Wednesday, 22 June 2022

From Zagreb to Split Taking the Magical Old Highway

June 22, 2022 - If you are traveling from Zagreb to Split, or vice versa, you will most likely take highways E71 and E65 to get to your destination as quickly as possible. If you are not in a hurry, the old highway passing through Drniš, Knin, and Lika will surprise you.

I went to Zagreb recently, and contrary to my usual practices, I decided to bet on BlaBlaCar to travel to the Croatian capital. For those not very familiar with this application, you can choose a place of origin and destination and see which drivers (people like you or me) travel the same route and can give you a lift for a fee. I remember that a few hours before I met the driver in Split, she called me to ask if I had to get to Zagreb fast or if we could take the old highway that passed through Drniš. I didn't think much about it, but it was true that I wasn't in a hurry.

I am one of those people who say yes without thinking much, and sometimes that works against me. On this occasion, I want to thank my brain for being that way, since I discovered a way to travel through Croatia that will always remain in my memory, and that I will surely try to repeat more often.

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The beginning of the route is quite similar if your plan is to get to Dugopolje to take the E65 highway, only this time you will have to take the highway junction at Klis-Grlo, and you will now be on the D56 road in the direction of Drniš. Unlike the fast highways to Zagreb, this route can take between 5 and 5 hours and thirty minutes by car, almost an hour more. It's worth it? If you really have to get to Zagreb, or to Split, as soon as possible, there is not much I can tell you. But if you have time to spare, there are plenty of things you should consider that will surely encourage you to try something new. I mean, yes. There's nothing like the feeling of speed, but don't you sometimes get bored with your foot on the accelerator at a constant speed watching cars and trucks go by? I'm not saying the views aren't spectacular, because they are. What I'm trying to say is that there comes a point where you're no longer excited or surprised. Sometimes daring helps you discover new places and landscapes.

Here are some of the places you will see along the way:

Drniš

After crossing the picturesque valley behind Klis and crossing into the Sibenik-Knin region, you will find yourself in the village of Drniš, located halfway between the city of Šibenik and Knin. The valleys that anticipate and surround it will make you stop several times to carefully appreciate its beauty. There are many reasons why you should discover Drniš. Because it is a town with a rich tradition of culture and food, not least Croatia's most-distinct prosciutto (Drniš pršut). Additionally, it is the birthplace of Croatia's most famous sculptor, the world-renowned Ivan Meštrović.

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Image: Drniš Tourist Board

Knin

In Drniš, you will change the D56 road to the D33 in the direction of the historic town of Knin, which is almost half an hour away by car. If you start to feel like it's time to grab a coffee, grab a bite to eat, or even go to the bathroom, this is a good time. Personally, I would tell you to hold on a little longer because the next place to visit may be worth the wait. You can also walk through the streets of Knin, full of history that goes back hundreds of years and is mixed with a very recent one.

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Photo: Mario Romulić

Macola Restaurant

Have you stopped at the Macola restaurant on the E65 highway? If the name doesn't ring a bell, you'll remember it for its stuffed bears and boars inside. It is very likely that you have stopped there on the way to have a coffee or something to eat. Although it is not exactly a destination, you might like to know that the original Macola is located on the D1 road, an hour and a half from Knin, and already in the county of Lika-Senj. Before the E65 existed, this was one of the most popular rest and refreshment points among travelers. My suggestion? A coffee and a walnut or apple strudel are a must.

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Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich

Plitvice

I know that while you are not in a rush, you also do not have enough time to explore Plitvice Lakes National Park, the largest and oldest national park in Croatia. Perhaps you may find it interesting that two of the entrances to the national park are on the D1 road. You will definitely have to visit the Plitvice Lakes at some point, but for now, you will be able to enjoy the beautiful greenery that accompanies this part of the road, something that you will not be able to see on the E71 highway. If you are interested in visiting the Plitvice Lakes National Park, have you taken a look at the contest that we have organized in collaboration with the Park? You can win two tickets to visit it!

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Image: Plitvice Lakes National Park

Slunj

It is difficult to get to Zagreb or Split via the same old motorway, as at some point you will have to return to the fast one either in Karlovac or in Dugopolje. However, that doesn't mean that was all you could see. Be it the first or last of your stops, you have to check out the magical, fairytale town of Slunj. If you have the time, visit it! And if not, from the same road you will be able to see it in the distance and feel that you are going through a location described by J.R.R. Tolkien!

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Image: Slunj Tourist Board

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

Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Heart of Velebit Bicycle Race Becomes Bike Standard

May the 31st, 2022 - Thanks to social media, the Heart of Velebit bicycle race has become a bike standard, shining a light for all lovers of hiking and cycling in Lovinac and gorgeous, mountainous Lika.

As Novi list/Marin Smolcic writes, Croatia continually attracts lovers of active tourism, from hiking to cycling and everything in between. While the sweltering heat of the height of the summer season commands little else but lying around and moving only to swim in the Adriatic, the pre and post season are excellent times to engage in some more active choices when spending time in any part of this geographically blessed country.

As such, over this long weekend in the wider area of ​​Lovinac and South Velebit, the traditional Heart of Velebit bicycle race was held. The wider Lovinac Municipality has, as a result, become among the first choices of destination for lovers of mountain biking and the magnificent beauty of Velebit and the Lovinac area.

Every day from the early morning, groups of cyclists have continued to pass at speed through the Lovinac area, who, with the watchful eye of the volunteer guides of the Heart of Velebit hunting association, enjoyed bicycling and cycling-mountaineering trails of various technical and fitness requirements.

The Heart of Velebit cycling race started on May the 27th, 2022, with the bike & hike tour of Sveto Brdo. More than 40 of the most experienced and prepared cyclists embarked on a multi-hour adventure which took them through wild and beautiful mountainous landscapes, all of which was documented on social media, attracting more would-be cyclists.

The popularity of this race has been spreading rapidly because the photos shared by the participants are the best indicator of their enthusiasm and guarantee the arrival of new lovers of cycling and hiking in Lovinac and Lika.

Cycling tourism in Croatia is otherwise certainly growing, with many locations along the mainland and on the islands promoting cycling as being among the best ways to see the glorious Croatian landscape, be it coastal or continental.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Friday, 14 January 2022

Pizza Master Ante Svoren Returns from Ireland to Lika, Opens Business

January the 14th, 2022 - The exodus of Croats to countries like Ireland has been going on ever since the country joined the European Union (EU) back in July 2013, but while Croatia's demographic crisis has been going on far longer than the coronavirus crisis has, many people have returned home from Ireland. Lika pizza master Ante Svoren is just one of them, who has returned to Lika after four years on the emerald isle.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, after four years of living in Ireland, Ante Svoren, his wife and his children returned home to beautiful Lika three years ago. The family's reason for leaving, but also for returning, was not economic.

"We didn't go to Ireland or come home for financial reasons like most people do, we went to see something new, to learn something new, to gain some new knowledge," says Ante Svoren, the owner of the Sinac pizzeria.

Over in Ireland, Ante Svoren worked as a pizza master with a starting salary of €500 per week, given that Irish employers are extremely appreciative of their workers and make sure to show that where it means the most - in their pockets.

"In this country, people seem to believe that their boss is some sort of god, and the worker is a slave. The first time I went there, I went to work, finished work, and my manager shook my hand firmly and said thank you,'' recalled Ante Svoren. After proving his ability to work, his salary rose to a thousand euros per month and he became the co-owner of several pizzerias.

"It's a little different for them than it is here, when they see that you're trying hard, they give you an incentive to keep hold of you," Ante Svoren told HRT.

In Ireland, rent is the highest cost and luxuries such as alcohol or cigarettes also add up. Everything else is cheaper than in Croatia. The costs imposed on employers here, he says, are much too high.

"Too much is taken out of a person's salary for their healthcare, for their retirement, a guy will say I have a salary of eight or nine thousand kuna, I'll pay people into their bank accounts, and they end up with five thousand kuna. Over in Ireland, what you've earned, you almost get everything, so it's much better in that regard,'' added Ante Svoren.

Now, home in Lika, they have turned a new page business-wise and started an extremely successful catering and hospitality business on the property belonging to his wife's parents, right next to the Gacka spring and the mill, where they employ eight people and encourage local family farmers to buy local products from them.

For more, check out Made in Croatia.

Thursday, 4 November 2021

Discovering Authentic Croatia's Secrets With Seoski Tourism

November 4, 2021 – Village tourism or countryside tourism - Seoski tourism in Croatia - offers authentic, traditional experiences. Aleksandra Kuratko, secretary of Udruga ruralnog turizma Hrvatske (Croatian Rural Tourism Association) tells us more about it, and their work to help facilitate it

Croatia's visitor offer is evolving and expanding. There are exciting aspects of authentic Croatia to be discovered. Away from the beach, villages inland often look remarkably similar to how they did one hundred years ago. There, crops are grown and produce made in ways passed down through generations of families. And, in some lucky instances, these family farmers are willing to open their doors, invite you inside and show you how they live.

25_-_Pelje_ac_-_Bread_under_bell_at_Agroturizam_Antunovi_.jpgBread from the peka at Agroturizam Antunović on Pelješac

Seoski Tourism – translated as either village tourism or countryside tourism – is just that. Family farms that offer hospitality. These are some of the most homely and most welcoming accommodation experiences you can have in Croatia. Offering sights and sounds, tastes and flavours that you can't find anywhere else, visits or stays in Seoski Tourism places have long been loved by locals for weekend breaks or holidays outside peak summer. But, increasingly, these authentic Croatia experiences are being discovered by international visitors.

14_-_Moslavina_-_Goats_at_Kezele_family_farm.jpgMoslavina goats at Kezele family farm © Davor Konjikušić

One institution trying to facilitate the growth in interest is Udruga ruralnog turizma Hrvatske - Croatian Rural Tourism Association. Since it was formed in 2016, they have tried to bring together Croatia's family farm hosts, to promote them and educate them, and to build bridges between these independents and tourist boards, tourist agencies, educators and even the wider world outside Croatia.

16_-_Moslavina_-_renewed_traditional_house_at_Kezelefamily_farm.jpgSeoski turizam Kezele in Šumećani, on the border of Zagreb County and Bjelovar Bilogora County © Davor Konjikušić

Based in Ivanić-Grad, Zagreb County, the Croatian Rural Tourism Association is currently touring the length and breadth of the country, holding workshops with as many Seoski Tourism family farms that will come. And if the farmwork doesn't allow them free time, then they can attend Croatian Rural Tourism Association workshops online.

On the eve of the association's online Seoski Tourism workshops for Central Croatia and Slavonia, TCN interviewed Aleksandra Kuratko, secretary of Udruga ruralnog turizma Hrvatske, to find out more about Seoski Tourism in Croatia.

18_-_Prigorje_-_Local_specialties_at_Raki__family_farm.jpgPrigorje specialties at Rakić family farm

My name is Aleksandra Kuratko and I am secretary of Udruga ruralnog turizma Hrvatske. As an association, we are 5 years old.

We have 35 members, most of whom are service providers in what we call Seoski Tourism. We also have several tourist boards and two educational institutions as members.

19_-_Bilogora_-_Horses_in_autumn_at_Agroturizam_Na_malenom_brijegu.jpgBilogora horses in autumn at Agroturizam Na malenom brijegu © Vladimir Vlajinić

Seoski tourism is not quite the same as rural tourism, because rural tourism is many different types of tourism that happen in rural areas. Seoski tourism - which you might translate as village tourism - is quite specific. We assemble people who work in agriculture and who, at the same time, are also offering hospitality. In English, you might call them Farm Stays. Or Agro-tourism – a merging of agriculture and tourism.

28_-_Pelje_ac_-_fresh_vegetables_from_Agroturizam_Antunovi_.jpgFresh vegetables at Agroturizam Antunović on Pelješac

People who work on agricultural estates often take care of local cultural heritage. For example, they might maintain and renew traditional wooden or stone houses. Many also have etno collections, in which they preserve different objects from their region. Some of these objects might have been used in agriculture and households hundreds of years ago. So, they are preserving the cultural heritage of Croatian villages. This is what we call material cultural heritage. But, there's another kind.

Ethno0017.jpgCultural heritage preserved in one Slavonian village © Mario Romulić

Non-material cultural heritage is also a part. That might be preserving old recipes of traditional, regionally-specific dishes. Or, it might be showcasing the songs and dance of local music.

We are currently running a project which is supported by the Croatian Ministry of Tourism and Sports in which we hold 37 Seoski Tourism workshops in the field all over Croatia. There will also be around 15 online workshops. The workshops are aimed at colleagues who currently operate in Seoski Tourism – they work in agriculture and offer hospitality. Also invited are local tourist boards and local action groups.

31_-_Photo_from_URTH_workshop_at_Slatina.jpgPhoto from URTH workshop in Slatina

So far, we conducted 20 workshops in the regions of Central Croatia, Slavonia and Baranja, and Podunavlje. From next week until the end of the year, we will conduct the workshops in Istria, Kvarner, Lika and Dalmatia. Some service providers were not able to attend earlier workshops, because of work commitments of Covid. So, we decided to also offer access to the workshops online. Tomorrow is our first online workshop for Central Croatia and on Friday it's the online workshop for Slavonia.

These workshops are interactive discussions between our association, service providers and all other stakeholders. We discuss the legislative framework, which can be extremely complex. We talk about new trends in tourism for the post-pandemic era. We also discuss the importance of integrating cultural heritage in digital promotion.

26_-_Pelješac_-_Donkey_farm_at_Agroturizam_Antunović.jpgDonkey farm at Agroturizam Antunović on Pelješac

For the legislative framework, we have initiated the formation of a working group for the development of Seoski Tourism, which is now operating in the Croatian Ministry of Tourism and Sports. So, at the workshops, we ask if anyone is having issues. We collect the responses and address them in the working group.

Part of the workshop is the presentation of a new web application of Seoski Tourism, which we have developed with Croatian Ministry of Tourism and Sports. It has two purposes. One is to create a digital catalogue of Croatian Seoski Tourism. You can see region by region some of the Seoski Tourism options – currently around 40, those who have already enrolled.

30_-_Podravina_-_Etno_rooms_at_Zlatni_klas_Otrovanec.jpgPodravina Etno rooms at Zlatni klas Otrovanec

A version of the app is currently available on the website of the National Tourist Board. But, they are building a new website. The forthcoming version of the catalogue will likely be more user-friendly with many more functions and options. On the new website, Croatia's Seoski Tourism options will be detailed in many different languages. It should be a great resource not only for tourists but for travel agencies, journalists like you and for educational institutions. That's the reason we are devoting time in our workshops to encourage Seoski Tourism providers to enroll. We are just at the beginning of the process.

11_-_Hrvatsko_zagorje_-_Grešna_pilnica.jpgGrešna pilnica in Zagorje © Jasna Podboj

The second purpose of the app is to collect information about the service providers. This info will be used by our working group when defining a Croatian model of Seoski Tourism. So far, we have taken examples from Slovenia, Italy and other countries that are successful with Seoski Tourism. But, these models were entered into our legislative system without fully considering our distinct business and cultural environments. That is now about to change.

We are very happy that, following many years of partially successful advocacy, there is now political will at a ministerial level to really shape things up, to change the laws and regulations in order to facilitate Seoski Tourism. We want to encourage more Seoski Tourism, not to have people from agriculture being turned away because of the difficulty of the process and bureaucracy.

22_-_Istria_-_Medieval_theme_park_San_Michael.jpgMedieval Theme Park San Michael © Silvia Otočan

You said part of the workshops will focus on new trends. What are some of these?

Research has been done by a working group that is developing a new tourism strategy for Croatia. It's called Strategy for Sustainable Tourism to 2030. Under the auspices of this group, a number of research fields have been analysed.

The collected data shows that a huge percentage of tourists are now more inclined to eat locally grown and healthy food. They want to spend their time on estates that are run in accordance with ecological principles. So, they really care about issues like how waste is disposed of etc. They also pay a lot of attention to culture. They are curious to learn exactly how we are living, how we are working and how we produce things. They want to learn about our society and culture. And, importantly, they really care about how they spend their money. Above all, they want to spend money in areas that can help support local communities.

17_-_Prigorje_-_Breakfast_at_Rakić_Family_Farm.jpgPrigorje Breakfast at Rakić Family Farm

For us, this is really important. Because Seoski Tourism answers these demands to an incredibly high level. We do produce local, healthy food. Not only on the agricultural estates where you can experience Seoski Tourism, but also from their neighbours who just do agriculture. We are concerned with ecology, we protect cultural heritage and the money spent in Seoski Tourism stays in local communities, where it has very beneficial effects.

In the digital promotion part of the workshops we are trying to persuade people about the importance of their online presence. Basically, these days, if you're not online, it's almost like you don't exist. So, we try to explain the importance of having good-quality photos, short videos and a regular online presence.

1_-_Baranja_-_Kulen__varci_nd_other_specialties_at_Baranjska_ku_a.jpgKulen, čvarci and other specialties at Baranjska kuća © Denis Despot

That's interesting. In some cases, it might be like two different worlds colliding - people who work in a traditional industry and a traditional environment having to adapt to a very modern way of operating. There's also another potential collision when providers learn of the expectations within modern tourism. Because these people can no longer just work in agriculture. To operate in Seoski Tourism, you're also very much expected to also be a host.

Yes. All of our current service providers who are successful within Seoski Tourism are also great hosts. It's essential. You can see it in almost all of the reviews for this kind of tourism. Guests come for the food and drinks and surroundings, yes. But, what they value the most, what they remember the most, is the host part of the experience. On the estates of Croatian Seoski Tourism, guests are welcomed like family. Across all of Croatian tourism we are expected to be good hosts. It's part of our reputation and the reason why many people come here from all over the world. In Seoski Tourism, it is vital we live up to those expectations.

13_-_Moslavina_-_Bread_from_bread_owen_at_Kezele_family_farm.jpgKezele family farm © Davor Konjikušić

Another aspect of this, which is a more recently-observed element, is that visitors often want an insight into the actual lives, even the personalities of their hosts. They want not only to taste the homemade sausages you make, but they also want to know how you do it, where you do it, how you learned to do that. When they go to Spain, they want to know how the people there make their wine. And, when they come to Croatia, they want to learn how we do it here.

So, all in all, those of us in Seoski Tourism are really busy. We are in agriculture, yes, but we are also in tourism and we are also online. With this more recently-observed aspect, we will need to try and devote even more time to our hosting. It can be difficult to balance the demands on your time. But, in our workshops, we are trying to persuade people to talk more about themselves, their lives, their cultural heritage. And, if there isn't time to do everything themselves, then to involve different and often younger generations of the family. Sometimes within the hosting or alternatively just with the online promotion and presence.

15_-_Moslavina_-_Kezele_family_farm_ethno_collection.jpgKezele family farm ethno collection © Davor Konjikušić

I've visited some family farms that were right at the start of their journey with Seoski Tourism and they seemed surprised that I was at all interested in what they do and how they do it. I think maybe they thought I was a bit crazy.

Yes, that is a response we sometimes also see at first. I think it's because our generation takes a lot of things for granted. We sometimes think that what we do is just what we do. We are not so good at showcasing it. “Why would I show someone how I make my cheese? I make my cheese like my grandmother used to make it” But, for those who open their doors to Seoski Tourism, inquiries about how they do what they do are only increasing. So, they seem to appreciate how we advise them in the workshops.

5_-_Me_imurje_-_Picnic_by_Me_imurski_dvori_restaurant.jpgPicnic by Restaurant Međimurski dvori © Igor Nobilo

We are trying to let our producers know that Seoski Tourism is not just a platform to sell their produce and an overnight stay, but it's a full experience they can sell. There are agricultural farms in Austria that are established in tourism that you must pay only to visit. Of course, that doesn't happen currently anywhere in Croatia, even though some of our Seoski Tourism estates have sections that look like museums.

Some of these aspects are very new. And the feedback is great. I truly believe there are hidden treasures to be discovered in some Croatian villages. We are here to tell that story.

IMG_0239fghj.jpgSelection of food from a Slavonian village © Mario Romulić

What is so rewarding about Croatian Seoski Tourism that international visitors would want to go to a traditional farm in some inland village instead of lying on the beach in Dalmatia for 14 days?

People come because they really want to see a different side of Croatia. And, there are many different aspects of Croatia to discover – not just Seoski Tourism, but also National Parks and Nature Parks. All of our current trends show us that more and more tourists are willing to come inland from the coast or to explore a different part of Croatia – inland Istria, for example, or continental Croatia.

20_-_Karlovac_-_Kamačnik_river_canyon.jpgKamačnik river canyon © Aleksandra Kuratko Pani

They really want to try authentic, local food. They want to eat healthy, to know what they are eating and how it is made. And, they want to experience flavours that are different from the usual ones they get from the supermarket.

6_-_Me_imurje_-_Traditional_Me_imurje_table_at_etno_restaurant_Me_imurski_dvori.jpgTraditional Međimurje table at Etno restaurant Međimurski dvori

Also, I would say that with Seoski Tourism, people get to know better an authentic version of Croatia and its culture. It's a story we hear very often from our members. Some of them are visited by large groups from cruisers. These are people who might be on a cruise on the Adriatic and who journey inland for a day trip. Or, it might be a group who are cruising the Danube and disembark to visit a family farm in Slavonia, Baranja or Srijem.

24_-__ibenik_-_Drnis_prosciutto_Ivana_Kalpi__Agroturizam_Kalpi_.jpgProsciutto from Drniš at Agrotourism Kalpić © Ivana Kalpić

When they visit farming estates on day trips, it's very often a huge 'wow' moment for them. For many, in their minds, Croatia is simply sun and sea. And that's not entirely their fault. We, as a country, have done very little until now to promote alternative sides of Croatia. The visitors experience these wow moments because of the hospitality they receive and because of the tangible aspect of the visit. This is a modern aspect – people want to touch things, know how things feel, taste, smell. They want to ride on horses or feed them. Or take part in cultural activities. These parts of a visit to Seoski Tourism are very difficult to experience anywhere else.

img_0261.jpg__648x432_q85_subsampling-2.jpg(left) Ivana Alilović, director of Zagreb County Tourist Board (right) Aleksandra Kuratko, secretary of Udruga ruralnog turizma Hrvatske (Croatian Rural Tourism Association) © Zagreb County

Udruga ruralnog turizma Hrvatske's online Seoski Tourism workshops begin today and their physical workshops continue next week in Istria.

If you'd like to read more about rural tourism in Croatia, then look here

Friday, 15 October 2021

Grabovača Cave Becomes the First Cave for Speleotherapy in Croatia

October 15, 2021 - Respiratory therapies within caves, called speleotherapy, have thousands of years of practice dating back to the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Now, for the first time, the first cave for speleotherapy in Croatia has been opened in Grabovača Cave Park.

Although Croatia is rich in caves, which are in large numbers in the tourist offer, there was no speleotherapy until last week, reports Turističke Priče. Namely, for the first time in Croatia, in the Grabovača Cave Park, a cave for speleotherapy is being opened. Last week, on the premises of the Institution, the Agreement on granting a concession approval for Medina Cave was signed. The concession approval was granted to the trade "SIGA" from Perušić.

Speleotherapy is a type of respiratory therapy that involves breathing inside a cave. The benefits of this type of therapy were known as far back as ancient Greece and Rome, and modern use began in Germany.

The history of modern speleotherapy dates back to the fifties of the last century. At that time, speleotherapy hospitals were established in several countries of Eastern and Central Europe. In its classical form, speleotherapy was the use of underground minerals and hot springs.

The goal, as they say from the Grabovača Cave Park, is to encourage as long a stay in nature and caves as possible, ie to combine speleotherapy with educational content in the Park area, and to contribute to better promotion of the area. The official opening will be soon, and the interested public will be informed about everything.

By the way, the Grabovača Cave Park is the only cave park in Europe and is located in the area of ​​the Perušić Municipality in Lika. Water enriched with dissolved carbon dioxide with its mechanical and chemical power destroyed and dissolved carbonate rocks on the surface of the relief and in the depths of the Grabovača underground. Thus, countless ravines, oysters, sinkholes were formed on the surface and many pits and caves in the underground.

On a relatively small area of ​​only 1.5 square kilometers, there are eight caves and one pit, which is a set of diverse and rich in calcite formations valuable speleological phenomena, and a quarter of the total number of protected speleological objects in Croatia - five caves are protected in the category of geomorphological monuments nature, and the cave Samograd is the most famous speleological object of this cave park and the only cave that is open to visitors.

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

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Lika Awarded Green Destination 2021

October 6, 2021 - After having been given its first award back in 2020, seeing the gorgeous green region of Lika awarded Green Destination 2021 this year provides some hope for this lovely, but poor and deserted region.

Lika, the largest Croatian region, remained among the hundred top green and sustainable destinations in the entire world in 2021. This valuable recognition (which Lika was first recognised for in 2020), was assigned by the Global Green Destination trust fund. The organisation started rating global destinations worldwide seven years ago, and as their website says, they benefit the destinations, representatives, and stakeholders in "green" communities. The end game: making places better and more sustainable.

''Adopting these GREEN values will help destinations to enhance their quality, attractiveness, and competitiveness; it will help attract ''green travellers'', respectful visitors who will spend more in these destinations. These GREEN values are the basis of our programmes for policy improvement, Destination Awards and certification. Green Destinations works together with the tourism business and media partners in order to make the green offer of destinations more visible on the marketplace,'' explains Global Green Destination.

The Lika Destination tourist cluster is very much aware of all the benefits which go hand in hand with this recognition for which they worked really hard. As N1 reports, Lika Destination does its work under the motto ''Smart sustainable destination''.

''Lika is special for many reasons. Almost 60% of its surface is protected. There are eight protected areas here, including three national parks, and the pure nature allows for the growth of quality products,'' the Lika Destination cluster told N1.

They added that they are proud that international experts recognised their efforts in promoting Lika and building up the region in an eco-friendly matter.

''For this year's admission, we had to fulfill 30 criteria, which is as twice as much than was necessary last year. In addition, we had to submit a story of good practice which this year, just as before, focused on local products with the mark ''Lika Quality''. Connecting local manufacturers with other tourist actors is something we've worked on in this cluster since day one. That's the main factor of Lika's development,'' concluded Lika Destination for N1.

That progress is definitely needed. As Večernji List recalled, Lika used to be an agricultural Mecca capable of feeding half of Croatia. Sadly, much like Slavonia, the region was devastated during the Homeland War and all of the former industry is now gone. One hundred years ago, Lika boasted over 200,000 residents, and now there are only around 40,000 left.

Naturally, it is expected that the number will be even lower when the 2021 population census is completed.

Speaking of Lika's many green areas, the oldest Croatian National Park, Plitvice Lakes, is also located there. Learn more in our TC guide.

For more about Lika, follow TCN's dedicated page.

 

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Potential of Hydropower Tourism in Lika

August 25, 2021 - Is hydropower tourism in Lika the next big thing for the region? A closer look. 

In my article about the Lika region, I mentioned that a large hydropower plant is under construction in Kosinj. Total Croatia News has also reported about the project. As a matter of fact, the existing Senj Hydropower System (HES) will be upgraded. The project includes the construction of two new hydropower plants, one in Kosinj and one in Senj. As of August 2021, the estimated worth of the project is 3.4 billion KN. At the end of July 2021, the government declared the Kosinj Hydropower System (HES Kosinj) a strategic investment project.

Visualization of the hydropower plant in Kosinj

Author: Croatian National Power Company (Hrvatska Elektroprivreda, HEP)

Kosinj is a village located on the inland side of the Velebit, the mountain range that separates the inland from the Adriatic coast. The landscape is dominated by the fertile plains of the Lika river and the Bakovac stream. Kosinj lies within the Perušić municipality, which is located north of Gospić, the largest town in Lika. The travel distance to Gospić is around 15 minutes. As of 2021, the travel distance from Kosinj to Perušić is around 22 minutes. The existing roads are not in a very good condition. However, a new road will be built from Studenci, north of Perušić, to Sklope via Kosinj. Once completed, it will be much easier to travel through the Kosinj area. For those who are interested and who understand Croatian, there is a local YouTuber who covers all major projects and events in the Lika region. He uploads his material on his YouTube channel, TV Loki.

Currently, there are two hydropower plants within the HES. The first one opened in 1965, and is located outside Senj, on the Adriatic coast. The other one opened in 1970, and is located in Sklope, south of Kosinj. As a part of the project, the river was dammed. A nearby valley was filled with water and turned into an artificial lake, Kruščica (Kruščičko jezero). The Kosinj valley will also be turned into an artificial lake by the way. 

With its crystal clear water and surrounded by forest-clad mountains, the Kruščica lake has the potential to become a popular tourist attraction. 

The Kruščica lake 

Author: Croatian Tourist Board (Hrvatska Turistička Zajednica, HTZ)

In the Croatian media, the upgrade of the HES is described as a ‘megaproject’. Indeed, the project is of utmost importance for this part of Croatia, for many reasons. As of 2021, the HES has a capacity of 238.5 MW and an annual generation of 1.15 TWh. Once upgraded, the capacity will increase to 656 MW and 1.5 TMw per year. There is also the water flow. Before the HES was built in the 1960s, severe floods were a recurring phenomenon in western Lika. In order to regulate the water flow, underground tunnels were built through the Velebit. Also, the Lika river was connected with the Bakovac stream. Thereby, excess water could be led away from the area. With the upgrade of the HES, the regulation of the water flow will become even more efficient. Moreover, the project will benefit the agricultural industry, which is on the rise in the Lika region. 

Hydropower energy is not only a renewable energy source, it’s also cost-effective in comparison with other energy sources. In recent years, green ideas have become mainstream in Europe. The political elites have realized that eco-friendly is the future. Therefore, it’s very positive that the government declared the upgrade of the HES a strategic investment project. For, the upgrade of the HES is a major green investment. In addition to being an infrastructure project, it will also put Croatia on the eco-friendly map. 

Sources

https://www.hep.hr/projects/hydropower-system-senj-2/2543

https://www.vecernji.hr/vijesti/pocela-realizacija-dva-megaprojekta-u-lici-investicija-vrijedna-cak-34-milijarde-kuna-1439280

https://www.24sata.hr/energetska-tranzicija/investicija-od-34-milijarde-kn-hep-ov-novi-megaprojekt-u-lici-722742

https://balkangreenenergynews.com/hep-invests-eur-450mn-in-mega-hydropower-projects-kosinj-senj/

https://visit-lika.com/en/page/the-lika-river-and-kruscica-lake

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

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Celebrate Nikola Tesla On His 165th Birthday This Weekend in Gospić

July 6, 2021 - This Saturday marks the 165th anniversary of the birth of the genius born in Smiljan, and the Tourist Board of Gospić, the city of Gospić, and the Nikola Tesla Memorial Center have prepared a worthy event called ''Tesla Power of Lights'' to celebrate Nikola Tesla in style.

Turističke priče reports that as part of the celebration of the 165th anniversary of the birth of Nikola Tesla on July 10th, a lot of content was prepared that will serve as a kind of reminder of the fact that one of the world's greatest geniuses, Nikola Tesla, was born in Lika. On his birthday, this Saturday, as part of the July program in Gospić, the event "Tesla Power of Lights" will be held.

It is a one-day event to celebrate Nikola Tesla, organized by the Tourist Board of the City of Gospić, the City of Gospić, and the Nikola Tesla Memorial Center, and the program will be held in the evening. This year, a light spectacle will be organized in Gospić and its surroundings, and citizens and visitors will be able to enjoy a laser show, among other things. In addition to the extraordinary light effects that will spread the sky over the city, the program of the celebration also includes a multitude of contents on the main city square.

celebrate-nikola-tesla.jpg

Gospić Tourist Board Facebook Page

Thus, Interactive Games of Light, Laser Harp, Light Labyrinth… will be held on Stjepan Radić Square, and part of the “Tesla Power of Lights” program will also take place on the newly built Nikola Tesla Square. At 9 pm, in the Atrium of the Cultural Information Center Gospić, there will be a promotion of T-shirt From Smiljan by ELFS and Traumatic Lights - Led acro duo, followed by a House party that will start at 10 pm. DJ Felver and DJ Ian Podley will perform.

Under the colored light beams will be buildings related to the life of Nikola Tesla in Gospić, and the Nikola Tesla Memorial Center in Smiljan, which includes the birthplace of the great inventor, physicist, and inventor, will have an Open Day on July 10.

Total Croatia included Nikola Tesla in its guide to Croatian inventions and discoveries, which you can read HERE.

For more news about everything made in Croatia, be sure to follow TCN’s dedicated page.

Monday, 21 June 2021

Croatia and the World Discovering Lika's Potential

June 21, 2021 - Croatia and the world have discovered Lika’s potential in recent years, but what makes it so special? A closer look at Lika's potential. 

Located in central Croatia, the Lika region is bordered by the Adriatic coast to the west, Dalmatia in the south, Bosnia-Herzegovina to the east, and Kordun and Gorski Kotar to the north. It encompasses the inland part of Lika-Senj county and the northernmost part of Zadar county. The regional capital is Gospic, a small town located on the east side of Velebit, the mountain range which separates the inland from the Adriatic coast. The physician Nikola Tesla, the 19th-century politician Ante Starčević, the former Austro-Hungarian Generaloberst Stjepan Sarkotić, and the actor Rade Šerbedžija were all born in Lika. 

Lika has traditionally been the least developed part of Croatia. In the 1950s and 1960s, during communism, Croatia was industrialized. However, for some reason, Lika was left behind. Then, the 1991-1995 Homeland War happened. During these years, large parts of Lika were completely devastated. Then, in the 2000s, things began to change. The new Zagreb-Split highway (A1) was built through Lika. Suddenly, Lika became a link between Central Europe and Dalmatia. The highway created new jobs and new opportunities. In 2007, the Nacional newspaper reported that 70% of the companies operating in Lika were doing fine. The Croatian average was 69%. In the wake of the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, many Croats had their bank accounts blocked. In 2019, Lika-Senj county had the lowest percentage of blocked accounts. As we speak, a giant hydroelectric dam is being built in Kosinj. Once completed, it will provide the whole region with electricity and, of course, create new jobs. 

In recent years, it seems that Croatia and the world have discovered Lika’s potential. Lika is Croatia’s least developed region, but that comes with an advantage - lower taxes and house prices. Lika has a perfect location, 2 hours from Zagreb and Rijeka and only 1 hour from Zadar. The Adriatic coast can be reached within an hour. It’s fully possible to live in Lika, where the house prices are lower, and work in Zadar, Rijeka, or Zagreb, where the wages are higher. In fact, people are already moving from Slavonia, Dalmatia, and Zagreb to Lika! In the near future, a new highway will be built from Otočac to Rijeka via Senj and Crikvenica, over Velebit and along the Adriatic coastline. Once completed, the travel distance to Rijeka will be reduced to less than 2 hours.

The Lika region is probably most known for the Plitvice Lakes. Located in the northern part of the region, the lakes, with their sparkling turquoise water, are interconnected by a series of waterfalls. In 1979, the area became a national park. The surrounding landscape is like a Bavarian postcard - green forests, rolling hills, and white houses with flower-bedecked balconies. The Karlovac-Zadar route, until 2005 the main traffic link between Zagreb and Dalmatia, runs through the area. 

As said, the Velebit mountains separate the inland from the Adriatic coast. Since 1999, the northern part of the Velebit mountains has been a national park. Nature is majestic, with high, forest-clad mountains, deep canyons, and crystal clear streams. 

Zavizan, the highest meteorological station in Croatia (1676 m), is located within the national park. The Zavizan peak overlooks the Adriatic Sea and the island of Rab. Not far from the national park lies the Alpine village of Krasno, with its Edelweiss Dairy (Sirana Runolist) and its 18th-century pilgrim’s church. Farther east lies Kuterevo, a small village that is known for its brown bears’ sanctuary. The bears are being taken care of by volunteers from all over the world. All these places are located along the road from Otocac to the coastal town of Senj. 

As a matter of fact, the Lika region is full of see-worthy places, from the Gacka field and the crystal clear Gacka river in the north and the historic Krbava field (Krbavsko polje) in the south to the Alpine landscape in the west. The landscape is a mix of the Austrian Alps, the American prairies, the Scandinavian black forests, and the green Bavarian hills. The air and the water are clean, and as said, it’s only 30 minutes to the Adriatic coast. If you want to live in a temperate climate but have the subtropical zone next door, Lika is a perfect choice. 

For more, follow our travel section.

Thursday, 1 April 2021

New Lika Tourist Attractions in Untouched Nature Sure to Delight All Tourists

April 2, 2021 - New Lika tourist attractions in untouched nature are sure to delight all types of travelers! 

The residents of Lika are hoping for full accommodation capacities for Easter and the upcoming tourist season. This year, there are new attractions for tourists to discover in Lika; a real hobbit house has sprung up in untouched nature, and for a complete atmosphere, there is a forest organ, the first in Croatia.

The play of branches and wind creates a symphony on the forest organ; that's how the Lika forest sounds. "It produces the sound of air flowing through pipes and holes in pipes. They have an aid during weak winds so that people are not disappointed when the organ is not heard when there is no wind", said Tomislav Špehar, from Grabovača Cave Park.

Dnevnik.hr reports, the small houses with green doors lead us to a real-life fairy tale. The Hobbit houses also have furniture, a small bed, books about the Hobbits in more than ten world languages ​, and a herbarium of real Lika plants that grow in the garden in front of the houses. Last year, volunteers from all over the world worked on the creation of this project. 

"Our goal is to have editions of the book The Hobbit in foreign languages. Volunteers from Spain, France, Pakistan, and Vietnam took part in the last project", says Mario Paral, Grabovača Cave Park.

The children of Lika will also find a piece of paradise for themselves and have the opportunity to learn new languages. "When books in different languages ​​come, then I will be able to learn a little more languages," says Niko, 9 years old.

Foreign languages ​​are already being heard. The season in the cave park Grabovača started earlier than usual. "We've been open for three weekends. In those six days, we were visited by about 300 visitors. Of which 99% are Croats and only one percent are foreigners from the Netherlands and the Czech Republic", said Jelena Milkovic, director of the Grabovac Cave Park.

That is why they rightly expect more guests than last year's five thousand because enjoying the smells and sounds of the forest with a little escape in the imagination - is the cure for all problems. 

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

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