Tuesday, 11 October 2022

Crazy Dalmatian Island Life in October: Peskafondo on Hvar

October 11, 2022 - And you thought Dalmatian islands were quiet from mid-October? Prepare yourself for the craziness of the 11th Peskafondo squid and big game fishing championship on Hvar. 

A year ago, I asked three Kiwis living in Trogir if they wanted to have a quite exceptional weekend on Hvar. Their initial interest turned to suspicion when I told them I was going to organise a weekend of real fun in the form of a squid fishing championship. In the rain. 

It took all my persuasive powers, but eventually I got them on the catamaran to take part in the 10th edition of the Peskafondo squid and big game fishing championship in Hvar Town. It was actually the first event I wrote about back in 2011 when Total Hvar was about 2 weeks old. Organised by luxury fish restaurant Gariful, Peskafondo started with meagre beginnings, and - if the video reporting of my Kiwi friends is anything to go by - the 10th anniversary was nuts. 

Nick, Anna and Mahina from 45 Degrees Sailing did a video for our CROMADS platform, but then Nick expanded on the weekend in this great vlog on the 45 Degrees channel, below. 

This year's Peskafondo will take place a little earlier than last year, on October 21 and 22. There will be the usual mix of fishing, concerts, great food and wine, and a superb atmosphere whatever the weather, as locals and their international guests relax after yet one more successful season. 


The programme (in Croatian) is below, and there is still time to register if you would like to take part in the competitive fishing. But there is no need to fish if you just want to experience a very special and very local celebration of the art of fishing, Dalmatian-style. A wonderful event. 


You can follow the event on the official Peskafondo Facebook page


What's it like living in Croatia, and where can you get the best survival tips? TCN CEO Paul Bradbury and TCN Editor Lauren Simmonds have teamed up to publish Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.





Wednesday, 10 November 2021

Inland Sinj to Island Hvar - Collaboratively Celebrating Croatia’s Cultural Riches and Natural Diversity

Wednesday, 10 November 2021 - We can’t say enough about the amazing hospitality, divine local cuisine, wines, prosciutto, and bread that we experienced at Peškafondo and Big Game Fishing Competition held on the 5-7 November 2021. It is definitely an experience we look forward to attending again in the future, telling others about it and shouting it out to the world, in our endeavour to promote Croatia as an all-year-round destination.


What was also apparent over the weekend was the willingness for all to contribute to the success of this post-season event and to draw more attention to Croatia as a whole, not just Hvar. Arriving on Friday we were thrilled to meet Monika Vrgoč from the Sinj Tourist Board. We were also curious to know how and why Sinj was involved in the event as it is an inland area of Dalmatia in our minds not terribly associated with the islands or to Hvar.

Lucky for us it didn’t take long to figure the how they were involved as lunch for the first day of celebrations was a Sinj specialty, arambaši. This was served alongside cured meat products and traditional music, all providing a very homely heartwarming feel to the event, despite the weather and rain. 

Tucking into the arambaši, we wanted to know more. We were thrilled to learn that the Peškafondo isn’t just to promote the island, seafood, and activities. It’s also to showcase the amazing culture of Croatia from inland to the coast, to the islands, and everything in between.

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Sinj Traditional Specialities 

- Arambaši

Coming to Hvar the chefs from Sinj turned out their traditional specialty: arambaši, a most important festival dish.  The arambaši of Sinj consists of chopped beef, smoked bacon wrapped up in pickled cabbage leaves together with a special and traditional blend of spices, including onion, red onion, parsley, pepper, and salt.  These cabbage rolls are arranged in a pot along with a beef bone, covered with finely cut pickled cabbage, adding a piece of prosciutto and a few homemade sausages, locally known as sudžuk. This is then left to cook for several hours with no mixing. The aroma that wafted around the event as everyone was arriving, kept everyone on alert clear that there was going to be a great feast for lunch. And we were not disappointed.

We also learnt that while to the foreign/untrained eye, arambaši may look like regular sarma. But sarma IT IS NOT! It differs from sarma in three distinct ways: the meat is chopped, not minced, there is no rice added to the chopped meat mixture and the spice blend is different from the spices used in sarma, creating a unique and traditional taste.tcn arambasi

- Uštipci

Along with the arambaši, we were also treated to another speciality of Sinj cuisine called uštipci, a long flat deep-fried bread that was served with a smooth flavoured young cheese. Another delicious specialty of Sinj. Huge thanks to the Sinj Tourist Board in Cooperation with the Secondary School Vocational and the Red Cross for putting on such a great spread!

tcn ustipci 


If you, like us, had no idea where Sinj is or what it has to offer, here is a quick overview:

  • According to the 2011 census, the town itself has a population of 11448 inhabitants, with the immediate surrounding area having a population of 24,832.
  • Located in the heart of the Dalmatian hinterland, Sinj is 30km from the Adriatic Sea.
  • The town is surrounded by beautiful mountains of Kamešnica, Svilaja, and Dinara.
  • It is situated at the edge of the fertile Sinjsko Polje Valley and invigorated by the amazing crisp, clear Cetina River.

And it’s not just the location that makes Sinj such a great place to visit. We were pretty impressed to hear about the activities and offerings that Sinj has available throughout the year. From the history contained both in the museums as well as the living history demonstrated at the festivals, to more active pursuits like hiking, skydiving... The list goes on!


The Alka tournament sounds amazing! So much so that we have put it into our diary next year.  Learn more about this global festival here.

Cooperation and Collaboration

Now we can’t just leave this story here because on the second day there was another amazing collaboration, with chefs and friends from Skradin outdoing themselves with serving their famous Skradin risotto and of course famous oysters for lunch. Find out more about this amazing slow-cooked dish in an article written by Expat In Croatia.

Again, the food was delicious, amazing smells and tastes, and very interesting for us to learn about the cooperations that were going on to create this festival.

The squid was like the second event, the main event being the people altogether, celebrating the great atmosphere from the sea from the culture, and from the people.

If this is anything to go by combining resources and creative efforts means increased reach and exposure while spending more efficiently. Together, we will elevate Croatia’s platform, enabling Croatian culture to thrive as an all-year-round tourism destination.

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Read some history to the Peškafondo event here: Celebrating Ten Years of Peškafondo


Tuesday, 9 November 2021

Team 45 Degrees Sailing Takes on Peškafondo 2021

Tuesday, November 9, 2021 - After a COVID-19 instigated break last year, the much-acclaimed Peškafondo 2021 was back to celebrate its 10th year as an international fishing and tourism event. 


Organised by the “365 Gariful Hvar” association, 48 teams entered and competed in the waters of Hvar. Each team was comprised of four members, and registration was 500 kuna for each member. There was also an ongoing opportunity to donate in order to partake of the non-fishing festivities, money that will go to a local charity as chosen by the “365 Gariful Hvar” association. Read more here where Ivan Gospodnetić, owner of the much famed Gariful restaurant, talks to Paul Bradbury about why he started this festival in the first place and how he has watched it grow and evolve over the years.


Not having any idea what to expect, we were invited by Ivan via Paul to join in on the festivities and boarded the catamaran to Hvar town on Friday. The program officially started at 1 pm so we decided to catch the 10 am ferry to give us plenty of time to get settled before festivities kicked off. Little did we realise that the Šibenik Klapa group were on the same ferry, and they started things off early, pulling out their instruments and playing for all of us on the ferry. What a great way to kick off the weekend! 


As the ferry pulled alongside the Hvar Riva, they continued to play as they disembarked the boat, being welcomed warmly by everyone already gathered and set up outside Gariful restaurant. Peškafondo and Big Game Fishing 2021 was off to a great start. Teams began to gather at the tables set up outside the restaurant, everyone was registering, getting their t-shirts, having a warm hearty lunch. The trumpet signaled at 3 pm and was the sign for all of the fishing boats and their teams to head out in search of the desired squid. They would disperse in the waters around Hvar and Pakleni islands and put their lines down hoping for a bountiful catch. 



At 8 pm the boats returned amidst live music and the buzz of dinner beginning, and the catches were weighed and measured in full sight of everyone in attendance. Most teams were pretty successful and it was a great atmosphere for everyone to warm up and wind down after the hours spent out on the boat. The wine and beer were flowing, and the celebrations continued into the night. 


The next morning at about 8 am, the big game fishing boats departed the Hvar Riva and spent all day out fishing, in pursuit of the elusive big catch! After another very colourful departure of the squid fishers at 3 pm again, they spent another afternoon out to catch as many squids as they could find. It was a much harder day out, as rain impeded the time out for many, especially those in boats without shelter. Fishing is certainly a sport that is at the mercy of the weather 


The rain continued as the days' catches were weighed and measured, and it certainly did not dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd that came out to support their friends and family members. A very wet award ceremony ensued, and it was great to see mixed teams, kids, and families having participated, as everyone came up to receive their prize and/or trophy. 

And then the final party began.  With the help of more delicious food, drinks, and live music, the vibrant and dynamic festivities continued into the night. An apt way to end the adult portion of a fantastic weekend celebrating the much-esteemed squid, in the quintessentially Dalmatian manner of celebration.


We had a couple of take-aways and shoutouts from this event.


Oh my goodness the food. Warming, fill-your-boots, hearty, nourishing food for a large crowd of people is one thing that Croatians really excel at. And all teams gathered by 365 Gariful Hvar Association totally went above and beyond to ensure that not only did the food taste good, it tasted amazing and it also showcased specific Croatian traditional dishes from a couple of different regions. Like arambaši from Sinj and the famous Skradin risotto! As well as demonstrating how heart-warming and relevant traditional cuisine still is in the setting of modern events and festivities. 

Huge vats of slow-cooked meats and seafood wafted incredible smells that led you down the Riva. All chefs were engaging and got involved in the fun, all while they were cooking and serving. They took time out to talk to us and show us what they were cooking. They helped to make the atmosphere bright and warm, despite the persistent rain! 



We were also very impressed by the lack of rubbish and the major lack of single-use plastic. Serving plates and utensils were paper and wood, cups were washable and reusable. And the staff working the event were fast, efficient and effective. There was no chance for any rubbish to blow onto the ground or into the sea because it was cleared away so fast. Full carafes of wine and bottles of sparkling water were brought to your table before you even realised that the existing bottles were running low. It was an incredibly clean, well-organised environment, which is an awesome achievement in normal circumstances and especially so given the incessant wet weather.


The music was great. Even though it was all in Croatian, based on the enthusiasm from everyone else around us, they were clearly playing popular and classic Croatian songs. And we loved the variety. From the homespun acoustic style of the Šibenik Klapa to the powerful seasoned performance of Indira Vladić (Levak), it was all upbeat, enormously engaging, and great fun to be in the midst of.

The atmosphere was just great. The various elements, the music, the food, the staff, the logistics going on throughout the weekend, they all added up to a really enjoyable, wholesome event. 



We also loved the fact that you don’t have to be out on a fishing boat to enjoy this event. In addition to the 500 kuna fee to register as a member of a team on a fishing boat, you could also donate and participate in the on-land parts of the event. Which were aplenty! Everyone felt included no matter your age, nationality, or fishing and squid catching skills, or total lack of! This was especially true on Sunday, which was Kids Day. Complete with bouncy castles, balloons, games, and activities, thank goodness the sun came out to shine down upon what felt like the whole of Hvar and their kids! The sound of delight, laughter, and joy filled the main square of Hvar. 

Given that we were non-Croatian-speaking foreigners who knew very little about the event and pretty much knew no one at this event, we felt very welcome and included. We had the opportunity to meet some of the fishermen, many of whom also work in the marine tourism industry. We enjoyed chatting with the chefs as they described what they were cooking for us. As well as making some awesome connections with individuals from other areas of Croatia, like Monika from Sinj (see her article here).


All in all, this was an event that we have heard nothing about during our five-year stay in Croatia. And now we have been, we can’t stop talking about it!

I think Ivan from Restaurant Gariful put it well when he said “I can't describe the happiness I feel knowing Peškafondo is no longer just about Hvar, it's becoming something that can be about all of Croatia.”

If you’re looking for an “authentic” experience in 2022 or beyond, this is one event you really need to check out. We highly recommend this event to any foreigners and Digital Nomads who find themselves in Croatia once the summer crowds have gone and are looking for real local events to take part in. This is all of those things in spades. 

If you have questions on anything sailing in Croatia, feel free to ask below in the comments or check out Total Croatia, Sailing in Croatia: Your One-Stop-Shop for everything sailing.

If you’re looking for a little more history around this event read Paul Bradbury’s interview with Ivan ‘Gariful’ Gospodnetić here: Celebrating 10 year of Peškafondo.

For more on the programme and reflections on the last ten years of Peskafondo, read Squid Games on Hvar.

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Celebrating 10 Years of Peskafondo: Interview with Ivan 'Gariful' Gospodnetic

Novmber 3, 2021 - As Hvar prepares for the tenth anniversary of its squid-fishing championship, Peskafondo 2021, TCN catches up with co-founder Ivan 'Gariful' Gospodnetic, owner of the famous Restaurant Gariful, to reflect on the last decade. 

During the summer, his restaurant is a magnet to the rich and famous in search of fabulous sea food and the finest wines. Here you can find yourself sitting next to the likes of Bono, Jon Bon Jovi, and Michael Jordan. 

But there is another side to Ivan 'Gariful' Gospodnetic, very much a local Hvar boy, and one who has done much for the community in terms of activities and projcts over th years. 

One of those projects, Peskafondo, is turning ten this weekend. I feel a little nostalgic as it took place about 2 weeks after my own Total story began, and Peskafondo 2011 was actually the first event I ever reported on for Total Hvar. I wrote yesterday about reflections of that decade, and today an interview with young Gariful. 


1. Peskafondo started 10 years ago. Tell us why you decided to start it, and what did you hope to achieve?

As you know, I've worked a lot throughout my life and given a lot to the community on Hvar and it was a delightful obligation for me to be able to return part of my success to my own place under the sun in some way, ie in my own way.

I knew that Peskafondo would go a long way and it would have come about a long time ago if I had put it on, let's say, at the beginning of October, but then there are still tourists in Hvar and that wasn't enough of a challenge for me given the fact that I wanted to succeed in terms of a humanitarian social event in the city in which I'd bring a thousand plus people to Hvar on a date when there are no guests. I'd then show them that Hvar is even more beautiful during the winter and can and must be ''functioning'' all year round. In doing all that, there'd also be lot of fun had and we'd finally help someone out because all the income from Peskafondo's fund always goes to someone who needs help.


2. This weekend, 10 years of Peskafondo will be celebrated. Tell us how it has grown in that time. How many competitors were there in the first year, and how many are there this year?

Well, my memory isn't my strongest side, but I remember the first year, there were maybe 7-8 of us, about 30-40 people in my restaurant, the same story, the same idea... but every beginning is difficult and Peskafondo wasn't any different, but even back during that first year, we had a great time, there were mostly just people from the island and nobody had come from elsewhere like they did this year, for example, when we had is the least people from Hvar, but from all parts of Croatia people came with their friends. We even had people come from outside of our borders, such as Serbs, Bosnians Italians, Slovenes, Macedonians, Germans and Poles. It will really be something this year because more than 70 teams have already registered and the number exceeds 1000 people and then some.


3. There are always some crazy competitors, and I fondly remember the fishermen from Sinj with their prosciutto. Tell us about some of them, and where do the competitors come from?

I'm very happy that the town of Sinj got involved in this story! This year, lunch for Peskafondo's guests will be made with the Sinj specialty, arambasi, as well cured meat products accompanied by music with their traditional costumes. Their mayor will also be present.

In addition, on the second day, our friends from Skradin do the same thing for lunch and they'll make their famous Skradin risotto and much more, and we'll have people from Zadar bringing their own guests and I can't describe the happiness I feel knowing Peskafondo is no longer just about Hvar, it's becoming something that can be about all of Croatia.

It isn't only Ivan Gospodnetic but many, many people and friends who made Peskafondo what it is. It isn't just my name associated with it, the names of very many people now are. It's no surprise that people from all over the county want to visit Hvar and be a part of it all this weekend.


4. Peskafondo has become bigger than just squid fishing. What can people expect at this year's event?

I think of kind of answered everything above but you need to come and see it for yourself, I can't and don't want to reveal everything that can be guaranteed to everyone who intends to be on Hvar this weekend, but they'll all be looking forward to the next Peskafondo. They'll also be very proud of themselves because they helped someone in need and that's the greatest happiness one can feel.

5. This is a great example of how to extend the season with authentic tourism. What else can we do to extend the season?

There's a lot we could do as the island really does offer people a lot during the winter months. I don't even know where to start, but we islanders know what we've got, we just have to show it off to the world, be willing to work together and then make sure Hvar blooms all year round.

6. Where can people find the best squid on Hvar?

In the sea!

Peksafondo 2021 starts on Friday, November 5. For more on the programme and reflections on the last ten years of Peskafondo, read Squid Games on Hvar, as Peskafondo Celebrates 10 Years.

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Squid Games on Hvar, as Peskafondo Celebrates 10 Years

November 2, 2021 - Global media talk about Squid Games is a recent phenomenon, but the island of Hvar will celebrate 10 years of competitive squid excellence this weekend with a record turnout at Peskafondo 2021. 


Just over 10 years ago, about 15 days after I launched Total Hvar, the first event I ever reported on for my new portal took place. 


I really wasn't keen and I didn't think that the event would be a success. 


A squid fishing competition in Hvar Town at the of October in Hvar Town, organised by the arguably the most famous fish restaurant on the Adriatic, Restaurant Gariful. It didn't sound that exciting to me, but I reported on it anyway. 


There is a reason why Gariful is one of the most successful hospitality businesses on the Croatian islands, and I remain a fat blogger. 

Over the past decade, Peskafondo has grown each year, and as it celebrates a decade of late season entertainment for a growing number of competitors, locals and tourists, my hat goes off to young Gariful for this excellent example of how to provide interesting and authentic content after the main season has long finished. 


Back in 2011, I seem to remember that there were just 11 teams taking part in th two-day event. This year - so far - there are 72 teams from all over Croatia, as well as international squid-fishing teams from Germany, Italy, Slovenia, and Bosnia and Hercegovina. 


At Peskafondo 2011, there were about 100 people enjoying the event. Gariful is expecting 1,500 - 2,000 people this year, a huge increase. 

And with quite a programme. 


And it is not just squid games these days. Peskafondo also includes the Hvar Big Game Fishing competition, as well as a very eagerly awaited event by the little ones - Hvar Kids Day.

This is what Kids Day was like as a standalone event several years ago, including parachute jumpers landing on the main square, as well as an appearance from Mickey Mouse and friends.


Peskafondo quickly established itself as far more than a fishing competition, bringing together friends from all over th country. The fishermen from Sinj complete with delicious prsut, were always a hit, for example. 


Fine wine, excellent sea food, live music, and a real carnival atmosphere - Peskafondo has done an excellent job over the years at extending the season a little and bringing a lot of colour to those quieter winter months. 


Peskafondo 2021 kicks off this Friday, and TCN will be covering the event, which was the first we ever reported on all those years ago. It promises to be livelier than ever, so if you are on the island, I do encourage you to check it out. 

There is still time to register to compete, which you can do via the Peskafondo Facebook page.  Let the original squid games begin!

Here is a flavour of what awaits - a video report from Peskafondo 2021.  


To learn more about Hvar Town, check out the TC Hvar in a Page guide

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Hvar Town Tourism in November: Peškafondo Returns!

Who's ready for squid?

Monday, 9 November 2015

Europe's Sunniest Island Hosts Annual Peskafondo Squid Championship on Hvar, Croatia

The season continues on Hvar, as a weekend of music, wine and competitive squid fishing brings the season to a close.