tale, Live Christmas Nativity Scene, Advent on Ban Jelačić Square as well as in the Upper Town: Advent on Vranicanijeva poljana, Advent in Klovićevi dvori Gallery and Advent on Stross. The Grič Tunnel was included in the program, as well as cultural institutions such as the Museum of Arts and Crafts, the Ethnographic Museum, the Croatian National Theatre, the Art Pavilion and the Zagreb Zoo. The Advent program in Zagreb was accompanied by a large exhibition "Nikola Tesla - Mind from the future".

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(2016 Advent in Kloveci Dvori - I. Zinic)

In 2018 Advent in Maksimir was presented as a new location with entertainment for the whole family and Advent Stara Tkalča, which showed traditional crafts and revived the spirit of the oldest Zagreb settlements Gradec and Kaptol. A novelty was the Film Advent, as part of which Christmas films for all ages were shown at the Europa cinema, and the Baković Sisters' Passage was conveniently decorated as a set from the shooting of a Christmas film. Special emphasis was placed on cultural events and programs, so during Advent, as many as eight different music festivals were held in Zagreb. This continued in 2019 when, in addition to the already known Advent locations, eleven music festivals were held: Advent postcards, Advent under the Lantern, Evenings with Brahms, Adventfest in the Cathedral, Advent Classic Fest, Advent and Christmas Song Festival in Zagreb, Concerts in the church of St. Katarina, Concert program of the Zagreb Soloists for Advent in Zagreb, Advent in the parish of St. Blaž, From Christmas Balconies in Zagreb and Christmas with Kids. In 2019, Film Advent on Tuškanac was presented as a new location, as part of which Christmas films for all ages were shown at the Tuškanac cinema, and Advent at the Croatian National Theatre with a new scenography and concept. The Oktogon passage was appropriately arranged, and other locations were decorated with Croatian traditional ornaments and Nutcrackers, in accordance with the theme of Advent in Zagreb in 2019.

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(2016 Advent in Zrinjevac - A. Markezic) 

Since 2014, all visitors to Advent in Zagreb have been given the opportunity to visit Advent locations with the help of smartphones. Namely, ZTB, in cooperation with the Bruketa & Žinić OM and Brlog agencies, refreshed its popular mobile application Zagreb Be There with the new Advent Zagreb route. This was an application originally launched in the summer of 2014, which offered visitors to Zagreb various themed routes to tour the city, with occasional awards. In 2015, three more new Advent routes were introduced, which, in addition to the classic Advent locations, took users through Zagreb restaurants known for their winter specialties. In 2016, the Advent edition of the app was enriched with two Advent routes, a classic and a route that invited users to find the best Advent place for a Christmas selfie.

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(2016 Advent in Klovicevi Dvori - L. Tonci)

The 2017 Advent edition of the app featured two Advent routes. A special feature in 2017 is the collaboration with the famous Croatian confectioner Petra Jelinić, who suggested the best confectioneries in Zagreb of her choice to users through the Sweetmas route. In addition to the traditional route with the key locations of Advent, in 2018 the Zagreb Be There application was refreshed with a new route called ADVENTurous Women of Zagreb. It enabled visitors to learn more about famous Zagreb women: Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić, Marija Jurić Zagorka, sisters Baković, first woman in pants, Slava Šenoa, Sidonia Erdődy Rubido, Cat Dujšin-Ribar and Ljerka Šram. In 2019, the application was enriched with a new Advent route called Uncrackable route, which led visitors to Zagreb in search of sculptures of the Nutcracker, which were located in all major Advent locations.

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(2016 Advent in the Tunnel - M. Vrdoljak)

Along with the national airline Croatia Airlines, it is important to point out that the value of Advent in Zagreb was recognized by Turkish Airlines, which became the official carrier in 2015 during Advent in Zagreb. It provided up to 20 percent discount on tickets on its flights and the same discount was provided in 2016 and 2017. At the same time Turkish Airlines sent information about Advent to all its branches in the world via an internal newsletter and published video and info about Advent through its social networks. Encouraged by the successful cooperation with Turkish Airlines, the cooperation continued during Advent 2018 and 2019. The use of a strong communication network of Turkish Airlines has significantly raised the profile of Advent in Zagreb, as well as Zagreb as a tourist destination.

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(2016 Pop-Up Winter Garden - M. Vrdoljak) 

The Advent in Zagreb project has been jointly financed by the Zagreb Tourist Board and event organizers. The Zagreb Tourist Board has borne all expenses for international promotion, more specifically by maintaining media promotion in nearby countries on the Internet (Google AdWords, banners, advertorials, Facebook), by renting advertising spaces (depending on the campaign, these may include billboards, citylights and/or advertising space in public transportation), and by introducing other individual activities to present the project at presentations, fairs and other promotional events.

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(2016 Zagreb Christmas Fairytale - M. Vrdoljak)

The Zagreb Tourist Board has also maintained promotional media campaigns in Croatia and important international markets. Advent in Zagreb has been promoted in the printed media such as the Lufthansa Inflight magazine, KLM Inflight magazine, Hi Europe (Chinese market), Die Welt Reisemagazin; on local TV channels including Z1, Jabuka TV, Net, Mreža TV; on national TV channels including HRT (Dnevnik, Dobro jutro, Panorama etc.), NOVA TV (Dnevnik live news, reporter stories), RTL (Vijesti news and other shows); on international TV channels including MTV Adria (Advent Zagrebavanje) and other media such as Radio Sljeme, as well as websites in Italy, Austria, Germany, Great Britain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and other countries, in addition to promotional activities on Zagreb Tourist Board websites, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, in promotional videos and featured stories on YouTube, etc.

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(2017 St. Mark's Church - J. Duval)

In addition to the costs of promotion, Zagreb Tourist Board has covered some of the expenses of organizing Advent events by supporting the organizers of major events. Other expenses for any individual event have been borne by the event organizer. The financial gain based on the increasing number of tourist arrivals and overnight stays, as well as visitor consumption, has been an important part of the overall economy of the city.

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(2017 Advent in Zagreb - J. Duval) 

Advent in Zagreb (the event and films promoting the event) has won many awards. For three consecutive years, Zagreb was voted the Best Christmas Market in Europe, in 2016, 2017 and 2018. A full list of awards is available at

http://www.infozagreb.hr/nagrade-i-priznanja-tzgz&lang=hr

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(2017 Advent in Zagreb - J. Duval)

STATISTICS

Success has been reflected in the continuous growth of December arrivals and overnight stays:

  • In December 2010, the number of arrivals and overnight stays increased to 34,824 arrivals and 59,023 overnights, a 6 percent growth in arrivals and 5 percent growth in overnight stays compared to December 2009;

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(2017 - J. Duval

  • In December 2011, the number of both arrivals and overnight stays increased to 37,377 arrivals and 69,582 overnights, representing a 7 percent growth in arrivals and 18 percent growth in overnight stays compared to December 2010;

Advent_u_Zagrebu_2017_-_M._Gašparović.jpg

(2017 - J. Duval)

  • In December 2012, 38,819 tourists visited the Croatian capital city and stayed 71,162 nights, a 4 percent growth in arrivals and 2 percent growth in overnight stays compared to December 2011;

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(2017 - M. Gasparovic)

  • In December 2013, Zagreb had 46,284 visitors and 83,323 overnight stays. Compared to December 2012, the statistics indicate a growth of 17 percent with respect to arrivals and 17 percent growth in overnight stays;

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(2017 - M. Gaparovic)

  • In December 2014, Zagreb had 56,142 visitors and 101,473 overnight stays. Compared to December 2013, the statistics show a significant growth of 21 percent in both arrivals and overnight stays;

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(2017 Advent in Zrinjevac - J. Duval)

  • In December 2015, Zagreb had 70,750 visitors who stayed 126,968 nights. Compared to December 2014, the statistics indicate a large 26 percent growth in the number of arrivals and 24 percent growth in overnight stays;

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(2018 - J. Duval)

  • In December 2016, 94,573 people visited Zagreb and stayed 169,095 nights. The numbers indicate a growth of as many as 34 percent more arrivals and 37 percent more overnight stays than during December 2015;

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(2018 Advent in the Tunnel - J. Duval)

 

  • In December 2017, Zagreb had 111,290 visitors and 201,453 overnight stays. Compared to December 2016, the statistics show a growth of 17 more arrivals and 18 percent more overnight stays;

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(2018 - Advent Churches - J. Duval)

  • In December 2018, Zagreb had 122,489 visitors who stayed 232,057 nights. Compared to December 2017, the statistics indicate a 10 percent growth in arrivals and 15 percent growth in overnight stays;

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(2018 - Boska and Kreso)

  • In December 2019, 134,078 people visited Zagreb, staying 251,645 nights. Compared to December 2018, the statistics indicate a 9 percent growth in arrivals and a 9 percent growth in overnight stays.

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(2018 Ice Park - D. Miloslavic)

AVERAGE DAILY CONSUMPTION

http://www.infozagreb.hr/documents/b2b/Potrosnja_Advent_SAZETAK_20_03_2017_.pdf

Web site with event information at www.adventzagreb.hr

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(2019 - J. Duval)

ADVENT DURING THE 2020 PANDEMIC

In 2020, the overall conditions have maximally changed the possibilities and needs for holding projects, events and happenings. Due to the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the earthquakes and the significant decline in tourist arrivals and overnight stays, the fulfilment of the goals of encouraging the development of existing and creating new projects that increase the number of arrivals and overnight stays in the destination, became questionable.

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(2019 Zrinjevac - J. Duval)

It was not possible to plan such a situation, so the Zagreb Tourist Board had to adjust the implementation of activities in accordance with the given circumstances, as well as the interests of visitors to Zagreb. The focus was on creative and ambient outdoor events that did not encourage large gatherings, as well as cultural and other events, which could be performed in controlled conditions. Zagreb continued to maintain its charm and openness to all visitors, but above all it was important that the local population felt comfortable and safe.

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(2019 Advent in the Tunnel - J. Duval)

According to the above, Advent Zagreb was held in accordance with the recommendations and decisions of the competent authorities, in a slightly different atmosphere in a hybrid and virtual form. Occasional programs have been prepared to preserve the spirit of the best Christmas fair in Europe. Special emphasis was placed on cultural events with a number of different music festivals that we broadcasted through our online channels, and some Zagreb museums got involved with their own Advent programs.

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(2019 Ice Park - J. Duval)

Every year, Advent is enriched with novelties, and in 2020 the Light of Advent (Svjetlost Adventa) project was launched, where cooperation was established with ten institutions in the Upper Town by decorating their windows in the holiday spirit. We wanted to bring positive emotions, create a sense of community and, ultimately, encourage our fellow citizens to get involved and contribute to Advent. ZTB designed the special campaign and during its duration, from December 6, 2020 to January 6, 2021, invited its fellow citizens, but also all those who love Zagreb, to get involved and become part of the Zagreb Christmas fairy tale.

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(2019 - Boska and Kreso)

Thus, all those interested could send their Advent photos via the social network Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/visitzagreb, using the hashtags #SvjetlostAdventa and #AdventLights. More than 300 photos were received during the month of the interactive campaign. After its completion, a special #ZagrebLoop was created and a video containing Advent photos from all parts of Zagreb and Croatia.The reach of more than 230,000 people and 240,000 impressions are the results of a campaign through which Zagreb shared its Advent magic with all those who carry it in their hearts. #ZagrebLoop can be viewed on the official Advent website of the Tourist Board.

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(2019 Artomat - Boska and Kreso)

We especially emphasize our cooperation with the Croatian startup company Equinox Vision, with which we realized the interactive AR project Virtual Christmas Windows. These are motifs of Zagreb's Advent windows that have been turned into three-dimensional animations, and which everyone could see with smartphones via the free Equinox XR application, take photos and share on social networks.

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(2020 Light of Advent - S. Carek)

With the beginning of Advent, we set up animated windows at 20 locations in Zagreb and in Osijek, Pula, Rijeka and Split, and then we set them up in 12 more Croatian cities: Dubrovnik, Gospić, Karlovac, Knin, Koprivnica, Krapina, Rovinj, Šibenik, Slavonski Brod, Varaždin, Vukovar, Zadar. For all those who were unable to travel due to the overall situation, Advent Zagreb crossed the borders of Croatia, bringing at least part of the holiday atmosphere to Belgrade, Ljubljana, Maribor, Mostar, Munich, Novi Sad and Sarajevo.

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(2020 - S. Kastelan)

The third novelty was the Zagreb Nativity Scene project, more precisely the online exhibition of photographs of church Christmas nativity scenes taken from 2007 to 2020. In addition to the above, the Tourist Board and its partners have arranged three locations in Lower Town and four in Upper Town.

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(2020 - Boska and Kreso)

Zagreb Tourist Board CEO Marina Bienenfeld reflected on what has become one of Croatian tourism's great success stories. 

Advent Zagreb offers the best of what the city has in tourism, gastro industry and culture. Looking back, we can now proudly say that Zagreb stands firmly alongside other destinations with a diverse Advent offer and that it truly celebrates the richness of tourist, cultural, gastronomic and holiday facilities. Zagreb Advent is full of emotions, various contents and cultural events and it radiates real holiday warmth. Also, to be selected for the best Christmas market in Europe for three consecutive years, is no small matter. That’s just what Advent Zagreb has accomplished with a well-designed program, and an excellent implementation of the same. Every year, regardless of the conditions, we strive to enrich our Advent, raising it from year to year to a new level and, what’s most important – we have the support from Zagreb’s citizens. I would say that this is the key to the success of this most important event in Zagreb and throughout Croatia and I’m sure Advent Zagreb will continue to live for many, many more years to come.

Learn more about the Croatian capital in the Total Croatia Zagreb in a Page guide.

You can follow the latest from Zagreb in the dedicated TCN section

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(2020 - S. Carek)

Saturday, 11 December 2021

Esplanade Hotel's First Street Food Menu a Delicious Hit at Fuliranje 2021

December 11, 2021 – Head chef Ana Grgić is delighting crowds - the Esplanade Hotel's first street food menu is a knockout success. The popular Fuliranje section of Zagreb Advent is the capital's culinary star in 2021. Find it at its new home on the impressive Esplanade terrace.

Sandro5.jpg© Sandro Sklepić

That familiar feel of Advent in Zagreb has returned. The strong scents of spiced, cooked wine and sausages on the grill. Music that makes you want to hang around and mingle. By day and by night, city residents and visitors alike are drawn to this terrace.

Fuliranje.jpg© Esplanade Hotel

After dark, the scene is spectacular, with seasonal lights adding to the atmosphere. But, most impressive of all is the backdrop of the Esplanade Hotel. It is their terrace that is hosting the popular Fuliranje section of Zagreb Advent in 2021. And it is the Esplanade's head chef, Ana Grgić, who has delivered one of this Christmas's best culinary highlights.

AnawithfoodbySandro.jpgChef Ana Grgić presents the Esplanade Hotel's first street food menu © Sandro Sklepić

”The idea was to make it totally different to what we already have inside the hotel on our menus,” says Ana when she sits down with Total Croatia News to introduce the Esplanade Hotel's first street food menu. “The food needs to be a little more simple, adapted to this kind of event. But, at the same time, we know that many people come to Fuliranje who are not necessarily so well acquainted with the Esplanade Hotel. So, the menu also needed to represent the hotel, its standards and offer an introduction.”

Crip2.jpgPart of the Esplanade Hotel's first street food menu © Marc Rowlands

”I know that the usual kind of street food is burgers, wraps and sausage sandwiches. But, I wanted to show that this kind of food can also be street food. So far, it's been incredibly popular. In particular, the croquettes and the beef cheeks.”

Esplanade Hotel's First Street Food Menu

crip3.jpgSlow-cooked beef cheeks, a big hit of the Esplanade Hotel's first street food menu © Marc Rowlands

”The beef cheeks are first marinated for 12 hours in red wine and vegetables. Afterwards, they are removed and seared on each side, then cooked slowly inside the replenished marinade for 5 hours. In the first 5 or 6 days since we opened, we already went through 150 kilos of beef cheeks. I bought everything they have at Dolac (Zagreb central market). Now, we have to look a bit further for what we need.”

Esplanade_Štrukli.jpgThe famous strukli of the Esplanade (this is the restaurant presentation - it's served more casually out on the terrace) © Esplanade Hotel

”We sold maybe 1000 strukli up until now. After just 3 days we'd sold 450 portions of our croquettes. There are 8 croquettes in each portion. So, that's quite a lot. Inside there is Dalmatian prosciutto and Pag island cheese. They take quite a long time to prepare at this standard. Maybe next time I should just do burgers!”

crip.jpgIf you only eat one thing at Fuliranje 2021, you simply must try the croquettes (left) from the Esplanade Hotel's first street food menu © Marc Rowlands

”We have a traditional Quiche Lorraine made with very good quality Croatian bacon (slanina). The bakalar (salt cod) is always very popular. It's a seasonal favourite here at Christmastime. On the Fuliranje terrace, we have a traditional white one and also a red one made with tomatoes. We serve it with our own focaccia, made with fresh herbs and Croatian olive oil. But, we have a special offer of bakalar in Le Bistro too – a bakalar pâté, a ravioli with bakalar, sun-dried tomatoes, broad bean and a little chilli and also a risotto.”

Chef Ana Grgić at the Esplanade Hotel Zagreb

Ana.jpgAna Grgić © Esplanade Hotel

2022 marks a milestone in the career of chef Ana Grgić. In spring, she will celebrate 10 years as Executive Chef at the Esplanade Hotel Zagreb. Today, Ana is well known to food fans all over Croatia, having appeared as a celebrated authority on Croatian TV's version of Masterchef. But, her remarkable story has rarely been written in English.

Ana was born in Brčko, which is today within Bosnia and Hercegovina. But, when war broke out, both Ana and her sister were quickly evacuated. After six months in Austria, they were returned to Croatia. The girls ended up staying with a relative in Velika Gorica, where Ana still lives today.

While waiting for their mother to join them in Croatia, Ana and her sister taught themselves how to cook. By the time Ana left school at 16, she had decided that cooking was what she wanted to do. However, with no experience, she struggled to find an opportunity. Eventually, she persuaded the head chef at the Esplanade Hotel to allow her to volunteer in their kitchens.

“I decided it was better to volunteer at a top hotel than to sit at home doing nothing,” says Ana. “After six months, they offered me a job.”

GOJ_1341.jpg© Esplanade Hotel

In the time she has been at the Esplanade Hotel, Ana Grgić has worked her way up every step of the ladder. She now holds the title of Executive Chef (Head Chef) for the entire culinary operations at the Esplanade. In detail, she personally designs menus for the hotel bar, hotel banquets for events like gala dinners and weddings, their considerable outside catering operation and for room service. Additionally, she designs the menus for each of the hotel's two restaurants.

IMG_6862fdsertgyhujk.jpg© Esplanade Hotel

Le Bistro offers traditional Croatian food and ingredients, with an emphasis on French cooking techniques and a distinctly seasonal menu. Zinfandel's restaurant is one of the best fine dining experiences in Croatia, with a menu that changes four times a year reflecting the different seasons.

During her career at the Esplanade, Ana has prepared meals for politicians such as US President Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Italian President Napolitano, Austrian President Fischer, celebrities like actor Tim Roth, sportsmen Pep Guardiola, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo and entertainers like Shakira, Sade, Sting, José Carreras, Bob Geldof and Robbie Williams.

Fuliranje at the Esplanade Hotel for Zagreb Advent 2021

Sandro2.jpg© Sandro Sklepić

For enthusiasts of Zagreb Advent, local media reviews of the 2021 manifestation have been painful to read. The event has received an absolute mauling in the press. With the epidemiological situation remaining difficult to predict, on paper it made sense to plan and offer a reduced Advent. But, in a city used to being celebrated as Europe's Best Christmas Market, what's been delivered has seemingly left many disappointed. While an impressive visual theatre can be found in Upper Town and Zrinjevac, critics claim few want to hang around. And they've bemoaned an absence of quality food options.

crip6.jpgFuliranje 2021, at night © Marc Rowlands

These criticisms have been answered in the last week with the opening of Fuliranje at the Esplanade. One of the best-established sections of Zagreb Advent, in previous years Fuliranje was on Strossmayer Square. It could always be counted on for a good atmosphere, decent music and delicious food. This latest incarnation at the Esplanade Hotel is no exception.

Sandro3.jpgFrom the hotel. The grandiose terrace that holds Fuliranje is traditionally known as the Oleander Terrace. It overlooks the park and fountain in Ante Starčević square, part of a U-shaped stretch of Zagreb city centre parks known as Lenuzzi’s Horseshoe © Sandro Sklepić

In addition to the Esplanade Hotel's first street food menu, you'll find many tempting choices waiting to tantalize your tastebuds. Among them, chef Mate Janković offers seasonal handheld favourites at Sausage Institut. Ivan Pažanin's Chef’s Burgers cover the other classic choice. Good Kut is a collaboration between two Zagreb institutions – Good Food and Kut and, like newcomer Beg’s Plant Based Butchery and Deli, they offer healthy options with vivid flavours. But there are many others too.

Fuliranje at the Esplanade Hotel is open every day from 11am to 11pm until 1st January 2022.

Sandro4.jpgFuliranje at the Esplanade Hotel © Sandro Sklepić

You can find out more about what's happening there day-by-day here. For more coverage of Zagreb Advent be sure to see Total Croatia News pages here.

Saturday, 27 November 2021

Advent in Zagreb Begins, Mayor Lights Candle of Hope

ZAGREB, 27 Nov, 2021 - Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević on Saturday lit the first Advent candle on the Advent wreath around Manduševac Fountain in the city's main square, symbolically marking the beginning of the Advent in Zagreb event, which lasts until 7 January.

Tomašević said he was glad to light the first candle, the candle of hope, claiming that people needed hope now, especially for the pandemic to end and for the city to be reconstructed after last year's earthquake.

Speaking to the press, he said it was difficult to organise this year's Advent in Zagreb due to the pandemic, but added that in cooperation with the Zagreb Tourist Board and other partners, "we came up with a rich programme with over 120 concerts at some 15 locations."

He said the eventual realisation would depend on the pandemic and that all concerts and programmes would be held in compliance with COVID rules. He added that COVID certificates would not be required for outdoor programmes.

"We are confident that despite these difficult circumstances, Advent will be good and that people will be satisfied, that they will socialise and finally feel some joy amidst all these hardships and problems," the mayor said.

Zagreb Tourist Board director Martina Bienenfeld said that this year "the pandemic dictates all Advent events as well as all others around the New Year," adding that if COVID rules were to be tightened, organisers would adapt their programmes.

She said there were many foreign tourists in the city already and that more had announced their arrival. She recalled that The New York Times recently ran a "beautiful" piece on Zagreb, saying it was great for promotion.

The motives of this year's Advent in Zagreb are traditional Croatian toys as well as music, culture and light.

There are a little under 70 booths at this year's event, as against 220 in 2019, selling food, drinks and souvenirs as well as 50 specially decorated terraces of hospitality establishments offering special food and drinks.

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Friday, 11 December 2020

Virtual Christmas Windows: How AR is Augmenting Advent in Zagreb Reality

December 11, 2020 - The pandemic has necessitated a fresh approach for Advent in Zagreb. Meet Virtual Christmas Windows, a new AR approach to the festive season. 

The uncertainty caused by coronavirus has entered every aspect of our lives this year, nowhere more so than event planning.  

Big events necessarily need to be planned in advance, and with the uncertainty of a fresh outbreak, the challenges of adapting to late changes are considerable. Nowhere has this been more true than the award-winning Advent in Zagreb, which has become one of the defining tourism spectacles of the Croatian capital in a short space of time, after Zagreb was voted Best Christmas Market in Europe three years in a row. The city in December was transformed from a relatively quiet winter metropolis to a beacon of light and festive cheers, attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists and providing a late-season boost for the Croatian tourism industry. 

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The tourism chiefs decided that Advent in Zagreb 2020 would go ahead, albeit in a very different format to previous years. With a strong emphasis on art and culture, a rich programme of concerts can be enjoyed virtually, and efforts were made to give the city its festive feel without the crowds gathering for their traditional mulled wine and sausages in the wooden stalls dotted all over the city. 

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One of the most innovative ways of achieving this is the Zagreb Virtual Christmas Windows project, the first time that Augmented Reality (AR) has been used in such a way at Advent in Zagreb.  For many people, this will be their first experience with Augmented Reality, allowing them to see and interact with virtual, 3D objects, inspiring and heartwarming art, all of which can be accessed with your smartphone.

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The project has been developed in partnership with AR specialists Equinox XR, which is run by Ivan Voras, co-founder of the popular Surove Strasti podcast. The artwork was inspired by the holiday season, by the need for people to stay safe indoors, and by the stylised look of some of the old town buildings. Equinox received the 2D artwork envisioned by Zoran Djukic and drawn by Mateja Kovac, which was then transformed to a 3D experience by 3D designer, Igor Puskaric. The artwork depicts windows in wintertime, with people staying safe in their homes. Viewers can peek into the windows and see a slice of life, accompanied by appropriate sounds and music specific to each window.

It is a very atmospheric and immersive experience, an art form which enriches a location with visual and auditory cues and pulls the viewer into a certain mood, while being present in familiar places.

The AR artwork can be found in 20 locations all over Zagreb, in parks and squares. 

In order to access the content, simply download the Equinox XR application, which is available on Google Play here, and in the iStore here. Once you have opened the app, go to 'Advent Zagreb' and get started! The app will then display information on what is available in the immediate vicinity. Simply click on the icon which appears on your mobile phone screen, and you will be guided to the exact place where the exhibition is located. By rotating your mobile phone, as if you are to take a photo, you can go through the exhibition and interactively participate in it - take photos or share content on social media. You can get a teaser in the video below.

If you are unable to make it to Zagreb this Advent, you could still have the opportunity to experience Virtual Christmas Windows in your home town. There are plans to expand this service to locations around Zagreb, other cities in Croatia, and even internationally. More information as we get it, but as you can see from the map above, Pula, Split, Rijeka and Osijek have also been included. 

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A nice festive touch in these socially distanced times, and a great example of how technology and tradition can adapt to the unique challenges of 2020. 

To learn more about the Advent in Zagreb 2020 programme, visit the official website

For the latest news from Zagreb, visit the dedicated TCN section

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And some images from Split...

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Friday, 27 November 2020

Huge Zagreb Christmas Tree Arrives in Time for Advent

November 27, 2020 – A towering Zagreb Christmas tree has been placed on Trg bana Josipa Jelačića in the heart of the Croatian capital. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

A towering Zagreb Christmas tree has been placed on Trg bana Josipa Jelačića. It arrives in time for the start of the Advent season, which begins officially this weekend.

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Standing between 15 metres and 20 metres in height, the Zagreb Christmas tree is so impressive it might just rival the famous statue of Josip Jelačić himself as the most eyecatching monument on the square. By the time its lights are added, we certainly wouldn't put money on Josip for the title.

A giant Christmas tree is a traditional December sight on this main square at the heart of the Croatian capital. Although it's not the only one. There are usually around 40 Christmas trees placed in public parks and squares around the city, Zagreb doesn't do Christmas half-heartedly.

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Advent celebrations in the city usually commence with the lighting of a candle by the Manduševac water feature on Trg bana Josipa Jelačića. The appearance of this first flame is the marker for the city's Christmas lights to be turned on, including those of the Zagreb Christmas tree.

We can't be sure if the Zagreb Christmas tree that now stands on Trg bana Josipa Jelačića is exactly the same one, but it does look remarkably like a giant pine tree moved from private property on Gradišćanska ulica a couple of days ago. If it is that pine, then one local resident reckons the Zagreb Christmas tree is over 35 years old. It towered above the dwelling in whose grounds it lay. Local residents were sad to see it go. But, during a year in which Zagreb has experienced its strongest earthquake in 100 years, plus hundreds of aftershocks, it's perhaps understandable why the landowners were willing to let this giant go. Two younger pine trees remain on the plot.

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This article's final two photos were taken by © Zoran Stajčić

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Advent in Zagreb 2020: a Comprehensive Overview

November 26, 2020 - Advent in Zagreb 2020 is scheduled to kick off on Saturday. A comprehensive look at a largely online event with a festive Croatian background. 

As the craziest year in the history of tourism enters its final weeks, there is one major event in the Croatian calendar to go - Advent. 

Advent tourism in Croatia is a relatively new thing. Until relatively recently, apart from a few stalls in some cities, it was not really celebrated as a tourism spectacle. That all changed several years ago, when Zagreb decided to expand its Advent offer from a small event on the main square to a more comprehensive offer all over the city. 

The results were spectacular. Rather than hibernating for the winter months, Zagreb locals delighted in the lively spirit of Advent in Zagreb, welcoming hundreds of thousands of tourists from all over Europe and beyond. So successful was the initiative that Zagreb was voted best Christmas market in Europe three years in a row. The Advent promotion has helped the Croatian capital emerge from the shadows of more famous capital city neighbours such as Vienna, Prague and Budapest, to become a desirable destination in its own right. Lonely Planet even named Zagreb the best destination in Europe in 2017. 

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So what of Advent in Zagreb 2020? Would it go ahead?

With such an unpredictable situation regarding the pandemic, any decision to proceed would have to include flexibility, and it is clear that Advent in Zagreb 2020 would look a LOT different to previous years.

And so it will. Advent in Zagreb 2020 will go ahead from Saturday until New Year's Day, but if you are expecting to huddle around mulled wine watching the ice skating or sampling local sausages from the wooden stalls usually dotted around the centre, you will be disappointed. 

Instead, the authorities have decided on a strategy which brings out the beauty of festive Zagreb, while using technology to promote the art and cultural treasures of the festive season, while providing enticing content to allow visitors to enjoy the city. With a close eye on the epidemiological situation, this year's event has several novelties and is expected to attract a considerable participation all over the globe through its online streaming. By preserving the magic of the city at this special time of year, the memories of Advent in Zagreb will be fresh, with the sincere hope that it will be close to business as usual for Advent in Zagreb 2021. 

The airlines seem to expect Advent visitors. As TCN has reported in recent days, several airlines have announced a resumption or increase in flights to Zagreb during the festive period, with Turkish Airlines alone selling 5,700 seats. Qatar and Austrian have also announced plans, making the Croatian capital quite accessible for those who want to visit. 

So how will Advent in Zagreb 2020 look like, and what is there to look forward to?

"Every year we try to enrich our Advent with novelties and we have decided that this year, which is extraordinary by all parameters, will not be an exception," explained Zagreb Tourist Board Director, Martina Bienenfeld. "So we prepared the Light of Advent project where we, with 10 institutions in the Upper Town, will decorate their windows in the holiday spirit, and we invite tenants and everyone else to become part of this initiative. Namely, with this project we want to begin a warm story, bring positive emotions, create a sense of community and, ultimately, encourage our fellow citizens to get involved and thus give their contribution to Advent.

"Another novelty is the Zagreb Nativity Scene, more precisely the online exhibition of photographs of Christmas nativity scenes taken from 2007 to 2020, and there is also an interactive augmented reality exhibition Virtual Christmas Windows. This exhibition will bring a touch of Christmas atmosphere using animated motifs of this year's Advent in Zagreb, and will be set in 20 locations in the city in parks, squares, and large open spaces."

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Music will be a core theme of Advent in Zagreb 2020, with no less than 9 separate music programmes and 95 concerts in all. These will take place in concert halls and outdoors, with the appropriate measures adhered to, as well as streamed online. The 9 programmes offer a diverse cultural choice - Evenings with Brahms; The Festival of Advent and Christmas Songs; Advent Classic Fest; Advent concerts of Zagreb Soloists; Advent concerts of the Zagreb Chamber Orchestra; Zagreb Harp Festival; Advent under the Lantern; Concert from the Christmas Balconies; and Advent Postcards from Zagreb. You can check out the full musical programme here

There will also be plenty of cultural attractions, with something for all the family. These include the Ilica Project: Q'ART Community Festival, bringing the best from local craftsmen, exhibitors, music and other programmes.  The 10th exhibition of the Association of Friends of Croatian Nativity Scene at the Ethnographic Museum presents 42 nativity scenes from Zagreb and all over Croatia. 

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Zagreb is a city of museums, and Advent at the Museum will see some special prices and offers from some of its best-known museums. Santa Claus will be putting in appearances at the Museum of Broken Relationships, the Museum of Illusions and the Zagreb Chocolate Museum. Perhaps the most intriguing museum travel experience is to be had at the recently-opened Museum of Hangovers, where one can take an alcoholic tour of Advent drinks around the world, while those yearning for memories of a pre-pandemic world should check out the Zagreb 80s Museum, which will be offering both a holiday atmosphere akin to that bygone era, including mulled wine prepared to a recipe of the time.  If you manage to visit all five museums (all of which are at a discounted price), you will go into a prize draw. 

The Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall will be holding a number of concerts, while the Theatre Mala Scena will be providing entertainment from the stage, pending the epidemiological situation. 

There is also lots to enjoy for the little ones, One of the most intriguing is called Fairytale to Go: Little Red Riding Hood, Wolf and Grandma, which will take place weekly in the forest close to Ribnjak Park. The classic fairytale is told through headphones as participants walk through the woods, hearing the perspectives of each character in the story.  But this is a very active enactment of the famous fairytale, and it comes with karate practice with the wolf, flower painting with Little Red Riding Hood, and helping Grandma tell the story of the long-nosed princess and the dragon. And when the kids are finished with that, head to the Mini Train Museum and the Backo Mini Express, the fifth-largest model railway in Europe. More details on all these programmes here.  

Advent in the Croatian capital has had a very active element to it for a number of years now - the Zagreb Advent Run. This year's race will necessarily be different due to the situation, but that does not mean any less fun. Indeed, this year's race will be run over three days, with participants able to choose the route they want, finishing at the Westin Hotel, dressed as usual in the seasonal costumes of Santa,  fairies, elves and other Xmas superstars. Run as much as you feel - more details here

Due to the current situation, the usual crowds will be absent, which will make Advent in Zagreb 2020 all the more special. The city will be festively decorated, adding a little more romance to a quiet stroll through its parks and squares. A great new addition to this year's event is the introduction of AR, with some 20 squares and parks brought to life with engaging content using augmented reality via a specialist app. Learn more about the Virtual Christmas Windows app from Equinox XR.

A responsible approach to the current situation means that the traditional little wooden stalls serving mulled wine and culinary specialities will not be on show this year, and the gastronomic choices in general are very dependent on the latest COVID-19 situation. Currently, it has been announced that bars and restaurants will be closed until December 21 - TCN will bring you the latest changes.   

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Zagreb's hotels are open and waiting for your visit. Several have prepared seasonally-themed offers, details of which you can find here.

Advent in Zagreb 2020 will be unlike any other before or after. Not everything will go according to plan for sure, but one thing is certain - the city will once again look magical with its unique atmosphere. Come and enjoy it, either online on in person, before normal Advent service is restored next year. 

For the full Advent in Zagreb 2020 programme and further information, visit the official website.

For the latest news on the coronavirus situation, follow the dedicated section

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Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Instead of a Market, Here's the First Book About Advent in Zagreb

November 10, 2020 – Hrvoje Dečak, author of the first book about Advent in Zagreb, believes it will at least slightly replace the "real" Advent this winter, and that it will be a valuable Zagreb souvenir in the future as well.

A walk through the decorated center of Zagreb, drinking mulled wine at the small houses, ice-skating on the beautiful ice rink on King Tomislav Square are just some of the memories that bind us to the Zagreb Christmas Fair Advent in Zagreb, which this year, unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, we will not be able to relive.

Well, not on the Zagreb streets, but inside the cover of the eponymous book “Advent in Zagreb”. At the end of November, right at the time when the "real" Advent was supposed to begin, the first book about the most important Zagreb manifestation will be published.

 

Available in English as well

It is the work of long-time Croatian journalist Hrvoje Dečak, who was amazed by the Zagreb Advent and its huge popularity from year to year and decided to preserve a trace of it.

"My admiration for the creativity of the people who create the Zagreb Advent – and I think Croatians are extremely creative people – prompted me to inquire if there is a book about it. When I was convinced that there isn't one, I suggested to the director and the editor of the Publishing house 'Meridijani' where I work, prof. Petra Somek, to make a book about Advent," explains Dečak, noting that the book, above all, brings 120 gorgeous photos of last year's Advent variegation, signed by the prominent Croatian photographer Romeo Ibrišević.

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Zrinjevac Park during the last year's Advent in Zagreb / Romeo Ibrišević

"In the text of the book, we summarized what Advent is, where Croatia and Zagreb are, when Advent variegation began to appear on the streets of Zagreb, and we briefly described the components of Advent in Zagreb as it was until the last winter: locations in the city, food, drinks, souvenirs, cultural and other events. There is a line about Zagreb and the people of Zagreb as well," describes Dečak.

They immediately decided to make the book bilingual – in Croatian and English, because Zagreb has been especially popular among tourists from all over the world in recent years, as evidenced by the three consecutive titles of the Best Christmas Fair in Europe in 2016,  2017, and 2018 awarded by the European Best Destinations organization.

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Advent in Zagreb 2019 / Romeo Ibrišević

'Books can preserve the content'

However, at the time they started writing it, the authors could not have guessed that the world would be hit by a pandemic and that there would be no favorite Zagreb Christmas fair, except in a symbolic form. This makes this book special because this year it will at least partially replace Advent in Zagreb.

Dečak notes that "Advent in Zagreb", in addition to beautiful photographs, brings three interesting additions. The first of them briefly describes Croatian Christmas customs. The second brings interesting facts about Zagreb, such as the shortest funicular in the world, the Linen Book of Zagreb (the longest Etruscan inscription in the world that wrapped the mummy in the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb), and the world-famous Professor Balthazar. The third edition describes the short history of Zagreb and Croatia, where the authors chronologically described the most important events in Zagreb, but also in the Croatian history so that tourists and other foreigners can learn something about us.

"We tried to say very succinctly, but clearly, the main thing about the key events and people of the 20th century, because in the world, there are still a lot of distorted views of Croatia, its people, and recent history," said Dečak.

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Rich offer of Croatian traditional products on the stands of Advent in Zagreb 2019 / Romeo Ibrišević

The book can be ordered in the editorial office of the publishing house "Meridijani", and it is possible to get a 20 percent discount until November 27. After that, the book will be available on the premises of "Meridijani" in Samobor (Obrtnička 26), on their webshop, and in bookstores.

"Media articles are scattered, but in a book, something can still be conjoint and permanently preserved, and at the same time easily accessible. Admittedly, some predict that books will die out, but I don't believe in that," says Dečak confidently.

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The book "Advent in Zagreb" / Source: Meridijani

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Wednesday, 4 November 2020

No Traditional Format of Advent in Zagreb Event this December

ZAGREB, Nov 4, 2020 - During the Advent season, Zagreb will be decorated and illuminated for Christmas and the New Year, however, there will be no traditional format of the Advent in Zagreb event due to the epidemiological circumstances.

Mayor Milan Bandic said on Wednesday that some cultural events would be scheduled, Advent and Christmas decorations would be set up and several stands would also be installed for local service businesses in the city center.

However, there would be no traditional format of the Advent in Zagreb, he told local radio.

The epidemic of coronavirus also forced the city authorities to cancel the Interliber book fair. The fair will be organized online, and the mayor promised financial support to the publishers and bookshops.

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Tuesday, 29 September 2020

When Starts Christmas In Croatia? Decorations Go Up Early Autumn

September 29, 2020 – One surprised shopper couldn't help but laugh and photograph as telltale signs of Christmas in Croatia appeared this week over her local supermarket

As long had been suspected by city residents, it has been officially announced that Zagreb's world-famous Advent celebrations will this year go ahead. Replanned under epidemiological guidelines, kućice (small vending houses), stages and spectacular lights will once again bring the sights, scents, sounds, tastes and cheer of the festive season to the capital this December.

388a6e8be38dfd8ceff1acc856da3b20.jpgAdvent in Zagreb © Julien Duval

In the era of Coronavirus, you might be able to ask people to be a bit quieter on their nights out, but there is absolutely no chance you can hold back Christmas in Croatia.

With Zagreb Advent now lasting for over one month - from the last day of November to the end of January's first week - the festive season is already stretched quite far, perhaps reflecting just how much residents enjoy Christmas in Croatia. But, this year, the marking of Yuletide has started earlier than ever before.

The setting of the late summer sun seems to have been the signal for one supermarket to begin bringing in the Christmas cheer. One surprised shopper couldn't help but laugh and photograph yesterday when she saw that Christmas decorations had already appeared over her local supermarket in Dubrava, east Zagreb. It is only the first week of autumn.

pictureday.jpgIf you are invited into someone's home over Christmas in Croatia, you simply must go - the atmosphere and food are usually fantastic © Pictureday

Christmas in Croatia is an excellent time to visit. Zagreb's Advent has consistently been voted the best of its kind across Europe. The season of goodwill in the country is one where gifts are exchanged, homes visited, feasts shared and superb culture enjoyed. As a Catholic nation with a strong sense of family, it is also a time where religion is observed and when you get to see all of your relatives. Many visitors to Christmas in Croatia are lucky enough to be invited into the home while they are here, and such an opportunity should not be turned down. Being among family members and friends, eating traditional and homecooked Croatian food is an unforgettable Christmas experience. But, there are some rules.

vargazs.jpgReligious tradition is an integral part of Christmas in Croatia. In almost every home, no meat, only fish, is eaten on Christmas Eve © Vargazs

In the UK, it's very common to greet friends across many days of December with “Merry Christmas”. You don't do that in Croatia. If you do, you'll be met with a look that lies anywhere between confusion and concern for your mental health. The greeting of “Merry Christmas” is strictly reserved for Christmas Day itself.

The root of this adherence to tradition is doubtless the acknowledgment that Christmas in Croatia is, above all, a religious festival. Croatians are often more attuned than most to commercialism creeping into what remains a deeply-observed marking of Jesus's birth. Yet, somehow, this most sacred of Catholic holidays manages to comfortably sit, side by side with seasonal celebrations that extend further each year. Although, the first week of autumn as the start of Christmas in Croatia must be the earliest one yet.

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Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Capital Confirms: Advent in Zagreb Will be Held this Winter!

September 29, 2020 - Index.hr has learned from the City of Zagreb on Tuesday that Advent in Zagreb will be held this winter! A look at what the City said about this year's plans.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, numerous events around the world have been postponed, and it remains to be seen what the situation will be around the world, Europe and Croatia during the winter.

However, one event is crucially important for the tourism of Croatia and the City of Zagreb - and that is Advent in Zagreb. Recall, Advent in Zagreb has previously been held from the end of November or the beginning of December until the beginning of January.

Given the current circumstances with the coronavirus pandemic, many have wondered whether the award-winning event will take place this year at all, and if so, whether there will be any special measures taken. Therefore, Index.hr sent an inquiry to the City of Zagreb and the Zagreb Tourist Board, which otherwise organized this event, to find out if plans are in preparation. 

 

It has been confirmed to Index.hr that Advent in Zagreb will go on.

"We would like to inform you that the Advent event in Zagreb is planned to be held this year as well," they replied.

Index.hr also asked about special measures, to which they replied that they could not give any information on the matter at the moment.

"We are not able to inform you about the specific details at the moment, but the epidemiological situation and the recommendations of the competent institutions will certainly be taken into account," they concluded.

More on this soon! 

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