Sunday, 19 September 2021

Vučedol Archaeological Park to be Backbone of Slavonia and Baranja Tourism

September 19, 2021 - The Vučedol Archaeological Park project was presented at the Museum of Vučedol Culture to introduce the events that will follow in the next two years.

Namely, this extensive project includes the construction, reconstruction, and revitalization of the archeological site, communal and catering infrastructure, and the tourist promotion of the entire project on an area of slightly more than 28 hectares, reports HRTurizam.

“The Vučedol Archaeological Park project is conceived as a platform, backbone, and initiator of a complex program of systematic interdisciplinary research of the Vučedol archaeological site, which expands the area of Vučedol. It presents as an archeological-historical, but also a tourist-catering and sports-recreational center," said the director of the Museum of Vučedol Culture, Mirela Hutinec.

At the future site, there will be a planetarium, info point and scientific research center, restaurant, area for the presentation of Vučedol livestock, a museum square, Vučedol labyrinth and children's playground, reconstruction of the Megaron and Vučedol settlement, a stilt house on Orlov otok, and passenger and communal port for boats. These are big plans that, once realized, will be the backbone of tourism in Slavonia and Baranja and an important place for scientists and researchers.

The project's specific objectives are preserving the Vučedol archaeological site and enriching the cultural (archaeological) and tourist offer by using creative, innovative, and technologically advanced solutions in education, presentation, and promotion of the Vučedol Archaeological Park.

The partners of this vital project are the Croatian Ministry of Culture and Media, the City of Vukovar, the Public Institution Port Authority of Vukovar, and the Vukovar Tourist Board. The project value is 117,299,998.51 kuna, of which 85%, or 99,704,998.72 kuna, are grants from the European Regional Development Fund.

In the entire locality of Vučedol, after 40 years of systematic research, only 10 to 12% of the area has been explored. So, we can still expect new knowledge about the Vučedol culture.

"In Europe, the highest level of civilization was developed by the Vučedol culture, which began here on Vučedol around three thousand years ago. As far as we know, this is the oldest locality of the Vučedol culture, and everything started from this area. Here we have the oldest Indo-European calendar, excavated at the site in Vinkovci. If we can recognize and read it, then we have the oldest pictorial letter of Indo-Europe," said Professor Aleksandar Durman, who has been working on researching Vučedol culture for many years.

For more on travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Saturday, 14 August 2021

Baranja Red Pepper Harvest is On! Despite Conditions, Yield is Good

August the 14th, 2021 - Baranja red pepper is often referred to as ''red gold'' among those who have a soft spot for it, and this much loved vegetable grown in Eastern Croatia has done very well this year despite unfavourable conditions for the most part. The Baranja red pepper harvest is already on.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, despite a year of extremes so far, the producers of Baranja red peppers, a spicy and popular Croatian vegetable, expect a good harvest with some high quality. Some growers have already started harvesting what they have, and the peak is expected in around ten days. They don't have to worry about the placement of their Baranja red peppers because the customers have long since recognised the worth of this domestic product, and this Baranja ''red gold'' is set to be sold out in record time.

The Lakatos family from Kopacevo has already carried out their first Baranja red pepper harvest and in a few days they will have a big workload on their hands. They expect good yields and quality in all of their ten greenhouses.

''I'm hoping for four more harvests, last year we had five harvests in total, and now we'll see how it's going to be depending on how the year went,'' said Tamara Lakatos from Kopacevo for HRT.

This year is good for Baranja red peppers, but one of the most demanding to date, the growers claim.

''Well, I think this year was the hardest because of the extreme heat and the wind. Nothing has been going in our favour,'' pointed out Zuzana Jozef from Lug.

It’s hard work, but the effort and work pays off. The Varga family from Bilje will produce two and a half tonnes of sweet and hot ground spicy peppers, and they have no concerns about whether or not they'll manage to sell it all.

''Baranja is a God-given location for red peppers as far as the climate and the type of country are concerned, really, everyone says that there are no spicy peppers like Baranja red peppers anywhere else,'' said Tatjana Varga from Bilje.

The demand for Baranja red pepper is so high that it is continuing to sell out in record time.

''It all just disappeared in the first month, because people couldn't go to Serbia and many of those who didn't buy it from Baranja before started doing so,'' explained Zuzana Jozef.

''I think that people have finally realised that Croatian products are of very high quality,'' said Kristijan Lakatos from Kopacevo.

Although 140 kuna should be set aside for a kilogram of sweet spicy peppers, and 150 kuna for a kilogram of hot peppers, nobody even asks about the price when making a purchase. All that seems important to customers is that what they're buying is Croatian and from Baranja.

For more, follow Made in Croatia.

Monday, 17 May 2021

Escape to Osijek-Baranja County and its Epic Sights and Flavours

May 14, 2021 – Breathtaking views of the Danube at Erdut and Aljmaš, the bona fide masterpiece of Đakovo cathedral, the unique winemaking traditions of northern Baranja, the wildlife-rich wetlands of Kopački rit and the OPGs of Osijek-Baranja County. There's a whole other world to discover in this epic corner of Slavonia-Baranja.

It seems like the world is speeding up. Everything now is that much more immediate. In this age of Instagram and 'influencers', we quickly scroll past postcard-pretty pictures on our phones. 'Like'. Forgotten, in an instant.

Croatia is a country not without postcard-pretty pictures. But, to snatch attention in this super-fast, vacuous age, all too often we are shown the same images. Heart-shaped islands from above, dolphins at dusk, sunset over the Adriatic and its epic Dinaric Alps. You could be forgiven for thinking that every view in Croatia contains the sea.

reSlavonija_Aero0060.jpgSlavonia © Romulić & Stojčić.

There are very few mountains in the Pannonian basin. And there is no sea. Well, not any more. Instead, these flatlands stretch 600 km from east to west and 500 km from north to south through several countries. They engulf the eastern section of Croatia we know as Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem.

Unsurprisingly, such a vast plain is not without its epic qualities. But, the epic nature of Osijek-Baranja County in Slavonia-Baranja is difficult to capture in a competing image on social media. Its special qualities instead lie in the sounds, the tastes, the tradition, the sights and the people. This is a place that has to be visited to be understood. And, if you do, it's an experience that will far outlast any fleeting photo on Instagram. Here, we take a look at just a small section of the unforgettable offer in Osijek-Baranja.

Imperial horses and the bona fide masterpiece of Đakovo cathedral

State Stud Farm Đakovo

Horse breeding in Đakovo is thought to be even older than 1506 when first written mention of the town's stud farm comes from. An endeavour of regional bishops, it bred horses of Arab stock. But, that changed at the beginning of the 19th Century.

re45123_1507774006692_993915_n.jpgIn the fields, Lipizzaner horses © Silvija Butković.

Lipizzaner horses were the prized breed of the Habsburg monarchy, their genetic line today traced back to eight stallions from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. With the advancement of Napoleon's army across Europe, Lipizzaners were sent further east in order to protect them. This imperial horse has been bred in Đakovo ever since.

Born with black skin and black hair, their hair gradually turns to a characteristic light grey (although, some other colours occur). Traditionally, when the colour change was fully complete, the horses were ready for royal duty.

Denis_Despot_Ergela_Đakovo.jpgYounger horses on the State Stud Farm in Đakovo © Denis Despot / Tourist Board of Osijek-Baranja County.

Today, at the State Stud Farm Đakovo, the Lipizzaners are bred and trained in dressage. The farm contains Croatia's largest indoor riding hall, in which public performances take place. Previous visitors to the farm include several members of the British Royal family. Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Phillip and their daughter Princess Anne came in 1972, while Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall came in 2016.

Đakovo cathedral

reDjakovo_katedrala0012.jpgExterior of Đakovo cathedral © Romulić & Stojčić.

The presence of Bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer looms large in the history of Croatia. Nowhere does that presence loom larger in a physical manifestation than Đakovo cathedral. By far, it is the largest sacral building in Slavonia, the second-largest in Croatia.

reDjakovo_katedrala0002.jpg© Romulić & Stojčić

This part of Slavonia is completely flat. Therefore, you can see the cathedral for miles as you approach Đakovo. Once up closer, its red bricks give it the appearance of a modern building. In fact, Josip Juraj Strossmayer oversaw its construction between 1866-1882. In truth, he'd wanted to build it for much longer, but struggled to get the funds required for his vision. Indeed, the project was so delayed that the artist Strossmayer chose to paint the interior, German Nazarene Johann Friedrich Overbeck, died before he could begin the task. Instead, father and son Alexander Maximilian Seitz and Ludwig Seitz assumed the task.

reDjakovo_katedrala0023-Djakovacka_katedrala_interijer_4.jpgInterior detail in Đakovo cathedral © Romulić & Stojčić

The building's construction actually only took four years, but it took a full 19 years to complete decorations inside. It's easy to see why. The interior of Đakovo cathedral is a bona fide masterpiece. Ornate frescos depicting scenes from the Old Testament and New Testament radiate from above. Regardless of your faith, it is a breathtaking experience to walk within.

reDjakovo_katedrala0028-Djakovacka_katedrala_interijer_9.jpg© Romulić & Stojčić

reDjakovo_katedrala0019-Djakovacka_katedrala_interijer_12.jpg© Romulić & Stojčić

13 of the frescoes are by Alexander, 20 are by Ludwig. The detail of their work captivates the eye. The Neo-Romanesque architectural flourishes design inside are similarly grandiose. Visiting while on a journey to Bulgaria, future Pope John XXIII proclaimed it to be the most beautiful church between Venice and Constantinople.

reDjakovo_katedrala0026-Djakovacka_katedrala_interijer_7.jpg© Romulić & Stojčić

Breathtaking views of the Danube at Erdut and Aljmaš

re1234rt5y.pngThe Danube, as seen from the Brzica winery terrace in Erdut © Marc Rowlands.

Slavonia is defined by its two longest rivers. To the south, after passing through Zagreb and Lonjsko Polje, the Sava forms a natural border between Slavonia and Bosnia. To the north, the Drava river first separates Croatia and Hungary. Then, after Donji Miholjac, it serves as the border between Slavonia from Baranja. Just a mile or so from Aljmaš, the Drava flows into the Danube, which partially separates Slavonia from Vojvodina.

reSlavonija_Aero0123.jpgThe Danube in eastern Slavonia © Romulić & Stojčić.

When you're standing overlooking the Danube in Erdut village, you could almost believe you're on an island. The peninsula in which the village lies is surrounded on three sides by the Danube. It weaves in and out of the landscape, causing great gulfs between the dense forest that occurs on each side. This area is noticeably raised above the height of regular, flat Slavonia and in Erdut, a small castle tower stands on a hill. It's one of the best places to look at the Danube. The other is from the Brzica winery, less than a kilometre away.

At Brzica, you're some 80 metres above the Danube. Here, winery owner Ivo Brzica has taken advantage of the view. He's built a beautiful holiday home where guests can stay. It's right next to his own dwelling and the winery. The properties share a huge, open and informal terrace overlooking the river. It's a great place to try the award-winning Brzica wines. They plant Graševina, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Vranac. On some bottles, the label reads 1378. It's the number of kilometres the Danube has travelled to reach this point.

re99127089_1304385849765541_5021631833557696512_n.jpgA glass of Brzica wine overlooking the Danube.

Erdut visitors wanting to get up closer to the Danube can now do just that. A newly appointed 10-kilometre footpath now runs alongside the river all the way from Erdut to Aljmaš. It's a beautiful walk through epic nature.

The unique landscape and winemaking traditions of northern Baranja

While much of Slavonia is uniformly flat, the topography is more varied in Baranja. Baranja Mountain stretches in a northeast-southwest direction between Beli Manastir and Batina. It is 21 kilometres long, three kilometres wide and much of its slopes are used for agriculture, grapes for winemaking, predominantly.

Krešimir-Čandrlić-TZ-Osječko-baranjske-županije.jpgA Surduk in Baranja © Krešimir Čandrlić / Tourist Board of Osijek-Baranja County.

Long ago, heavy rains began to produce natural gorges which cut through the higher ground. Over time, some of these became considerably deep, widened by the flow of water and sometimes mud. Eventually, these gorges between hillsides became passageways for horses and carts. In Croatia, these narrow routes are exclusive to the Baranja region and are very pretty to walk. Their walls are lined with tree roots, which stop them from collapsing. The branches and leaves of these trees often overhang the gorge, sometimes giving you the impression you're in a tunnel. Such a route in Baranja is known as a Surduk.

59929298_291292758447045_4092839649649623040_n-1.jpgA line of traditional Baranja wine cellars. Unique in Croatia to Baranja, such a building is known as a Gator © Visit Baranja.

On this same ground, you'll find another phenomenon unique to Baranja. A Gator is a traditional wine cellar of this region. Sometimes found on the lower course of a Surduk, a Gator is unlike a typical wine cellar in that it has no subterranean section where the wine is stored. Instead, a Gator extends back into the hillside. Wine is kept in the deepest recesses of the building, where it is coolest. In several places in Baranja you can see a street with several of these buildings side by side. Usually, each Gator is owned by a different family and each will make their own particular family wine.

Podrumi Kolar family winery in Suza

rrrrrrrrrrrr184522583_4216656801706120_7724425057568396905_n.jpgWith a 100-year-old cellar and great wines, the Podrumi Kolar family winery in Suza.

The Kolar family wine cellar is 100 years old, although the restaurant and tourism aspect of their enterprise has only been around since 2004. The whole family are involved and they purposefully intertwine their winemaking with a visitor offer. In addition to the restaurant attached to the wine cellar and they have a wonderful campsite just a couple of hundred metres down the road. All of their wines are great. But, if you visit, be sure to try their Sauvignon. Some say it's the best in the whole of Baranja.

Josić winery and restaurant in Zmajevac

reee80820150_10157752856922510_7899019450953760768_n.jpgTraditional Baranja and Slavonia flavours at the Josić winery and restaurant in Zmajevac.

At the Josić winery and restaurant in Zmajevac they make brilliant wines. Among them, Baranja shiller, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Graševina, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon. You can visit the wine cellars and try traditional foods of the region in their extensive restaurant.

Vinarija Gerštmajer in Zmajevac

reee10409647_797460223636993_347799443786816980_n.jpgIncredible views from the garden at Vinarija Gerštmajer in Zmajevac.

A deep dust gathers on some of the oldest bottles kept in the cellar at Vinarija Gerstmajer. And, there's plenty of those. The charming family patriarch is clearly a proud wine enthusiast and reserves some bottles from every year of their celebrated but small production. Sadly, this archive now stretches back only until the mid-1990s. It used to be much older, cataloguing all of the years his own father ran the winery. But, when the family returned after the war, they were greeted by empty cellars. The cellars are once again full. You can try them in the cellar or out on the terrace, overlooking a scene of uninterrupted nature.

The wildlife-rich wetlands of Kopački rit

reKopacki_rit.jpgWetlands of Kopački rit © Tourist Board of Osijek-Baranja County.

Occupying the marches, lakes and floodland between the Drava and the Danube, Nature Park Kopački rit is one of Europe's largest wetlands. Although a home to many different types of life, it is most famous for its bird population. As many as 300 different species of birds inhabit the park, many of them being migratory and nesting species. Of particular note, a large colony of grey heron and and the largest population of woodpeckers in the entire Danube basin. You can now tour a section of the waters in a large visitor boat. It is electrically powered so as not to disturb the life-rich riverbanks. After the boat drops you off, make your way through the rest of the park across specially constructed pathways that wind their way across the waters and reeds.

reee181763729_3395698553866665_437148493806686223_n.jpgThe wooden walkways of Kopački rit Nature Park in Osijek-Baranja County © Romulić & Stojčić.

The OPGs of Osijek-Baranja County

The landscape in Osijek-Baranja County is only so picturesque because of the people who live in it. It is their endeavours that shape it. Traditional agricultural pursuits explain the pretty rows of vineyards, the different coloured fields and gardens filled with fruit trees. While some agriculture here exists on a grand scale, many families in the region make the most of their own small plots of land.

Osijek-Baranja County family farms or OPGs preserve the traditions of the region, not only in the way they use the land but in the produce that results. From the beekeeping that makes EU-protected honey to the vineyards producing Croatia's best white wine, practices in these family farms are often passed down from generation to generation. The best way to learn how they do it – and try the amazing traditional flavours of Osijek-Baranja County – is to go to an OPG. Here are just several you can visit.

Zorić distillery in Erdut

Zoric.jpgZorić distillery in Erdut, Osijek-Baranja County.

The Zorić family in Erdut have long been growing fruit and making Croatian brandy aka rakija. But, this youngest generation, lead by youthful father Dinko and his wife Sanja, have upped their game significantly. They have built the most modern craft rakija distillery in the region. From there, they make one of Croatia's best new premium rakijas, Divania. In English or Croatian, they will guide you around the distillery and explain the process before letting you try it on their lovely terrace. If you're lucky, you might also get to try the family-made kobasica sausages – they're very good! Their rakijas are made from apricots, quinces, apples, pears and cherries and the family are great hosts.

Seoski turizam Lacković in Bilje

re20431767_822347511276386_375301605997322700_n.jpgFilled with flowers, Seoski turizam Lacković in Bilje.

A beautiful family-run farm, with 16 beds for guests, Seoski turizam Lacković are used to hosting visitors. The farm itself has pretty rows of vegetables out back. Next to them, a variety of birds are kept. The hosting area has a lovely terrace with a view of the pretty tree-lined path that extends down through the large garden. During the recent Month of Baranja Cooking (Mjesec baranjske kuhinje), visitors tried their hand at making traditional baked foods pita and kiflice.

OPG Čudesna šuma

rROMMM182218841_3395418300561357_8222892496436052806_n.jpgMeeting the llamas at OPG Čudesna šuma © Turistička zajednica Općine Bilje - Kopački rit.

Visit the llamas or a special gastronomic event at this future eco-village and food forest. To read a detailed reportage from our spring 2021 visit to OPG Čudesna šuma, look here.

Both the author and Total Croatia News would like to thank the following for their invaluable help in creating this article: Ivana Jurić and the Tourist Board of Osijek-Baranja County, Marija Burek and the Tourist Board of Đakovo, Renata Forjan and Turistička zajednica Općine Bilje - Kopački rit and Domagoj Butković of expert travel guides to Slavonia and Osijek-Baranja County, Kulen travel.

Thursday, 13 May 2021

OPG Čudesna šuma: Paradise Reimagined in Beautiful, Traditional Baranja

May 13, 2021 – OPG Čudesna šuma: How an unexpected turn of events helped world-renowned photographer Mario Romulić realise his lifelong dream.

War and genocide and the aftermath. Famine. Disease. Death. In a former life, harrowing images filled the lens of internationally renowned photographer Mario Romulić. But thankfully, we're now far from such scenes.

In fact, at OPG Čudesna šuma - Mario Romulić's home and family farm - we're pretty much far from everything. One other eco-farm is his only neighbour. Well, unless you count the llamas the Romulić family keep out back. Occasionally, through the rich green of surrounding trees, you see birds flying above the branches. Probably they're toing and froing from Kopački rit. The nearby Nature Park is less than a kilometre from OPG Čudesna šuma. Famously, the wetlands are home to over 250 species of birds. They are also the reason why Mario Romulić is here.

ReeeeeMG_2366_DxO-GŠ-e1559901697596.jpgKopački rit Nature Park © Kopački rit Nature Park.

“Back then, I was very occupied with Kopački rit,” remembers Mario of the time, 21 years ago, when he moved to what is now OPG Čudesna šuma. “I was working as a cameraman for people like Reuters, all over the world. The assignments would last 7-10 days and I'd be in places like Afghanistan, Rwanda, Congo, Liberia, Bosnia. It was often quite dangerous. For the next 20 days, I would spend a lot of time in Kopački rit, trying to calm my nerves. It was something like a cure after seeing all these horrible scenes. Eventually, instead of travelling every day from my home in Osijek to Kopački rit, I decided to try and find something close by. And this is what I found.”

Just as this beautiful, natural landscape in Bilje, Baranja once served as a peaceful getaway for Mario Romulić, his OPG Čudesna šuma today does the same for others. Because, after dreaming for two decades of turning this blissful plot and homestead into a forest farm and eco-village, Mario Romulić is finally turning that vision into a reality.

REEEEE123849689_631301844230484_3242943399468051911_n.jpgThe impossibly pretty OPG Čudesna near Kopački rit Nature Park, Bilje Municipality, Baranja © OPG Čudesna šuma.

“Because of my job - first, travelling all around the world, then travelling Croatia - I did not even have much time to think about it, let alone do it,” says Mario. “But, then Corona came. Finally, I found myself at home. At last, I had time to work on my dream.”

OPG Čudesna šuma in the Month of Baranja Cooking (Mjesec baranjske kuhinje)

A group of 30 or so are Mario's guests today at OPG Čudesna šuma. They're here for a presentation of speciality cooking. It's the grand finale of the Month of Baranja Cooking (Mjesec baranjske kuhinje).

Over previous weeks, OPGs from all across the region have welcomed guests to try goulash, soups, stews, perklet and other traditional foods of the area. While visiting, they've been embraced by the beautiful landscape of Baranja. Not only have they discovered how this delightful, distinct cuisine tastes, but also they've learned exactly how it's prepared. However, they've evidently saved the best for last. On the menu today, river fish inventively cooked, accompanied by a riotous rainbow of seasonal vegetables.

reOPG_Čudesna_šuma181580000_726510768042924_6910637969151864081_n.jpgSeasonal vegetables of Baranja in springtime at the Month of Baranja Cooking (Mjesec baranjske kuhinje) © OPG Čudesna šuma.

It's a beautifully sunny day, right at the start of May. It depends on your preference, but looking across this happy vista in the glorious sunshine, it's difficult to imagine this not being the perfect time to be in Baranja. Young children are raised to chest height by their parents so they can meet Mario's free-roaming llamas face-to-face. The children's faces flit between surprise, curiosity and delight. The llamas return their stare. They're used to welcoming new guests.

re182218841_3395418300561357_8222892496436052806_n.jpgMeeting the Romulić family llamas at OPG Čudesna šuma © Turistička zajednica Općine Bilje - Kopački rit.

Partially shaded by trees, the smiling adult guests sit casually on wooden benches around a central, outdoor cooking area. Several open fires display a range of traditional cooking methods. Steam rises from a cast-iron stove suspended over one. Beneath the vapours, you can make out the dish is fish paprikash. It's unmistakable because of the deeply red coloured bubbles, a result of generous amounts of paprika.

RErommy.jpgGuests enjoy a warm springtime day at OPG Čudesna šuma during the Month of Baranja Cooking (Mjesec baranjske kuhinje), as fish paprikas cooks over an open fire © OPG Čudesna šuma.

A huge bag of this paprika sits propped up, close by. It's from another organic OPG, just a kilometre or so from here. The colour is vivid, impossibly red, unrecognisable from anything store-bought. At the next fire, pike impaled on wooden sticks are placed far enough from the flickering flames so they cook slowly and do not burn.

RRRRRRMG_9076.jpgPike impaled on sticks, cooking by an open fire at OPG Čudesna šuma @ Marc Rowlands.

In the outdoor kitchen, Mario Romulić's co-chefs prepare an unending supply of fish dishes and vegetables. Carp, catfish, trout, bream. There's a bounty of fresh asparagus. It's that time of year. With the restraint of experience, they've cooked it perfectly. After the crunch of the bite, the flavour explodes. They're seasoned simply – delicious olive oil and sea salt.

RRRRRMG_9083.jpgSeasonal asparagus, perfectly cooked, served with smoked river fish © Marc Rowlands.

A group of peers – accomplished chefs from Osijek-Baranja restaurants – peak over the shoulders of Romulić's co-chefs. They're admiring the inventive techniques employed. Although, being chefs, they can't help themselves. They end up briefly forgetting their families in order to help out.

Mario Romulić, the host with the most

re181662505_3395417317228122_5675229268416633172_n.jpgMario Romulić © Turistička zajednica Općine Bilje - Kopački rit.

After all the guests arrive, Mario Romulić holds court. Cheerily he welcomes us all to OPG Čudesna šuma and the event. Without question, the success of rural, village tourism depends on the personalities of the hosts. It's no good plonking a group of visitors in a pretty place and throwing some food in front of them. We've all seen trees, grass and food before. Rural tourism is not just about the place, it's about the experience, the ambience. And, especially, it's about the people.

Hands down, the OPGs of Slavonia and Baranja are the best in Croatia at this. The folks here are famous for their friendliness, warm welcome and big personalities. And, Mario Romulić has one of the biggest of them all.

In the research for this reportage, looking back at archive pictures of Mario Romulić is startling. During his years spent as an international photographer, he himself has been photographed many times – on assignment in distant countries, at the opening of exhibitions that have showcased his celebrated work. In most, there's an intensity to his stare. It's sometimes difficult to look at. He looks like a man who has tales you never want to hear, like a man who has seen too much.

re181833835_3395419193894601_1580949382978993421_n.jpg(L- R) OPG Čudesna šuma co-chef at the event Mihael Tomić, renowned Osijek chef Ivan Đukić currently of Osijek's Lipov Hlad and a happy Mario Romulić © Turistička zajednica Općine Bilje - Kopački rit.

By comparison, the Mario Romulić that welcomes us at OPG Čudesna šuma today is unrecognisable. Sure, there's a little more grey to his long hair and beard but, otherwise, he looks incredibly healthy and happy. The intense stare is gone, replaced by a warm, wide smile that shows across his entire face. Even in early May, he has a darkened skin tone, the telltale signs of a man who spends much of the day outdoors. Romulić's enthusiasm for his guests and the event is palpable. After his sincere welcome, this enthusiasm is immediately transferred to each of his guests.

Mrs Romulić ensures everyone's glass is overflowing with wine or juice. One of Mario's teenage sons helps out with the food, while the other is taking photographs of the event. Well, someone has to do the photography now that dad wants to be a chef and host! Mario himself is engulfed in smoke. Among the other duties he's assumed today, Mario is tending a smoker. Without a doubt, this is the most revelatory cooking method we meet today.

RAFGGMG_9033.jpgMario Romulić tends to smoked river fish, a revelatory gastronomic experience at OPG Čudesna šuma © Marc Rowlands.

Smoked fish of Slavonia and Baranja at OPG Čudesna šuma

reOPG_Čudesna_šuma181569372_726510701376264_2349368327366088172_n.jpgAn American-style smoker, loaded with river fish. TOP TIP: A great way to stop fish sticking to the grill of your barbecue or smoker is to place them on top of a layer of lemon slices © OPG Čudesna šuma.

“We do have smoked fish here, but not in this way,” he says. “This is more like an American grill. I never heard of anyone trying Baranja cooking like this. Actually, I never heard of anyone nearby who has a smoker like this. The first time I tried stuka (pike) in the smoker, that was unbelievable. It's incomparable, really special.”

re182065042_3395417427228111_6987374227558501361_n.jpgExquisite presentation of river fish by the enthusiastic team of OPG Čudesna šuma © Turistička zajednica Općine Bilje - Kopački rit.

“In Slavonia and Baranja, there are just a few ways we usually cook our river fish - carp on sticks, fish paprikash, perklet and fried fish. So, we tried something new, to expand the palette. For instance, almost nobody eats Babuška (a type of carp). They feed it instead to their pigs. It costs 5 kuna a kilo! But, if you cook it in this completely natural way, it's delicious.”

re181464507_3395417533894767_3887484501591319798_n.jpgMore river fish, cooked by the team of OPG Čudesna šuma © Turistička zajednica Općine Bilje - Kopački rit.

He's not wrong. Today's mountain of different smoked fish is the talk on most of the adult lips. The rich flavours surprise. Compliments and returns for second helpings ensue. Mario stands to one side, happily watching as his smoked fish secret escapes. In the future, he plans similar events based on other regional foods - Black Slavonian pig, wild meats like deer or boar. Eventually, in the seven hectares of land he owns here, he would like to expand OPG Čudesna šuma as an eco-village, with beds for visitors, a natural swimming pool and then surround it with a food forest. Big plans. It looks as though the camera may stay more permanently in the hands of his son. Because it's difficult to imagine Mario Romulić leaving his happy place and the realisation of his long-held dream.

re60723980_10157204309393875_1954899380326629376_n.jpgMario Romulić in his happy place, with a friend © OPG Čudesna šuma.

Both the author and Total Croatia News would like to thank the following for their invaluable help in creating this article: Ivana Jurić and the Tourist Board of Osijek-Baranja County, OPG Čudesna šuma, Mario Romulić and family, Renata Forjan and Turistička zajednica Općine Bilje - Kopački rit and Domagoj Butković of expert travel guides to Slavonia and Baranja, Kulen travel.

Thursday, 4 March 2021

10 PHOTOS: Incredible Images of the Best Croatian Artistic Photography 2021

March 4, 2021 – Following a national competition, the Croatian Photo Association have chosen the best Croatian artistic photography of the year. 10 incredible images will now represent Croatia in the prestigious Biennial of the International Federation of Photographic Art in Paris.

Following a national competition, the Croatian Photo Association (Hrvatski Fotosavez) have chosen the best Croatian artistic photography of the year. 10 incredible images will now represent Croatia in the prestigious Biennial of the International Federation of Photographic Art (FIAP) in Paris.

The International Federation of Photographic Art (FIAP - Fédération Internationale de l'Art Photographique)

The International Federation of Photographic Art (FIAP - Fédération Internationale de l'Art Photographique) is an international organization of national associations of photography. More than 85 national associations are members, comprising nearly one million individual photographers.

FIAP was founded by M. Van de Wijer of Belgium in 1946. Its first congress took place in Bern, Switzerland in 1950. At this time, one of the national photographic associations represented was that of Yugoslavia. Following the federation's break up, each of its former republics now runs its own national photography association. Continuing a 70 year tradition, they still enter the prestigious International Federation of Photographic Art Biennial.

FIAP congresses have grown so large over the years, they are now seperated into different categories and held once every two years. Black and white and nature photography have their biennials one year, and the next year colour photography gets its biennial. The competition congress visits different countries each year. The 2021 FIAP Colour Biennial will be held in Paris, France.

The FIAP Colour Biennial competition and congress is split into two parts. The oldest, and arguably the most prestigious part of the competition, sees the best photography appearing in print and displayed individually upon the walls of the host venue. 10 examples of the best Croatian artistic photography of the year have been chosen by Hrvatski Fotosavez to represent Croatia in this section of the event.

A further 20 Croatian entries will appear in the congress's other section – projected photography. These entries are submitted digitally, rather than in print, to be shown in projection at the event.

Following a national competition, the Croatian Photo Association have chosen the best Croatian artistic photography of the year to represent Croatia in the prestigious congress and competition.

The Croatian Photo Association (Hrvatski Fotosavez)

The Croatian Photo Association (Hrvatski Fotosavez) is the legal successor of the Photographic Association of Croatia, founded on March 27, 1949 in Zagreb, and the historical successor of the Croatian Amateur Photographic Association, founded on June 11, 1939 in Zagreb. Its members are individual photography clubs and societies from all over Croatia. From their ranks, the best Croatian artistic photography of the year have been chosen.

Photography and cinema club 'Picok' from Đurđevac (Foto kino klub Picok, Đurđevac)

For the 2021 entries to the Colour Photography Biennial in Paris, special mention must be given to the remarkable achievements of one society of photographers from the town of Đurđevac. Of the 30 photographs selected to represent Croatia in this year's competition, no less than 8 of them came from members of this one photography society. In addition to Mato Zeman and Željko Car, who are interviewed below, works by Ivan Hećimović and Ivan Nemet were also selected. According to these results, Photography and cinema club 'Picok' from Đurđevac are the most successful association in this year's Croatian Photo Association competition. Coincidentally, the four Đurđevac photographers had a large joint exhibition of award-winning photographs in Đurđevac just last year. After the event, all 40 works exhibited were donated by the photographers to the city of Đurđevac. Bravo Picoki!

FIAP, Hrvatski Fotosavez and the 10 photographers chosen for 2021 FIAP Colour Biennial have kindly given Total Croatia News exclusive permission to reproduce this year's print entries. Here, we profile the best Croatian artistic photography of the year and meet the photographers.

The Best Croatian Artistic Photography 2021

Damir Rajle 'Sunshine Road'

Damir_RajleSunshine_Road_1.jpegCroatian artistic photography by Damir Rajle

My name is Damir Rajle. I am semi-professional photographer from Osijek. My primary profession is cartographer and land surveyor, mostly involved in digital orthophoto and topographic maps. My photograph 'Sunshine Road' is a wine road in Baranja. I am very often in that exact place. But, that day, the setting sun was directly ahead and so I tried a couple of shots. Suddenly, a boy came along, silhouetting himself against the sunlit road. The naturally hilly landscape of the vineyard adds to the composition.

Dušan Grbac 'Žuti'

Grbac_Dusanuti.jpgCroatian artistic photography by Dušan Grbac

My name is Dušan Grbac and I was born in 1960, in Rovinj. I started shooting and developing black and white photography in 1975. I developed the photographs on my own in a small, analogue darkroom at home. In 1982 I became a member of the Photo Club Rovinj and thereafter participated in a number of exhibitions. In 2002 I embraced digital photography. I actually work as an IT specialist. In my free time, I like to engage in photography and I've held dozens of lectures and workshops about photography. I'd really like to pass on to others everything I've learned about photography over the years. 'Žuti' (Yellow) was actually taken in January 2006 in the Italian town of Dobbiaco. The annual balloon show was held at a temperature of -16 °C! This made the sky crystal blue. I couldn't resist that tonal contrast, the colours... and 'voila'.

Mirjana Spajić Buturac 'Saturn'

Mirjana_Spajic_ButuracSaturn_1.jpgCroatian artistic photography by Mirjana Spajić Buturac

My name is Mirjana Spajić Buturac. I'm originally from Vinkovci, but I have been living in Zagreb for 20 years. I studied in Osijek and by profession, I am a professor of mathematics and informatics. I've been interested in photography since my student days. However, it was a colleague, Professor Vladimir Šimunić that truly awoke my passion for photography in me and in 2014 I certified as a photographer, enrolled in Fotoklub Zagreb and started participating in photography competitions. I took an online course at Udemy to perfected my use of Photoshop and photo processing. I work at the School of Crafts for Personal Services in Zagreb, which, among other things, has a photography major, and in addition to mathematics and computer science, I now also teach digital photography. I am so happy that photography has become a part of my job! 'Saturn' was taken in December 2020. It shows drops of olive oil in water. Under the influence of ultraviolet light and a fluorescent poster under the bowl of water, the oil droplets took on a three-dimensional effect. My seven-year-old son Leon noticed that the largest droplet had a dark ring, like Saturn. That's how the photo got its name.

Mato Zeman 'Spring Fields'

Mato_ZemanSpringFields_1.jpgCroatian artistic photography by Mato Zeman

My name is Mato Zeman and photography has been my hobby for long time. I live in Kloštar Podravski, a small village in Podravina, between the river Drava on the north and Bilogora mountain on the south. In my full0time job I worked in the 112 Emergency Centre in Koprivnica, but I've now been retired for 2 years. Photography is my hobby for a long time. I've participated in several international photo contests. In 2015, FIAP awarded me the honorary title FIAP Artist and three years later the title EFIAP (Excellence Fédération Internationale de l'Art Photographique). I am a member of the Photo and Cinema club 'Picok' in Đurđevac. I'm also a member of the local artistic association 'Kloštranska paleta' in my home village. Two of my works were selected for FIAP 2021 Biennial of Colour Photography in France and will represent my country. I am very proud of this. The one appearing in print 'Spring Fields' was taken at the fields of young corn on the slopes of Bilogora. The rows of corn are in a nice S line, the sky is partly cloudy with the sun shining through.

Nenad Martić 'Red, White and Blue 2'

Nenad_MartiRedwhiteandblue2.jpgCroatian artistic photography by Nenad Martić

My name is Nenad Martić. I was born in 1951 in Zagreb, where I graduated from the Department of Fine Arts at the Faculty of Education, University of Zagreb.I devoted most of my professional career to graphic design and illustration, beginning in the 1980s with the Start and Svijet magazines. The second half of my career was marked by the gradual introduction of a new artistic expression; digital photography. Free of assignment of specific commissions and deadlines, artistic photography became a passion. I dedicated myself to it for the last ten years. I take different kinds of photographs, but I most prefer street photography. It's a kind of documentary photography, focusing on the nuances of human gestures and street context, capturing and conveying the moment to those who are not there. 2014 was a turning point for me because I joined Photo Club Zagreb. Thereafter, I had three solo exhibitions, was included in over a hundred group ones and won several international and national awards and nominations. These included the Ferdinand Soprano Grand Prix and the Viktor Hreljanovic Award from Photo Club Rijeka in 2019, most successful author and the most successful Croatian author at the 39th Zagreb Salona in 2020 and I won the prestigious Tošo Dabac Award 2019 for outstanding contribution to photography in Croatia. My photo 'Red, White and Blue 2' was taken on the island of Lošinj. The model is my daughter. It is one of a series of photographs taken with red cloth.

Silvija Butković 'Together'

Silvija_ButkoviTOGETHER_1_1.jpgCroatian artistic photography by Silvija Butkovic

My name is Silvija Butkovic and I was born in 1964 in Osijek, Croatia. As a child, I lived on the island Lošinj. I returned to Slavonia when I entered University. I now live and work in Đakovo as manager of tourism an public relations at the State Stud Farm Đakovo (National Lipizzan Stud Farm Đakovo - Državna ergela Đakovo). Language and photography are my great loves. Lately, I've been making photo haigas, a Japanese combination of poetry and photography. The World Haiku Association recently awarded me the title Master of Haiga for my work. You can see some of it on their website www.worldhaiku.net/haiga. Lošinj and the heart of the Slavonian plain are a constant inspiration. I also adore horses and I love watching them through the camera. I'm a member of 'Photo-cinema Club Djakovo', 'Photo-Club Rijeka' and 'Matica Hrvatska'

Željko Car 'Spring'

eljko_CarSpring_1.jpgCroatian artistic photography by Željko Car

My name is Željko Car. I'm a lawyer by profession. I first published photos in newspapers (I was a correspondent for several). Since 1984 I've participated in exhibitions in many countries around the world. I have more than 300 awards and diplomas, and I received the honorary title of EFIAP. Two of my photos were selected for the 2021 Biennial of Colour Photography in France - 'Spring' and 'Snow on the river bank'. Both photos were taken near Đurđevac, the city where I live. With 'Spring' I wanted to show the beauty and ambient values of the area where I live. It was actually taken in the spring of 2000.

Aleksandar Tomulić 'Valencia 5'

Aleksandar_TomuliValencia5_1.jpgCroatian artistic photography by Aleksandar Tomulić

My name is Aleksandar Tomulić and I'm from Rijeka. I'm a semi-professional photographer. My main profession is IT. I've been taking photos since I was a kid. I was born in 1967. I became more seriously involved in photography in 2004. It's the magic of capturing an unrepeatable moment that fascinates me, and the feel for light and composition. I prefer street photography and seaside motifs, and I like to experiment with abstract images. Since 2013 I've volunteered to give classes and workshops. I'd like to pass on what I've learned about photography. I've had 15 one-man shows, participated in over 500 group shows and received over 320 awards. The Croatian Photo Association have selected my work ten times to represent Croatia at FIAP Biennales. I'm a member of 'Fotoklub Color' and 'Fotoklub Pag.' My photo 'Valencia 5' was taken, of course, in Valencia in the City of Art and Science. I took the shot in 2018. That new part of Valencia is the concept of famous architect Santiago Calatrava.

Ante Jaša 'Knot in Passage'

Ante_JaaKnot_in_passage.jpgCroatian artistic photography by Ante Jaša

My name is Ante Jaša. I was born on 19th October 1951 in Kukljica-Zadar. From the earliest days of my childhood, I played with a 'box camera' we had at home. My grandfather bought it in New York. He could never have known this would lead to his grandson having solo photography exhibitions in out home town. In 1970, my photography and writing started to be published in dailies (newspapers), weeklies and journals. By 1999 I'd progressed to be on the editorial board of the feuilleton “Mareta” (Wave) in the paper “Narodni list” - Zadar. I've exhibited my works at 418 collective exhibitions on every continent and have received numerous awards. I'm a member of the photo clubs 'Zagreb', 'Zadar' and 'Kornat' Kukljica. Sea and stone are the main motifs of my work. There's an inherent tension between them which I'm exploring. By taking photographs of both traditional and modern ways of life on the islands near Zadar, I show their natural ambience, the sea as well as on the mainland around Zadar. My photo 'Knot in Passage' was actually taken in 2015. The photo shows the entrance to the Art Gallery in Zadar. In the courtyard of the entrance was a modern metal sculpture. I put the sculpture in the foreground. The entrance is wide open and a passerby can be seen on the street. The sculpture seems to be inviting people to enter the gallery.

Ivan Nemet 'Field Geometry'

Ivan_NemetFieldGeometry_1.jpgCroatian artistic photography by Ivan Nemet

My name is Ivan Nemet. I was born in Kloštar Podravski. I am retired and I spent my entire working life working on oil wells all over the world. Photography has been a hobby since my early days. I love all kinds of photos, but my favourite is landscape photography. Over the last few years, I’ve quite often been taking photos with a drone. Photographs from a bird's eye view are often interesting because they reveal compositions that cannot be seen from the ground. I've participated in various international photography exhibitions, one of them being this year's 29th Biennale in France. The Croatian jury selected two of my photos. They were both taken using a drone. The name of the first photo is 'Reed car'. It was made in the winter on the mountain Bilogora. The name of the other photo is 'Field Geometry'. The emphasis is on the lines created by the action. Both were made not far from where I live, in the continental part of Croatia, between the river Drava and the small mountain Bilogora. The name of this part of Croatia is Podravina.

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Tuesday, 23 February 2021

People also ask Google: What Type of Food does Croatia Eat?

February 23, 2021 – What type of food does Croatia eat? Well, it's a small country, only around 4 million people. The food must be pretty similar all over Croatia, right? Wrong

The type of food Croatia eats depends on which region you are in. The Croatian menu is wonderfully varied. Homegrown or domestic Croatian food is usually the product of the country's wonderful natural assets. The type of food Croatia eats is also influenced by its close neighbours. Some food Croatia eats comes historically from the menus of places quite far from Croatia.

Croatia is known for food that is often cooked simply, allowing the finest natural ingredients to sing. Food in Croatia often travels a very short distance from the field to the plate or from the sea to the plate. So, what Croatia eats very much depends on the land and assets in the area close by. For instance, in the mountainous region of Lika, potatoes grow well and appear regularly in the cookbook. In Karlovac, the city's wealth of rivers means that freshwater fish and frogs legs appear on the menu.

Sto_vidjetikarlooooo.jpgKarlovac, a city whose four rivers inform the local cuisine © Croatian National Tourist Board

What type of food does Croatia eat in the flatlands of Pannonia might be very different to the food Croatia eats in the coastal regions of Dalmatia or Istria. But, not always. Some kinds of food Croatia eats is ubiquitous – you can find some Croatian food that is popular in every region, like grah – an inexpensive, filling and delicious beans-based dish, popular at lunch or punjeni paprika (stuffed peppers). Sarma - meat-filled cabbage rolls cooked in a tomato sauce – is also popular throughout Croatia. Cabbage is a staple part of the Croatian diet, being used fresh in delicious crunchy side salads or in is fermented form, as sauerkraut.

picture_2sarmy.jpgSarma

Snack food or fast food in Croatia is available on almost every street corner, from the pekara (or pekarnica), the popular local bakeries. Here, you can grab a burek, pizza slice or pita, which is like a cross between a small pastry pie and a pasty (if you're British and know what a pasty is!)

Other fast food in Croatia includes burgers and kebabs, which range in quality from standard to super-premium. The Zagreb restaurant and fast food menu, in particular, has expanded massively over recent years. The choice of food in Zagreb is now varied and international. But that's not the only place. Want to eat Indian food in Dubrovnik? Can do. Fancy some sushi while staring out over beautiful Kvarner Bay in Opatija? Može (you may)!

navisssssssssssssssssssss.jpgNavis Hotel overlooking Kvarner Bay - Opatija's first sushi restaurant © Hotel Navis Opatija

Croatia now has many Michelin-recommended and several Michelin-starred restaurants. Their number grows each year. But, while the variety of international and top-flight continues to expand in Croatia, this does not tell the real story of what Croatia food is.

Pizza is not really Croatian food (although, like that other Italian import ice cream, Croatians do make it very well). Burgers are not Croatian food, even if pljeskavica is. Pekara might be ubiquitous, but that is not real Croatian food. No. To find out truly what type of food does Croatia eat, you'll have to find a seat in a traditional restaurant or tavern (a konoba, if you're on the coast, krčma, klet or gostiona, gostionica or restoran elsewhere). There you can soak up the wonderful vibes and sometimes spectacular scenery. But, more important that that, you might find a meal you'll never forget.

The only thing in Croatia that truly beats traditional food from a great tavern, is food in Croatia that is made by mom or grandma in the home. If you're lucky enough to be invited to try traditional Croatian food in someone's home, you simply must go. It's the best!

What type of food does Croatia eat?

What food is Croatia known for in the region of Istria?
103990514_2766842676932885_8553088344150944332_ofdzsgabdfbagtfbafgbnasfg.jpgWhat type of food do they eat in Istria? © Draguč, Istria by Romulic and Stojcic

The most northwesterly region of Croatia, food in Istria is often distinctly different to that found in the other areas of Croatia. The region's close proximity to Italy can be tasted within much traditional Istrian food. Homemade pastas take centre stage on meat, fish and vegetable dishes and also find their way into Istrian soups and stews. Many small fishing villages exist on the Istrian coast and the catch of the day is not only popular with those who live on the coast – seafood makes its way into the interior of Istria too. Familiar Mediterranean meals featuring seabass, bream, sardine, sole, squid, scallops, crab, scampi, mussels and oysters can be found on the Istrian food menu. Black cuttlefish risotto and the stews Brodet and Buzara are also a favourite here, like elsewhere on the Croatian coast.

sea-food-1840001_1920_1.jpg

The Istrian interior is a beautiful landscape, with rolling hills covered in vineyards, long stretches of olive groves and fruit trees, picturesque hilltop towns and river valleys which cut through unblemished nature and forest. It is within these forests that one of Istria's most famous ingredients can be found.

truffle-203031_1920_1.jpg

Istria is famous for truffles. The rare and costly delicacy makes its way generously into Istrian food, shaved over pasta dishes or added to oils, cheese or even chocolate. You can take a guided tour to hunt for truffles in Istria. Truffles aren't the only things hunted in the region's woods – game makes its way into some delicious Istrian food dishes.

tartufi_pljukanci_1-maja-danica-pecanicdgfadsgadfvbgdz.jpgHomemade pasta with truffles - classic Istria! © Maja Danica Pečanić / Croatian National Tourist Board

Other produce the region is famous for include honey, Istrian prosciutto (prsut) and Istrian olive oil. In 2020, Istria was voted the world's best olive oil region for a sixth consecutive year. You can find it in most Istrian pasta dishes, salads and on almost every dining table. Delicious.

olive-oil-1596639_1920_1.jpg

You can find different local specialities in villages all over Istria, usually informed by the crops most grown nearby or the produce popularly made there. These are celebrated at food and drink festivals which regularly occur in villages and towns throughout the region. Go to any of these if you can. They're a brilliant opportunity to try some of the best traditional foods of Istria, and you'll be able to wash it down with excellent Istrian wine varieties like Malvasia or Teran.

imagefrittty.jpgAsparagus is just one of many ingredients for which the Croatian region of Istria is famous, seen here made into a frittata or omelette © Maja Danica Pečanić / Croatian National Tourist Board

Some famous Istrian food dishes include Manestra, a minestrone-type soup made with vegetables (and sometimes meat or bones are used to flavour), Istrian žgvacet, a more meaty stew, asparagus (which is often eaten with eggs or made into an omelette or frittata) and speciality beef dishes which come from the region's rare, indigenous Boskarin cow.

What do they eat in Croatia in Dalmatia on the Croatian coast?
split-3712767_1920_1.jpgThe city of Split on the Dalmatian coast

The food eaten in Dalmatia on the Croatian coast is classic Mediterranean food. Croatian waters of the Adriatic sea are very clean and offer up a stunning range of seafood. Fish like sardines, tuna, seabass and bream are incredibly popular and are often served simply grilled, sometimes flavoured with olive oil, salt, garlic and nothing more. A popular – if not ubiquitous – side dish to accompany grilled fish is blitva, which is a hardy green chard that thrives even in the extreme heat and nutrient-weak soil of the region. It is traditionally cooked with potatoes and flavoured with olive oil and salt.

fish-3684985_1920_1.jpgWhat do they eat in Dalmatia on the Croatian coast? Sea bass grilled and served simply is an unforgettable meal of any holiday in this part of Croatia

Other seafood such as squid, octopus, crab, scampi and prawns are popular in Dalmation cooking. Many get the same simple treatment as the fine fish – they are grilled simply, black bars of mild charring from the grill scarring their surface upon serving. Octopus also makes its way into a delicious salad, often served as a starter. Dalmatian seafood is also used in risottos, with prawn risotto and black cuttlefish risotto particular favourites.

fish-725955_1920_1.jpgOctopus salad is a popular starter in Dalmatia

Many more varieties of fish than the famous ones mentioned can be found in coastal fish markets (there are great ones in Rijeka, Kvarner and in Split). You'll find various varieties of fish used in delicious stews and soups served in Dalmatia. Brudet and Buzara are also a favourite here, like in Istria.

4_gastro-stew-optimized-for-print-maja-danica-pecanicyfkufjf.jpgDalmatian food found on the coast often relies heavily on the gifts of the Adriatic sea. This dish, known as Brudet (Brodet in some places) is a fish stew/soup popular all through Croatia's coastal regions © Maja Danica Pečanić / Croatian National Tourist Board

A popular traditional method of cooking in Dalmatia is 'ispod peka' – food cooked under a metal bell-shaped covering upon which hot coals and embers are placed. These long and slow-cooked dishes often contain a mixture of meat and vegetables and could be comparable perhaps to a Moroccan tagine – but without north African spices. This method of cooking holds a theatre that matches its great taste, but many places ask you order a day in advance if you want to try it because the cooking time can be long. Octopus, lamb, pork and beef are the most popular choices to be found cooked 'under the bell'

Pekazaton.jpgWhat do they eat in Dalmatia on the Croatian coast? A dish of great theatre is 'peka' - food cooked 'under the bell'. Try the one with octopus! © Zaton holiday resort

Dalmatia is famous for smoked prosciutto (prsut), smoked, dry-cured bacon (pancetta) and lamb. You'll see both whole sucking pig and whole roasted lamb cooking on spits above flickering flames all across Dalmatia. Dalmatian lamb is full of flavour. Unlike elsewhere, where it is flavoured with garlic, rosemary, other spices or even anchovy, Dalmatian lamb is seasoned only with salt and a little olive oil. It needs nothing more and this is the absolute truth. A highlight not to miss.

suckling-pig-3869602_1920_1.jpg

Elsewhere, Dalmatia is famous for its cheese. The cheeses from island Pag are particularly famous – usually hard in texture, full of flavour and not inexpensive. You'll find them served alongside prsut and olives on the buffets of any parties or official functions and are best enjoyed with local wines. Croatia's most powerful red wines come from Dalmatia. If that's your kind of wine, this is one of the best regions in the world.

e0210f36257c3dffb45491df5f1ba0c8asfjpaioshfGAILSDHGFLsdfsadhgasjd.jpgWhat food do they eat in Dalmatia in Croatia? The cheese from the Dalmatian island of Pag is extremely famous © Croatian National Tourist Board

Apart from peka, another famous Dalmatian coastal dish is Pašticada. Like peka, an authentic Pašticada requires pre-ordering – it takes a minimum 24 hours of preparation time to make a good one, as the beef used within it is marinated. Finding a truly great Pašticada is difficult. The best are cooked with care, love and attention within the home and are served for special occasions. If you're lucky enough to try one of those, recapturing that distinct fruity taste will be difficult and many restaurant-ready versions will disappoint.

1440px-Pasticada_1.jpgWhat type of food do they eat in Dalmatia on special occasions? Pašticada. If you try the best, it will likely be homecooked © Popo le Chien

A lot of Dalmatian coastal food is comparable to that found all along the Mediterranean shoreline. One distinct anomaly is the city of Omiš, whose cuisine is supplemented by its position at the mouth of the huge Cetina river. You can read a detailed article about the cuisine of Omis here.

What kind of food do they eat in Croatia within inland Dalmatia / the Dalmatian hinterland?
gorchf.jpgWhat kind of food do they eat in Dalmatia in the hinterland? It varies. In the city of Drniš, they are famous for making a distinct prosciutto (prsut) © gorchfin

The Dalmatian hinterland is one of the great gastronomic regions of Croatia, yet it remains largely undiscovered by the crowds visiting the coast. It can be tough to leave the beautiful beaches, but a trip behind the mountains is worth it for multiple reasons, not least the food.

It really is the shortest of journeys to make. For that reason, the cuisine of inland Dalmatia contains all the treats you'll find on restaurant menus by the coast (but probably at half the price!) In addition, they have their own specialities you're unlikely to find by the sea.

drnyyyyyyy.jpgWhat kind of food do they eat in Dalmatia in the hinterland? Drniški Pršut © Tourist Board of Drniš

In the city of Drniš, they are famous for their cheese and distinct pršut, in Imotski they're known for a delicious almond cake. In the hinterland behind Omiš, you'll find Poljicki Soparnik – a truly authentic Croatian dish. In the villages around the Neretva valley, close to Metkovic, you'll find frogs and eels used in local cuisine.

soppy.jpegWhat type of food does Croatia eat? The hinterland behind the city of Omis in Dalmatia is one of the few places you'll find Poljički Soparnik, a truly authentic Croatian food © Marc Rowlands

Continental Croatian cuisine and traditional Mediterranean cooking collide in the Dalmatian hinterland – it really is the best of both. Much of the lamb Dalmatia is famous for comes from the foothills on either side of the Dinaric Alps and meat plays a perhaps bigger role in Dalmatian cuisine than it does on the coast.

What food is Croatia known for in Zagreb?
city-3335667_1920_1.jpg

Compared to just ten years ago, the Zagreb food offer has exploded in its number of options. You can find Japanese sushi, Chinese food, Levantine food, Mexican food, Indian food, food from Sri Lanka, Lebanese and Arabic food, Thai food and Turkish food in authentic Zagreb restaurants and other food outlets. You'll also find some of Croatia's best burger joints and pizza restaurants in the capital. These excellent imports now rival the classic Balkan grill/barbecue joints for the attentions of restaurant-goers and those who order takeaway.

fallyfffs.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? In Zagreb, these days you can eat food from all over the world - including delicious falafel © Falafel etc.

If you're only in Zagreb for a short amount of time, please don't miss the grill experience. The Croatian capital really does have some of the best in the country and it's a much more authentic experience than a burrito or sweet and sour pork with fried rice.

turkeyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? Foods like burek, kebab and baklava can be found all over the Balkans, a remnant of the time the Ottomans were here. But, the best baklava in Croatia is available in Zagreb, made by Turkish guys at La Turka © Mateo Henec

Alongside the pljeskavica, cevapi, sausages and pork steaks on the Balkan grill menus, you'll often find stuffed meat options. Some of these are very popular in Zagreb. It could be a burger, with bacon included or one filled with cheese. Or, it could be a chicken, turkeys, pork or veal portion, tenderised and flattened with a cooking mallet so that it can be rolled around cheese and ham and cooked in breadcrumbs, like the famous Zagrebački odrezak.

magazinnnnn.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? DO NOT miss the grill restaurants in Zagreb. Magazinska Klet, just behind Autobusni kolodvor (intercity bus station) is a really good one © Magazinska Klet

Zagreb food is much more influenced by continental European cooking than the menu found near Croatia's coast. Austrian influences can be seen not only in the city's rich architecture – its cakes and pastries are comparable to some found on just the other side of neighbouring Slovenia.

Strukli is a Zagreb speciality – a baked or boiled pastry dish which can have different fillings and accompanying sauces, cheese, cottage cheese, eggs, sour cream and cream being among them. Another distinct element of the Zagreb food offer is gablets – small dishes of food, served in restaurants at lunchtime, for a below-normal restaurant price. These are a great way to sample traditional Croatian food inexpensively. Ask a local for a recommendation of where does the best.

1440px-Štrukli_iz_Okrugljaka_1.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? In Zagreb, they are very proud of the dish known as štrukli © Bonč

A modern European city of almost a million people – approaching a quarter of the country's population – it goes without saying that not a large percentage of Zagreb's land space is devoted to farming and agriculture. So, when we are discussing the food, plus much of the produce and menu of Zagreb, in many cases what we are actually talking about is the food of a much wider region surrounding the city. Zagreb County produce plays a big part in the cuisine of Croatia's capital. So too does that of the agricultural area which lies on the other side of the mountain Medvednica, which dominates Zagreb's skyline. That area is traditionally known as Zagorje.

sommy.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? In much of the capital of Zagreb, the food and cuisine is actually informed by the areas surrounding, like Zagreb County. The pretty hills of Samobor in Zagreb County © Samobor Tourist Board

What food do they eat in Croatia in Zagorje and northern Croatia?
zgrrlksfh2.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? The unspoiled rural landscape of Zagorje 'over the mountain' of Medvednica, informs much of what we class as Zagreb cuisine  © Ivo Biocina / Croatian National Tourist Board

Zagorje produce forms the basis of much that you'll find on the menu of Zagreb. This traditional region today stretches across several Croatian counties, each containing rolling hills, with vineyards rising above agricultural fields. It is very often a very pretty landscape.

dsjkafjgfJGVK1111.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? Pffft! Forget the food, I want to eat this impossibly pretty landscape! This is Zagorje © Ivo Biocina / Croatian National Tourist Board

The food of Zagorje is traditionally the food of an agricultural region – simple, hearty fare, using the freshest produce that grows in the fields surrounding. Soups (in particular, a famous creamy potato soup), stews and bean-based dishes sit alongside sausages, filled pastries and fowl on the Zagorje menu.

militin11111111111111.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? Zagorje mlinci © Mlin Jertovec doo

The region's cuisine is famous for some distinct inclusions. Polenta is used more in the Zagorje kitchen than in other regions. You'll likely find a greater choice of fowl here than anywhere else in Croatia. Duck, geese, guinea fowl, pheasant, chicken and turkey can be found on the Croatian food menu and many of these are commonly found being farmed in Zagorje. Such birds can be found in the diet of Croatians right the way through Zagorje and up to the most northern part of Croatia, Medimurje.

majaturk.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? In Zagorje, turkey and other birds are usually served with pasta sheets called mlinci. Both Zagorje turkey and Zagorje mlinci are protected at their place of origin at an EU level © Maja Danica Pečanić / Croatian National Tourist Board

Zagorje turkey is Croatia's most famous. Like other bird dishes cooked all across Croatia, it is frequently served alongside distinct pasta sheets called Zagorski Mlinci, which is cooked in the bird's roasting juices and fat. In Zagorje, they are known for their baking – excellent pastries, both savoury and sweet, and their speciality grain breads, make their way across the mountain and into the hungry capital. Look out too for a savoury strudel they make with a mushroom filling. Yum! And, if you venture as far up as Medimurje, look out for one of their specialities called Meso 'z tiblice. Like much of continental Croatia, in Zagorje, locally made cheeses are an important part of traditional food, as are preserved meats and sausages.

What food does Croatia eat in Slavonia?
donjion1111.jpg What type of food does Croatia eat? People in Slavonia eat fresh food from their gardens or fields © Croatian National Tourist Board

As a rule, Croatians don't really like their food too hot and spicy. In an unpublished section of an interview with a Croatian Michelin restaurant chef, TCN was told that this appreciation of more milder flavours even extends to a reticence to eat older, aged and fully flavoured game and other meat. This conservative palette and minimal appreciation of strong spicing can be seen throughout the Croatian menu. And, in many cases, it's understandable. When produce is so fresh and full of flavour, it only impedes a dish to mask the taste of these ingredients with spices. The one region in Croatia that absolutely loves bold flavours within its traditional food is Slavonia.

slavvuy.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? People in Slavonia have a much more spicy menu than the rest of Croatia © Romulić & Stojčić

A huge traditional region running east of Zagreb, across the flatlands of the Pannonian basin, right up to the border with Serbia, Slavonia is today divided up into several different counties. Also, within the history of this traditional region, two distinct regions share space alongside Slavonia in the Pannonian basin – Syrmia and Baranja. It perhaps does a disservice to these two small regions that they are often just swept under the broader title of Slavonia. Each makes its own incredible contribution to the Croatian menu.

Slawonien-850x491jdkssfADS.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? People in Slavonia have two huge rivers bookending the north and south of their traditional region - the Drava and the Sava © Croatian National Tourist Board

In Croatian Syrmia (the other half of this traditional region lies across the border, in Vojvodina, present-day Serbia), you'll find some of the best white wines produced in continental Croatia. In Baranja, they are masters of preserved meats. The smoked, dry-cured bacon here may not be as famous as Dalmatian pancetta, but you'd be hard pushed to decide which was better. One of Croatia's oldest and best-regarded meat producers, Belje, is from Baranja.

Baranja is also famous for kulen, a sausage made only from premium cuts of pig and coloured red by a generous spicing of paprika. But, like so many parts of this region's menu, kulen is also made in Slavonia proper. The land is the same meaning much of the menu is the same so, please consider the following inclusions to be common in all.

MK4_5082rommyslav.jpegWhat type of food does Croatia eat? A selection of Slavonia and Baranja cold meats. Baranja kulen is the irregular-shaped sausage in the top left of the platter © Romulić & Stojčić

Slavonia's close proximity to Hungary is responsible for much of the strong spicing and flavours of the region's food. Paprika, in sweet and mild and more hot and piquant styles, can be found in many dishes of the Slavonian cookbook. Indeed, although the condiment ajvar is popular as an accompaniment to grilled meat everywhere and therefore made all over Croatia, it is in Slavonia that you'll regularly find the spiciest (although even theirs is milder than some brilliant, more brutal versions made elsewhere in the Balkans). Paprika makes its way not only into preserved sausages like kulen but also into Slavonian soups and stews.

Kulen_Maja_Danica_Pečanić.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? Slavonian kulen. Slavonian kulen does not have the same irregular shape as Baranja kulen © Maja Danica Pečanić / Croatian National Tourist Board

Two great rivers border the north and south of Slavonia – the Drava and the Sava, with smaller ones running off or into them through the entire region. These produce a wealth of river fish which are popular in the Slavonian diet.

Throughout almost all the year in Slavonia, it is common to see large Šaran (carp), gutted and butterflied, then impaled outside on branches bored deep into the earth. This allows them to be suspended next to open fires which impart an incredible smoky flavour in the cooking of the fish. These Šaran frequently grow to incredible sizes in the big two rivers. The sight of this al fresco, traditional cooking method, known as u rašljama, is impressive, unforgettable and mouth-watering.

Šaran_Ivo_Biocina.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? Šaran (carp) u rašljama © Ivo Biocina / Croatian National Tourist Board

Šaran also can be found among other river fish in the favourite Slavonian stew of fish paprikas. Richly red from paprika, you can again see this impressively cooked outdoors in Slavonia. Traditional heavy pots are suspended over open fires by the riverside, the dish bubbling and steaming above an intense heat. You would traditionally eat its liquid part first, as a soup, before delving into the fish parts that remain in the bottom (it's advisable to eat it only in this way as it's the best way of avoiding the many bones so typical of the river catch).

fishpap.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? Fish paprikash (fiš paprikaš, sometimes shortened to simply fiš) © Romulić and Stojčić

Comparable to fish paprikash but made with meat is the Slavonian favourite of Cobanac. Again, boldly flavoured with paprika, this stew is bolstered in its punch by the use of hunted meats such as venison and wild boar. It is hands down one of Croatia's best dishes. You can find similar game meat used in Slavonian hunters stew and perklet, another thick and tasty dish informed by Hungarian neighbours.

cobanac81269598126589.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? Cobanac, a hearty, spicy stew made in Slavonia using wild meats © Youtube screenshot 

Slavonia and neighbouring Vojvodina was once the breadbasket of much of the former Yugoslav federation. Here, this land that was once underwater is incredibly rich in nutrients. Indeed, in harder times, many people from all over the region came to live here, assured of finding work in the region's thriving agricultural industry. Slavonia today is not nearly so integral to the supply of the whole domestic nation's food, but agriculture still thrives here. And, the land is still rich.

areal05donji.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? People in Slavonia eat river fish and fresh fruit and vegetables grown in their own, often large back gardens © Osijek-Baranja County Tourist Board

In Slavonia, many live a rural life and even in some towns and large villages, Slavonian houses have huge gardens behind them which are traditionally used for growing vegetables, fruits and nuts or rearing chickens and pigs. Some Slavonian households engage in all of these and others too keep beehives (Slavonian honey is famous and comes in a variety of exciting, different flavours). The products of their labour ensure the freshest ingredients end up in Slavonian home cooking (although, some of their fruits are diverted from the dining table to the pursuit of making rakija). The personal rearing of animals for food also produces a culture in which none of the animal goes to waste.

Krvavica_Maja_Danica_Pečanić.jpgWhat type of food does Croatia eat? Krvavica © Maja Danica Pečanić / Croatian National Tourist Board

Alongside standard or garlic and paprika flavoured sausages like kobasice, or the aforementioned kulen, in Slavonia you can find Švargl, a terrine made from offal, Čvarci, deep-fried rind (pork scratchings) and krvavica, a Croatian blood sausage. Although perhaps straying far from Italian traditions, Slavonia is also responsible for what is arguably Croatia's greatest style of pizza. Slavonska pizza is a hefty festival of different types of pork meats, loaded with onions and cheese too. It's already a gut-buster but, order it with an egg on top and when you burst the yolk to run across your forkful, you'll forget that pizza was ever Italian in the first place.

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Friday, 22 January 2021

22 January: Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia

January 22 2021 – January 22 is Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia. Marked significantly in continental winemaking regions, its folk traditions pre-date Christianity and are celebrated with food, wine, music and merriment

Nearing the end of January, it's not uncommon to see snow on the fields of Croatia. The ground can be hard, brittle, frozen. There's little to be done in them right now. And yet, on 22 January in Croatia, winemakers traditionally head to their vineyards. They do this not to undertake a day's work – for today is a day of rest. They instead do this to mark the tradition of Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia.

As a name, Vincent has many variants, Vinko being one popular in Croatia. Similarly, Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia, is also known by several different names in the country, depending on the region. You can hear it called Vinceška, Vincekovo, Vincelovo, Vinkovo and even Vinceće.

Vincekovo_GVT-2019-14a_1.jpgVincekovo marked with wine and meat in traditional folk costume in Varaždinske Toplice © Grad Varaždinske Toplice

Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia, is mostly marked in the northern continental area of the country and throughout the entire east, in traditional Slavonia and Baranj and the Croatian part of Syrmia, around Ilok. In these places, it is a day inextricably linked with the production of wine. That people seem to associate St Vincent as 'the wine guy' seems reasonable – Vinko and vino (the Croatian word for wine) are almost the same, right? Well, actually it's not so simple.

The related name Viktor (also used in Croatia) gives us the best example for the meaning of the name. Vincent comes from the Latin word 'vincere' (to conquer or to be victorious). But, although it looks similar in Latin ('in vino veritas' - in wine there is truth), the word for wine is much, much older and may have an entirely root.

Ilok2020.jpgVinkovo in Ilok 2020 © Youtube screenshot

Nobody is really sure where the word 'wine' comes from. The ancient Greek word 'oinos' certainly pre-dates the Latin but, truth be told, its true origins have been lost in time, providing entertaining mystery for today. What we do know is that there is a common origin word for wine that crops up in several completely different language groups.

You can find a similar ancient word for wine being used from southern Russia, right the way down through the Caucasus and the non-Indo European languages used in the area of modern-day Georgia, and in the western Semitic languages of the Levant (Arabic: wain, Hebrew: yayin). From the Mediterranean tongues of Latin and Greek, back up again to Russia, this time via Slavic and Germanic lands, the word is the same. It seems that ever since people learned how to cultivate and ferment grapes, different peoples have all know the end product by the same word.

Who knows? Perhaps there is a shared origin for the words? As any winemaker will tell you, the production of excellent vino does indeed require a conquering of the vines. The vines from which we grow grapes actually hail from wild varieties that grew in Russia and central Europe, yet the earliest traces of wine production are found in more southerly regions, where the climate is warmer, this journey itself a conquering act of cultivation. In early Indo-European languages, the root 'wei' means to turn or to bend. The earliest evidence of grapevine cultivation and wine production comes from the South Caucasus, present-day Georgia and dates back at least 8000 years.

1275px-Barry_capitaine._F._25._Grand_vase_pour_la_conservation_du_vin_en_Kacheti_Géorgie._Mission_scientifique_de_Mr_Ernest_Chantre._1881.jpgA Georgian man in traditional dress stands alongside a qvevri, a clay pot used for making Georgian wine in 1881. Once filled, the clay amphora are buried beneath the ground, which helps regulate the temperature of the fermenting wine. Evidence of winemaking in the region is the oldest in the world - it goes back 8000 years  © Public domain

Although several saints share the name Vincent, Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia, marks the death of the saint known as Vincent of Saragossa. Born to a well-off family in Saragossa (Zaragoza), north-eastern Spain, Vinncent devoted his life to the church and became deacon in the Church of Saragossa. He was tortured under the persecution of Christians demanded by Roman Emperor Diocletian, asked to renounce his faith - which he refused to do - and was martyred around the year 304. We mark Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia and the western Christian world on 22 January as this is presumed to be the actual day of his death. St Vincent is not only the patron saint of winemakers, but also the patron saint of vinegar makers, which may come as comfort to some of the less able wine producers of the region.

Basilica_del_Pilar-sunset.jpgCathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar and the Puente de Piedra bridge on the Ebro River in Saragossa, the birthplace of St Vincent © Paulo Brandao

As with other mysteries surrounding wine, quite why the midwinter period of 22 January, Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia, should be significant to winemakers also poses some questions. “I have no idea!” said one Dalmatian winemaker when asked to explain the significance of the day to his craft. “But you know those Slavonians are all crazy, right?” And, on the surface, his unknowing is quite understandable. There is little happening in the frozen fields right now. But, it is possible that this celebration pre-dates not only St Vincent but Christianity itself.

Vincekovo-slika-Likovna-Republika.jpgA Croatian painting tellingly shows how traditions of St Vincent's Day in Croatia have little changed over the years © Tourist Board Jestrebarsko

Everyone favourite ancient God at the party, Dionysus was the Greek God of wine, the grape harvest, fertility, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, festivity and theatre. His celebration took place in the period from the 11th to the 13th of anthesterion, which corresponds in today's calendar to between around now and February. On the wild feast of Dionysus (who is sometimes called Bacchus or Liber, as in liberty, freedom), barrels of new wine were broken open and the celebration marked the impending arrival of the new season – spring. And, this too is how Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia, is marked.

1775px-Cornelis_de_Vos_-_El_triunfo_de_Baco.jpgThe Triumph of Bacchus, a 17th-century painting by Cornelis de Vos © Public domain

Several saints' days in Croatia correspond to significant points in the agricultural calendar, tellingly revealing their pre-Christian roots. Another of those corresponding to winemaking is Martinje – St Martin's Day in Croatia. However, Martinje is traditionally a more proletarian festivity – it comes at the end of the harvest when there is no more hard work for all the manual labourers to do. Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia is a day more traditionally associated with their boss the vineyard owner. It is also traditionally a more testosterone-filled affair – a sausage party, if you will. In more ways than one.

Vinceška-Vina-Belje-2019-21-960x640meats.jpgKulen and other sausages, hung traditionally beside the vines on St Vincent's Day - the company that made these, Belje, is one of the best and most famous in Croatia. They trace their history in the Baranja region back to the year 1697. Without very much fanfare at all, they have been significant contributors of food to the relief effort for the 29 December 2020 earthquake in Sisak Moslavina County. In Baranja, you'll most likely hear this day called Vinceška © Belje

Around this time, vines within the vineyard will be cut back. There is a limited amount of nutrients that may pass down a vine and this cutting back ensures the nutrients are concentrated to help guarantee a limited, good crop. Whether this cutting back has actually taken place in days prior, on Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia, vineyard owners are charged with visiting their vines – whatever the weather – and ceremoniously cutting back a vine, usually one with at least three new buds on, which is then traditionally brought into the home and placed in a watered jar. The progress of the buds supposedly predicts the next season's crops, although many other folk traditions associated with Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia, also serve the same purpose. Melting snow, rain and sunshine on Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia are also traditionally regarded as predictors of a fine harvest, although water dripping from the eaves on Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia could mean the year will be wet.

Pavlomir_Novi_Vinodol_Primorsko-Goranska.jpgVincekovo celebrated in Pavlomir, Novi Vinodol, Primorsko-Goranska County © Youtube screenshot

As the gregarious Dionysus might have said himself, you can't really have a celebration with just one guy. And, famously gregarious themselves, Slavonians rarely make the trip to the vineyard alone. Neighbours, family, friends and even musicians might make the journey with them to join in the blessing of the vines. In Croatia today, you can still see some people undertaking this ceremony in traditional folk costume.

Vinkovo_in_Ilok_2019.jpgVinkovo in Ilok 2019. Brrrrrr! © Youtube screenshot

The vine that has been pruned is ritually sprinkled with old wine. Song and drinking accompany the ceremony and both old and new wine may make an appearance. No Slavonia or Baranja party is complete without kulen, their king of sausages, and on Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia, it is traditional to hang kulen and/or švargla (another monstrous preserved portion of pig product) from a post in order to encourage the next season's crop to be as fertile and bountiful as these sizeable sausages.

1626px-Sacrificio_a_Baco_Massimo_Stanzione.jpgSacrifice to Bacchus by Massimo Stanzione c. 1634 © Public domain. Some of the folk traditions observed on St Vincent's Day in Croatia probably pre-date Christianity

Hearty snacks usually accompany the celebration in the fields and with the ceremonious part taken care of, the taste for another class acquired and the body accustomed to the cold, now is the traditional time to march around the locale to visit the wine cellars of your neighbouring growers. If you're a winemaker of a Dionysian bent, you'll probably take along some food like kulen, a roasted pig, fis paprikas, a wild meat stew (cobanac) or even the tamburica musicians who came to the fields with you. If not, your neighbouring winemaker might well greet you with these. If you live in an area of traditional winemaking, that's a lot of neighbouring wine cellars to visit and celebrations on Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia can extend well into the night.

fishp.jpegFiš paprikaš is a spicy river fish stew, richly red from paprika. It is popular in Slavonia, Baranja and Syrmia. Along with the wild meats stew čobanac and whole šaran (carp), butterflied and cooked outside over an open flame, it is a warming and popular dish to eat in eastern Croatia on St Vincent's Day © Romulić & Stojčić

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Products of Slavonian and Baranja Gastronomic Offer Available Online

December 22, 2020 – Thanks to the internet platforms Eko tržnica and Eceker, domestic products from the rich domestic Slavonian and Baranja gastronomic offer can be ordered to your doorstep even during the coronavirus epidemic.

As Lokalni.hr reports, even during the coronavirus pandemic, products from the rich domestic Slavonian and Baranja gastronomic offer can be ordered online to your doorstep. This is possible thanks to the two internet platforms – Eko tržnica and Eceker, both of which deliver in the area of Osijek-Baranja County and the City of Zagreb. Eko tržnica is a successful project that has been implemented at the Osijek market since 2013, and in the last few years in an online edition. Their phylosophy is that food production must not pollute nature but must return us to nature.

On Eko tržnica and Eceker websites, family farms with ecological certification for food production offer their products. Customers in Croatia are increasingly aware and are looking for products of guaranteed origin, and the goal of the Solidarity Ecological Group, which coordinates buying and selling, is an ethical business, aiming to leave profits in the hands of producers and offer customers products at producer prices.

"By buying local agricultural products, especially at a time when their sales are difficult due to epidemiological measures, we help our family farms, and we provide ourselves and our families with home-grown fruits and vegetables from Slavonian and Baranja fields," said Osijek-Baranja County Prefect Ivan Anušić.

Local food producers have also united through the Eceker platform, where they offer traditional products from Slavonia and Baranja. As in the case of the Eko tržnica, this is a project supported by the Osijek-Baranja County, and both platforms are open for cooperation with local producers in order to further enrich the offer to end customers. Customers can see and order domestic products on the website, and delivery is on the doorstep.

To read more about lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 18 December 2020

PHOTOS: 11 Incredible Croatia Treehouses to Stay In and Escape to Nature

December 18, 2020 – Staying in one of these amazing Croatia treehouses offers perfect seclusion and a welcome return to nature

Sometimes you just want to be alone. Parties and crowds have their time and place, but sometimes what you need is an escape to the countryside. Journeys into the wild can be more than just a breath of fresh air – they're a chance to reconnect with nature, a getaway from laptop screens, the buzz of overhead cables and the sounds of the city. Staying in one of these splendidly situated Croatia treehouses will provide a true return to nature. Sometimes basic and closer to camping, at others, luxurious and with every amenity you'd expect from a stylish seaside villa, all of them allow you to get up close to wild surroundings you've come to be amongst.

Treehouse Cadmos Village, Komaji, Konavle near Dubrovnik
CadmosVillage2.jpg© Treehouse Cadmos Village

Sat between the branches of Cadmos Village Adventure Park, this small treehouse overlooks the Konavle valley, with the Sniježnica mountain in the background. Its position within the family-oriented adventure park marks it as the perfect place to crash out after a day of paintballing, rope bridges, climbing, cycling, zip lines or archery.

CadmosVillage1.jpg© Treehouse Cadmos Village

The treehouse sits on a seven-metre-high platform with a terrace where you can take in the view. Solar-powered, it can accommodate six people in three bedrooms and has a kitchen, dining area and showers. It's 25 kilometres from Dubrovnik from here, ten kilometres from Cavtat and just five kilometres from Dubrovnik airport.

CadmosVillage3.jpg© Treehouse Cadmos Village

Mlin Treehouse, Sveti Vid Dobrinjski, Dobrinj, Krk island
tree-house-ivan-juretic-7mliin.jpg© Ivan Juretić architects

Sitting in the trees behind the Holiday House Mlin near Dobrinj, in the interior of island Krk, Mlin Treehouse is small in size – just eight square metres inside – but has a definite wow factor. This can be attributed to architect, Ivan Juretić, who has designed here a building full of unexpected angles and intermittent panels which allow light to stream into the property.

mlin1.jpg© Ivan Juretić architects

Dobrinj itself is a great place to get away to, and you're only a couple of kilometres from the sea here. Better still, the main Holiday House Mlin has its own private pool – you should probably check before booking if you're allowed to use it.

tree-house-ivan-juretic-8mlinkrk.jpg© Ivan Juretić architects

Tree House Gorski Lazi, Tršće, Gorski Kotor
GorskiLazi1.jpeg© Tree House Gorski Lazi

This treehouse in Gorski Kotor looks little more than a garden shed from the outside and, indoors, the two double beds found here are indeed tucked tightly into the corners. But, the experience at Tree House Gorski Lazi isn't supposed to be taken exclusively within the rustic interior, it's one to be enjoyed on the outside and within the natural landscape.

GorskiLazi2.jpeg© Tree House Gorski Lazi

To encourage this, a large, open-air terrace sits in front of the house from where you take in the view – grassland rolls gently below you before being engulfed on all sides by surrounding forests that change colour spectacularly through the seasons. They rise to cover nearby hills, mountains completing the perfect vista on a near horizon. Further encouragement to spend your time in this spot is the barbecue and loungers situated here, although there's a gas stove in the kitchen below the house if you fancy something quick. The house is located 15 kilometres from Risnjak National Park.

GorskiLazi3.jpeg© Tree House Gorski Lazi

Treehouse Resnice, Barilović, Karlovac County
Resnice3.jpg© Treehouse Resnice

Sat within the treetops of eight hectares of natural forest in Barilović, Karlovac County, Treehouse Resnice is one of the most homely and inviting of all Croatia treehouses. From the dwelling, the rivers Mrežnica and Korana are just a couple of kilometres walk, inviting you to take romantic and peaceful walks of exploration in either direction. But, truth be told, you might be just as happy hanging around the house - Treehouse Resnice is beautifully constructed, with no less attention paid to its interior design.

resnice-treehouse-2.jpeg© Treehouse Resnice

A balcony on the house encompasses a supporting tree and you can rest here in a hammock. There are two additional structures next door specifically for relaxing and dining outside. Indoor and outdoor dining areas, complete with barbecue, extend its offer throughout the seasons. The double bedroom is found in the loft, beautifully decorated beneath wooden beams.

Treehouse Resnice1.jpg© Treehouse Resnice

Robins Hood, Zakrajc, Skrad, Gorski Kotor
Robins3.jpg© Robins Hood

Situated in the small settlement of Zakrajc near Skrad, between the Zeleni Vir water spring and the Kulpa river which acts as a natural border between Croatia and Slovenia, the topography surrounding the Robins Hood lodging is a gift to hikers and walkers. Streams and the river cut through rocks and hills, there are lots of pretty settlements and forestland to pass through.

Robins4.jpg© Robins Hood

The mountains of Gorski Kotar provide an impressive backdrop. Far from neighbouring eyes, this is one of the Croatia treehouses if you want to be alone with your surroundings, although the owners who built this place do also have a highly-rated restaurant in nearby Delnice and might extend an invitation.

Robins1.jpg© Robins Hood

Sanjam Treehouses, Lika
Sanjam Liku Treehousecroatia2.jpg© Sanjam Treehouses Lika

The uninhabited settlement of Drenovac Radučki in Gospic, at the foot of Mount Velebit, offers what seems to be perfect countryside seclusion when viewed exclusively from the windows or terraces of the two ultra-modern Sanjam Treehouses in Lika. Occasionally, you might hear a car pass on the nearby road from Karlobag to Knin. But, not so often. It's surprising to think that from here, in summer months, folks are swimming in the waters of the Adriatic less than 10 kilometres away. For visitors with a car wanting to escape the crowds after a day on the beach, these Croatia treehouses are an extremely inviting option.

Sanjam Liku Treehousecroatia23.jpg© Sanjam Treehouses Lika

The interior design is contemporary, sparse and uncluttered, featuring every home comfort you could wish for on any extended stay. One house has 43 square metres, with two bedrooms, while the other has 39 square metres and one bedroom. The experience here might not be so secluded and carefree if you're staying at the same time as neighbours you don't know – the treehouses are quite close and the view from one terrace faces the windowless, rear facade of the other. For an extended family or group taking both houses simultaneously, it's the perfect spot.

Sanjam Liku Treehousecroatia24.jpg© Sanjam Treehouses Lika

Plitvice Holiday Resort, Grabovac, Rakovica
Plitvice Holiday Resort2.jpg© Plitvice Holiday Resort

The five pretty treehouses of Plitvice Holiday Resort in Grabovac sit beneath towering trees and overlook a few more traditional glamping huts and a water feature through which wooden walkways snake. Yes, you might have neighbours here, but if you're looking for a superior camping spot that will keep you close to the nearby Plitvice Lakes, this is a lovely option.

Plitvice Holiday Resort1.jpg© Plitvice Holiday Resort

Each of the houses has two bedrooms, each with their own bathroom, plus a kitchen and a terrace and all come with WiFi and air-conditioning for the warmer months and heating for the cooler ones. The surrounding locale and views are pretty year-round.

Plitvice Holiday Resort3.png© Plitvice Holiday Resort

Obonjan Treehouse, Obonjan island, Dalmatia
Obonjan2.jpg© Obonjon island

Obonjan island has in recent years been run as a private camping site, catering only for adults. Music festivals have taken place there, revellers dancing between the pine trees, doing yoga by the beach or swimming in the seas close by. The island offers a range of camping accommodation options and in 2018 set up this, its first treehouse, with a view to expanding the offer with more builds.
Obonjan1.jpg© Obonjon island

The small and simple construction has a unique appeal among the Croatia treehouses listed here as it lies just eight metres from the inviting blue of the Adriatic. It has an en-suite bathroom, fridge, air‐conditioning, electricity and a small external terrace with table and deck chairs.

ObonjanTree-House-008.jpg© Obonjon island

Riverland Mrežnica, Zvečaj, near Duga Resa, Karlovac County
RiverlandMrez2.jpg© Riverland Mrežnica

Small and simple camping huts, the appeal of the two Croatia treehouses of Riverland Mrežnica is undoubtedly the truly fantastic views. Windows and terraces overlook (as the name suggests) the Mrežnica river, the view framed between the branches in which the treehouses sit.

RiverlandMrez1.jpg© Riverland Mrežnica

This green backdrop surrounds on all sides. Each treehouse accommodates two people, with double beds, located immediately below the roofs, accessed via wooden step ladders. You can take a bike or a boat to explore the nature around you.

RiverlandMrez3.jpg© Riverland Mrežnica

Zlatna Greda, Baranja, nr Osijek
ZlatnaRek2.jpg© Zlatna Greda

The appeal of the countryside around Osijek and Baranja is becoming better known and reasons for visiting Bilje Municipality, just north of Osijek, now extend much further than the beautiful Kopacki Rit Nature Park that can be found there. To the park's immediate north, Zlatna Greda is an adrenaline park and eco-farm offering cycling, rowing, ziplines and the perfect door into the surrounding nature.

ZlatnaRek1.jpg© Zlatna Greda

Although Zlatna Greda is the sole inclusion on this list of Croatia treehouses which does not offer overnight stays, it can be rented for several hours and is a good spot for groups to rest, take lunch or dinner and watch the sunlight fade. It can accommodate a group of up to 12 people and there are several tiers of accommodation – both dormitory and private rooms – available elsewhere in the complex.

ZlatnaRek3.jpg© Zlatna Greda

Tree Elements, Donji Nikšić, Rastoke, Karlovac County
treel2.jpg© Tree Elements

Not close to completion yet, the images here show how the Tree Elements Croatia treehouses in Donji Nikšić will look when finished. Situated within a 28 thousand square metre plot, bought specifically for the purpose by a young entrepreneur, build of the first two treehouses is ongoing, their progress delayed by the unforeseen happenings of 2020.

TreeEl1.jpg© Tree Elements

The plans look special and we confidently expect to see them rising further from the ground in 2021, when visitors will be able to take advantage of the wonderful surroundings of forest, streams and the nearby river Korana. The village of Rastoke, with its cascading waterfalls and waterside eateries, is also extremely close by.

treel3korana.jpg© Tree Elements

Monday, 19 October 2020

Couple Replaced Normandy with Baranja, They Were Attracted by Kind People and Peace

October 19, 2020 – A Homeland War volunteer and his wife chose to live in the plains. The couple replaced Normandy with Baranja, and this is their story.

As Glas Slavonije reports, when in 1992, as a Homeland War volunteer, he joined Croatian Army units, Philippe Guerin, one of about 60 French volunteers who fought in the Homeland War, could not even dream that 30 years later he would move from his native Normandy to Croatia, Baranja, to a small village of Karanac. That is exactly what happened a few months ago.

 

No urban areas, nor the Adriatic coast

Philippe and his wife Jessie liked the "blue house" on Kolodvorska Street in Karanac. They did not think for too long and they soon became the owners of this property in the Baranja ethno village.

Before the war in Croatia, Philippe did not know much about the former Yugoslavia. In France, he was a professional soldier, a non-commissioned officer in the French army.

"With the fall of the Berlin Wall, I realized that the dangers of communism were gone. As a result, I left the army and got a job as a heavy truck driver,” says Philippe. In the early '90s, he lived with a girl who decided to go to the UK.

"If you go there, I will go to Croatia, where the war started," he told her. And it was like that.

At the beginning of 1992, he joined the HOS units in Zadar and later moved to Gromovi (thunder). When foreign volunteers left the Croatian Army, he ended up in Bosnian Posavina, and then in Široki Brijeg, in Mostar. All in all, he fought for approximately two years.

After returning to France, he took a job as a merchant in Cannes. It was preceded by the severance of an earlier relationship with a girl who had chosen the UK for her future life.

"I worked at Cannes until 1996 when I met an American officer through a friend who suggested that I join IFOR troops in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but not as a soldier, as a logistician. I came to the rehearsal and stayed. I ended up in Kosovo, but I didn't like it there. Returning home, in 2001, I was thinking about what to do next and decided to pursue tourism. I finished three years of college, in the meantime, I got married and together with my wife founded the Balkans Discovery Tours agency. One of the arrangements is a visit to Slavonia and Baranja," explains Philippe Guerin continuing that the decision was made to buy a house somewhere in Croatia. They were searching the ads for quite some time. Since they used to live in a village, they excluded urban areas, but also the Adriatic coast.