Saturday, 27 November 2021

PHOTOS: Secret Video Mapping Artists Visit Croatian Yugoslav Monuments

November 27, 2021 – On a dark November night in 2021, Hungarian artists chose their moment to project vividly colourful video art at Petrova Gora, one of the remaining Croatian Yugoslav monuments.

They left their Hungarian city early in the cold morning. Not for another 5 hours would they reach Petrova Gora, the site for that evening's video mapping. Throughout the long journey, the three friends chatted excitedly about the art they were about to create. They'd been planning it for months. But, when they reached Petrova Gora they stopped talking.

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“These are absolutely incredible pieces of architecture,” exclaims Dan, one of the three-man team from Secret Mapping Experiment who visited Croatia this month. “They have a real power in their environment. Sometimes you can feel frozen in your body when you're around them.”

“A lot of the time we work around them in silence,” agrees Gabe, Dan's accomplice. “You just feel too small next to them. They really have an impact on you.”

SecretMappingExperminent_pres_Partizan_Basis_6.jpgCroatian Yugoslav Monuments: Petrova Gora in 2021

“Before we visit, we work for many months in front of a computer screen with a tiny template of the monument,” admits Dan. “So, it's a really special feeling to come and see all the work you planned on such a big scale.”

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Their long, involved preparation is the creation of video mapping art. In detail, this is moving art and animations, designed to be projected onto a specific backdrop or structure. On this occasion, that backdrop was the 37 metre high Monument to the Uprising of the People of Kordun and Banija, otherwise known as the Petrova Gora Monument.

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Each of the 3 members on this Secret Mapping Experiment excursion brought something slightly different to the project. Gabe studied fine art and is now a painter and educator. He teaches computer graphics, 3D modelling, video editing, creating animation. Third member David works a lot with VR installations, 3D and animation being his speciality. Dan does lighting design and video mapping in the commercial sector, for large events, concerts, art installations.

“In commercial work, usually the client will dictate colours, or ask for logos to be added,” says Dan. “When I do Secret Mapping, I have total artistic freedom. This is my playground, a place to experiment and be free. It's a good combination to go out into nature to do this kind of work. Outdoors and abandoned places are not the usual places you would see our equipment being used.”

Croatian Yugoslav Monuments: Petrova Gora (Spomenik ustanku naroda Banije i Korduna), Podgarić (Spomenik revolucije naroda Moslavine) et al

SecretMappingExperiment_pres_Partizans_basis_total2_4.jpgCroatian Yugoslav Monuments: Secret Mapping Experiment at Petrova Gora

The Croatian Yugoslav Monument at Petrova Gora is built on Veliki Petrovac, the highest peak of the small Petrova Gora mountain range. The mountains run across the borders of Croatia's Sisak-Moslavina County and Karlovac County, just 10 kilometres north of Velika Kladuša in Bosnia and Hercegovina. This is a little known and little-visited part of Croatia.

Formally titled Monument to the uprising of the people of Kordun and Banija (Spomenik ustanku naroda Banije i Korduna), this is just one monument in a series that were built all over the former Yugoslavia after World War II. Many famous sculptors and architects were employed to design the monuments, such as Bogdan Bogdanović, Gradimir Medaković, Vojin Bakić, Miodrag Živković, Jordan and Iskra Grabul. This series of monuments (spomenici) is the largest single collection of abstract sculptures in the entire world. Together, they tell the tale of the victims, triumphs and struggle of the former Yugoslav people against the Nazis and their allies.

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"During the socialist era, the monuments were used for different purposes, marking different events,” says Gabe. Secret Mapping Experiment visited Croatia's Monument to the revolution of the people of Moslavina in Podgarić in 2019. “But, since the end of communism, a lot of them have been damaged, destroyed or are uncared for, particularly in Croatia. The last time we visited, we saw lots and lots of graffiti covering the monument. It feels like you're standing in a long-abandoned film set."

Today, these abstract Yugoslav monuments are several decades old. Amazingly, many still look futuristic. Their design deliberately doesn't focus on individual heroes or dwell on pain or suffering. Instead, motifs such as hands, wings and flowers are used, suggesting perpetual movement and progress. The same style of monuments does not exist anywhere else on earth. They are exclusive to the countries of the former Yugoslavia.

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Because they mark different events and have different authors, each is unique. The monument at Petrova Gora is formed from a huge amount of concrete poured onto a steel frame. Originally, the structure was covered - at great expense - with polished stainless steel sheets. Over the last three decades, these stainless steel sheets have begun to disappear from the surface, a classic case of 'Balkan recycling'. The author of the Petrova Gora monument is renowned Croatian sculptor Vojin Bakić (1915 - 1992).

Vojin Bakić and the Monument to the victory of the people of Slavonia (Spomenik revolucionarnoj pobjedi naroda Slavonije)

AnyConv.com__2880px-Vojin_Bakić_radi_na_skulpturi_Bika_1956.jpgVojin Bakić at work on one of his well known 'bull' sculptures, captured by famous Croatian photographer Tošo Dabac

Born in Bjelovar, Vojin Bakić studied at the Zagreb Academy of Fine Arts under two of Croatia's most globally recognised sculptors - Ivan Meštrović and Frano Kršinić. One of the leading modernist sculptors of his era, Vojin Bakić was employed to create many pieces of public art within Yugoslavia.

e73a14_4dc4e466b1bb4b6f9a169a0818742a47_mv2.jpgFoliated Form (Razlistana format), one of Vojin Bakić's Croatian Yugoslav monuments/sculptures still visible, located in the centre of Zagreb

In addition to his work at Petrova Gora, Bakić is famous for monuments in Kamenska, Kragujevac (Serbia) and Dotršćina (Zagreb). Indeed, you can still today see some of his much-loved sculptures as you walk around the Croatian capital. Upon completion, his Monument to the victory of the people of Slavonia (Spomenik revolucionarnoj pobjedi naroda Slavonije) in Kamenska was the largest postmodern sculpture in the world. Unfortunately, it was destroyed at the end of the Croatian War of Independence and the impoverished part of Slavonia in which it sat was robbed of a world-famous visitor attraction.

temp_1.jpgMonument to the revolutionary victory of the people of Slavonia (Spomenik revolucionarnoj pobjedi naroda Slavonije), one of the now-destroyed Croatian Yugoslav monuments

Secret Mapping Experiment

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The Secret Mapping Experiment has been visiting monuments, landscapes and abandoned structures for six years. By necessity, the video mapping projections always take place at night, under the cover of darkness. Although, the team do sometimes encounter people.

”In the past, we've had locals approach us while we are working,” says Dan. “They're interested. They enjoy it. Sometimes they'll have stories about the monument. But, the last time (in Petrova Gora) we only met cops. They questioned us for about 10 minutes and then they let us continue. They must have decided it was a good project.”

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”It hasn't always been like that,” remembers Gabe. “Two years ago we were stopped by police at a monument in Greece and they took us to the station for the questioning. We were there for hours. Afterwards, they let us leave, but they advised us not to go back to the monument.”

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Monuments visited by the team exist under different levels of protection, depending on where they are. There are some who think it disrespectful to repurpose these monuments as art canvasses without mention of their raison d'être. Dan disagrees. He thinks Secret Mapping Experiment's videos and photos pay greater attention today to some monuments than they otherwise receive. It's hard to disagree in the case of the disintegrating monument at Petrova Gora.

And besides, Croatia has always best preserved its past by repurposing it, one example being Diocletian's Palace. Another is the World War II Monument to the Revolution (Spomeniku revolucije) on Glavica hill in central Makarska. After suffering several years of neglect, the monument's cylindrical tower was turned into an observatory. Today, the site is a revitalised tourist attraction and a wonderful backdrop to concerts and other public events.

54516047_2197069537021042_4760558114711797760_n.jpgMonument to the Revolution in Makarska, one of the repurposed Croatian Yugoslav monuments © MARA - Makarska razvojna agencija

From months in planning on a miniature scale, the art of Secret Mapping Experiment assumes its vast, true size only briefly. Thereafter, the work returns to miniature – as photos or videos. “We are working on a road movie project, a documentary,” says Dan. “I really hope we will finish it next year.”

After the team visited Petrova Gora, they did not return to Hungary. Instead, they visited another famous World War II monument in the region (this article will be updated with those images as soon as they are processed and ready). When asked if they plan to revisit any Croatian Yugoslav Monuments in order to finish their documentary, Dan isn't giving anything away.

”Who knows?” he says, with a smile

SecretMappingExperminent_pres_Partizan_Basis2.jpgThe Secret Mapping Experiment team in 2021

The names of Secret Mapping Experiment's team members were changed for the purpose of writing this article. To see more photos of their work and to follow their progress, look here

You can read more about Zagreb here, Makarska here and for more great reasons to visit these and other Croatian destinations, be sure to bookmark Total Croatia News travel pages here.

All images © Secret Mapping Experiment or public domain unless otherwise accredited.

Saturday, 13 November 2021

Largest Church Mosaic in Croatia Unveiled in Karlovac

November 13, 2021 – After many years of preparation and effort, the largest church mosaic in Croatia has been revealed to parishioners at the Church of Saint Joseph (Crkva sv. Josip) in Karlovac

The beautiful mosaic covers an incredible 120 square metres of wall behind the church's altar. Depicted in the mosaic is the birth of Jesus Christ.

The mosaic is the work of renowned Croatian artist Josip Botteri Dini who is based in Split. On 1st January 2021, Mr Josip Botteri Dini and several assistants began stacking coloured glass pieces into one-square-metre templates to construct the work.

20211113_180321.jpgLargest Church Mosaic in Croatia © Marina Buric / Visit Karlovac

Each template contains around 2500 mosaic parts. In total, the mosaic has around half a million pieces of coloured glass. It took Mr. Botteri Dini nine months to finish stacking 168 templates. After completing that long section of the task in Split, he then travelled to Karlovac and continued working there. The installation of the templates onto the wall took two weeks. Subsequently, six weeks of cleaning and aligning of the mosaic followed.

20211113_180428.jpgFrom the rear of St. Josip's Church © Marina Buric / Visit Karlovac

Josip Botteri Dini, the artist behind the largest church mosaic in Croatia

Although he now lives and works in Split, Josip Botteri Dini was actually born in Zagreb in 1943. He studied at the city's Academy of Fine Arts, notably in the class of famous Varaždin painter and graphic artist Miljenko Stančić. Josip graduated in 1968. Since the early 1970s, the work of Josip Botteri Dini has been exhibited over a hundred times throughout Croatia and overseas. In addition to painting, he works with mosaics and stained glass.

20211113_180500.jpgIn detail, Croatia's largest church mosaic, in St. Josip's, Karlovac © Marina Buric / Visit Karlovac

Being the largest Church mosaic in Croatia, it was necessary to construct a 13-metre high scaffold for the work to be set on the church wall. Although Mr. Botteri Dini is now 78 years old, he climbed the scaffold every day to finish his work, helped by his brothers Juraj and Dezi. They are also in their seventies.

235923953_4726506400716876_6957011206049499185_n.jpgNacionalno svetište svetog Josipa (National Shrine of St. Joseph) in Dubovac, Karlovac

Nacionalno svetište svetog Josipa (National Shrine of St. Joseph) in Dubovac, Karlovac

Otherwise known as Nacionalno svetište svetog Josipa (National Shrine of St. Joseph), the modern Church of Saint Joseph lies to the west of Karlovac city centre in Dubovac. In fact, it sits at the foot of the hill on which is placed the 13th-century castle fortress Old Town of Dubovac, from where the settlement gets its name.

Construction of the Church of St. Josip started in 1968 but its external facades were not completed until 1972. In 1975 its bell tower was built although it would take until 1980 for three new bells to be placed within it. In 1987, the church was dedicated as a national shrine for Saint Joseph, marking the 300th anniversary of Saint Joseph being assigned as Protector of the Homeland and the Croatian people. Saint Joseph is also the patron saint of Karlovac.

The largest Church mosaic in Croatia is not the only masterpiece to be found in the Church of St. Josip. Within the building is the permanent exhibition space Galeriji 'Martin Borković'. It contains works of art by 28 eminent Croatian painters and sculptors. You can see them every day after Holy Mass.

Dubovac.jpgThe Old Town of Dubovac © Ivo Biočina

The Old Town of Dubovac is one of the best-preserved buildings of its kind in Croatia. A popular tourist attraction, it hosts events and has one of the city's best restaurants on the ground floor of its atmospheric courtyard. With the addition of the largest Church mosaic in Croatia, visitors now have another excellent reason to stop off in the quiet Karlovac suburb of Dubovac.

You can read more about Karlovac in the Total Croatia guide to the city here. For the latest news about Karlovac, be sure to check Total Croatia News tagged pages here

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Štrudlafest 2021: Croatian Strudel Festival Returns

September 2, 2021 - Štrudlafest 2021 lifts the bar of the already known Croatian strudel festival in Jaškovo village near Karlovac. More sport, more workshops, and obviously, more strudel.

With the pandemic dying down just enough for events to be allowed to be held (while still respecting the current epidemiological measures) Štrudlafest in Jaškovo village near Karlovac is back! With the motto: ''It can't get sweeter than this,'' the event spanning September 3-5 is promising a delicious and unique combo of gastronomy, sport, culture, art, and lots of entertainment for all ages.

''Štrudlafest is a true paradise for strudel lovers because apart from the delicious tastes of homemade strudel you can purchase from dozens of stands of hard-working domestic manufacturers - strudel is everywhere around you. You'll have the chance to enjoy a picnic in the shade next to the water source, but also enjoy creative workshops where you can decorate your own strudle plate,'' said the organisation when speaking about this Croatian strudel festival.

Due to the current epidemiological measures in place, many events require prior reservations, but with so many events finally taking place once again, there's no reason to be sad if you miss a few of them.

For instance, there is Art Apetit, a painting workshop, and for those who want to dive deep into the secrets of making the perfect strudel, official ambassadors of this much loved product will be able to consult with you to ensure total satisfaction.

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Marica, a strudle Ambassador © Štrudlafest promo

For the youngest among us, the series of sport, gastronomy, or creative workshop activities will be topped off by a visit from the most famous Croatian fairy tale author, Ivana Brlić Mažuranić.

With a lot of talking done about strudel and sport, the traditional cycling tour ''Štrudla by Bike'' will also take place, and in addition to pedaling your way to the breath-taking scenery of continental Croatia, you can also take a scenic trip along the Dobra river with the first-ever ''Štrudla by Boat''.

The organisers point out that in addition to Jaškovo, strudels can be sampled across Karlovac County with special discounts, and various museums in the region also have special gifts for their visitors to honour this popular treat.

Learn more about Karlovac on our TC page.

For more about food in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Saturday, 28 August 2021

A Few Hundred Rally in Protest Against Detrimental Effects of Lešće Power Plant

ZAGREB, 28 Aug, 2021 - A protest rally was held in the town of Novigrad na Dobri on Saturday against the hydro-power plant "HE Lešće" on the River Dobra, with protesters pointing out the plant's detrimental effects.

The rally brought together about 300 participants: locals, activists as well as representatives of local authorities. They warned about the damage done to the flora and fauna in the environment and highlighted the erosion of the banks of the River Dobra.

Karlovac County Prefect Martina Furdek-Hajdin told the rally that the state-run Croatian power company (HEP) has assumed the obligation to inform the local 112 centre and the public when the Lešće power plant's turbines were turned on to release tidal energy.

She said that the local authorities were doing their best to prevent the recurrence of bad experience.

In 2010 the then Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor inaugurated the trial run of Lešće, the first hydroelectric power plant built in Croatia since it gained independence in 1991. During that ceremony, it was said that this HRK 700 million power plant, located on the Dobra river, had a capacity of 42.29 megawatts and would produce 98 gigawatt hours of electricity per year.

For Croatia's daily news updates, CLICK HERE.

Sunday, 23 May 2021

Discovering the Hidden Gems of Karlovac

May 23, 2021 - TCN contributor Ana Bacic looks at the hidden gems of Karlovac. 

On the way to the coast, one must pass Karlovac, which is located just 49 km (31 miles) southeast of Zagreb.

The old historic city built in 1579 was surrounded by a large, fortified wall in the shape of a six-pointed star. The fortification of the city was founded by Habsburg’s archduke Karl II. Thus, its name: Karlo-vac. Its massive walls served as a military outpost during the war against the Ottoman Empire. Over the centuries, the city streets and buildings spilled over the fortress, and the city became the center of trade routes and guilds, mostly in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the beginning of the 20th century, the peak of its prosperity was when Karlovac was the third-largest city in what was formerly Croatian territory. The only two larger cities at the time were Zagreb and Osijek  (the City of Rijeka belonged to Italy).

Since Karlovac was built during the Renaissance, its design fits in well with Thomas More’s social philosophy of a Utopian society. The Utopian concept requires geometrical harmony in the design of public spaces. If the living space is protected from harm and offered esthetic beauty and comfort, the inhabitants will be healthy, successful, and content. Think of it as being the Renaissance’s idea of Feng Shui. The rivers Kupa, Korana, Mrežnica, and Dobra meander through lush green spaces in this pedestrian-friendly city. The four rivers offer an additional flair to the town known for its parks and alleys. For anyone arriving from the hustle and bustle, Karlovac will be a healing experience of meeting nature right at the heart of the city.  

The city has historically always been a meeting point of people and trade routes. One can easily reach Karlovac today by train, bus, or car. Old historic roads such as Karolina, Josephina, Louisiana that go through town also lead straight to the Adriatic sea.  The oldest standing building in Karlovac dates back to the 17th century and is now an active museum. The Karlovac museum has various exhibits that explain the city’s Renaissance, Baroque, Napoleonic characteristics, and more. Unfortunately, the city's original architecture has not been preserved due to the destructive fires it has endured in the past. Between constant floods and fires, the new city emerged with wider alleyways between wooden buildings and more green spaces. 

Interestingly, Karlovac is one of the first cities in Croatia with electricity generated through the hydroelectric dam (1908) on the river of Kupa by the town of Ozalj. The dam was used to power the local factories in Karlovac. Surprisingly, Nikola Tesla attended Karlovac Grammar School, which he completed in 3 years, and he became world-famous for his electrical discoveries. In his autobiographical accounts, Tesla reminisces about the stimulating influences of his professor of physics at Karlovac Grammar School, who exerted a lasting influence on him. Visitors can visit Tesla HotSpot in front of the school he attended, at the site of Nikola Tesla Experience Centre. The Centre is now under construction, opening to commence in September. The tourist story about Tesla and his years spent in Karlovac is still evolving; however, the fact that Karlovac Grammar School diploma remains the only diploma Tesla earned. Tesla’s enthusiasts can find inspiration at the same place where his scientific interests were sparked for the first time.  

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Vilim Stojkovic

The tradition of inventions and famous locals in Karlovac did not stop with Nikola Tesla leaving town. Marko Markovic, a civil engineer, and local patriot, designed the unique watch that is a replica of the 6-pointed star of the city fortress. 

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Marko Markovic 

Besides historical sites and nature, there is the new city’s attraction Aquatica aquarium, the freshwater aquarium, where visitors can dive into the fish world and get to know the Karlovac rivers from a new perspective. 

One of the oldest Beer Festivals in Croatia, “Dani Piva,” takes place in Karlovac every year in the late summer. It is an annual festivity centered around beer tasting, drinking, and gastronomy that attracts many visitors. Usually, one can choose from a range of different beers, domestic or foreign, as there are many international beer companies represented. Coupled with live entertainment Beer Festival is a highlight of summer in Karlovac.  

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Vilim Stojkovic

Finally, one of the old attractions that cannot be missed is the 13th-century Dubovac Castle, where tourists can enjoy the views of the city and a little break in the restaurant within the castle’s walls.  

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Vilim Stojkovic

I also suggest a visit to the War Museum on the outskirts of town, the very site of terrible bombings and shelling in Homeland war in the 90s.   

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Vilim Stojkovic

If you’re passing by in summer, locals recommend an unusual experience – swimming in all the four rivers in just one day, but in two locations only – at the confluence of the Dobra and Kupa and the confluence of the Mrežnica and Korana. The rivers meet and intersect in the city. Memorable experience! On occasion, the city is still flooded because 4 rivers have a mind of their own. 

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Vilim Stojkovic

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Vilim Stojkovic

The city has charming cafes and restaurants. Besides authentic cuisine that features plenty of fresh fish on the menu, food enthusiasts may discover new, interesting flavours.  Those who decide to hang out in Karlovac can easily spend 2-3 days in museums, rivers, attractions, etc. Many have used Karlovac only as a pit stop on the way back to their destination.  Boutique Hotel Korana Srakovčić and Hotel Carlstad, where you can spend a night before catching a flight at the Zagreb Airport, are less than an hour away. 

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Vilim Stojkovic

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Vilim Stojkovic

Until today Karlovac is a pristine, well laid out town with varied building styles, colours, and textures.  The green vistas of town are occasionally subdued by fog. During the average 78 foggy days per year, one can witness Karlovac disappearing altogether in fog when visibility is only a couple of feet far.  Nevertheless, Karlovac invites visitors to spend a day, weekend, or active vacation in town and its beautiful countryside. 

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

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Croatia Rally 2021: WRC Stars Coming to Zagreb, Karlovac, and Krapina-Zagorje Counties!

March 23, 2021 - We're less than a month away until the start of the Croatia Rally 2021, the third race of the World Rally Championship.

HRT reports that this year, there will be more than 300 km of special stages at the Croatia Rally. Due to the epidemiological situation, the Super Special speed test will not be held at the Zagreb Fair. Still, the itinerary remains attractive and challenging enough for the best drivers in the world. The best crews and speedsters in the world will thus race in Croatia, particularly in the area of Zagreb and Zagreb, Karlovac, and Krapina-Zagorje counties.

The competition will begin with a ceremonial start in front of the National and University Library in Zagreb on April 22. It will last until April 25, when crews are expected to finish at Zagreb's St. Mark's Square.

"We hoped until the last moment and believed that we would be able to organize races at the Fair. But the epidemiological situation did not go our way. These are tests that would gather a larger number of people in a small space, and part would be driven inside the pavilion, so it would be difficult or impossible to maintain the prescribed epidemiological distance. The health of all participants is our number one priority, and we decided to shorten the itinerary. The rest of the competition will be held according to the schedule," said the Croatia Rally president of the Organizing Committee, Daniel Šaškin.

Despite the shortened route, Croatia Rally remains the first competition with more than 300 km of speed tests after the Rally Catalunya - Costa Daruda 2019. FIA ​​and WRC delegates were satisfied with what was seen in Croatia during last week's inspection. They believe holding the rally in a big city like Zagreb is a big plus, where, in addition to service, there will also be locations for the ceremonial start and finish. They also rated the speed tests as attractive and challenging.

"What makes us happy are the applications, and it is already clear that all WRC stars will be driving in Croatia, who will be fighting for important championship points on our tracks. Conceptually, after shortening the Croatia Rally route, it did not change significantly. The only location that will not be driven is at the Fair, near the service parking lot, and all other locations outside Zagreb will remain as planned. Friday and Saturday are reserved for expressways in the Samobor hills, Žumberak, and the Karlovac area. On Sunday, they will drive across Sljeme and in the vicinity of Kumrovec," said rally director Slaven Dedić.

Croatia Rally will score points for WRC, WRC-2, WRC-3, and Junior WRC. There will be a big fight in all classes, and currently leading in the strongest category is 20-year-old Finn Kalle Rovanperä, a Toyota driver. Second place is held by Belgian Thierry Neuville from Hyundai, while third is the seven-time world champion, Frenchman Sebastien Ogier from Toyota.

It is expected that the teams in Croatia will present the latest evolutions of cars for the first time because, in the first two competitions of the season, they did not need the maximum potential of competition vehicles due to wet and snowy conditions. The organizers still hope that the spectacle will not pass without spectators.

"In Estonia last year, the authorities allowed the holding of WRC competitions with the public in specially designated zones. I believe that something similar could be organized in Croatia. We have 150 kilometers of tracks, which potentially offer views from the road's left and right sides. There is no shortage of room to keep the epidemiological distance, and we have prepared special COVID protocols. They will have to be adhered to by all participants, officials, and spectators if allowed to come. For those who will not be able to be by the track, there are broadcasts on Croatian Radio and Television that I believe will have a large audience," concluded Šaškin.

You can read more about Croatia Rally 2021 HERE.

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

Friday, 26 February 2021

Zagreb, Karlovac, Sisak Counties Sign Letter of Intent for Common Development

ZAGREB, 26 February, 2021 - Zagreb, Karlovac and Sisak-Moslavina counties have, by signing a letter of intent on Thursday night, shown interest in common development and in that regard, a development agreement is being prepared for signing for about ten projects valued at €50 million and more, the Karlovac County administration said.

On Thursday evening the three county prefects and heads of their development agencies met with Veterans' Affairs Minister Tomo Medved and Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds Nataša Tramišak, and during the meeting it was said that the Regional Development Act enables strategic objectives to be achieved faster through common areas of cooperation and by financing joint projects from EU and national sources.

Tramišak described the development agreement as a "tool to achieve strategic development" and one of the preconditions is to select with the ministry about 10 strategic projects, each with an individual value of €50 million or more, that will require the support of several ministries and guarantee the development of the counties.

Medved offered his full support to the efforts for a joint development agreement between the three counties to be signed because that will enable an equal regional development and broader support from the government and relevant ministries for individual projects.

County prefects Martina Furdek Hajdin, Ivo Žinić and Stjepan Kožić agreed that the problems encountered by all three counties are very similar, from floods to a poor demographic situation and sparsely settled rural areas that cannot compete with developed European regions.

Žinić believes that development would benefit from projects for transport infrastructure and religious, health and conference tourism, while Kožić believes that the urgent repairs in the aftermath of the earthquakes are a priority as that would prevent migration. Kožić also believes that one of the most urgent priorities is broadband Internet.

Furdek Hajdin cited agriculture and tourism as possible projects for cooperation.

"It is up to us how we will prioritise the development of our counties, and European funds will contribute towards achieving the set objectives in the National Development Strategy until 2030. In that regard, the support of the government and its ministries is of exceptional importance," Furdek Hajdin said.

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. Instead, they go there to mark the tradition of Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia.

Croatia_Baranja_Belje_Vineyard_0184_1.jpgSt. Vincent's Day in Baranja © Romulić & Stojčić

Vinceška, Vincekovo, Vinkovo, Vincelovo, Vinceće - St. Vincent's Day

As a name, Vincent has many variants, Vinko being one popular in Croatia. Similarly, Vincekovo is also known by several different names. For example, St. Vincents Day in Baranja is called Vinceška, in Erdut it's Vincekovo, in Ilok it's Vinkovo, but you can also hear it called Vincelovo 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 is mostly marked in the northern continental area of the country and throughout the entire far east of Croatia - eastern Slavonia, Baranja 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, not quite.

The related name Viktor (also used in Croatia) actually gives us the best example of 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, the word for wine is much, much older. And it may have an entirely different root.

Ilok2020.jpgVinkovo in Ilok 2020 © Youtube screenshot

Why we say 'wine'

Nobody is really sure where the word 'wine' comes from. The ancient Greek word 'oinos' certainly pre-dates the Latin but its true origins have been lost in time. This provides an entertaining mystery for today. Fascinatingly, we find a common origin word for wine in several completely different language groups.

You can trace the historic use of the word 'wine' through a vast territory. In ancient times, the name was used in the area of what is today southern Russia and nearby in the Caucasus. Although they belong to a different non-Indo European language group, peoples in what is modern-day Georgia used the same word. In the western Semitic languages of the Levant (Arabic: wain, Hebrew: yayin) it is the same. In Mediterranean languages like Latin and Greek, it is also virtually the same word. Travelling back up to the territory of modern-day Russia, this time through regions where ancient Slavic and Germanic languages were spoken, the word is still the same. It seems that ever since people learned how to cultivate and ferment grapes, they have somehow all referred to the end product using the same word.

Who knows? Perhaps there is a shared origin for the words? As any winemaker will tell you, to make good wine, you do need to conquer the vines. DNA testing proves that the vines from which we grow grapes originally come from varieties that grew historically in the wild in an area that is today 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 is a conquering act of cultivation. In early Indo-European languages, the root 'wei' means to turn or to bend. Could the word wine be referring to human manipulation of the wild vines?

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

Saint Vincent aka Vincent of Saragossa (Vinko iz Zaragoze)

Vicente_de_Zaragoza_by_Tomás_Giner_14621466_1.jpgVicente de Zaragoza by Tomás Giner

Although several saints share the name Vincent, the Saint Vincent we celebrate on 22 January is Vincent of Saragossa. Born to a well-off family in Saragossa (Zaragoza), north-eastern Spain, Vincent 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. Vincent was asked to renounce his faith - which he refused to do. Subsequently, he was martyred around the year 304. We mark 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. Vincent of Saragossa is not only the patron saint of winemakers but also of vinegar makers. This may come as a comfort to some less able wine producers.

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

Quite why the midwinter period of 22 January should be significant to winemakers poses some questions. “I have no idea!” one Dalmatian winemaker told TCN 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 also Christianity itself.

History of 22 January as Saint Vincent's Day (Vincekovo)

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's favourite ancient God at the party, Dionysus had a wide portfolio of fun stuff to look after. He was the Greek God of wine, the grape harvest, fertility, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, festivity and theatre. He was traditionally celebrated in the period from the 11th to the 13th of anthesterion - which in today's calendar corresponds to the period between late January - around now - and the start of 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. The celebration marked the impending arrival of the new season – spring. And, this too is how people mark St Vincent's Day in Croatia.

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 and Europe correspond to significant points in the agricultural calendar. This tellingly reveals their pre-Christian roots. Another of those corresponding to winemaking is Martinje – St Martin's Day in Croatia (which you can read about here). 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 is a day more traditionally associated with their boss - the vineyard owner. It is also traditionally a more testosterone-filled affair – a sausage party, perhaps. Well, you could say that, and 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. In Baranja, you'll most likely hear this day called Vinceška © Belje

Music, food, theatre and wine - traditions of Vincekovo, Saint Vincent's Day in Croatia

Around this time of year, vines within the vineyard will be cut back. There are a limited amount of nutrients that can pass down a vine. This cutting back ensures the nutrients are concentrated and helps guarantee a limited but good crop. Whether this cutting back has actually taken place in days prior, on Vincekovo vineyard owners are charged with visiting their vines. Whatever the weather, they will march into the fields and ceremoniously cut back a vine. Usually, it's one with at least three new buds on. Traditionally, this vine is then brought into the home and placed in a watered jar. The progress of the buds supposedly predicts the next season's crops. Many other folk traditions associated with Vincekovo also serve the same purpose of 'predicting the crops'. Melting snow, rain and sunshine on Vincekovo are also regarded as predictors of a fine harvest. Although, some believe that water dripping from the eaves on Vincekovo could mean the year will be wet.

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

Again following Dionysian traditions, Slavonian people are famously gregarious. They rarely make the trip to the vineyard alone. Neighbours, family, friends and even musicians might make the journey with them and 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. 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, it is traditional to hang kulen and/or švargla (another monstrous portion of preserved pig product) from a post. Supposedly, this theatre is done 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. After the ceremonious part is taken care of, people now think to return indoors. Although, not necessarily to your own home. Because 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 with you like kulen, a roasted pig or even the tamburica musicians who came to the fields with you. Croatians rarely arrive at a party with empty hands. If such treats are not taken to the event, probably they'll already be waiting in your neighbour's cellar. Although, you might have to pace yourself. If you live in an area of traditional winemaking, there could be quite a lot of neighbouring wine cellars to visit. Subsequently, 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

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Karlovac City of Trees: 10, 000 Trees Breathe Life Into City Centre

January 21, 2021 – By fiercely protecting their natural residents, Karlovac city of trees improves the quality of life for all – the trees keep the air clean, reduce the temperature and noise and serve as a habitat for city centre wildlife

The parks we find within cities can often be the very best parts. As a visitor, their memory can rival the grandest architecture you take in. London and Zagreb are two perfect examples. Who couldn't say that the stroll between Glavni kolodvor (main train station) and Ban Jelačić Square via Tomislavac and Zrinjevac isn't year-round one of the most gorgeous parts of the Croatian capital?

Though lying only 50 kilometres to the south-west of Zagreb, in the city of Karlovac they have taken a different approach. Instead of building parks within the city, they've built a city within parks, or so they like to say. And, walking down its tree-lined promenades, shaded by the riverside or through its immaculate rolling parkland, who could disagree? This is a city within a park. Also, it is Karlovac city of trees.

Park_in_city_of_Karlovac11raccoon1.jpgOne of Karlovac's famous city centre parks © 11raccoon1

Karlovac city of trees prizes its green assets more than most. They never cut down their trees unless its health poses a direct risk to property or person. Any new builds or city expansion must happen around the longstanding green residents. Local by-laws state that for any tree removed from within the city centre, another must be planted in its place.

parkovi1TZK.jpg© Visit Karlovac

In addition to the public institution Natura Viva, which takes care of the parks in Karlovac city of trees, and the company Zelenilo, which takes care of public green areas, the Commission for the Protection and Arrangement of Green Areas of the City of Karlovac has been established. The city recognises that its green areas, in particular its trees, are not only there for their beauty – they positively affect air quality, reduce temperature and reduce noise in the city. They are also the habitat of the city's animal residents. The quality of life of residents in Karlovac city of trees is dependant on these natural assets.

Zelena-ruta-istaknutaTZ2.jpg© Visit Karlovac

So seriously do they take the responsibility of looking after its trees, that Zelenilo maintains a map of the city which details every single tree that exists within the city centre. As noted in a news item from yesterday from the lokalni.hr portal, this map, or cadastre, has just been updated. Karlovac city of trees now proudly counts 10, 000 trees as valuable residents within its city centre.

Marmontova_aleja_575GradK.jpg© Grad Karlovac

In order to reach this high figure, Zelenilo detailed that 144 new trees were planted in the city last year and another 147 trees in the Mekušje business zone. In 2019, 242 trees were planted, 95 in the year before, 119 in 2017, 210 in 2016, 162 in 2015, and as many as 200 in 2014.

Sunday, 20 December 2020

PHOTOS: Epic Croatia Weather Photography Stuns The World

December 20, 2020 – The 13 winners of the incredibly popular World Meteorological Organization annual competition have just been announced, and two fine pieces of Croatia weather photography are among them. These spectacular images of Croatia weather photography show all 9 Croatian photographs which reached the final in 2020 and all 10 Croatian finalists who similarly stunned the global audience in 2019

Croatia weather photography: the two newly announced winners from the 2020 competition
LošinjSandroPuncet.jpgPhotographer: Sandro Puncet Photo taken: Losinj island

Zrinka Balabanic Beach Sv.Duh -Pag island.jpgPhotographer: Zrinka Balabanic Photo taken: Pag island

Thanks to its popularity as a tourist destination, lots of people are now used to seeing beautiful photos of Croatia. Although, the images they usually see are of idyllic beaches, cloudless skies, stunning nature and turquoise blue seas. But, as anyone who knows the country will tell you - and as these photos show - Croatia isn't always like that.

Croatia weather photography: the two newly announced runners-up from the 2020 competition
Šime Barešić Drage, Croatia.jpgPhotographer: Šime Barešić Photo taken: Drage, Pakostane

Mislav Bilic (Croatia)Dubrovnik - Lapad Peninsula.jpgPhotographer: Mislav Bilic Photo taken: Lapad Peninsula, Dubrovnik

Out of season, Croatia can experience vastly different weather conditions to those advertised in travel brochures and blogs. And, whenever there's a spectacular weather occurrence, usually there's a photographer out there, braving the elements, trying to capture it.

Over recent years, some of the best Croatia weather photography has featured in the annual competition organised by the World Meteorological Organization. 2020 has been no different.

The other five Croatian finalists from the 2020 competition
Šime Barešić Drage, Croatia222.jpgPhotographer: Šime Barešić Photo taken: Drage, Pakostane

Sandro Puncet Isolated cloudisland Lošinj, Croatia.jpgPhotographer: Sandro Puncet Photo taken: Losinj island

Zoran Stanko Geisler Alm, Dolomites, Italy.jpgPhotographer: Zoran Stanko Photo taken: Geisler Alm, Dolomites, Italy

Maja Kraljik Umag, Croatia.jpgPhotographer: Maja Kraljik Photo taken: Umag, Istria

Igor PopovicRijeka, Croatia.jpgPhotographer: Igor Popovic Photo taken: Rijeka

The winners of this year's competition have just been announced and the two fantastic examples of Croatia weather photography within the top 13 will take their place in the 2021 World Meteorological Organization calendar.

The 10 Croatian finalists from the 2019 competition
Danica Sičič Srobreč, Croatia2019-min.jpgPhotographer: Danica Sičič Photo taken: Srobreč, Dalmatia

Romeo IbriševićPlitvička Jezera2019.jpgPhotographer: Romeo Ibrišević Photo taken: Plitvice Lakes National Park

Božan Štambuk Bundek Zagreb, Croatia2019.jpgPhotographer: Božan Štambuk Photo taken: Bundek park, Zagreb

Miroslava Novak (Pribislavec, Međimurje) 2019.jpgPhotographer: Miroslava Novak Photo taken: Pribislavec, Međimurje

As well as the two winners, two further examples of Croatia weather photography came in the runner-up category, of which there were 12 in total.

Francesca Delbianco  Zagreb, Croatia2019.jpgPhotographer: Francesca Delbianco Photo taken: Zagreb

Ivica Brlić Sava river Davor, Croatia.jpgPhotographer: Ivica Brlić Photo taken: Sava river, Davor, near Slavonski Brod

Nataša ŠafarKarlovac, Rečica2019.jpgPhotographer: Nataša Šafar Photo taken: Rečica, near Karlovac

Romeo IbriševićPlitvička Jezera201922222.jpgPhotographer: Romeo Ibrišević Photo taken: Plitvice Lakes National Park

Over 1000 photographs from all over the world were entered in the 2020 competition. The submissions were narrowed down to a final selection of 70 contenders. As TCN reported back at the start of October, no less than 9 examples of Croatia weather photography made it into the final 70, taken by 7 Croatian photographers.

Danijel PalčićPagIsland2019.jpgPhotographer: Danijel Palčić Photo taken: Pag island

Aleksandar Gospic Ražanac, Croatia2019.jpgPhotographer: Aleksandar Gospic Photo taken: Ražanac

Croatia regularly punches well above its weight in the annual competition, as we can see from these 10 examples of incredible Croatia weather photography that were among the finalists in 2019.

All images courtesy World Meteorological Organisation

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