Sunday, 22 August 2021

Galic Winery Must Return 10 Million Kuna in European Union Funds

August the 22nd, 2021 - Bad news for the well known Galic Winery, which now must return a massive 10 million kuna from the Wine Envelope which was allocated to it.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Galic Winery, owned by entrepreneur Josip Galic from Kutjevo, must return 10 million kuna from the Wine Envelope allocated to it through the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund for the construction of a new winery building in Kutjevo which was worth seven million euros.

The Agency for Payments in Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development, based on the recommendation of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), recently issued a decision to annul the decision on the Galic Winery project approval and made a decision on the return of paid aid in the amount of 10,047,442.29 kuna, Jutarnji list writes. This is the first such case, according to the same publication.

OLAF stated that during the construction of the winery, there was malversation and abuse in the selection of contractors, ie subcontractors. In this particular case, one of the subcontractors of construction work on the wine cellar was the company Presoflex owned by Ina Galic, the child of Josip Galic.

It should be noted that the Galic Winery hired one company as a contractor, and it then hired five subcontractors, including Galic's child's aforementioned company, which OLAF considers a conflict of interest, explaining that ''the legislative framework prohibits users of EU funds from projects for which they received money to hire companies with which they have personal or business connections,'' reports Jutarnji list.

The Galic Winery has stated that it is shocked by this decision, which they're trying to challenge because they consider it to be illegal. The Agency said that the decision was made “based on Article 33, paragraph 2 of the Ordinance on the implementation of the measure Investments in wineries and wine marketing from the National Wine Sector Assistance Programme 2014-2018, which stipulates that the Paying Agency will request a refund if it is determined that the beneficiary has acted contrary to the provisions of the Ordinance and the rules for the use of such funds for the Investment measure, ie in case of an established irregularity,''

They also stated that during the approval of the now disputed Galic Winery project, as well as during the control of its implementation, the Agency didn't know that a company owned by Galic's offspring was being engaged in the project, and that the beneficiary had previously been instructed in all of the obligations based on the project approval decision.

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Thursday, 11 February 2021

PHOTOS: Outstanding Contemporary Croatian Architecture of the Year

February 10, 2021 – 10 of the most outstanding examples of contemporary Croatian architecture have been selected by the Association of Croatian Architects to compete in the extremely prestigious Mies van der Rohe Awards. Held only once every two years, they are the European equivalent of the Pritzker Prize for Architecture.

The Mies van der Rohe Awards are a really big deal. The greatest works of European architecture compete for recognition in the competition. The greatest success of Croatian architecture in the awards was attained by UP studios' Toma Plejić and Lea Pelivan, who received a special award for upcoming architects and had their high school in Koprivnica named the best building in that category in 2009. The success has had a considerable impact on their careers since.

Being held only once every two years, Croatian architecture projects completed since the closure of entries for the 2019 awards are eligible to be submitted. Here are the outstanding examples of contemporary Croatian architecture that will represent the country in 2022.

Cinema Urania Zagreb
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An old neighbourhood cinema built into the back streets near Kvatric. In their redesign, 3LHD preserved the best features from this early example of concrete engineering in Croatian architecture. They added a glass pavilion at the entrance, atriums and skylights, flooding the former darkness with the natural light needed for its new purpose as an event and work space.

3LHD_264_Urania_photo_by_Jure_Zivkovic_622355555555.jpg© Jure Živković

Grand Park Hotel, Rovinj
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Sprawling widely across six stepped levels, the new luxury Grand Park Hotel and spa could easily have looked a long swipe of concrete. But, by places greenery on each of its staged roofs, architects 3LHD have ensured that no matter where you are in the 500-guest-capacity building, your view places you within a garden, looking out onto Rovinj Old Town and the expanse of the Adriatic. Croatian architecture at its most breathtaking.

Grand_Park_Hotel_Rovinj43333.jpg© Alukoenigstahl hr
Ivanja Reka Elementary School, south Sesvete, east Zagreb
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If every elementary school looked as pretty and was as well equipped as Ivanja Reka Elementary School in the south of Sesvete, eastern Zagreb, you could well believe daily attendance would never drop below 100%. Designed by a team of architectural authors (SUBMAP studios Marija Burmas and Ivo-Lola Petrić, and Jakša Kalajžić from JKA Arhitekti), the multi-level main building sits centrally, surrounded by sports, recreation and other facilities creating an impressive view for both those outside and within.

a3a8dd73fd11ef837e65386313eb8c6529c4b842blaz.jpeg© Ivanja Reka Elementary School / Domagoj Blažević

Roxanich Wine & Heritage Hotel, Motovun, Istria
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The view is unmistakably Istria. Vineyards carpet the land below and - rising above - the picturesque hilltop town of Motovun. Helmed architecturally by consistently bold Rijeka designer Idis Turato, this multi-level, multi-purpose redesign retains the traditional feel of its existing stone building and its purpose – there's a huge wine cellar beneath – but has opened up the space to give stunning views, not least over a sun deck that spectacularly reflects the sunrise and sunset. This is an active winery, with works and equipment all housed within its lower floors, not that you could tell from the 25 person capacity boutique hotel, restaurant and wine shop upstairs.

317b6f_Wine-and-Heritage-Hotel-Roxanich---Motovun5.jpg© Roxanich.hr

Four Houses for Four Brothers, Diklo, Zadar
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Judging from a theme of project titles used by architects Iva Letilović and Igor Pedišić, we're not sure that Four Houses for Four Brothers was actually commissioned by four brothers or that four live there. But, you could well believe they could. The ultra-modern set of independent houses, located next to a beautiful stretch of coast in a north Zadar neighbourhood, was specifically designed to address a distinctly Croatian reality – how to open up some of your dwelling to seasonal guests while you remain at home. The design separates the buildings clearly into separate quarters which allow privacy, comfort and minimal encroachment for both visitors and residents.

bazencetiri.jpg© Igor Pedišić

Galić Winery, Kutjevo
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Award-winning outfit Zagreb-based studio Dva arhitekta have an existing, jaw-dropping design for a rural winery commissioned by famous makers Galic. However, that project, as yet, remains unrealised. But, their winery for Galic in the centre of Kutjevo town is complete. Melding the traditional and the contemporary, the upper section of the building is a bold and unblemished red brick, adorned with the winemaker's unmistakable logo. Beneath, concrete arches invite your eyes into the actual wine cellar – neat rows of barrels, protected behind glass walls that are set back from the facade. Brilliant!

8dammy.jpg© Damir Fabijanić

Seecel Centre, Zagreb
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Designed as a regional centre for the development of entrepreneurs and its construction costs generously part-funded by European money, the Seecel Centre arrived long overdue and does not house its intended inhabitants. Such matters are best left for different articles as, here, we're concerned with the undeniable finery of this building's architecture and appearance. Holding space for accommodation, offices, communal collaboration, education and presentations, the five-floored building uses ultra-modern building materials and construction methods to make it low-energy, its great blocks of covered concrete, with glass windows set further back, echoing old fortifications. It was designed by Igor Franić who, in Croatia, is perhaps best known for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb and completed by him and his team at SZA / Studio za arhitekturu d.o.o.

endGV7_1096-mindarklav.jpg© Site Project d.o.o.

Trg Poljana, Šibenik
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Not a small amount was asked of project architects Atelier Minerva from Dubrovnik in the task to create Trg Poljana in Šibenik. The site had long been earmarked for a much-needed, official town square – a place for events and public gatherings. But, the town was also woefully short on parking. By burying a multi-level car park beneath the open space, the architects successfully met both demands. Triangular shapes sit at an angle above shaded seating, echoing the inclines on the roof of the Juraj Šižgorić City Library opposite. Clever.

Poljana-Sibenik-Eccos-inzenjering-1-compressed-scaled.jpg© Ervin Husedžinović / Eccos-inzenjering

Homestead on Hartovski vrh, Žumberak, Zagreb County
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A collection of multi-purpose rural buildings, Homestead and Meditation Centre on Hartovski vrh was commissioned and designed for use by the Buddhist Center Zagreb. Their aim was to relocate activities such as chan, yoga, meditation, healthy living and teaching to a peaceful retreat outside of the city. Architects Branimir Rajčić and Mariela Žinić began the project in 2015, with the completed site arriving in 2019. Modern building materials are used, but not so the striking collection seems out of place within a partially agricultural setting. The set of buildings includes a residential dwelling and a larger hall for meetings and activities, both of which use large windows to allow the light and nature to flood in.

6_3BERCFUINAL.jpg© Robert Leš

Square of Traditional Crafts, Varaždin
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A tricky task was given to architects Studio Konntra – how to enliven and modernise a traditional old square in the centre of one of Europe's best-preserved Baroque Old Towns. They did this by constructing transportable kiosks to house small outlets for local artists and craftsmen that cater to visiting tourists who come to the square. When occupied during the day, the plain wooden interiors allows the crafts to take centre stage. But, after closing time, the outsides of the wooden doors are brightly coloured and adorned with paintings, a welcoming environment for residents to use at night.

sqaureee23455.jpeg© Studio Konntra

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Pozega-Slavonia Hunters Send Two Tons of Game to Earthquake Area

February 2, 2021 – In an admirably understated manner, Pozega-Slavonia hunters humbly pitched in to the relief efforts and sent two tons of game to those in the earthquake-affected area of Sisak-Moslavina

It's fair to say that in this day and age, hunters often get a bad rep. There are far more people in the world today who abstain from eating any meat – vegetarians and vegans – than those who go hunting. Changing times. For sure, it wasn't always this way.

In Croatia, hunting associations play a vital role in maintaining the beauty and accessibility of the country's rural landscape. Not that you much hear about this aspect of their undertakings. Perhaps they are typically just rather understated people?

You might easily come to that conclusion when considering the recent humanitarian action undertaken by Pozega-Slavonia hunters. Organised by the county hunting association and county officials, Pozega-Slavonia hunters from each of the region's district societies contributed in an effort to send the game taken by each – mostly deer and wild boar - to the earthquake-hit areas in Sisak-Moslavina County. They so far managed to send a whole two tons!

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At the same time, Pozega-Slavonia hunters from the county association began collecting funds for the families of those tragically killed in the 29 December earthquake. They have so far collected some 50,000 kunas that will be directed to the intended recipients through the Croatian Hunting Association.

“This is a small help, but undertaken with an open heart,” said a representative from the County, who jointly organised the effort.

“We go to visit friends,” he said, in reference to the delivery of the Pozega-Slavonia hunters game, “and a Slavonian does not go empty-handed. We have loaded more than a ton of meat here (in this shipment), but there will be more because in co-operation with Croatian Forestry, Brod-Posavina County and the Radinje hunting ground, today we will take (in total) about three to four tons of game.”

“(Perhaps) the people of Moslavina will remember Slavonia next time they eat Slavonian čobanac (a local specialty stew, made from game) because she (Slavonia) is always thinking of her (Moslavina),” he concluded.

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“Lovački savez Požeško – slavonske županije (Hunting alliance of Pozega Slavonia County) was the main organiser,” Mateja Tomasevic, Head of the County office told TCN. “Within it, there are 28 separate societies of Pozega-Slavonia hunters. They all participated in the humanitarian action.”

Among the 28 contributing societies were Hunting Associations 'Fazan' and 'Košuta' from Pakrac, 'Psunj' from Orljavac, 'Šljuka' from Brestovac, 'Jelen', 'Šijak', 'Sokolovac' and 'Sveti Hubert' from Požega, 'Dilj' from Buk, 'Vidra' from Sapna, Čaglin, 'Slavonac' from Kutjevo, 'Strijela' from Bektež, 'Papuk' from Biškupci, 'Sokol' from Bučje, 'Seljak' from Jakšić, 'Vepar' from Kaptol, 'Krndija' from Našice, 'Vranovac' from Vetovo, 'Šljuka' from Pleternica, 'Fazan' from Ruševo, 'Vražjak' from Sesvete, 'Sjeverni Dilj' from Seoce, 'Slavuj Gaj' from Poljana and 'Kuna' from Paka. Over 1300 residents of the county belong to one of the Pozega-Slavonia hunters associations.

Bravo!

AnyConv.com__BZENICA_LOVNO-STRELJASTVO_POZESKA-ZUPANIJA-1.jpgSome of the members of the Hunting Associations of Pozega-Slavonia County © Hrvatski Lovački Savez

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Friday, 22 January 2021

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

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

Nearing the end of January, it's not uncommon to see snow on the fields of Croatia. The ground can be hard, brittle, frozen. There's little to be done in them right now. And yet, on 22 January in Croatia, winemakers traditionally head to their vineyards. They do this not to undertake a day's work – for today is a day of rest. 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, 18 November 2021

PHOTOS: The 21 Most Incredible Croatia Castles To See Year-Round

November 18, 2021 – Serving as Christian Europe's defensive front line for centuries, incredible Croatia castles can be found throughout the country. Whether on a summertime day trip, set next to the spectacular backdrop of autumn's colours or postcard-pretty covered in winter's snow, here are 21 of the best to visit year-round

Croatia Castles Mailáth and Prandau in Donji Miholjac

DM-DvoraMailathcZdenko_Brkanić.jpg© Zdenko Brkanić

Mailáth Castle is located in Donji Miholjac in Osijek-Baranja County. The town famously lies just next to the Hungarian border in the traditional region of Slavonia. It's well worth making the trip to see this wonderful building, not least because it sits right next door to an earlier manor. After being gifted lands for fighting the Ottomans, in 1818 the Prandau family built its first castle/manor in Miholjac in the Baroque style. But, in 1901 its grandeur was supplanted by Mailáth castle.

croatia_slavonija_donji_miholjac_004NTB.jpgDonji Miholjac in Slavonija gives you two adjoined Croatia castles, Mailáth (right) and Castle Prandau (left)  © Croatian National Tourist Board

Built over four floors, its decorative chimneys, spacious terraces with neoclassical balustrades and wrought iron fences identify its debt to the Tudor style. The building has some 50 rooms across roughly 3500 square meters. Its interior was decorated with hunting trophies from Count Mailáth's travels in Asia and Africa, set above oak paneling which lines every room. In recent times, the building was used to house city authorities. But, considerable effort has been made to restore the building and open it up to visitors. Its grand hall now hosts events such as classical music performances, as do the immediate grounds in warmer months. These grounds extend out into a 16-hectare public park which was curated by the family and bequeathed to the town inhabitants. This is now one of the few Croatia castles to have a nationally certified horticultural monument attached. It has been classed as such since 1961.

Maruševec Castle in Varaždin County

2880px-Dvorac_Marusevec3MaGa.jpeg© MaGa

During its lifetime, the extraordinary Maruševec castle in Varaždin County has passed through a confusingly long series of different owners, many of whom have left a significant mark on the building. The original structure dates back to 1547. Since then, it was privately owned up until 1945 when it was seized from the Pongratz family by Yugoslavian communist authorities. It was the Pongratz family who established splendid gardens that surround the building.

slika-dvoracOpćina_Maruševec.jpg© Općine Maruševec

In the first years after independence, the building was used by a section of the Protestant church in Croatia. However, over recent decades, Croatia's government has begun the process of trying to return many such Croatia castles to their rightful owners. Maruševec Castle now lies back in the hands of the Pongratz family and the grounds are once again superb.

Prandau Normann in Valpovo

dvorac-air1greenroom.jpeg© Greenroom Festival Valpovo

The pictures don't do it justice. Prandau Normann in Valpovo is one of the Croatia castles that has to be visited to get a true sense of its size. If you do, you'll maybe also come away having learned of its significance and history. One of the oldest and largest castles in Slavonia, it sits within a small area of greenery upon which the surrounding settlement closely encroaches. Some trees at the edges of these thin grounds partially obstruct the view. Stretching out from the southern ends of this green island is a glorious public park of 25 hectares.

Dvorac_Prandau-Normann_dvorac_iz_zrakaRoko_Poljak.jpg© Roko Poljak

Formerly part of the hunting grounds of the castle inhabitants, these grounds were designed as a grandiose garden in the English style. Subsequently, it has been declared a national monument of natural and horticultural architecture. The sections of the castle itself form a three-walled complex with an inner courtyard. The original triangular-shaped fortress and the shorter, round tower date back to the beginning of the 15th century at which time it was surrounded by defensive moats. During the first half of the 18th century, the Prandau family rebuilt one side of the medieval structure with the Baroque palace which now lies at the front. Its tower is 37 metres high. Badly damaged in a fire on New Year's Eve in 1801, its stylings were somewhat altered when reconstructed. A true giant, it has over 60 rooms and, together with the inner courtyard, has an impressive ground space of 4031 m2. The Museum of the Valpovo Region was established here in 1956. Its continuous running was halted by both war and reconstruction work. But, it is now open again. Although the building is of significant national importance, it is to the immense credit of its forward-thinking governance that the building and grounds have in recent years been utilised for public events, including very contemporary youth culture happenings such as the Reunited Festival (here) and Greenroom Festival

Ozalj Castle

ozalj-stari-grad-za-web-ivo-biocina_0NTBFULLON.jpg© Ivo Biočina / Croatian National Tourist Board

Around 60 kilometres from Zagreb, in Karlovac County, Ozalj is one of the most picturesque Croatia castles. It has simply everything you would want from a visit to a castle – an impressive approach, towers, defensive walls, surrounding waters, incredible views, a museum and a fascinating amalgam of different buildings. Sat spectacularly on a cliff above the Kupa river and the surrounding settlement of Ozalj, this castle was once the entire town.

RedZugang_Schloss_Ozalj1BernBartsch.jpeg© Bern Bartsch

First mentioned as a free royal city as far back as 1244, the walled medieval stronghold gradually become a castle structure, with significant additions taking place up until the 18th century. It is a building of great national significance. Ozalj is the site of the Zrinski–Frankopan conspiracy which, although unsuccessful, is regarded an important marker in Croatia's struggle for autonomy. Between them, the Croatian families of Zrinski and Frankopan owned the castle from 1398 until 1671. Thereafter, both family lines were severed when the Zrinski–Frankopan conspirators were executed by the ruling Habsburgs. There were further ramifications. An additional 2000 nobles of the region were also arrested and the Protestant church was suppressed, Habsburg troops attacked commoners in both Croatia and Hungary and the position of Ban of Croatia, formerly held by Nikola Zrinski, would be left completely vacant for the next 60 years. The conspirators were executed on April 30 which, in remembrance, became the city day of Ozalj.

Trakošćan Castle in Varaždin County

TURISTIČKA_ZAJEDNICA_OPCINA_BEDNJA.jpg© Turistička zajednica Trakošćan - Općina Bednja

One of the most-recognisable Croatia castles, from its surroundings Trakošćan looks like something out of a fairytale. Its position - on a hill near Krapina, Varaždin County, not far from the Slovenia border - was obviously decided upon for defensive reasons. But, today, this positioning serves only to bolster the romantic vista. Trakošćan dates back to the 13th century, although local legend says that it stands on the site of an even earlier fortress. Nobody really knows who commissioned it nor who originally lived here.

TrakoscanCroatiaTZ.jpg© Croatian National Tourist Board

In 1556 the castle came under state control. But, just 18 years later, it was gifted to the Drašković family. In the second half of the 18th century, the castle was abandoned. The Drašković family resumed interest in the building in the middle of the 19th century. They renovated the house and constructed the gardens. Today, the surrounding gardens are a significant highlight of any visit to Trakošćan. The family lived here until 1944. But, the Drašković's were forced to emigrate to Austria and the state assumed ownership. It is now owned by the Republic of Croatia and has been renovated considerably. Inside there is a permanent museum.

Trsat Castle in Rijeka

Domagoj_BlaževićTrsatKvarner.jpg© Domagoj Blažević / Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner)

The city of Rijeka rises sharply from sea level into the nearby foothills. This abrupt ascent is the cause of Rijeka's above-average rainfall. But, there are some positives. Residential tower blocks have been built in these foothills and the cityscape vista is superb from their balconies. But, the best view of the city of Rijeka is from Trsat.

TRSAT_gradina-trsat01-pogled-domagoj-blazevic-19.07-724x500.jpg© Domagoj Blažević / Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner)

Rječina valley separates Trsat castle from the competing high-rise blocks. Looking down at the city from the castle, the river itself is immediately below you. It scores a path through an industrial landscape, then the old city. Eventually, it spills out into Kvarner Bay. Sitting 150 metres above the city, it's thought that Trsat castle lies on top of an earlier Illyrian or Roman fortress. Today, the castle is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Rijeka. Inside there's a cafe bar. Throughout the year, the inner courtyard hosts cultural events like theatre and music concerts. Needless to say, the castle is a wonderful backdrop to these public events, as it is during Christmas when it becomes a highlight of Rijeka and Kvarner's Advent celebrations.

Stara Sušica Castle

DomagojBlaeviStaraKvarner.jpeg© Domagoj Blažević / Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner)

One of the most bewildering Croatia castles, the fantastical architecture of Stara Sušica is explained by a series of restorations and additions that have taken place over many generations. It's far from being the biggest of Croatia castles, but it's certainly one of the most intriguing.

Stara_Susica_0004Domagoj_BlaževićKvarner.jpg© Domagoj Blažević / Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner)

By prior arrangement, you can actually stay in this castle. It has previously hosted groups such as those who engage in fantasy role-playing games. The mysterious-looking building must be the perfect backdrop to such wild imagination! This architectural gem of a castle is located 60 kilometres to the east of the city of Rijeka. It sits in the shadows of tall coniferous trees, just outside of the town of Stara Sušica, near Ravna Gora.

Veliki Tabor Castle in Zagorje

veliki-tabor-optimizirano-za-web-ivo-biocina_1600x900_0Croatia.jpeg© Ivo Biočina / Croatian National Tourist Board

The sizeable Veliki Tabor is another of the Croatia castles that sits atop a hill for defensive purposes. It dominates a beautiful rural landscape of agricultural land, gently rising hills and vineyards near Desinić in Zagorje, less than an hour's drive from Zagreb.

veliki-tabor-web-ivo-biocina-1CROATIArfghbnjm.jpg© Ivo Biočina / Croatian National Tourist Board

Dating from the middle of 15th century, most of the castle was built by the Ráttkay family from Hungary, in whose ownership it remained until 1793. The castle is said to be haunted. Legend says a local woman was murdered upon false accusations of witchcraft and entombed within the actual castle walls. Although, the ulterior motive for the killing is said to have been the castle's owner didn't want his son to marry the woman. Her voice is said to still inhabit the building. Today owned by the state, Veliki Tabor now holds a permanent museum and is a popular tourist attraction. Events significant to local culture take place here, like food festivals. The castle also hosts some nationally recognised happenings, such as the famous Veliki Tabor short film festival.

Lužnica Castle near Zaprešić, Zagreb County

Luznica2ZCTY.png© Zagreb County Tourist Board

Set back from the main road and obscured by ancient trees, the immediate approach to Lužnica is incredibly impressive. The castle is surrounded by neatly trimmed lawns and you can reach it from several different directions. The pathways leading to the building are bordered by low-lying hedges. At the end of these paths sits the baroque castle. It shares its name with the nearby settlement of Lužnica, just a few kilometres to the west of Zaprešić in Zagreb County.

LuznicZaagrebCounty.jpg© Zagreb County Tourist Board

Lužnica castle was built in 1791 as a residence for a noble family. But, since 1925 the building has been owned by the Convent of St. Vincent de Paul. After acquiring the building, nuns used the castle as a residential and care home for elderly members of the sisterhood. From 1935 the building was used for the care of poor children, and then, afterwards, for educational classes organised by the nuns. In 2005, a purpose-built modern property was constructed nearby and this assumed the residential care of retired nuns. This facilitated much better public access to the castle. The nuns still hold spiritual and educational programs inside the castle and it also hosts secular conferences and seminars.

Krašić

KrasicZgC.jpg© Zagreb County Tourist Board

So well suited to its contemporary purpose as a church does Krašić look that it's difficult to imagine that it was ever anything other. But, this complex of buildings originally dates back much further than the hundred or so years it has served as a place of worship.

krasic08RegionalDevelopment_agencyZagrebCounty.jpg© Regional Development Agency Zagreb County

It was first built in the Gothic style of the late 14th century and later reconstructed in the Baroque style. It only assumed its current religious role after reconstructions that took place between 1911 and 1913. Nowadays, villagers know it as the Parish church of the Holy Trinity. It serves the population of Krašić, near Jastrebarsko, about 50 km southwest of Zagreb. Enthusiastic hunters of Croatia castles who are visiting Zagreb and Zagreb County will also not want to miss the nearby Pribić. It is located just three kilometes east of Krašić. There you'll find an incredible triumvirate of spectacular neighbouring buildings - two castles and one Greek Catholic church.

Pejačević Castle in Našice

Dvorac_Pejačević._NašiceSamir_Budimčić.jpg© Samir Budimčić

Though they are most commonly associated with Slavonia, the Pejačević family extends back to at least the 14th century, during which time some of them settled in north-west Bulgaria. Alongside Bosnians and Germans attracted to that region by mining, these immigrants brought Catholicism to the area around Chiprovtsi. Subsequently, there was a famous uprising there against the Ottomans. The Pejačević family are thought to have been among the instigators of the failed rebellion. They fled to lands recently liberated from the Ottomans and eventually acquired significant titles and estates in Slavonia. For centuries they were very influential in the region's political, social, economic and cultural life.

Zavičajni_muzej_Našice_Našice_local_history_museum.jpg© Našice local history museum (Zavičajni muzej Našice)

Pejačević Castle in Našice today is the home of Našice local history museum / Zavičajni muzej Našice (here). The castle is actually one of two castles the family built in this town. They have two more castles elsewhere in traditional Slavonia - in Virovitica and Retfala, Osijek. If you want to read more about the Pejačević family and their castles in Našice, then look here.

Stari Grad Varaždin

VarazdinZup.jpg© Turistička Zajednica Varaždinske Županije

The city of Varaždin once served as the capital of Croatia and, as its focal point, Stari Grad fortress is therefore of significant national importance. In acknowledgment, an image of the fortress used to appear on the back of the old 5 kuna bank notes. Although, presumably due to some printer's error, the image appeared in reverse to how it sits in real life.

varazdin-ivo-biocina-NTZ.jpg© Ivo Biočina / Croatian National Tourist Board

The building is mentioned as far back as the 12th century. But, it was reconstructed as a Renaissance fortification in the 16th century. At the end of that century, it came into the hands of the Hungarian-Croatian family Erdödy. Today, Stari Grad holds a permanent museum. It is one of the most famous tourist attractions in a city that's not short of great reasons to visit.

Bosiljevo Castle

Dvorac_Bosiljevo_-_panoramioKrittinskiy.jpg© Krittinskiy

Something of a bratić (cousin) to Ozalj Castle, Bosiljevo is in Karlovac County and was also owned by the Frankopan family. It is a sprawling set of structures, impressively situated on a hillside within forest land. The nature of the building and its remote location perhaps contribute to the fact that it is abandoned and unrestored. However, it is still one of the Croatia castles worth visiting year-round, not least because the surrounding trees grant a spectacular backdrop that changes throughout the year's seasons.

bosiljevoopcinacas.jpg© Općina Bosiljevo

Although access is limited, you can get up close to the fascinating buildings, the intricately decorated defensive walls and its towers. The earliest sections date back to at least 1344. Following its seizure by the Austrians in 1671, Bosiljevo passed through the hands of a series of private owners. They included Irish-born Laval Nugent von Westmeath, who started his career as a loyal soldier to Austria but finished his life in Bosiljevo as something closer to a Croatian patriot. The property was seized by Communist authorities after the Second World War. Its decline began when it was thereafter ill-purposed as a retirement home, restaurant and cheap motel. It was finally abandoned in the 1980s.

Čakovec Castle

stari_gradcakovectz.jpg© Čakovec City Tourist Board

Situated within a sizeable park, in the town centre of Čakovec, Međimurje, Čakovec Castle is a beast of a structure. Like some of the previous Croatia castles, it is actually several buildings. Access to the park is great from all sides. These grounds are a green space much-enjoyed by Čakovec residents and visitors. So too are the spectacular buildings which lie at their centre. The original 13th-century fortress was built by Count Dmitri Čak, hence the town's name. Its walls form the basis of the complex's front section, behind which the 16th Century Zrinski Castle sits detached.

MuseumMedimurjeCak.jpg© Museum of Međimurje, Čakovec

The Zrinski castle houses Croatia's biggest museum, the Međimurje County Museum. The courtyard hosts cultural happenings like music concerts, theatre and food events. Although this independent structure is known as the Zrinski Castle, the Zrinski family were not responsible for the building's construction. However, this is one of the most significant Croatia castles because it was their family seat during a time in which several family members served as Ban of Croatia.

Feštetić Castle, Pribislavec

dvorac_festetic_01visit_medimurje.jpg© Visit Međimurje

One of the most singular-looking of all Croatia castles, not least because of its unforgettable neogothic tower, Feštetić Castle in Međimurje actually pre-dates the Feštetić family who lends it their name. The original building dates back to at least the beginning of the 18th Century.

Feštetićvisitnorthcroatia.jpgGosh! The occasional darkened skies above Međimurje seem to suit the neogothic Feštetić Castle almost as much as do the clear blue! © Visit North Croatia

Throughout its life, the structure that lay here was ravaged by war, fire and natural disasters and therefore rebuilt several times. We can attribute its striking neogothic stylings to the Feštetić family, whose work on the castle began in 1870. The building has been in continuous use ever since, serving at times as a retirement home and a school. It is therefore in great condition and sits on grounds that are also enjoyable when you visit.

Nova Kraljevica Castle

Domagoj_BlaževićKraljevicaKvarner.jpg© Domagoj Blažević / Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner)

Located atop the start of a peninsula at the entrance to the Bay of Bakar, less than 20 kilometres east of Rijeka, Petar Zrinski started to build Nova Kraljevica in 1651. The castle has large towers at the corners of each of its four walls.

dvorac-nova-kraljevica07-atrij-domagoj-blazevic-11.07-1200x800.jpgThe ornate inner courtyard of Kraljevica Castle © Domagoj Blažević / Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner)

They surround an inner courtyard decorated with archways on two floors. Petar's wife, Katarina Frankopan, is said to have paid close attention to its interior design. The couple spent much time here. It is one of the few Croatia castles to sit directly on the Croatian mainland's shore. The castle's main salon was decorated with gilded leather wallpaper, had marble fireplaces, floors paved with a marble mosaic and doors made of black and white marble. This spectacular and well-preserved castle also once held one of Croatia's very first museums. It is not only great to visit on foot, but also a spectacular sight when approached from the Adriatic by boat.

Miljana Castle, near Kumrovec

DisscoSC_0248-visitZagorje.jpg© Visit Zagorje

Though not currently open to spontaneous visits like many of the Croatia castles on this list, you can go to the Baroque castle of Miljana near Kumrovec, Zagorje. You just have to arrange to do so in advance. That's because this picturesque building is undergoing a gradual restoration.

Miljana_Castle_near_KumroveKrapina_Zagorje_County_Tourism_Board.jpg© Zagreb County Tourist Board

Miljana is impossibly pretty, as are its grounds. Three wings surround a central courtyard. A striking black plaster covers the walls, periodically interspersed with white plaster ornamentation. Its construction began in the late 16th century under the Rattkay family. Although, it was expanded and adapted several times before its last substantial remodeling in the 18th century. Its first floor has eight salons, seven of which hold frescos on the walls. These are the basis of much of the current restoration work. It promises to be an unmissable treat once the painstaking work is complete.

Kutjevo Castle

dvorac-kutjevoTZK.jpeg© Tourism Board of Kutjevo

Built on the site of a much earlier monastery, Kutjevo castle still has the ancient wine cellar that belonged to its predecessor. This cellar dates back to the year 1232. The rest of the original monastery buildings were destroyed by the Ottomans. After they left, the land was gifted to Zagreb canon Ivan Josip Babić in 1689. He invited Jesuits to make a home for themselves here. They cleared the land and built the castle between 1704 and 1735.

Kutjevo-ParkCROATIA.jpg© Croatian National Tourist Board

One side of the castle is a church. The other three wings are less overtly religious in appearance. They surround an inner courtyard and, beyond them stretches a large park area. The park has a circular motif in its centre. Around it, pathways wind through the grounds passing the large trees which live here. Perhaps the most striking feature of the building is its polygonal tower on which sits a bulb-shaped roof. The building is privately owned and its interior is not open to spontaneous visits from the public.

Eltz Castle, Vukovar

Vukovar_Dvorac_Eltz_SKStjepkoKrehula.jpeg© Stjepko Krehula

One of the most famous, spectacular and oldest castles in Germany is called Eltz Castle. This one, located in the easterly Croatian city of Vukovar, is clearly something other. However, the two are connected by the same Eltz family, the descendants of which still inhabit the German castle, just as their ancestors did in the 12th Century. The family owned huge tracts of land around this section of the Danube. By far, this was their most significant territory outside Germany. Eltz Castle in Vukovar was their main residence until 1945 when the family was expelled by the Yugoslav communist regime.

GradskiMuzejVuko.jpg© Gradski muzej Vukovar

The front facade is a sea of ornate baroque windows, painstakingly (but speedily) reconstructed following the building's near-complete destruction by bombing during the 1990s. Since 1968, the castle has housed the Vukovar City Museum (here), one of the most significant in Pannonia. It charts the history of all the peoples who have inhabited this area of the Danube and contains valuable exhibits returned to it from Zagreb, Novi Sad and Belgrade.

Lukavec Castle, Turopolje

LukavecTZZC1.jpg© Zagreb County Tourist Board

Lukavec is built on the site of a wooden fort that was first mentioned in 1256. Could some of the wooden bridge that gives access to this castle be made of remnants of its ancestor? Maybe not, but it's nice to imagine the lineage being so palpable. This replacement structure dates from 1752 and is marked by outer walls covered in gold-coloured plaster. This colour contrasts beautifully against white borders, the red-tiled roof and the darkened top of the main tower.

The_Old_Town_of_Lukavec_6Zeljko.filipin.jpeg© Zeljko Filipin

In the building's courtyard sits an old cannon. This remnant reminds of a military past that is otherwise unapparent in the unblemished building. Lukavec is an integral part of the local community's cultural and social life and hosts many events.

Kerestinec Castle

kerestinec2-10svetaned.jpg© Grad Sveta Nedelja

The Renaissance-Baroque building in Kerestinec, Sveta Nedelja, is one of the Croatia castles that has seen much better days. Its construction was commissioned in 1565 by Petar Erdödy, then Ban of Croatia. So, originally it would have been built to high standards and specifications. The castle was remodelled several times over the centuries and is today notable for circular towers that sit at two corners of its four wings.

dvorac_helikoptersvetanedelja.jpg© Grad Sveta Nedelja

In recent memory, the castle's central courtyard has hosted events such as a dance music festival. This may be far from its original purpose, but such events continue to breathe life into a spectacular building that perhaps otherwise would be completely abandoned.

All of the photos of castles in Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner) were taken by Domagoj Blažević for the Route Of The Frankopans website (here), which allows visitors to trace a path through all of the former Frankopan properties in the county and is recommended reading for castle hunters

Thursday, 11 November 2021

Martinje - Saint Martin's Day Celebrated Across Croatia

November 11, 2021 – Saint Martin's Day is today celebrated across Croatia. It's a time to be thankful for the successful harvest that will tide you through winter. We take a look at Saint Martin, his close connection to Croatia and the distinct traditions here that mark his day

Saint Martin or Martin of Tours is one of the most recognised of all Christian saints. He is the patron saint of beggars, wool-weavers and tailors, soldiers, geese and the country of France. He is also the patron saint of innkeepers and winemakers. He is celebrated all over the Christian world on September 11, the day of his burial (Saint Martin died on 8th November, 397, and was buried three days later).

wine-259876_1920.jpegAcross Europe, the long-held celebration of Saint Martin's Day is closely associated with the autumn harvest - in Croatia, particularly the wine harvest in continental regions

The feast of Saint Martin began to be celebrated in France, where he died, before spreading all across Europe and the Christian world. In the northern hemisphere, Saint Martin's Day coincides with a key time of year. It is the end of harvest time, the beginning of natural winter. It is the time for food to be conserved for the forthcoming colder months, the time for animals to be slaughtered and vegetables to be preserved. It is also the time when the year's first new beer and wine first become ready to drink. Depending on the local crops and climate of the country, Saint Martin's Day can be associated with different foods and drinks. But there are recurring associations, in particular throughout Europe. In the great winemaking country of Croatia, Saint Martin's Day is often most closely linked to that particular agricultural endeavour.

Louis Anselme Longa, La Charité de Saint-Martin Huile sur toile. Eglise de Saint-Martin d'Oney.jpgSaint Martin depicted in Louis Anselme Longa's, La Charité de Saint-Martin Huile sur toile

Saint Martin feels at home in Croatia. And well he might. Martin of Tours was born less than 90 kilometres from today's Croatian border, in Pannonia, present-day Hungary. His father was a tribune in the Roman army and, being the son of such, Martin was required to follow in his footsteps. At the age of 18, he was stationed in Amiens, present-day France, probably as an elite cavalry bodyguard of the Emperor, who accompanied the leader on his travels around the Empire. We actually know quite a lot about the life of Saint Martin. So important did he become to the spread of early Christianity in the region, that many details about his life were recorded by a biographer, Sulpicius Severus. Not only did Severus live within Martin's lifetime, but also he actually met him.

Martinje-visit daruvar.jpgA previous celebration of Saint Martin's Day in Daruvar © TZ Daruvar

While Martin was still a soldier, it is said he experienced a vision. One day, as he was approaching the city of Amiens, he met a beggar. Martin instinctively cut his military cloak in two, so he could share his clothing with the poor man. That night, Martin dreamed Jesus was wearing the half-cloak he had given away.

Martin's cloak became a famous relic and was preserved in the Marmoutier Abbey near Tours. During the Middle Ages, it was carried by the king into battle and used as a Holy relic upon which oaths were sworn. When it was not in use, so important was the cloak that it was assigned its own military priest who would watch over it. He was called a cappellanu, his title taken from the Italian word capella, meaning cloak. This is the origin of the word chaplain that we use today to describe a priest assigned to the military. And it is the origin of the word chapel, meaning small church, which comes from the building assigned to house Martin's cloak.

Saint Martin and the Beggar by Anthony van Dyck.jpgAnother depiction of Martin splitting his cloak for the beggar - Saint Martin and the Beggar by Anthony van Dyck

Opinions about the length of time Martin spent in the army vary, as he is said to have renounced violence - in keeping with the Christian faith he had adopted before joining. However long he spent in service, it is to a life of religious devotion he entered upon his departure from the ranks. He travelled back home and is said to have converted his mother in Pannonia to Christianity. Thereafter, he returned to present-day France with his mentor, Hilary of Poitiers, where he helped establish a building that would become the oldest known monastery in Europe, Ligugé Abbey. From there, he toured the region preaching Christianity, spreading his religion and, perhaps unwittingly, also his name.

graddugoselo.jpgIn this picture, the local clergy bless the full harvest in Dugo Selo on Saint Martin's Day © Grad Dugo Selo

Being a renowned Holy man, Martin was asked to attend a sick man in the city of Tours. The request was a ruse. Christians within the city wanted to have Martin as their bishop and had lured him there. Reticent to take up the position, Martin is said to have run away and hidden among a barn full of geese to avoid his persuaders. This is where the association of Martin with geese comes from. In many countries, the cooking of a goose is traditional on Saint Martin's Day, including Croatia. Not everyone has always been able to afford such a grand bird - poorer families have traditionally served duck, turkey or, more recently, chicken on Saint Martin's Day. The traditional accompaniment in Croatia is layers of pasta known as mlinci.

mlinci.pngMlinci, sheets of thin pasta, traditionally served as an accompaniment to a roasted bird in Croatia, especially on Saint Martin's Day

As bishop of Tours, Martin had a much greater responsibility and area to minister over. In these early days of Christianity, it was all too common for force and the military to become involved in the conversion of non-believers. But, Martin had renounced violence. He used an alternate method - the power of persuasion. Martin is said to have been such a formidable opponent in discussion that royalty would often refuse to grant him an audience for fear he would inevitably leave with the terms he sought. He regularly campaigned for the forgiveness and freedom of prisoners, even those whose religious views he opposed.

kutjevo2.jpgSome of Croatia's best white wines come from Kutjevo in Slavonia - it's no surprise to see them go big for Saint Martin's Day © Kutjevo doo

From the late 4th century to the late Middle Ages, a 40-day period of fasting starting the day after Saint Martin's Day was observed over much of Christian Europe. This long period eventually relaxed and receded, becoming known as Advent – the time of spiritual preparation for Christmas. However, what remained was the great feast enjoyed just before the fasting commenced - Saint Martin's Day.

visitmedimuje.jpgA typical scene from St Martin's Day in Medimurje © Visit Medimurje

Martinje or Saint Martin's Day in Croatia

In Croatia, Saint Martin is the patron saint of Beli Manastir in Baranja, Virje in Koprivnica–Križevci County and Čepinski Martinci in Slavonia. Each has a church named after Saint Martin. These are far from the only places where Saint Martin's Day is significant in Croatia. In Istria, as work in vineyards would come to an end, winemakers would often come together to taste the fruits of their labour together. Saint Martin's is celebrated across several days there, from village to village, and tradition holds that the new wine most liked on Saint Martin’s Day will be the best wine next year.

3bc7aa7f337d2b6d218588b9fca9e94f_L.jpgCelebrating Saint Martin's Day is a long-held tradition in Croatia, as this old photo from Požega City Museum attests

Like Istria, northern and eastern continental Croatia have an extremely strong reputation for producing great white wine. It is the harvest of the white wine grapes that most closely coincides with Saint Martin's Day, so it's little surprise to see it marked so significantly in these regions. In particular, Sveti Martin na Muri in Međimurje, all of Koprivnica–Križevci County, Požega and Kutjevo in Slavonia, Daruvar in Bjelovar-Bilogora County, Velika Gorica, Sveti Ivan Zelina and Dugo Selo in Zagreb County are big fans of Martinje. But, many other places where white wine is made also celebrate Saint Martin's Day, such as within Šibenik-Knin County. In the more easterly parts of Slavonia, they traditionally celebrate their wine with a blessing of the fields on Saint Vincent's Day (22 January).

purica_4-maja-danica-pecanic.jpgTurkey and mlinci is a dish commonly served on Saint Martin's Day in Croatia. Both the turkey and mlinci of the Zagorje region are protected by the EU for their distinct place of origin © Maja Danica Pecanic / Croatian National Tourist Board

Within these regions, in particular, the folk custom of 'Baptising' the wine, to purify it, is a part of proceedings. In many places, this is even done by a real priest. The ceremony frequently takes place on town squares and is enthusiastically attended by locals. After the lighthearted formalities, the celebrations are usually extended with food, music and, of course, wine.

grad daruvar.jpgAnother scene from a previous Saint Martin's in Daruvar © Grad Daruvar

Outside of continental regions, the island of Korčula is one of the few places in southern Dalmatia where Saint Martin's Day is seriously celebrated. The party there starts the night before, with children making a procession with lanterns. This is a commonplace way to celebrate Saint Martin's Day in The Netherlands, some parts of Germany and Belgium. Indeed, so significant is the day in western Flanders, Belgium, that children receive their annual gifts on Saint Martin's Day instead of December 25th. They don't go that far on Korčula, but they do make special foods for the occasion and celebrate Saint Martin's Day, like many places in Croatia, with joyous song and dance.

47_KUTJEVO3.jpg© Kutjevo doo

Thursday, 5 November 2020

First Gay Marriage Held in Kutjevo, Heart of Slavonia

November 5, 2020 - The first gay marriage held in Kutjevo was between locals from the area of Čaglin Municipality.

As the city clocks struck midday, two men, locals from the area of Čaglin Municipality said goodbyes to their single selves and embraced their future together as husband and, well, husband. Their affirmations were heard in front of the registrar of Kutjevo and thus, officially, they became partners in a same-sex marriage. It was the first gay marriage to take place in Požega-Slavonia County.

Portal Požega.eu reported that the intimate marriage ceremony of the 47-year-old and his 32-year-old partner took place over recent days, far from the gaze of the public. The ceremony was a quiet and private affair. In rural areas like Požega-Slavonia County, such marriages are not always met with widespread approval. The city registrar reported that this was the first gay marriage they had been asked to witness, despite having been in the job for many years.

Though this may be the first gay marriage to take place in Požega-Slavonia County, hundreds of same-sex marriages have concluded in Croatia since 2014, when the Life Partnership Act came into force. In the time since then, male same-sex marriages in Croatia have been slightly more common than female ones. The largest number of such marriages took place in Zagreb. From published figures outside of Croatia, where same-sex marriages have been more commonplace over a longer period of time, same-sex marriages are frequently more stable with fewer ending in divorce compared to traditional marriages.

Life partnerships in Croatia

The first same-sex marriage in Croatia was concluded in August 2014, and despite the great interest of the public, the two male partners managed to keep the wedding a secret. Just like the couple from Kutjevo. The couple married in the first of the ceremonies in Croatia only went public with details just last year.

"I was very nervous in those days, it was a historic thing after all. If we could not have done it in Croatia, we would certainly move to a country where it was possible," one of the spouses, Ivan Zidarević, told 24sata, adding that society has changed for the better with the change in the law.

Zidarević said he believes that Croats are tolerant of gay couples. Their marriage ceremony in 2014 was witnessed by two registrars, godparents, several friends, but also the then-Minister of State Administration, Arsen Bauk, initiator of the Croatian Life Partnership Act. Bauk gave the couple a symbolic gift – a pair of ties.

According to the Law on Life Partnership of Persons of the Same-Sex, a life partnership is a family community of two same-sex persons concluded by the competent authority (a registrar). The process of concluding a life partnership in Croatia is very simple. It is necessary to report to the registrar, who then checks whether the preconditions for concluding a life partnership have been met and takes a statement on the choice of surname. After that, the time and place of the ceremony are agreed, which, along with the registrar and partners, takes place in the presence of the godparents.

Happiness despite condemnations

At the beginning of this year, the Constitutional Court decided that same-sex couples in Croatia have the right to be foster parents under the same conditions as everyone else. However, the current constitutional definition of marriage in Croatia does not include same-sex families. A change to legally recognise married same-sex partners in this way was this year demanded by the participants of Zagreb Pride, held on September 19, 2020. Pride organisers said that without a change in the recognition, state authorities are still restricting the rights of gay people and making them second class citizens.

In many EU countries, and more so in Zagreb here in Croatia, same-sex marriages are acceptable and almost every day. But, in rural areas such as Požega-Slavonia County, Kutjevo, and other places like these, such marriages are still of great interest and not universally embraced.

Although they live in an environment where they might encounter condemning views, the happy couple from Požega-Slavonia County decided to legalize their relationship. In comments on Facebook, people wished them luck, and one commenter jokingly wrote: "If they didn't make a toast with Graševina, they didn't do anything. Congratulations anyway!"

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Tuesday, 25 August 2020

One Thousand Bottles of Wine to be Filled for Aurea Fest Pozega!

August 25, 2020 - Aurea Fest, which will be held in Pozega from August 28 to 30, 2020 with strict epidemiological measures, is a traditional event held in the Kutjevo cellar.

Eight hundred bottles of premium Graševina Kutjevo and 200 bottles of red wine Maximo Nero from last year's harvest will be filled for the occasion. Dino Galić, a member of the Management Board of Kutjevo d.d., reminded of 2019 when the Požega festival successfully celebrated its fiftieth birthday, and Kutjevo achieved a record year with over five million liters sold in the domestic and foreign markets.

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"The spirit of the winery and the festival will not stop, we remain partners and with this wine filling, we will start Aurea Fest Požega," Galić pointed out.

The City of Požega is the sponsor of the festival and Darko Puljašić, Mayor of Požega and Member of Parliament, thanked Kutjevo for their partnership.

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"We perform and fight together. We in Slavonia have always been brave and struggled with adversity. At the festival, we will show the Slavonian soul, and with it comes a good refreshment - Kutjevo wines, which the whole world knows. Let's stay positive in spirit, and negative in coronavirus," said Puljašić.

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The organizer of the festival is the Association Aurea Fest Požega, whose director Ivan Bunjevac said that the association as the organizer will do everything to make the festival successful and thanked Mayor Puljašić for his support.

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"Good vibes from Požega go further and we are expecting you this coming weekend," said Bunjevac. This was followed by symbolic labeling of the festival wine, in which the speakers were joined by Anamarija Blažević, Mayor of Pakac and Member of Parliament, Deputy Mayors of Požega Mario Pilon and Ferdinand Troha, Director of the Požega Tourist Board Silvija Podoljak, Mayor of Kaptol Mile Pavičić, Deputy Mayor Ivica Potočanac, representatives of the Croatian Radio and Television, local media and members of the Trenkovi Panduri Historical Unit.

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In the second part of the conference, this year's program was presented by Damjan Pirović, artistic director of Aurea Festa Požega, while Podoljak, marketing director of Aurea Festa Požega, invited participants and guests to adhere to epidemiological measures and invited citizens to follow the festival through the official website.

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Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Kutjevo Continued Working at Full Capacity Despite Lockdown

As Novac/Matea Grbac writes on the 19th of May, 2020, although the domestic and world economies are gradually opening up again, and people's lives are returning to a slightly altered sort of normalcy, the Croatian economy is still far from out of the woods. Kutjevo has set job preservation as one of its main strategic goals in these strange times.

In these moments of crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, preserving jobs has become the biggest challenge for each and every employer. Day by day, we're witnessing the devastating statistics on the growth in the number of unemployed people, of which there are currently just over 160,000 in terms of the Croatian labour market.

In addition to those who simply lost their jobs practically overnight, more and more workers are on the state-guaranteed minimum wage introduced by the Croatian Government in a package of economic measures designed to keep the Croatian economy's proverbial head above the water. Despite the uncertainty and the fact that it is already clear that the plans for this year are one thing, and their actual implementation is something else, one of the most important agricultural producers in Croatia, Kutjevo, has set job preservation as one of the main strategic short-term and long-term business goals. It is for this reason that the Kutjevo winery has no intentions of encroaching on the rights of 622 employees.

''We have 593 full-time employees and 29 part-time ones. Preserving their jobs while also preserving financial stability and uninterrupted production processes is our business priority because the main seasonal work and preparations for harvest that awaits us at the end of August take place on arable land and on vineyards,'' explained Kutjevo Management Board member, Dino Galić.

He pointed out that for now, they have applied only for job preservation measures and that workers' salaries have not been adjusted, but kept at the level they were at before the coronavirus pandemic hit the country, in order to preserve their standards and the respective household budgets of Kutjevo's employees, a move they're extremely (and rightfully) proud of.

''So far, we haven't utilised any of the other measures offered by the Croatian Government to businesses. We believe that as a large system, we have a responsibility to all public and private institutions to fulfill all of our obligations on time. Of course, as long as the financial construction of the business allows that to happen. We're actively monitoring the development of the situation and we're being informed and consulting with all of the relevant institutions regarding possible frameworks and support on a daily basis,'' he emphasised.

In addition to its workers, Kutjevo also takes care of a large subcontracting base within which it has contracted cooperation with as many as 242 farms that take care of a massive 370 hectares of vineyards. Therefore, this well known Croatian company is constantly trying to make consumers aware of the importance of buying and consuming domestic products above all, thus indirectly providing support to the survival of Croatia's many producers.

Kutjevo has stated that even during these economically trying times, they still worked at full capacity and that due to the nature of the work, most of their employees still came to work physically as normal.

''Since we're a company whose primary activity is agricultural production, we worked at full capacity, of course, in compliance with all of the prescribed measures of the National Civil Protection Headquarters in order to protect the health of our employees at the maximum level. I must also point out the contribution of all of our colleagues who, through their efforts and hard work, ensured that work taking place with field crops and in vineyards was done within the given deadlines,'' he emphasised, adding that like many other companies across the country, office work and work related to sales and marketing was organised in a way so that people could work from home.

The closure of the HoReCa system, the plethora of coronavirus-induced economic issues, the rise in excise duties on alcohol and tobacco products - all these represent challenges that the wine industry has faced this year, and we're only in May. In addition to all of these troubles, Galić stated that according to information from the sales index, the growth of wine sales in retail chains is visible, but this data still doesn't go in favour of domestic winemakers. Namely, although the growth is visible, it is more related to imported wines which come in lower price categories, and the sales of top wines from Croatian wineries are unfortunately continuing to decline.

Despite the less than encouraging numbers, they still see something positive in everything. It is precisely the growth of online sales that has flourished in the last two months. Along with the growth of e-commerce, a positive shift, he added, is also visible in the gradual change in the habits of local consumers who seem to be beginning to appreciate quality domestic products more.

''Changes in consumer habits have been visible for a long time. Croats are becoming more and more educated about wines, as well as in pairing that drink with certain meals, thus raising the bar for local winemakers. This is an excellent indicator for us because, in line with this trend, we're constantly investing in production processes in order to achieve better quality,'' explained Galić.

Kutjevo winery, known for its "queen of the cellar", Graševina, sells sixty percent of its wines on the domestic market through hotels and restaurants, which is why it views the reopening of the HoReCa system positively. For example, last year alone, they sold a little more than five million litres of wine through this sales channel on both domestic and foreign markets alone.

''Without caterers and hoteliers, the viticulture sector has no chance to sell wine and maintain the current dynamics. Wine is mostly consumed at gatherings such as celebrations, concerts, weddings and other occasions. We're currently making additional efforts to prepare for the season ahead, despite a large number of questions and unknowns hanging over our heads. We're obliged to deliver the top level of quality to our partners and consumers, regardless of the economic situation through our wine assortment and our service, which we're extremely proud of,'' concluded Kutjevo's Galić.

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Monday, 21 January 2019

Kutjevo Celebrates Vincelovo 2019

There is just one St. Vinko, but a lot of Vincelovos! Nevertheless, the largest and the best-known celebration of the feast of the famous saint in the Požega’s Golden Valley is traditionally organised by Kutjevo.

The picturesque Vinkomir vineyard hill, high above the town of Kutjevo, suddenly becomes alive and awakens all the good spirits of the magic of taste and smell of high-quality young and mulled wines. And not just wines, but of everything which Slavonia has to offer. Local and international guests could also try to grill and taste the Slavonian sausages, enjoy the deliciously roasted carp halves, enjoy the lamb and ox meat on a spit and some homemade cakes. Immediately after the arrival, the guests were presented with glasses in order not to "suffer" while sausages were grilled and for the whole experience to be complete because that is precisely what hedonists really love. Helped by the musical programme presented by cultural societies Bektež from Bektež and Poljadija from Grabarje, the Slavonian atmosphere was guaranteed!

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From the beginning of times, people always needed to prune their vines and bless their vineyards, and then to drink good wine in order to make the vineyards produce a lot of grapes that year. It appears that last year's prayers to St. Vinko were very much heard since sales records have been broken.

As in previous years, Enver Moralić, the majority owner of Kutjevo, was joined at this festive event by former president Stjepan Mesić, as well as Alojz Tomašević, the prefect of Požega-Slavonia County; Josip Budimir, the mayor of Kutjevo; Josip Ređo, the CEO of Kutjevo. Kutjevo parish priest Marijan Đukić blessed the event.

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"This past year was filled with many medals won at both domestic and foreign wine competitions, and we sold the record five million litres,” said Ređo at the start of the event in a specially constructed VIP tent.

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Of course, this year's Vincelovo was an excellent opportunity for the famous winemaking giant to thank all the friends and business partners for their loyalty, as well as journalists from all over Croatia who have been following the company for years and have faithfully reported on all of its impressive achievements.

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More than 700 guests enjoyed the Slavonian specialities and the young wine, with the festive atmosphere being provided by joyful Indira Forza (who did not forget to praise the juicy sausages), and the Dyaco tamburitza band. The true Slavonian feast lasted until the early morning hours, with people enjoying the wines, dancing and listening to tamburitza music. As always at the Vinkomir, people wined and enjoyed themselves throughout the night.

More news on the Croatian wines can be found in the Lifestyle section.

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