Sunday, 2 October 2022

1st October Weekend in Osijek Was Full of Life - Trust Us, Head On East

October 2, 2022 - Osijek is too much fun. The 4th largest city in Croatia and the regional centre of eastern Croatia lives the good life. The IT scene is booming, new things keep popping up, and cultural events are ever-present. The autumn months are especially exciting. During the day, you can still chill in the sun by the Drava, and in the evening, walk through one of Osijek's many parks, picking up wild chestnuts. Or you can enjoy them as a snack if you buy them roasted from the legendary carts. And on late September / early October weekends, now traditionally, you don't even need to ask what everyone is doing. Just Head On East.

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This festival, as the name suggests, celebrates hedonism in the east. And does it shine brightly here. The organisers included the Osijek-Baranja County Tourist Board, the Osijek-Baranja County, the City of Osijek, and many of the city's institutions - schools, libraries, museums, and associations. It felt like all of Osijek just came together to create an unforgettable experience. And we don't say that lightly.

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The organisers thought of everything and made sure to accommodate all ages and personal definitions of hedonism. Whether that is food, fine wine, beautiful art and light installations, or good music, you could spend the entire weekend living in Osijek's royal parks. 

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This year's theme was a royal one, with the main venues being the royal parks of Osijek, i.e., the parks carrying names of kings and queens. Our favourite was the one that hosted the Kingdom of Wine or KraljeVINA (wordplay in Croatian: Kraljevina = kingdom, and vina = of wine). Fun fact, with 17 parks (surpassing the number of squares), Osijek is known as the Green City or the City of Parks. And Head On East utilised that to create an atmosphere of warmth, familiarity, and joy, yet excitement for something new at every step. 

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From early morning on Friday until late at night on Saturday, something was happening. Workshops and theatre for the little ones, cook-offs and culinary classes at the market, art, education, wine tasting, local food, craft beer and gin, and live concerts. What impressed us the most was the thoughtful planning and organisation of the locations and events, which made heading on east dynamic and entertaining in a way you wouldn't necessarily think about. The parks felt like a little kingdom each but were all connected by the central theme, hedonism. And though something else was happening at every location, and all the events and crowds made it busy, the route was logical and made it easy to enjoy every aspect.

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The light installations put up along European Avenue made the night simply magical. The fact that not only you could walk into the Museum of Fine Arts and look around while listening to a live jazz concert in its backyard but also try your hand at contributing to a painting while having a glass of local wine would probably make anyone suddenly start appreciating art that much more.

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To quote Ivana Jurić, the director of Osijek-Baranja County Tourist Board, we invite you to come and experience the east of Croatia more. Head On East and discover what it's all about!

Photos are courtesy of Visit Slavonija Baranja Facebook page (Marko Banić / Osijek-Baranja County Archive).

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

Tuesday, 27 September 2022

Days Left Until Royal HeadOnEast Festival Celebrating Croatia's East

September 27, 2022 - We are counting the days until the fourth edition of HeadOnEast. This spectacular event delights even the most demanding hedonists who will seek happiness this weekend in the east of Croatia. Yesterday in the Osijek-Baranja County, the entire program of this now traditional festival was presented.

SiB writes, "HeadOnEast is not only becoming recognisable in Croatia, but beyond. Both as a festival, and as a brand of eastern Croatia that visitors can enjoy all year round. In cooperation with the Tourist Board, Osijek-Baranja County will present the best of everything it has to offer during the two-day festival created four years ago, during the Croatian Tourism Day in the east of Croatia," said prefect Ivan Anušić. This year's HeadOnEast takes place on September 30 and October 1 with the support of the City of Osijek. So hurry up to book a good party in the city on the Drava, because according to the tourist numbers, the accommodation capacities are almost full. After two pandemic years, Osijek-Baranja County saw record numbers, just like in 2019.

"HeadOnEast truly offers the best that we have, and that's why this festival has become recognisable in such a short time. I thank the Osijek-Baranja County for its excellent organisation because Osijek also records excellent tourism results, to which such festivals certainly contribute," said Dragan Vulin, deputy mayor of Osijek.

In the most beautiful parts of the city of Osijek, the festival of hedonism wearing royal clothes will shine at several city locations. During two days, they will become kingdoms with the majority of events taking place in the parks of King Petar Krešimir IV and King Tomislav Park, and King Držislav Park.

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Festival programme, Visit Slavonija Baranja

"Every true hedonist enjoys life like a king. That's why we're starting the event at Kraljica Pija, where a royal breakfast for hedonists awaits us in cooperation with our partners HAPIH and the Regional Centre of Competence of the Hospitality and Tourism School in Osijek, followed by the Cooking show "The best fish are in the east" with fresh ingredients from our market," said Ivana Jurić, director of the Osijek-Baranja County Tourist Board.

We will continue with the classics in Sakuntala Park and the Avenue Theatre, in one of the most beautiful parts of the city, the Art Nouveau European Avenue. The program then moves to the City and University Library, where we will discuss new books and play in the royal playroom. Across the street, at the Museum of Fine Arts, we have a rich music program, and all of that as darkness falls is accompanied by the Houses of Light in European Avenue and the main HedOnEast zones.

In Kraljevina (the Kingdom), we will drink top wines, and in the King's Park, we will play the royal game with our partner associations Dokkica, Breza, and Đola - making cloaks, crowns, and swords, everything that a real kingdom must have. This part is dedicated to children because they are the kings of the game.

"Beercuz also waits with craft beers, Labos with brandies, gin and domestic whiskeys, and the unmissable street food. An evening walk under the lanterns awaits us on both days, followed by a rich music program. From Nera & Updown, Filip Pavić and the Jazz Quartet, Fluentes, Gelato Sisters, Meritas, Massimo, DJ Vladimir Božić, Croatian Funk Delegation, Surogat, Ida Prester and Lollobrigida, Daleka Obala, to Z++. Saturday morning is booked for the antiques fair and another Cooking show, "Where do the black pigs go," at Kraljica Pija, as well as several playrooms, story rooms, and exhibitions in several locations," Jurić added.

Along with the City of Osijek, the Tourist Board of the City, the Croatian Tourist Board, the Cultural Centre, the Market, HAPIH, the Museum of Fine Arts, the City and University Library, the Hospitality School, the associations Đola, Breza, and Dokkica, and Adverta, there are new partners who have recognised the value of this event. Croatia osiguranje and Ledo will support this year's royal HeadOnEast.

Osijek is about to become a big stage that will fill all the senses, even for the biggest hedonists, on September 30 and October 1. During the two-day festival, it will summarise to its visitors all the hedonistic benefits of the Osijek-Baranja County that you can experience 365 days a year.

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

Tuesday, 28 December 2021

As Dalmatia Sleeps, HeadOnEast 2021 Kicks Off in Osijek Tomorrow

December 28, 2021 - The 2021 tourist season is not quite finished in some corners of this beautiful land. As the coast sleeps, HeadOnEast 2021 kicks off tomorrow in Osijek, Full of Life. 

Full disclosure - I loved everything about this festival when it burst on the scene in October, 2019. 

The name, a superb play on Hedonism and Heading on East to a region that a majority of Croats sadly have little knowledge of.

The branding, done by a local Osijek design company.

And the event itself. 

HeadOnEast 2019 coincided with the first-ever Days of Croatian Self-Congratulation (formerly known as Days of Croatian Tourism) to be held in continental Croatia. 

Slavonia was finally given a chance to show Croatia's official tourism workers what it could offer, and they put on quite a show. 

The historic Osijek old town, Tvrdja, shone - so much so that even the locals were wondering what city they were in. You can catch a bit of the atmosphere from that event in the video below. 

The pandemic played its part in the 2020 version, and bad weather caused the postponement of HeadOnEast 2021 back in October.

But the party will go on, and for anyone wondering if Croatia has 365 tourism potential should head on East to Osijek tomorrow, as the two-day HeadOnEast 2021 festival is about to begin. 

Due to renovation works in the fortress area, this year's event will take place at Park Kralja Drzislava, where one of the attractions will be the largest Ferris wheel in South-East Europe, which recently arrived for Advent in Osijek. 

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There will be food and drink...

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There will be music...

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And there will be a lot of fun. For, as those who have had the experience will tell you, there is no party in Croatia quite like a Slavonian party. 

More information about HeadOnEast 2021 on the official Facebook event page.

Never been to eastern Croatia? Find out what you are missing in Time to Tell the Truth about Slavonia Full of Life.

Saturday, 27 March 2021

VIDEO: Move Your Borders and HeadOnEast to Osijek-Baranja County!

March 27, 2021 - You'll want to HeadOnEast to Osijek-Baranja County after seeing all the region has to offer this year! 

HRTurizam writes that the HeadOnEast project, with which the Osijek-Baranja County Tourist Board has already successfully promoted the destination, will take a step forward in the new tourist season.

Namely, as could be heard at this year's first "tourist coffee," or socializing with journalists, HeadOnEast has been standardized, and an agreement has been reached on cooperation with all tourist boards operating in Osijek-Baranja County.

Thus, the Osijek-Baranja County Tourist Board, together with the tourist boards of Bilja, Baranja, Osijek, Draž, Đakovo, Erdut, Donji Miholjac, Valpovo, Bizovac, Našice, and Belišće, presented numerous initiatives and projects with which the system is actively preparing for the tourist season. And according to the program prepared by the tourist boards, there will be interesting manifestations and events in eastern Croatia this year!

As could be heard from the director of the Osijek-Baranja County Tourist Board, Ivana Jurić, the emphasis was on dispersed events. This means that there will be something for everyone, and events will be held throughout the year in different locations. Most importantly, the same visuals will be presented in the entire county in terms of communication.

 

The meeting began by reading the letters from Slavonian and Baranja citizens with an invitation to move your borders and discover this picturesque destination already in spring. This was the introduction to the new promotional campaign of the Osijek-Baranja County Tourist Board called "Move Your Borders," which started this week at the national level.

The further development of the brand platform HeadOnEast Croatia / Visit Slavonia Baranja was presented, and new visuals for destinations make up the offer in Osijek-Baranja County.

Thus, for the first time, all three Baranja tourist boards act under one visual identity: the Municipality of Bilje - Kopački rit Tourist Board, the Municipality of Draž Tourist Board, and the regional Baranja Tourist Board.

This informally united tourist board, in cooperation with the county tourist board, is organizing a new event called "Month of Baranja cuisine" this spring, in line with current epidemiological measures. From April 10 to May 2, every weekend, an open-air workshop will be held on rural estates for 25 participants to prepare authentic Baranja dishes, while Baranja restaurants will offer old dishes in a new guise.

Projects implemented in cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism and Sports and the Croatian National Tourist Board, such as "Safe Stay in Croatia" and special offers for digital nomads, were also presented.

As the new Law on Foreigners has been in force since the beginning of the year, allowing you to stay in Croatia for up to a year, the Osijek-Baranja County Tourist Board has joined the project to promote the destination as an ideal place to stay for digital nomads, through special programs prepared in cooperation with Golden Slavonia Travel and Maksi Tours, local travel agencies that deal exclusively with attracting guests to Slavonia and Baranja.

Through the offer of congress and team-building programs, the destination was presented to international customers at the MEETEX business fair. This time, the Croatian Congress Industry Fair was held virtually, and the Osijek-Baranja County Tourist Board, Hotel Osijek, and Golden Slavonia Travel presented the destination's offer at a dozen B2B meetings held via the Zoom platform with potential buyers from Israel, Germany, Austria, Finland, Belgium. France and Italy. The interlocutors were representatives of large companies such as Ericsson and travel and event agencies specializing in smaller groups and incentive programs.

 

They are also actively working on developing new products such as circular cycling routes in the most attractive locations in cooperation with Osijek-Baranja County, which recently submitted a project on this topic to the tender of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports. In the meantime, the City of Đakovo Tourist Board informally joined forces with the municipalities in the Đakovo region and started preparing the first "outdoor" routes.

The director of the Osijek-Baranja County Tourist Board, Ivana Jurić, points out that the goal of all activities and the new campaign is to invite domestic visitors to move to eastern Croatia and Slavonia and Baranja, but also to push the boundaries in the perception of this interesting and yet undiscovered region of Croatia.

For the latest travel updates and COVID-19 news from Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Saturday, 31 October 2020

Move Your Borders, Head to Eastern Croatia: Osijek-Baranja County Tourist Board Launches New Promo Videos

October 31, 2020 - Move your borders, head to eastern Croatia! - is the slogan of the Osijek-Baranja County Tourist Board as part of the phenomenal #HeanOnEast concept.

Goran Rihelj of HRTurizam reports that the story was created last year for the needs of holding Croatian Tourism Days in Slavonia, and the great news is that the event has turned into a brand concept that continues. Thus, as a continuation of the story, an introductory slogan was created. The event was also held this year, but of course, on a much smaller scale due to the epidemiological situation.

New short promotional videos have now been recorded, promoting active and wine tourism and the gastronomy of Osijek-Baranja County.

Hedonism without borders - Colors, smells and tastes / #HeadOnEastCroatia

Hedonism without borders - Wine postcards / #HeadOnEastCroatia

Hedonism without borders - active in nature / #HeadOnEastCroatia

Goran Rihelj of HRTurizam emphasizes that without the activation of Croatian travel agencies, it is difficult to initiate a more serious focus on continental and rural destinations. The coronavirus crisis highlighted the need for nature, new destinations without large crowds, and a focus on the continent and rural areas.

The whole of Slavonia, Baranja, and Srijem already have something to offer and show, certainly enough for a seven-day program. However, first, the focus must be on three-day trips, i.e., a weekend trip to Slavonia.

"Move your boundaries, and start selling the continent in the market," Rihelj adds. 

#HeadOnEast is a great slogan and concept, and it is a great pity that it did not come to life as the slogan of the whole of Slavonia. But not all hope is lost, as moving forward through synergy is key.

Rihelj concludes - "You know, the distance between Osijek and Split and Zagreb is the same in both directions."

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Thursday, 1 October 2020

HeadOnEast 2020 in Osijek as Hedonism Returns to Slavonia

October 1, 2020 - After its stunning introduction during Days of Croatian Tourism in 2019, HeadOnEast 2020 kicks off tomorrow - 3 glorious days of hedonism in Osijek. 

One of the best tourism initiatives of 2019 - at least in my humble opinion - was the decision to hold the annual Days of Croatian Tourism event in eastern Croatia for the first time. The populr event, where all the movers and shakers from the official Croatian tourism industry converge for three days of awards, networking and socialising after a typically busy tourist season, is traditionally held in attractive coastal locations which make for an ideal weekend away from the office in Zagreb and elsewhere. 

The decision to hold the event in Slavonia for the first time, following a campaign by Goran Rihelj of HRTurizam, gradually gathered support until a series of events from Virovitica to Vukovar, and Vinkovci to Osijek took place, with many official tourism workers heading on east for the first time. Having visited Slavonia several times, and aware of its most limited tourism development compared to decades of investment on the Adriatic, I was curious to see how the event would go. I have a large soft spot for eastern Croatia and the wonderful people who hail from there - easily the most hard-working employees you will find on the Adriatic each summer. 

Slavonia shone. Absolutely shone, and many headed back to Zagreb truly amazed at what they had discovered out east. And there was no doubting the highlight of a fabulous few days - the HeadOnEast festival in the old town of Osijek. I was delighted to learn that the very clever branding to promote the region's outstanding gourmet offer was conceived and executed locally. HeadOnEast - Hedonist, genius! I do encourage you to learn more about this remarkable branding campaign in HeadOnEast, Quality Croatian Tourism Branding Made in Slavonia.

Nowhere was more attractive than the Tvrdja Old Town of Osijek, which was transformed into a gourmet paradise, with events, street food, wine tasting, chill zones, and fun for the kids. It was lit up like Christmas, and if I have ever seen an example of the official tourism slogan, Croatia Full of Life, this was it. Several of my Osijek friends were incredulous that the usually quiet old town in early October could be this vibrant and cool.

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Osijek and Slavonia had put on quite a show for its 1,500 guests from all over Croatia.

And it wasn't long before I was back, bringing the family for a weekend of Slavonian discovery just two weeks later - it was quite a weekend.  

Last year's magic was thankfully not a one-off, and HeadOnEast 2020 kicks off tomorrow evening, having survived the corona scare. Three days of gourmet fun await - check out the full programme in Croatian below (Google Translate is your friend). 

If you think you have seen the old town of Osijek in all its glory, consider taking another look this weekend. HeadOnEast 2020 will be a fabulous event, one which I hope will be part of the calendar for years to come, helping raise the profile of this magnificent and severely underrated region.

 

PROGRAMI 2020.

ZEMLJA BEZ GRANICA - HVATAČI SNOVA” - Trg Jurja Križanića - dvorište Prehrambeno tehnološkog fakulteta Osijek; iza Crkve Sv. Mihaela Arkanđela

Radno vrijeme:

Petak: 17.30 h - 24.00 h

Subota: 9.30 h - 24.00 h

Nedjelja: 10.00 h - 12.00 h

Opis: Ponajveći kontinentalni dječji festival Zemlja bez granica u mini izdanju gostuje na HeadOnEastu, pod temom Hvatači snova. Klince i klinceze te njihove odrasle pratnje očekuju brojne radionice i igraonice uz bogat glazbeni program. Program realizira Udruga Breza u suradnji s Kulturnim centrom Osijek.

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Program:

Petak, 2.10. 17:30 Priča o Glasu- Kazalište Mala scena/ dječja predstava

18:00 Zvučna kupka /performans

18:05 Škripzikl uživo /ulični performans

19:00-19:30 Dora Vestić /koncertino

19:40-19:55 HNK/ crtice iz mjuzikla

20:10-21:00 JELENA RADAN I GORAN BOŠKOVIĆ /koncertino

21:00 do 24:00 Ambijentalna glazba uz svjetlosne instalacije

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Subota, 3.10. Radionice za djecu

9:30-13:00 razne radionice

15:00-19:00 razne radionice

18:00 Ivana Đula: hvatačica zvukova – performans Dubrovnik s razlogom

19:30-20:15 LUCE- Još i sad/ mali koncert

20:15-21:00 MERITAS- Dok čekamo dan/ mali koncert

21:00 Udruga Slama i Plesni studio Shine - Spaljivanje virusa/ performans

21:00 do 24:00 Ambijentalna glazba uz svjetlosne instalacije

Nedjelja, 4.10. Radionice za djecu

10:00-12:00 razne radionice

Više informacija: https://www.facebook.com/events/2729133980697507/

VINO.GRAD & BEERCUZ“ - Trg Vatroslava Lisinskog – dvorište Edukativnog i informativnog turističkog centra mladih Stara pekara

Radno vrijeme:

Petak: 18.00 h-24.00 h

Subota: 18.00 h–24.00 h

Nedjelja: ne radi

Opis: Stara pekara ugostiti će Vino.grad i Beercuz, te postati raj za vinoljupce i pivoljupce, gdje će sinergija podunavskih vina i craft piva potaknuti razuzdanost pred glavnom pozornicom ovogodišnjeg HeadOnEast-a, na kojoj će nastupati brojni poznati izvođači. (tradicionalni sadržaj Večeri vina i umjetnosti, ovaj put pod nazivom Vino.grad. Planirano je predstavljanje vina Slavonije i Baranje, glazbeni program, vinske i gourmet radionice. Uz Vino.grad u dvorištu Stare pekara, predstavit će se županijska craft scena u programu pod nazivom Beercuz.)

Glazbeni program:

Petak, 2.10. 18:00 - 19:00 DJ Kemalier

19:00 - 20:00 Bow vs. Plectrum

20:00 - 21:00 DJ Kemalier

21:00 - 22:30 ZDENKA KOVAČIČEK & Green house blues band

22:30 - 24:00 DJ Kemalier

Subota, 3.10. 18:00 - 20:30 DJ Kemalier

20:30 - 21:40 Borna Šercar's Jazziana Croatia

21:40 - 22:30 DJ Kemalier

22:30 - 24:00 Gitarel

Dodatni program:

Petak, 2.10. 18:00 – 22:00 h Izložba fotografija „Živjeti s Dravom“, JU za zaštitu prirode OBŽ

19:00 – 20:00 h Vina s Dunava, radionica - Centar za mlade Stara pekara

Subota, 3.10. 18:00 – 22:00 h Izložba fotografija „Živjeti s Dravom“, JU za zaštitu prirode OBŽ

19:00 – 20:30 h Vina s Dunava, radionica i Gourmet radionica, sljubljivanje vina i hrane - Centar za mlade Stara pekara

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 IN DA SOFA” - Trg Vatroslava Lisinskog – travnati prostor ispred NK Elektra

Radno vrijeme:

Petak: 18.00 h - 24.00 h

Subota: 18.00 h - 24.00 h

Nedjelja: ne radi

Opis: Jedan od zaštitnih znakova osječke urbane scene, popularna In da Sofa priprema pregršt ludih ritmova i veliku dozu zabave.

Glazbeni program: DJ Omer (petak) & DJ Flegma (subota)

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  1. FOOD BAZZAR” - Trg Vatroslava Lisinskog

Radno vrijeme:

Petak: 18.00 h - 24.00 h

Subota: 18.00 h - 24.00 h

Nedjelja: ne radi

Opis: Food bazzar okupiti će slavonske i baranjske proizvođače kulena, kobasica, čvaraka, sira, meda, ajvara, pekmeza, rakije i drugih proizvoda koji predstavljaju najbolje suvenire ovog kraja,

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  1. Street Food” - Ul. Matije Petra Katančića

Radno vrijeme:

Petak: 18.00 h - 24.00 h

Subota: 18.00 h - 24.00 h

Nedjelja: ne radi

Opis: Street Food zona ponuditi najbolje od raznolike gastronomske ponude Slavonije i Baranje. 

Dodatno:

  • Posebno turističko vođenje „Vojnici, gostionice i bludnice“, Stanislav Subotić

Petak i subota: 18:00 – 19:30 h, početak Trg V. Lisinskog

  • Program će pratiti skulpture od slame autora Nikole Fallera.

Manifestacija će imati službene ulaze:

1 ulaz na program Hvatači snova, Zemlja bez granica:

dvorište Prehrambeno tehnološkog fakulteta - Trg Jurja Križanića, iza Crkve Sv. Mihaela Arkanđela

3 ulaza prema ostalim programima – Vino.grad, Beercuz, In Da Sofa, Food bazzar, Street food:

  1. ulaz: Trg Svetog Trojsta – ulaz u Ulicu M. P. Katančića
  2. 2. ulaz: Trg Vatroslava Lisinskog – zapadna strana trga
  3. 3. ulaz: s Promenade – kod NK Elektra)

Na ulazima će se osigurati dezinfekcijska sredstva, mjeriti temperatura i popisivati posjetitelji, dok će se na svakoj lokaciji planiranih potprograma biti osigurana dezinfekcijska sredstva te će se voditi računa o distanci i maksimalnom broju posjetitelja po pojedinoj lokaciji, prema uputama i preporukama Stožera i Hrvatskog zavoda za javno zdravstvo.

Even if you can't make the festival this time round, why not HeadOnEast soon and see what you are missing. Learn more in How to Make the Most from a Weekend in Eastern Croatia.

Follow the latest on the official HeadOnEast Facebook event page.

Friday, 25 October 2019

Vucedol Era: When Eastern Croatian Settlements Most Important in All Europe

October 24, 2019 - One of the greatest archaeological treasures of South-East Europe lies on the banks of the Danube in eastern Croatia, as it has for more than 5,000 years. Meet Vucedol. 

Have you heard of Vucedol?

And if you have, do you now what it is exaclty? A town, a village, a region, a culture, a people? 

Perhaps you are like me and had heard of Vudecol, knew that it had something to do with an ancient civilisation close to the Danube, and that there was a museum somewhere out there in eastern Croatia. 

It was time to fill in this embarrassing gap in my knowledge about eastern Croatia, and a visit to the Vucedol Culture Museum was put on the list of our recent HeadOnEast family visit to discover the wonders of Slavonia and surrounding areas last weekend. 

I was stunned by what I found. 

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It turns out that Vucedol is a small settlement these days just south of Vukovar. Located on the Danube, it is a sleepy place, but one which once was among the most important settlements in all Europe with a civilisation s advanced as any in the world. 

The right bank of the River Danube in eastern Croatia was settled by people of the Vučedol culture in the early third millennium B.C. This leading cultural formation between 3000 and 2500 B.C. strongly influenced the other cultures of the time and has left noticeable marks on the entire heritage of Europe. It coexisted with the Sumerian period in Mesopotamia, the building of pyramids in Egypt, and the early layers of Troy. The Vučedolians were the first people to have mastered time—the first culture that made a calendar! The first astronomers to read the secrets of the heavens. It is shameful how little we today know of the images above our heads… Pit 6, which was later re-numbered as Grave 3, was dug 4 meters away from the edge of the lowest floor of the Vučedol culture. In the grave, or rather, tomb, a total of eight bodies were found. Especially noteworthy among the large number of ceramic finds is the terrine, the most artistically decorated one of all those found so far in the Vučedol culture. On the night of 9 March 2889 B.C., having just passed through the Pleiades, the planets Venus and Mars found themselves in conjunction visible from Earth as a close approach or “posture of love”.

Introduction to the film about Vucedol - The Prehistoric Night of Venus and Mars.

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If you look at the timeframe of ancient sites, Vucedol does indeed appear to be very advanced.

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A rather excellent museum, the Vucedol Culture Museum opened in 2015 on the banks of the Danube next to some of the Vucedol excavation sites. 

And rather a fascinating little place it is, which has so far been visited by more than 200,000 people, a number that should increase considerably as tourism in the east develops, and should better connections to existing tourism materialise. Vukovar is 6km away, for example, and received tens of thousands of river cruise tourists each year, but almost none make it to Vucedol. 

And they are really missing out, for there are some really FASCINATING things inside, all of which make up part of the Vucedol culture, which I found incredible for its sophistication all those years ago. 

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(All the good photos in this article, including this one, by Romulic & Stojcic)

For Vucedol culture is home to the oldest calendar in Europe, an example of which was found on a pot in nearby Vinkovci, itself the oldest continuously inhabited town in Europe, dating back 8,300 years. Here are 10 things to know about Vinkovci from a recent TCN visit.  

The Orion calendar is based on the constellation of the stars, as you can see in this brief video above. 

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And there are theories that the stars played a role in the practice of human sacrifice after studying some of the skeletons recovered from the Vucedol site. 

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Given that the height of Vucedol culture was some 5,000 years ago, they seemed to be very advanced for that era looking at the exhibits of findings on display. And it is tantalising indeed to speculate what else is still to be found - only 10% has been excavated so far. 

Among the exhibits is a life-size exhibit of a Vucedol cart, which was pulled by oxen, but much more interesting... 

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 ... was this tiny model, an original. A prototype or kids' toy?

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And there was river transport - these beautiful wooden boats cut from one tree, complete with oars.  

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A reconstruction of a Vucedol house. 

Get more of a feeling from this reconstruction video of the original Vucedol settlements. 

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The museum itself has won awards for its design, and I really liked the layout as we moved between its 19 rooms. 

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And the content kept on coming... 

Another find in Vinkovci, the oldest continuously inhabited town in Europe - the first example of metal casting.

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The copper-founders had a shaman-like status within the community, and they lived away from the main settlements. 

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A relatively recent discovery from last year - the first case of the infamous Croatian chequers, which adorn the national flag and which were seen by billions on the shirts of the heroic Croatian national team during the World Cup Final last summer.  

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I was surprised by the sophistication and vibrancy of Vucedol fashion - remember we are going back 5,000 years. They were the first to have shoes designed for left and right, apparently. 

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And the dresses of the women would not look out of place in traditional Croatian folklore dress today. How cool would it be for a big fashion house today to come up with a Vucedol range inspired by the designs of five millennia ago?  

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And a rather important pot for beer lovers - evidence of beer brewing dating back to 3,000 BC.

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Beer was obviously popular in these parts throughout history. That oldest town Vinkovci was the birthplace of no less than two Roman Emperors, once of whom - Valens - was such a beer lover that he earned the nickname of Sabaiarius, or 'Beer Belly.' His legend lives on through the excellent Valens craft beer of Vinkovci, which you can find in the town's Orion bar (named after the oldest calendar in Europe). 

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Included in the exhibits are some of the original scribblings of the early archaeologists, and you can see the famous Vucedol dove, which became a symbol of peace for Vukovar. In actual fact, the latest thinking is that was not a dove, but a partridge, due to the drawings, but also due to the partridge's tendency to limp when protecting its nest - similar to the limping copper-smelting shamans affected by arsenic from the metal. 

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Domestic life in Vucedol. 

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According to our guide, although Vucedol culture is centred in eastern Croatia, it was migratory and there is evidence of it elsewhere in 14 countries. Part of those regional differences is reflected in the pottery. Eastern Croatia is VERY flat and that was reflected in flatter lines in the designs, whereas more mountainous regions had their topography represented on the pottery accordingly.  

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And excavation is ongoing on a limited budget. Some of the supporters of a recent project, above. 

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And while it is mouthwatering to contemplate what more remains to be found, when you combine the riches of the surrounding area, the potential for discovery of one of the most important sites in Europe is surely there. Here is one such post-Vucedol discovery earlier this month near Vinkovci, for example  - an intact Roman chariot with horse.  

As I am far from an authority on the subject, I leave you with some videos from Vucedol, including this one with some of the ongoing excavation. 

 

A journey back in time with reenactments. 

And Vucedol in 4k and from the air. 

To follow the latest from Vucedol and any new discoveries, follow the dedicated TCN section

Sunday, 13 October 2019

HeadOnEast, the After Movie: Watch Osijek Old Town Shine (VIDEO)

October 13, 2019 - HeadOnEast, a new festival celebrating the very best of Slavonia and surroundings, brought Osijek to life at the recent Days of Croatian Tourism: a video appreciation.

It is not the destination where you end up but the memories you create along the way.

I like that. 

In fact I really like pretty much everything about my visit to Osijek last week. The tourism people in the east realised that they had one really big opportunity to impress the big tourism chiefs from Zagreb as Days of Croatian Tourism was held in continental Croatia for the first time. And they took full advantage.

I doubt that there was a single visitor who was disappointed by what they found on the three-day trip east, and I am guessing that expectations were more than exceeded by the majority. It was certainly an education for all, and here are 10 things which I learned on my trip east. A really wonderful region

The highlight was to be found in Osijek Tvrda, the old town, which not only hosted the main Days of Croatian Tourism ceremony, but also was the scene for the outstanding HeadOnEast foodie festival. The old town was bathed in light, street food, concerts, wine, and fun, fun, fun. As nice an atmosphere as I have come across at a festival in my time in Croatia. 

And in order to help the memories created along the way, a wonderful movie of the event has just been released by the regional tourism board, which you can watch below. 

I really hope that this HeadOnEast initiative can become the catalyst of a campaign to develop tourism in the east, starting with a campiagn of education at the national level, telling locals about the magic on offer east of Zagreb. 

And as for that genius branding, here is the background behind the concept of Head on East - Hedonist - really clever. 

To learn more about eastern Croatia, here are 25 things to know.

 

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

HeadOnEast, Quality Croatian Tourism Branding Made in Slavonia

October 8, 2019 - The story behind HeadOnEast, the best tourism branding project I have seen in years in Croatia. And like so much excellence in the country, a brand 100% made in Slavonia.  

Not so many people know that the reason I moved to Croatia was due to the promotional activities of the Croatian National Tourist Board. 

The year was 2002 and I was working as a civil society coordinator in Somaliland for an international aid agency when I saw a CNN advert which had me transfixed. Croatia, the Mediterranean as It Once Was. Having just sold my house in the UK, I decided there and then to buy my new home in Croatia, and less than two months later, I found myself the proud owner of a house in Jelsa on Hvar. 

Ah, Croatian tourism branding, one of the great conversation topics in these parts. Croatia is obsessed with how to brand itself, even having an annual conference, Branding Hrvatske, which is now in its fifth year. This in addition to other Croatian branding conferences we are served up each year. 

I will confess I am not a big fan of the current Croatia, Full of Life branding. While I can appreciate the flexibility of Croatia, Full of Wine, Heritage, Culture and the rest. it doesn't really say anything and is a vague generalisation which could be applied to almost anywhere. The Mediterranean as It Once Was, for me at least, brought Croatia immediately into focus. With the tourist industry struggling to recover from the devastation of war, in addition to the challenges of trying to explain to people where exactly this new independent state of Croatia was, it was a brilliant slogan and campaign and I am sure it attracted more than just this fat Brit that took an interest in Croatia as a result. 

There have been some questionable branding exercises over the years, with none standing out (in a positive way), which is why the recent project coming out fo eastern Croatia ahead of Days of Croatian Tourism in Slavonia made such an impression on me. Head on East - [email protected]. A fantastic play on words, inviting people to head on out to the east of Croatia to enjoy Slavonia's famed hedonist gourmet welcome. So many things packed into one slogan, and it was only when I tried to find out more about the origins of the slogan and who created it that I realised just how clever it was. 

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But before we start, a quick word about the word 'hedonism' as it has a slightly different - and important - perception in Croatian than in English, at least in my opinion. In Croatia, hedonism means good food, wine, lifestyle - the finest things in life with great hospitality, a little to excess. Andro Tomic, the legendary Hvar winemaker, would be a perfect example of this with his bon vivant lifestyle. And while it kind of also means that in English too, the term has been somewhat hijacked in recent years to reflect other types of excess, and when a globally famous swingers hotel in Jamaica brands itself as Hedonism, one can understand some international confusion if Croatian branding talks of hedonism without referring to gastronomy in its core message. It is why Hvar's choice of Genuine Hedonism as a slogan - at the same time it was becoming known as a top party destination - sent out completely the wrong message. 

But Head on East Hedonism to the Slavonian gourmet heartlands is an altogether different story. Pure genius. So who is the agency behind it? I was VERY surprised by the answer when I contacted the Slavonia Baranja Regional Tourist Board for more information... 

No agency at all. The slogan was made in Slavonia, inhouse by the team at the regional tourism board, with the design of the logos developed by Osijek designers Marko Jovanovac and Ante Vekic from Symbol

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The play on words of HeadOnEast and hedonist was one level of genius, but it also masked one of the biggest challenges in branding the region. Several years ago, I held initial talks with an idea to do a Total portal for the east of Croatia, but the size of the task ahead was obvious when we got stuck at what to call the portal. Total Slavonia was the most obvious one for me, but that brought objections from Baranja and Srijem, while Total Eastern Croatia was a little too long. In the end, the initiative came to nothing for other reasons. 

And while what to call the east was one issue, there was also the issue of brand recognition of Slavonia. Slavonia, Slovenia, Slovakia. Slovenia and Slovakia are frequently confused with each other, while Slavonia is only really well-known in the region, not so much further afield. This issue was highlighted once more to the regional tourist board at the ITB Berlin tourism fair, when a visitor asked why Slovenia was being promoted at the Croatian stand. 

How to brand a destination of 5 regional tourist boards where food, wine, and hospitality were key elements of the offer, but where regional and international recognition was different and where there was no agreement locally on what to call the region as a brand? Quite a challenge.  

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A region located east of almost all of the target markets, and located in the east of the country. 

Head on East!

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The Symbol designers were tasked with created different mosaics for each destination and type of event, portraying the various things that the region or sector was famous for. See Baranja, land of wine and Kopacki Rit, and Djakovo, land of famous cathedral and Lipizzaner horses, above. 

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And underneath the main HeadOnEast slogan, a hashtag to define which part of eastern Croatia we are looking at - HeadOnEast - [email protected].

Quite brilliant. 

 

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HeadOnEast branding really came into its own in the Osijek Tvdja festival from October 3-5. A beer festival. 

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And a great selection of street food.  

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A REALLY impressive festival of lights as the old town's historic buildings sported new, multi-coloured facades. 

 

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And individual parts of the festival, including the InDaSofa chill zone.  

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A superb logo, to match the organisation of the event itself. Made in Slavonia.  

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And, as I wrote yesterday, now that the lights have been turned off, the stalls dismantled and the visitors departed, what are the next steps? A campaign of education for the rest of Croatia on the joys of eastern Croatia and why it is a fantastic place to visit. And it really is, I am going back in a couple of weeks for the weekend with the family to explore a little more. 

And wouldn't HeadOnEast - Hedonist be a great slogan for a national campaign?

To learn more about the wonders for those who do head on east, here are 25 things to know

 

Monday, 7 October 2019

After Days of Croatian Tourism in Slavonia, What Happens Next?

It was quite a show. 

Days of Croatian Tourism was held in Slavonia for the first time last week, easily the most high profile tourism event to be staged in the region. It was a chance for Slavonia to shine - and shine it did, oh so brightly - and for over a thousand tourism experts and workers to get to know Croatia's least discovered region a little better. 

And judging from the selfies and many postings on social media, it would appear that many of the event's visitors - some on a first-time visit to Slavonia - discovered plenty of interest. I certainly did, even though I have been to the region on a number of occasions. Here are 10 things I didn't know about eastern Croatia last week, for example

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Days of Croatian Tourism had its centre in Osijek, but an attempt was made to spread it around the region, so that visitors could experience as much as possible in a short time. The newly renovated palace in the centre of Virovitica is almost ready for its grand reopening. It looks magnificent and will be a major asset to both the town's tourism and its entertainment programme. 

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The programme for Slavonski Brod took place at a restaurant just outside the town, which meant that most participants missed out on the star attraction, the magnificent Slavonski Brad fortress. A reason to return soon. 

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Wine lovers headed to Pozega and Kutjevo for a Grasevina feast, taking in the magnificent cellars of Kutjevo and the amazing 6 barrels which tell the story of its 800-year history - you can learn more here

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Vukovar, the City of Heroes, which is most associated with the tragedy of war and siege in the 1990s, but which is also a beautiful city rebuilt on the Danube. And nowhere is more glamorous than Eltz Palace which hosted the opening night. 

Move over Rome, and visit the Vucedol Museum, which documents a stunning portrayal of life 5,000 years before Christ. The Vucedol Museum (get a flavour in the video above) is one of Croatia's most popular and most impressive museums. 

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And for more ancient heritage, look no further than Vinkovci, the oldest continuously inhabited town in all Europe, dating back 8,300 years. Birthplace even to no less than two Roman Emperors. 

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And some went in search of nature, where the nature parks of Papuk and Kopacki Rit (Mario Romulic photo, above) have plenty of diversity to enjoy. 

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A magical region, where time has stood still in certain ways. (Photo credit Romulic & Stojcic) 

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Some made it to the paprika festival in Lug, just north of Osijek. (photo credit Romulic & Stojcic)

Paprika is just one of the ingredients that make up the famous Slavonian cuisine, and there are a number of niche food festivals which celebrate its goodness. 

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And food is finally at the centre of some excellent branding, with the Head on East/[email protected] at the core of events last week, including a great street food festival.  

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I spoke to several people in Slavonia last week, both locals and visitors. The general consensus from the visitors who are used to celebrating Days of Croatian Tourism in comfortable coastal resorts on the coast was that Slavonia had not only put on a great show but had really gone above and beyond expectations. And the locals I spoke to were both proud and I think a little surprised that things had gone so well. Osijek old town in particular was magnificent on the last night, and the live television coverage of the awards ceremony was beautifully done. 

That level of surprise that Slavonia had exceeded expectations got me thinking as I came to the obvious question after the party had finished, the hospitality tents dismantled and the fancy lights turned off:

What happens now?

The Croatian National Tourist Board told me that they have invested significantly in bringing in foreign bloggers and influencers to promote continental Croatia, and all promotion is of course welcome. 

I wonder, however, if something closer to home might be more cost-effective, help to build a better longterm tourism base and be implemented in time for next season. 

Two simple ideas. 

1. I am constantly amazed at how little people living in other parts of Croatia know about the east of their country. It is not a criticism, it is just an observation and a reality. I often ask people where exactly is Slavonia, which parts of the east are included and which not? There is a real black hole in many people's knowledge of what is out there east of Zagreb, something I completely understand. The east is sadly known mostly for the war and suffering, for the tragedy of Vukovar, and for the crushing emigration which is ongoing. As I said in a previous article, it is often treated as a poorer cousin with a disability which is in need of sympathy and protection, rather than being allowed to stand on its own two feet. 

The one place that everyone knows about in the east, of course, is Vukovar, and it is entirely right and fitting that the country remembers the terrible events of 1991 each November 18, the anniversary of the fall of Vukovar. Schoolchildren visit Vukovar as part of their education in 8th grade, and for many, that is the sum of their physical association with Slavonia and the east. Little wonder that local people do not associate Slavonia as a desirable place to visit or go on holiday. 

And yet it is. Just ask each and every person who attended Days of Croatian Tourism last week. I would be genuinely surprised if there was even one person who did not have a good time. 

And so imagine what might be achieved if we took this concept further and started educating. The Croatian Chamber of Commerce ran a big Buy Croatia campaign a couple of years ago. 

Why not a domestic campaign to Head on East and discover the magic of Slavonia?

At the recent Croatia 365 conference, the Austrian speaker from ITB Berlin was talking about how Austria developed its tourism. I was surprised to learn from him that foreign tourists make up only 50% of Austria's tourists, with the other half locals. According to his numbers, the corresponding ratio in Croatia is 86:14. And while it is true that a large number of locals are not counted in the tourism statistics as they do not register when they go to their homes on the coast for the summer, the Croatian balance of local to foreign is far from the Austrian 50:50. 

There is another great reason to educate Croatians about tourism in Slavonia - it is INCREDIBLY good value. The sad reality is that prices on the Croatian coast continue to rise, and it is becoming less affordable for more Croatian households. Slavonia, on the other hand, offers excellent value for money (and far more generous portions in the restaurants). It also offers an excellent, albeit different, holiday experience to the coast, and with things happening throughout the year. And if, like me, you visit Slavonia and want a bit more (I am returning with the family in 2 weeks for the weekend), a steady and loyal tourism base can begin to grow, tourism can expand, and it will be even more attractive to foreign visitors.

2. My second idea involves engaging with the diaspora. Without the financial muscle of the diaspora, the Croatian economy would be in even more trouble - last year, for example, Croatia received more in remittances from its diaspora than from foreign investment. 

They also have an incredibly strong love for the homeland. Encourage the diaspora to take a greater interest in Slavonia and to include it in their next holiday plans. Unlike many appeals to the diaspora from the homeland, there is no humanitarian element to this. If the diaspora do come to visit Slavonia as part of such an initiative, they are going to have such a fantastic time that they will be saying thanks for pushing them into the eastern region for reasons others than remembering the tragedy of Vukovar (and they can, of course, pay their respects at the same time). 

Give a man a fish and he will come back for another tomorrow. Teach a man to fish, you know the rest. 

Slavonia has SO much potential, but not only potential. It is ready now. Just ask the 1000 plus tourism professionals who were there last week. 

Want to learn more about eastern Croatia? Here are 25 things to know

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