Monday, 13 December 2021

HNL Round 19 Recap: Hajduk and Lokomotiva Draw 3:3, Osijek Jumps to 1st

December 13, 2021 - The 19th round of the Croatian First League was held from December 10 to 12, 2021. This round saw Lokomotiva and Hajduk finish 3:3, Rijeka lose to Gorica, and Osijek jump to first place. Here is our HNL Round 19 recap. 

Istra 1961 v. Hr Dragovoljac (3:0)

Istra and Dragovoljac opened the 19th round on Friday, December 10, 2021, in Pula in front of 296 fans. 

Mahmoud opened the match with a goal for Istra in the 19th minute for 1:0. Bande increased Istra's lead to 2:0 eight minutes later. Lisica confirmed Istra's win with a goal in the 72nd minute for the final 3:0. 

 

Istra is currently in 8th place with 18 points (and one game less), while Dragovoljac is in last place with 7. 

Lokomotiva v. Hajduk (3:3)

Lokomotiva and Hajduk met in Zagreb on Saturday, December 13, 2021, in front of 2,776 fans. 

An own goal by Elez put Lokomotiva in the lead in the 11th minute. Livaja equalized for Hajduk in the 33rd for 1:1 at the half. Maric put Lokomotiva back in the lead in the 63rd minute, before Mlakar scored two goals in the 76th and 80th for the 2:3 Hajduk lead. A Katic own goal 6 minutes later gave Lokomotiva the 3:3 draw. 

 

Lokomotiva is currently in 6th place with 24 points, while Hajduk is in 4th with 34 (and one game less).

Rijeka v. Gorica (1:2)

Rijeka and Gorica met at Rujevica on Saturday, December 11, 2021, in front of 3,082 fans. 

Rijeka was weakened when Ampem received his second yellow in the 34th minute, forcing Rijeka to play with a man down for the rest of the match. Lovric scored for the Gorica lead in the 64th minute, and Delfi made it 0:2 in the 75th. Drmic scored one for Rijeka three minutes later for the final 1:2. 

 

Rijeka is currently in 2nd place with 37 points, while Gorica is in 5th with 29. 

Osijek v. Sibenik (3:1)

Osijek and Sibenik met on Sunday, December 12, 2021, at City Garden Stadium.

Mierez put Osijek in the lead from the 3rd minute, followed by a Bohar goal three minutes later for 2:0. Marin scored for Sibenik a minute after that for 2:1, though Kleinheisler scored in the 33rd for 3:1 at the half, which was also the final score.

 

Osijek has jumped to first place with 39 points, while Sibenik is in 7th place with 19. 

Dinamo v. Slaven Belupo (3:0)

Dinamo and Belupo closed out the 19th round on Sunday, December 12, 2021, at Maksimir Stadium. 

Andric put Dinamo in the lead in the 13th minute, followed by Orsic goals in the 19th and 25th minutes for the final 3:0. 

 

Dinamo is currently in 3rd place with 34 points (and two games less), while Belupo is in 9th with 16. 

You can see the HNL standings HERE

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

Sunday, 12 December 2021

Carbon Cleaning Machine for Internal Combustion Engines Presented in Osijek

ZAGREB, 12 Dec 2021 - A carbon cleaning machine for internal combustion engines has been promoted at the recent presentation organized by the European Consumer Excellence Centre at Osijek's River Drava Pier.

The advantages of the decarbonization machine were presented by the Centre's head, Josip Keleman, and representatives of the Faculty of Traffic and Transport Sciences and the Faculty of Mining Geology and Petroleum Engineering.

The non-binding presentation, which was the first of this kind in Croatia, brought together executives of the city-run and private companies.

Keleman said that the carbon cleaning method conducted by this machine is non-invasive, takes 60-90 minutes, and is applied in about 20 million vehicles annually in the European Union. The method is already used in 65 countries worldwide.

Fuel consumption by internal combustion engines that have undergone the carbon cleaning procedures, is reduced by up to 10%, said Keleman.

The next venue for the presentation of this decarbonization machine will be in the south of Croatia.

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

Friday, 10 December 2021

Osijek Christmas Tram Is the Brightest Tram in Croatia

December 10, 2021 - The Osijek Christmas tram ride is a unique Advent experience in the Slavonian metropolis. This year, there are two appropriately decorated trams on the regular line that you can catch every day and experience an unforgettable Advent ride through the city on the Drava, which began in 2011.

Recognizable, traditional, the brightest tram in Croatia, the Osijek Christmas tram is visited by almost 15,000 people in the season, and this year it shone in full glory, reports Turističke Priče.

You can find the schedule of the holiday tram at this LINK.

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Photo: Osijek Tourist Board/Facebook

The size of a city is not defined by the number of kilometers or the number of inhabitants but is measured by the size of the heart, the strength of the spirit, the kindness of the people. Osijek has long been said to be a "city made to measure" and is big enough to fulfill your needs, desires, dreams and small enough to feel safe, comfortable, and intimate. Big enough to organize the longest walk around the city, small enough to adapt the concept of the Advent celebration to the current situation in a short time.

The senses conceived their Advent through the concept "it is not standing but moving, and it is not a place but a journey". Advent, conceived as a movement around holiday-decorated locations, revived Osijek, showed the character and spirit of Osijek, and revived memories of other times when daily walks and full streets were the main motives for good fun in Osijek for all generations.

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Photo: Osijek Tourist Board/Facebook

And the only real success of Advent is happy and smiling people.  Positive emotions, sparkle in the eyes, gratitude, togetherness, which is not lacking in the Slavonian metropolis, which lives 354 days a year with full lungs.

If you want to learn more about the breathtaking capital of Slavonia, be sure to check Total Croatia's Osijek in a Page here.

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

Monday, 6 December 2021

22nd Pannonian Challenge in Osijek Watched by 500 Million Households in 93 Countries

December 6, 2021 - The 22nd Pannonian Challenge in Osijek was attended by more than 200 athletes from 24 countries, and more than 15,000 visitors attended the event during the five days of the festival.

For 22 years, the Pannonian Challenge, a festival of extreme sports and urban culture, has successfully withstood all challenges and imposed new standards year after year, both in sports results and organization, reports HRTurizam.

Over the years, the Pannonian Challenge has become one of the most key events in Osijek and the whole of Slavonia. Moreover, due to its international character, it has crossed the borders of Croatia. Therefore, the importance of this event is unquestionable for Osijek, as the Drava river city is positioned in the world as a center of sports, entertainment, and team spirit.

The 22nd edition of the Pannonian Challenge was attended by more than 200 athletes from 24 countries, and more than 15,000 visitors attended the event during the five days of the festival.

"We are happy that the Pannonian Challenge, despite the corona crisis, managed to continue and for the 22nd year in a row promoted our city, county, and state and brought positivity among our fellow citizens. These figures and data best show the impact of Pannonian on all of us and the community we live in, and thanks to our partners and understanding of the authorities, we have survived the worst and plan a strong return - hosting the BMX World Cup as part of the 23rd Pannonian Challenge! We have a big job ahead of us. Still, we believe that with the support of all our partners and associates, we will succeed, just like in all previous years," said Jurica Barać, director of the Pannonian Challenge.

More than three million kuna was invested in the organization of the event, facilities, and the event's promotion, and thus in Osijek and the whole of Croatia. In addition, viewers from as many as 93 countries worldwide had the opportunity to see Pannonian Challenge footage.

Namely, the media platform Icarus Sport broadcast the show "The Outdoor Sports Show," which was partly dedicated to the Osijek event and shown on 53 sports channels, with a media reach of more than 1.3 billion households worldwide. In addition, the video is shown on flights of Air China, Air Canada, Qatar Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Oman Air, TAP Air Portugal, and many others. Through October 2021, it was seen by tens of thousands of people, with the important note that the video is also shown during November.

The sporting significance of the Pannonian Challenge was further confirmed this year when for the first time, BMX freestyle became an Olympic discipline. The Osijek team led by Igor Vukadinović Poki and Zdenko Liška, president of the Pannonian Association, set up a skate park in Tokyo at the Olympic Games.

The Pannonian Challenge has become a unique brand of its city and the entire country. For years, it has achieved a high global promotion for Osijek, Osijek-Baranja County, and Croatia. 

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

Monday, 6 December 2021

Croatian Cup Semifinal Draw: Osijek, Rijeka, Gorica, and Hajduk Learn Opponents

December 6, 2021 - The Croatian Cup semifinal draw was held at the Croatian Football Federation headquarters on Monday. 

In the Croatian Football Cup semifinals, Rijeka will play against Osijek at Rujevica Stadium and Hajduk will face Gorica at Poljud, according to the draw held on Monday in Zagreb.

The semifinal matches will be played on March 1 and 2, 2022. There were no top seeds in the draw and the semifinals will be played in one match.

The Cup final will be played on May 22 next year at Poljud Stadium in Split.

This is a great opportunity for Hajduk, which has played 19 consecutive Cup games away. Hajduk last won the Cup in 2013, which is also the last trophy for the Split club. Hajduk has the chance to play two home games in the Cup and a historic opportunity for their first trophy in eight years. The last time Split hosted the Cup was in March 2016 in the semifinal match against Dinamo.

The Rijeka and Osijek match will certainly be a bit more competitive, though Rijeka will have the home pitch advantage. 

Split will be the seventh different host of the final match for the Croatian Cup since the decision was made in 2016 that only one match will decide the winner of this trophy. The hosts of the previous six finals were Osijek, Varaždin, Vinkovci, Pula, Šibenik, and Velika Gorica.

Recall, in the quarterfinal matches which were played on Tuesday and Wednesday last week, Gorica topped Istra on penalties, Hajduk beat Lokomotiva 6:3, and Osijek beat Belupo on penalties. In the last quarterfinal, Rijeka knocked out Dinamo 3:1, which forced the resignation of Dinamo coach Damir Krznar. 

The sports betting company SuperSport became the title sponsor of the Croatian Football Cup this year. The most massive football competition thus bears the name SuperSport Croatian Football Cup for the 2021/22 season.

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

Monday, 6 December 2021

HNL Round 18 Recap: Hajduk Tops Dinamo 2:0 in 'Eternal Derby' at Maksimir

December 6, 2021 - The 18th round of the Croatian First League was held from December 4 to 6, 2021. This round saw Hajduk win the 'Eternal Derby' against Dinamo, while Osijek and Gorica drew, and Istra and Belupo will close out the round tonight. Here is our HNL round 18 recap (so far). 

Gorica v. Osijek (1:1)

Gorica and Osijek opened the 18th round on Saturday, December 4, 2021, in Velika Gorica in front of 673 fans. 

Prsir scored for the Gorica lead in the 6th minute, which they maintained until the 3rd minute of stoppage time when Osijek's Hiros scored for 1:1 at the half. Kleinheisler was booked for his second yellow in the 61st minute, forcing Osijek to play with a man down for the remainder of the match. 

 

Gorica is currently in 5th place with 26 points, while Osijek is in 2nd with 35 (and one game less). 

Rijeka v. Hr. Dragovoljac (4:1)

Rijeka and Dragovoljac met at Rujevica Stadium on Saturday, December 4, 2021. 

Rijeka's scoring spree started in the 16th minute when Obregon found the back of the net for 1:0. Muric increased Rijeka's lead to 2:0 in the 44th minute. Muric scored again in the 47th minute to increase Rijeka's lead to 3:0, but Petkovic gave Dragovoljac some hope with a goal in the 67th minute for 3:1. Muric secured his hattrick with his third goal in the 80th minute for the final 4:1. 

 

Rijeka is currently in first place with 36 points (and one game less), while Dragovoljac is in last place with 7. 

Lokomotiva and Sibenik (1:1)

Lokomotiva and Sibenik met in Zagreb on Sunday, December 5, 2021. 

Gorican put Lokomotiva in the lead in the 39th minute with a goal for 1:0 at the half. Curic equalized for Sibenik in the 66th minute for 1:1. which was the final score. 

 

Lokomotiva is currently in 6th place with 23 points, while Sibenik is in 7th with 19. 

Dinamo v. Hajduk (0:2)

Dinamo and Hajduk met in the 'Eternal Derby' on Sunday, December 5, 2021, in front of around 10,000 fans. 

While the first half went without goals, Hajduk's king Marko Livaja chipped Livakovic for 0:1 in the 60th minute. Then, Livaja assisted Sahiti at the top of the box for a late-match screamer in the 4th minute of stoppage time and the final 0:2 for Hajduk. 

 

Dinamo is currently in 4th place with 31 points (and two games less), while Hajduk is in 3rd with 34 (and one game less). 

Istra 1961 v. Slaven Belupo - December 6, 2021, at 18:00.

Istra and Belupo will close out the 18th round on Monday evening. Istra is currently in 8th place with two games behind, while Belupo is in 9th place with one game behind.  We will update this article once the match finishes. 

You can see the HNL standings HERE

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

Friday, 3 December 2021

Banja Luka, Tuzla Have Flights, So Why No Flights to Osijek?

December 3, 2021 - The TCN inbox is currently as interesting as it has ever been. As we start to focus a little more on Slavonia, one obvious question is why there are almost no flights to Osijek, when nearby airports such as Tuzla and Banja Luka offer routes to several countries?

As I get older, I get a little smarter, and life gets just a little easier. 

We are working on a few initiatives at the moment - the TCN Split Winter Tourism Round Table on December 13, the new Vukovar Card concept, and a general mission to tell the world how amazing and full of life Slavonia and the rest of eastern Croatia is. Because it really is. Time to Tell the Truth about Slavonia Full of Life.

All three initiatives have generated traffic in the TCN inbox, and the bit where I am now smarter is that I am inviting people with contributions to make on Split winter tourism, developing tourism in Slavonia, and promoting the Vukovar Card concept to contact me and explain how they can help. 

The contributions have been beyond magnificent.

One such contribution came recently in the form of a Croatian aviation expert who wishes to be anonymous at this point. He has given me some really useful information on the Splilt winter flights scene and possibilities. He has also been very generous with his time, so I decided to extend my line of questioning to talk about Slavonia. 

For all the talk of investing and rebuilding eastern Croatia after the war, the results have been lamentable, and it is clear that funds have been prioritised elswhere in Croatia,  where lobbies and private interests are stronger. It is a subject I plan to explore in some detail in 2022, but for now, I focused on something I was keen to understand - the questions and answers are below in full. 

Osijek. Why do budget airlines there fail when Tuzla and Banja Luka succeed?

Firstly, what, and how are you defining success? Tuzla and Banja Luka are two different animals.

Tuzla paid vast sums to Wizzair to establish a base there and over time has developed the airport through its low fares, mostly taking passengers away from Sarajevo. Banja Luka is a dog, with the government there paying all of the costs for airlines to fly there so it can’t be considered as a success in any light. Its very similar to what the Serbia government does with Niš airport and more recently this new ex air force base airport in Serbia, I’ve forgotten the name of it.

Osijek has not seen any major investment since the airport opened after the war. I’ve seen countless management team efforts eager to attract flights to Osijek and they have always been open to any suggestions for assistance. The main problem is they lack any financial power to provide subsidies and the local government doesn’t have the purse strings to help either. The national government and Croatian National Tourist Board focus are Zagreb and the coast as it’s always been. On top of that, they need to learn how to make business cases for airlines to launch potential routes and have an in-depth knowledge of its economy in Slavonia. They don’t have any of this and thus no idea of what their potential business and leisure markets could be. I understand there is a diaspora link with Mostar, Dalmatia, Austria, Germany, Hungary, and Ireland. The Hungarian government launched a PSO program that Wizzair won to operate flights between Osijek and Budapest in the past. I’m not sure if it still operates as it was of limited nature.

As we know, Ryanair only sticks around as long as its payments are coming in, once they stop then the airline goes elsewhere. Yes Eurowings is another airline that attempted to make Osijek work but failed. The biggest problem I see is that Osijek somehow manages to raise money for subsidies but not to continue marketing the route at the destination. Too seldom airports and the Croatian National Tourist Board in Croatia assume the airline will carry on with marketing the route when services are launched, but in reality the airlines have limited resources to market a route as the Croatian National Tourist Board should be doing.

I think Osijek has a huge potential as a cheap and undiscovered city break gem, with the additional traffic from the diaspora.

Thoughts?

A few years back I visited Osijek for a weekend city break, and I was surprised when I went for breakfast and found the restaurant full of elderly tourists from the UK. At the time I knew there were no direct flights operating from Osijek and the UK which means they travelled via Zagreb. Slavonia has trouble marketing itself and the Croatian National Tourist Board does little to assist, so they are left to fend for themselves.

Considering the number of wineries in the area, it’s amazing that this is not marketed to potential tourists. But then none of the wineries in Croatia are adequately marketed to tourists in the first place. I’m originally from Australia and in Australia and internationally our wineries and winery trails are known throughout Australia and internationally. OK, Australia has a large export market for its wines, but you have the wine industry working together with Tourism Australia to promote their products in those markets, thus attracting tourists to the wine regions.

The Croatian National Tourist Board should be winding down their subsidies towards the cruise industry, and package holiday organisers aimed at the coast during the summer period. Millions of euros are spent on this annually and should be focused more on other regions of Croatia like Slavonia, or even mandate that any subsidies on the coast should also include operations in Slavonia. It’s been a while since I was last in Osijek so I’m not up to date on how much the infrastructure for tourism has progressed there. This could be a limiting factor along with the limited amount of corporate travel. 

If you are interested in working with TCN and have some knowledge or expertise to contribute to the Split winter tourism, Vukovar Card, or Make Osijek Great Again (MOGA) initiatives, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject (choose one) Split Winter Tourism/Vukovar Card/MOGA I am particularly keen to talk to someone who has good information and the financials on annual subsidies to airlines and other forms of transport.

Thursday, 2 December 2021

PHOTOS: Spectacular Kaleidoscope Lights of Osijek City Day and Advent 2021

December 02, 2021 – A spectacular light show exploded across Ante Starčević square in Osijek this evening, welcoming hundreds of visitors to Osijek City Day and to the opening of Osijek Advent 2021. Among those gathered to witness the colourful display was the Croatian Prime Minister, Andrej Plenković.

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In recent times, Osijek's Ante Starčević square has seldom looked so thrilling. It is a wide and open city square - the only place in Osijek where the city tram lines all meet. Except for one modern sculpture and a statue of Ante Starčević, the square is floored with featureless concrete. The fine facades of surrounding Austro-Hungarian buildings have seen better years. In many instances, these historic frontages are cheapened by gaudy branded signage and advertisements.

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But, tonight, all the unsightly modern scars were hidden as an ocean of patterns and colours danced across the square. Children skipped along new pathways created by the brilliant lights' design. Now in its third year, these bright embellishments are part of the Kaleidoscope Festival of Lights. The arrival of its magical scenes heralds not only the start of this year's Osijek Advent but also marks Osijek City Day 2021.

Osijek City Day - 2 December

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People have lived on this part of the Drava river for millennia. But, quite often, the modern life of Osijek city is only viewed as having begun after the Ottomans were removed by the Battle of Mohács. From 1687, Osijek and the eastern part of Croatia were part of the Habsburg Empire. But, Osijek remained close to the border of the new encroachment on Ottoman territory. Defensive fortresses were built along this line of defence, in Stara Gradiška, Osijek and Slavonski Brod in Slavonia and in Petrovaradin in Syrmia/Srem (Serbia).

Today, Osijek's fortress - Tvrđa – contains the largest collection of Baroque buildings in Croatia. It is a fantastic and picturesque location. There, Osijek's old city walls spectacularly overlook the Drava river. But, back when the city's defence was all-important, these walls made it difficult for Osijek to expand. Progress and growth proved impossible to hinder and, with the threat of the Ottomans becoming ever smaller, the population of Osijek simply began to settle outside the walls of Tvrđa. Indeed, today, residents of the city regard Osijek as having three centres – Lower Town, Tvrđa and Upper Town aka Ante Starčević square.

PXL_021221_90938602_1.jpgLights in Upper Town turned on as part of Osijek City Day 2021 © Davor Javorovic/PIXSELL

At the beginning of the 18th century, separate magistrates resided over Osijek's Lower and Upper Towns, effectively marking them as independent city municipalities. In order to gain status as a free and royal city, local authorities were eventually persuaded to unify the different municipalities on 2 December 1786. Since then, 2 December has been celebrated as Osijek City Day.

Kaleidoscope Festival of Light and Osijek Advent 2021

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The incredible light show on Ante Starčević square is just one part of an Advent manifestation that, like the city itself, stretches long down the side of the Drava river.

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The first candle of Advent 2021 was lit by the Archbishop of Đakovo-Osijek Đuro Hranić on Sunday 28 November. Osijek City Day celebrations are the second key milestone of the Christmas holiday season. City-wide Christmas lights were formally turned on today at the Croatian National Theatre Osijek.

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Osijek Advent 2021 includes the return of the Kaleidoscope Festival of Light and Osijek Advent Tram - which is visited by almost 15,000 people each season. Christmas lights extend down European Avenue, passing some of the city's most grandiose Austro-Hungarian architecture. Thereafter, the trail comes 'off road' and takes you through the trees of King Tomislav Park. Next, Tvrđa assumes the focal point of Advent, with a Winter Lookout on the roof of the Cultural Centre, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Sokol ice rink and the tallest Ferris Wheel in Croatia being key highlights.

grada2.jpgPhoto from Osijek Advent 2020 © TZ Grad Osijek

If you want to read more about Osijek, see the Total Croatia guide here. And, if you want to keep up with news from Osijek, bookmark Total Croatia News's Osijek pages here

grada.jpgPhoto from Osijek Advent 2020 © TZ Grad Osijek

Thursday, 2 December 2021

From Cooking to Sending Wages Home, How Osijek Nepalese Residents Live

December the 2nd, 2021 - There are thousands of foreign workers from distant countries outside of both the EU and the rest of Europe living and working here in Croatia. Slavonia is home to many of them, and we're going to take a quick look at just how Osijek Nepalese residents living and working in that Eastern Croatian city live.

As RTL/Sib.hr writes, large numbers of Indians, Filipinos, Thais and many other foreigners are currently working in Croatia. In the City of Osijek, for example, is home to as many as 80 Nepalese nationals. Their homeland lies a distant 6000 kilometres from "Kruasija", as they call this country, but even without mountains and temples to speak of in flat Slavonia, Osijek Nepalese residents still somehow feel quite at home.

They manage to save part of their salaries and send it home, too, as is a common practice in such cultures where taking care of family is paramount. Croatian reporter Tin Kovacic found out all about how these Osijek Nepalese residents live, what they eat and just how they find life in the often overlooked Eastern part of the country.

If you type in Nepal on Google, you will see that you need to travel 6,000 kilometres (and a half) of the globe to arrive there from Slavonia. These 80 Nepalese nationals did just that, but in the opposite direction. They travelled half the world to get a job in an Osijek company that produces plastic packaging. They came legally through an agency and they pay for their health insurance, their pensions, all of their taxes and earn a living. This is what their work day looks like on the production line:

"I work here for about eight hours a day. It's not hard," Dilbach says.

They have a completely equal status with their 500 fellow Croatian nationals working here.

"They're very valuable workers. They want to help us. They're good work colleagues," says Aleksandra Peric, who is from Osijek.

After work, they like to walk around the city, which is where Tin got better acquainted with these Osijek Nepalese residents, who switched their climate for a home along the Drava. Osijek and Croatia have not been unknown places to them for the past three years.

Sunil Bam says:

"My friends have been to Croatia before. We talked about it and corresponded. They told me that Croatia is a good country. If you want to come here, Croatia is the best place."

In that Asian country, they are mainly engaged in agriculture, and Nepal continues to be one of globe's poorest countries. The average salary there is around 1,300 kuna per month, and here they have all of their accommodation and food paid for, and they earn around 5,500 kuna each month. A handsome increase.

"Oh yeah, we get more money here than we would back home. And every month when we get paid, we send a portion of it back home to our families," Bam says. For some, the plan is to earn enough and return to Nepal, and for some, to bring their family here and stay and live and work in Croatia permanently, as it seems the Slavonian temperament suits them best.

"Yes, I love the people here. They're very friendly and polite," says Manoj Achary.

Slavonian food is not foreign to them either, he adds, although they still like to cook their own traditional chicken and rice. The Bam confirmed that all food and accommodation is provided by their employer, but despite that, they still love to cook their own Nepalese dishes that they know so well. They have, however, tried some Slavonian food, comically describing ''something that looks like sausage.''

These Osijek Nepalese residents also know how to make a good lunch, according to Achary:

"We come into town and we drink your beer. Then we go to the Drava river, then we head back home,'' said Achary, who said he has grown to like local beer a lot. They naturally have the most problems with the notoriously difficult Croatin language, but they are attending Croatian classes and have mastered the basics. In order to get along as well as possible, they founded the Association of Friends of Nepal. The City of Osijek is also helping them out, organising various gatherings through the local plan for the integration of migrants, and even though they prefer volleyball and cricket, they've visited the Osijek Football Club.

For more, make sure to check out our lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Happy Birthday Osijek: Time to Tell the Truth about Slavonia Full of Life

December 2, 2021 - Happy Birthday to Osijek! Enough of Zagreb ignoring eastern Croatia, it is time to tell the world the truth about Slavonia Full of Life. 

One of the many paradoxes of this wonderful country - for me at least - is the relationship Zagreb and the rest of the country has with Slavonia and eastern Croatia (for ease of reading purposes, I will use Slavonia to refer to Osijek - Baranja, and Vukovar - Srijem counties in this article).

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Every November 18, Facebook profile photos all over the country and the diaspora are changed to remember and honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice on the anniversary of the fall of Vukovar. All the politicians and thousands of Croats from all over the country head to the Hero City to pay their respects. It is an intense and emotional day, one which I documented in 2019 in Vukovar Remembrance Day Through the Eyes of a Foreign Resident.

But come November 19 and Vukovar - and the east - is forgotten for another 364 days until November 18 comes around again. 

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Despite bearing the brunt of the Serb onslaught in the Homeland War, and despite so many promises from politicians over the years, it seems to me that Slavonia has been treated like an embarrassing handicapped cousin that is best kept out of the limelight and gently ignored. Acknowledged only when necessary. 

And not just by the politicians. 

I have been genuinely shocked at how few of my Croatian friends have ever been to Slavonia, including those among the 200,000 Croats who go skiing abroad each year (the point here is not about skiing, but having the income to travel). And I am even more shocked at how little many of them know about eastern Croatia. Simple questions such as...

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What is the capital of Baranja?

Can you name three famous buildings in eastern Croatia, not including the  Vukovar Water Tower?

Where is the cradle of Indo-European civilisation?

Which Croatian wine was served at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth, as well as the weddings of Princes Willliam and Harry?

... have been met with largely blank stares when I asked friends in Zagreb. 

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Slavonia is portrayed in the media as a sad place of mass emigration, struggling to move on from the war, where good news rarely exists. For many Croats, the whole of eastern Croatia is a blur associated with the aftermath  of war, emigration, and economic stagnation.  

Next week, during my panel discussion, Storytelling and the Nomad Movement, at Digital Nomad Week based out of Bali, I will be announcing the launch of our new CROMADS platform, which connects Croatia's limitless authentic experiences to digital nomads and tourists, all over Croatia, 12 months a year. As part of the preparations for the CROMADS platform, I took Steve Tsentserensky to eastern Croatia for a 6-day tour of Croatia's two most easternmost counties. 

Steve is a very talented American writer and videographer who was one of the first to receive the Croatian digital nomad permit. His promotion of Croatia has been relentless ever since, including this viral video on the digital nomad lifestyle in Croatia on CNBC News, which has already attracted over 300,000 views.  He has also just been announced as the Zagreb Special Guest Digital Nomad Ambassador for 2021. Steve had absolutely no clue about eastern Croatia and so was in a similar position as many locals here in Croatia. 

I contacted the tourist board directors of Osijek-Baranja and Vukovar-Srijem counties, Ivana Juric and Rujana Busic Srpak, and explained the mission to film the very best of the east for CROMADS. They kindly agreed to organise a 6-day itinerary for us. Steve will have a video report of the trip, including some truly epic drone footage, later in the month. But as today is Osijek's special day, let's take a tour of Slavonia Full of Life, the reality. 

Day 1 - Zagreb to Ilok

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06:13 Zagreb, Day One. 6 days, 1 Yank, 1 camera. The mission - to discover if there is life in Eastern Croatia in November. #Ajmo Slavonia, make me proud and show us what you've got. With Steve Tsentserensky #CROMADS

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Our first stop was the easternmost point of Croatia, which is actually closer to Zagreb than Split. Ilocki Podrum and its phenomenal vineyards are the gateway to Western Europe in Ilok. And where else in the world can you hold three bottles of the same wine what was served at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, as well as the weddings of both Prince William and Prince Harry? Learn more about the magic of Ilocki Podrum in this TCN visit a couple of years ago.

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The place to stay is the magnificent Principovac Estate, which is perched on a hill and overlooking the endless vineyards. 

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And there was just enough time after an excellent wine sampling to brush up on my golfing skills before dark. 

Day 2 - Vucedol, Ovcara, Vukovar, Otocki Virovi and Vinkovci

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Did you know that the cradle of Indo-European civilisation was in eastern Croatia, and that there is an award-winning museum built into the location? Learn more about incredible Vucedol on this TCN 2019 visit

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Very close by and a much more recent memorial at Ovcara, to the victims of the 1991 massacre of around 260 patients of the Vukovar Hospital, who were transported to Ovcara once Vukovar was conquered, tortured and murdered. The bullets in the floor are but one poignant reminder.  

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The Vukovar Water Tower is a national symbol of resistance and pride. While the exterior remains untouched, the interior has been renovated, and the viewing point at the top is a popular attraction, as well as giving outstanding views of the city, the Danube and across to Vojvodina in Serbia.  

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A vegetarian when the Slavonian diet would allow it, Asian vegetable wok noodles were a pleasant surprise for Steve at the outstanding Lola in the centre of Vukovar. 

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And then for something completely different - a journey into the classroom back in nature, as we headed into the forest to the recently opened Otocki Virovi Bio-ecological education centre. Amazing carbon-neutral hotel, wellness and conference facility in the middle of the forest. I will be returning with the TCN crew for a teambuilding weekend in Spring. 

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You don't see many public telephones in Croatia these days, but here is one in Vinkovci, the oldest continuously inhabited town in Europe, dating back some 8,300 years. Learn more in Vinkovci: 10 Things to Know about Europe's Oldest Town.

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Home to the oldest calendar in Europe, whose symbols adorn the main pedestrian street. Nice shot, Stevie T!

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And far from being dead, Vinkovci was full of life at the rockabilly bar Hang Loose that night. 

Day 3 - Vukovar Remembrance Day and Foreign Veterans BBQ at The White Boar

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November 18 is Vukovar Remembrance Day, now a national holiday. Some 50,000 people turned up for the 30th anniversary of the fall of Vukovar. 

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We inadvertently found ourselves on national television as we filmed. You can learn more about this very emotional and intense day in Vukovar Remembrance Day Through the Eyes of a Foreign Resident

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There is a very special event each year on November 18, as all the foreign veterans who fought for Croatia gather to remember and to catch up. 

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The barbecue is hosted each year by Vinkovci Yorkshireman Steve Gaunt, from his English pub, The White Boar, which is literally in a field in the middle of nowhere.

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From a portrait of Queen Elizabeth on the wall to veterans in uniform, Steve's face was priceless. He later described it as 'the most far-out bar experience of my life.' 

Fortunately, we had the good sense to leave early, as things got a little lively later on as the veterans retured for the night and the kids took over, as Steve's public information film showed (1 minute and worth watching to the end).  

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No tour of Slavonia would be complete without a visit to the man who has done more for tourism in Slavonia than the rest of us combined, and it was great to spend the night at the home of Goran Rihelj and his lovely wife, Mirjam. Great kulen! 

Day 4 - Dalj, Erdut and Osijek

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By now, the regional press had picked up the story of our visit, and the fact that I had invited anyone who wanted to meet and discuss tourism and our new CROMADS project to come to Pivnica Runda in Osijek.  

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But first we had to survive Day 4, which began in Dalj at the incredible Milutin Malinkovic Birthplace Museum.

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Dalj seemed to be full of secrets, with the Jasna Antunovic Winery next up. Jasna was not only apparently the first female-owned winery in Croatia, but also the 2017 Decanter winner of the best white wine in continental Croatia. 

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Some claim it is the largest wine barrel in the world in continuous use, over in Erdut. While I cannot confirm that, it would take me a day or two to work my way through the 75,000 litres of Grasevina contained therein.

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And for a winery with a water view, you could do worse than Ivo Brzica on the banks of the Danube. Among his several excellent wines, what I believe to be the only Vranac produced in Croatia. 

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Where else to go for a spot of lunch than the epic OPG Ethno Kuca Stari Dud?

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Unusual church fan? Head to Aljmas. 

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But Osijek was calling and after a fantastic walking tour of the town, I had to get to Pivnica Runda for 19:00. Would anyone show up, or would I be Billy No Mates?

They came.

They were magnificent.

Such passion, such ideas, such creativity. So Slavonia Full of Life. 

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All hosted by the King of Fun.  

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One immediate consequence of one conversation that evening was a very pleasant coffee with the parents (and dog Mali) or Osijek-born tennis star, Donna Vekic, at The Westin in Zagreb a few days later. A rather fabulous exchange of ideas, and it was very encouraging to learn the Vekic vision and investment plans for Osijek 

The walk home to the fortress was a little hazy, but Facebook confirms that the streets of Osijek were very much full of life way past midnight. 

In November.  

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And when you have old town accommodation of the quality of Maksimilian, you know your stay in Osijek will be perfect.

Day 5 - Baranja

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Day 5 - Baranja, and the perfect start with one of my all-time heroes, the legend that is Mario Romulic and his quite incredible Magical Forest project

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Always a strong vegetarian offer at the Romulic kitchen table.  

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Kopacki Rit Nature Park, one of the most important wetlands in Europe. Learn more in the TC Kopacki Rit in a Page guide.

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Every dirt track in Baranja seems to lead to its own story. 30 years ago, Tito's former villa in Tikves hosted the final meeting between Milosevic and Tudjman in April 1991. Next year, the villa reopens as a presentation and education centre.

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Day 5 was significant as it was the first day of the tour where we somehow managed to avoid alcohol until after midday. 

And then... Belje.

The Belje vineyards went on for days, with grapes left on the vines by the viewing point, so that visitors could sample them. 

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All this wine was making us hungry. Next stop, one of the finest institutions in all Croatia - Baranjska Kuca in Karanac.  

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A little slice of Slavonia Full of Life, Baranja style. 

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Two of the most dangerous men on the planet, with one of the best tour agencies, Kulen Travel.  

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As far as war memorials go, Batina is right up there with the very best, overlooking the Danube, Hungary and Serbia.  

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But Baranja was not finished with us yet. 

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There was one more stop before we could return to Osijek.  

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And yes, another example of Slavonia Full of Life, the wonderful Josic wine tasting experience in Zmajevac. 

And then the Osijek fun began...

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Over breakfast that morning, a British businessman told us about a great new Asian and sushi place that had opened in the old town. We agreed to meet for dinner at Franz Koch, especially as he promised to bring his business partner, the legend that is Srdjan Kovacevic of Orqa. 

Together with Steve, they all droned on about drones until I asked how we could put their drone technology and contacts with the best drone pilots in the world to good use to promote tourism in Slavonia.

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Two gin and tonics later, and the concept of Danube Drone Days, with the world's leading drone pilots coming to Osijek, was born. 

Stay tuned.   

Slavonia Full of Life, the nighttime edition. 

Day 6 - Vukovar and Djakovo

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Our final day, and another rollercoaster. We changed the schedule to go back to Vukovar, as we needed to video the hospital museum for our CROMADS project, something that was clearly impossible on November 18, due to all the dignitaries from Zagreb.  

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The other reason to return to Vukovar was to offer this young lady a part-time job with CROMADS. Katarina was our excellent guide, and she will be helping us build the eco-system of excellence in eastern Croatia. Her first task as TCN was an interview - The Realities of Life as a Vukovar Tour Guide.

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There was just one stop between us and Zagreb, and it was another mind-blower - Djakovo. When Queen Elizabeth II visited the Lipizzaner Stud Farm back in 1972, Tito apparently built an asphalt road, so the locals were very happy. No such luck with my visit, but we had a ton of fun.

Djakovo Cathedral by Steve Tsntserensky, with a little help from a drone. 

One of the dangerous chaps from Kulen Travel stood between us and freedom.

"We just have one more surprise for you," said Domagoj over lunch. 

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Ah, yes, an excellent lunch at Bistro Loora, which was packed, with not a seat available.  

And the surprise?

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What else but a Slavonian picnic? 

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And some quite extraordinary craft gin in an orchard with a magnificent cathedral view.  

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Steve and I compared before and after photographs.  

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And as I dropped Steve back to where it all began in central Zagreb, I could not help wonder why we don't hear about any of this. 

Slavonia was beyond magnificent. Osijek was MUCH more alive than Split or any other city on the Adriatic coast in November. 

This region is FABULOUS and much closer to Zagreb than Dalmatia, and yet very few people I know have actually visited. 

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It is time to change that and to Make Osijek Great Again. 

I genuinely think we will not have to try too hard. 

So happy birthday Osijek, and may you celebrate your day in style. 

My birthday wish for you is that Zagreb lets you breathe, celebrates your magnificence, and starts to put meaningful investment your way to accelerate the process of growth. 

My heartfelt thanks to the many of you who contributed what was arguably one of the best weeks of my 18 years in Croatia. 

In Slavonia.

In November. 

I tried to put my finger on what it was that that made the Slavonian experience so exceptional, apart from the people, and I think it is this:

Nobody who makes the effort to visit Slavonia ever comes home disappointed. 

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