Wednesday, 21 December 2022

Meet Slavonia 365, Full of Life - Iva and Mihovil of Castrum Gin

December 21, 2022 – Meet Slavonia 365, full of life. A year ago, TCN started Vukovar 365, the new series to show that there is life in the east of Croatia every day of the year. After Vukovar reigned the stage for a while, it is time to go beyond and tell more inspiring stories of Slavonia. For our exciting opener, meet Iva and Mihovil of Castrum Gin.

This young married couple worked in marketing and law in Zagreb, jobs they loved, but they decided to return and chase their dreams in their tiny home village of Kaptol near Požega. And they are doing so while sipping on some top-quality Slavonian gin. We spoke to them to find out how they do it, what inspired them to go gin instead of rakija, and why everyone should consider at least visiting Slavonia.

Introduce the people of Castrum and tell us about its visual identity.

We are Iva and Mihovil, a young married couple who started producing craft gin a year and a half ago in a small town at the foot of Papuk, Kaptol. Mihovil is a lawyer by profession, and I am an economist. Although we loved the jobs we did in Zagreb, we decided that we would prefer to live in a quieter place in the future. We both come from Slavonia, and Mihovil has been involved in the production of wine and brandy with his parents since he was a child, so distillation was a familiar concept to him before we ever decided to run a business with distillates.

Castrum is the name for two types of gins we produce - London dry gin and Barrel-aged gin. Its name was inspired by the medieval fortress that dominates Kaptol, whose shape is called a castrum. The shape of the fort is hexagonal with four associated towers, which we also used for the shape of our label. The logo mostly reminds people of lace, but it's actually a faler - an ornament from the horse bridles of Hallstatt warriors who lived above Kaptol in the early Iron Age. Falers were excavated precisely at the Kaptol-Čemernica archaeological site near our distillery.

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What inspired you to produce gin and not a more traditional drink like rakija? Tell us about your journey.

Gin is a drink we have both loved for a very long time, and we have tried many different types and brands. As for gin as our first distillate choice, it was carefully chosen. When we started thinking two and a half years ago about doing something that would allow us to make a decent living in Slavonia, we knew we needed an idea that would set us apart somehow. The idea of gin was born - precisely because it would be a somewhat "logical" sequence if we started to produce rakija in Slavonia and moved back from the big city, but I'm sure the whole story then wouldn't have been half as interesting.

Some new products are coming, which and how will they be special?

We plan to produce two types of rakija, quince and viljemovka, but before that, we will market pelinkovac (bitter wormwood liqueur) with an interesting name. That one will also be interesting due to ingredients associated with Slavonia, which are not typical for pelinkovac itself. We have a great desire to age a real Slavonian whiskey as well.

You have a gin garden; how does that work? Where do your visitors usually come from?

Our entire distillery is housed in an extension of my husband's parents' home. Since we would also sell our gin there, we created a small cozy area in the basement with a table and six chairs where our guests can sit when they come to shop or for a tasting. At that time, we did not think that a larger group of people would want to visit; we predicted it in the distant future, but it came very quickly. Since we still need to design a larger space for tastings, we came up with the idea of a gin garden during summer. Then the entire lawn in our backyard is occupied by pallets and old things from our grandparents' houses - armchairs, sewing machines, old irons, etc. It is a unique experience in the evening since the whole setup is between apple and pear trees, where we hang fairy lights, which makes it beautiful in the summer evenings. The gin garden opens when the temperatures make spending time outdoors comfortable, usually from the end of May until mid-September. Visitors come to us from all parts of our beautiful country, mainly from Zagreb. We are glad our location is becoming a top choice for weekend trips. There are many tourists in summer, but their number increases significantly in autumn and spring.

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How did the fact that you are located in the east of Croatia affect your business?

It had a favourable effect on us, probably because, by returning to Slavonia, we were able to place a very trendy drink on this market, which also quickly found its place under the sun due to its quality.

You are a marketing expert. It seems that Castrum and Slavonia are an inseparable duo. Tell us about this symbiosis.

Ah, Slavonia without Castrum as a gin brand has indeed existed all this time, but a castrum has been standing there since the Middle Ages! During our brand design, we were guided by the idea that our entire product would tell a story - from the ingredients themselves to the connection with the location. I believe that to be very important, it gives personality to the brand, and people connect with it more easily. We produce gin in Slavonia, so we made sure to use ingredients that are characteristic of the area. In our gins, those are elderberry, black mulberry, and grapevine. By returning to Slavonia, we also wanted to work on promoting our destination. I think that by connecting branding with history, we have created a wonderful symbiosis that ultimately offers a tourist experience.

Tell us about tourism in that part of Slavonia - is there tourist potential, and why should everyone visit?

There is significant tourist potential here, and I am glad that this potential is being exploited more and more. Many people have visited our distillery from all parts of Croatia, as well as from abroad. We are happy to host ‘our’ people, who went to Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and even Sweden to earn their living. They somehow get particularly emotional since they wish they could have stayed in their hometown and done something which would provide them with a good life.

There are many reasons why to visit Slavonia. Untouched nature is undoubtedly one of them. The forest park Jankovac is beautiful in all seasons; there are so many cycling and walking paths; our entire region is full of excellent wines and wineries that everyone should visit. There are also many educational places, and there is plenty of content for the youngest.

Having come back, we completed the story of the "return" of our entire team. We were eight enthusiasts who wanted to show our area to more people. We all lived outside Slavonia at one point, and some even on another continent. We designed the event "Ideš i piješ" (Drink as You Go), which works according to Wine and Walk principles. Participants walk 12 kilometers through Papuk and meet local winemakers and distillers. This year was the second in a row, and we can say that the interest is huge. Registration fees were sold out in just ten days, and our inbox was full of questions about whether other places would be open. Slowly but surely, Slavonia is finding its place on the must-visit map. I think that the pandemic also contributed to this. We were limited in terms of travel, so we turned to travel in our own country. At least something beautiful came of such an ugly crisis.

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Where can we find you and your product, how long does delivery take? Are we late for Christmas shopping?

So far, we have yet to enter large retail chains, so our products can be found in smaller specialised stores. A list of them can be found on our website, through which our products can be ordered. Delivery takes 1-3 working days. Of course, that deadline could be extended these days by a day or two. As for being late for Christmas shopping, I think it's never too late for good presents!

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 20 December 2022

Osijek Airport: Direct Connections to Six Destinations for Advent

December 20, 2022 - If you've always wanted to visit the east of Croatia but hesitated because it's been a bit far, your time might have just come. The Osijek airport is now directly connected to six destinations: Zagreb, Split, Rijeka, Dubrovnik, Pula, and the Croatian Gastarbeiter mecca, Munich.

As Jolie.hr writes, Advent is the right time to visit continental Croatia. And Osijek Airport provides direct flights to this Eastern Croatian metropolis from the Croatian cities. You can also visit Osijek by direct flight from the Bavarian capital of Munich. Osijek Advent was declared the best in Croatia in 2021, and this year it shines with the glow of thousands of lights. Take a walk along the path of holiday magic from the art nouveau European Avenue to the fairytale Fortress, where you will find an abundance of smells and tastes of Christmas.

A rich cultural and entertainment program at the Fortress

This year's Advent is a real opportunity for family quality time, where everyone can find something for themselves. The youngest will be able to enjoy fairy tales in the Great Winter Story Room, watch cartoons in the Christmas Cinema, and write letters to Santa Claus! Concerts, lectures, exhibitions in the Archaeological Museum, and gastronomic mornings have been prepared for the big ones. Celebrated chef Rene Bakalović will create New Slavonian cuisine for visitors, preparing the most delicious Slavonian dishes in a modern way.

The ice fairy tale of the ice rink at Sokol offers unforgettable moments to young and old lovers of winter joys, and after showing off your skating skills, you will have the opportunity to warm up with mulled wine or dance to Christmas hits. And if you are not of an adventurous spirit and enjoy walking around the city more, explore the hidden parts of the city whose every corner breathes holiday magic and a Christmas atmosphere.

The most beautiful view from 35 metres

An essential part of Advent this year is the "panoramic wheel" that will take you high above the city’s rooftops. The largest Ferris wheel in Croatia is located at the Baroque Fortress, where you can enjoy a wonderful view of the city. The daytime ride places the fairy-tale city below your feet, and the night ride provides a view of thousands of lights. This year's Advent programme lasts until the 30th of December, and if you decide to spend the craziest night of the year on the streets of Osijek, the band Crvena Jabuka will count you down into the New Year on the central town square.

Visit the beautiful Baranja and the Danube region

Along with the Osijek Advent tour, you can visit the Vukovar Christmas market or the restored Eltz manor museum. After the New Year's celebration, you can enjoy the rich gastronomic offer of Baranja. Go on a tour of the wine cellars and enjoy traditional Baranja delicacies. The Slavonian metropolis has never been closer - visit Osijek and see why it won the title of the most successful continental city tourism destination! More information on the Osijek Airport website.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated Travel section.

 

Sunday, 18 December 2022

WineOs - 8th Edition of Osijek Wine Fair Featuring Exclusive Workshops

December 18, 2022 - The New Year is approaching, and with it, a real treat for true hedonists - WineOS. The eighth edition of the fair of wine, delicacies, and pleasant living will once again offer its visitors exciting content and the best wines and delicacies from eastern Croatia, as well as guests from other parts of Croatia and abroad. It is happening at the traditional Gradski Vrt venue in Osijek.

As SiB writes, one of the biggest lures for many wine lovers will be the wine workshops organised by the famous wine author Željko Garmaz. Speaking of popular wine stories, which regularly attract guests to WineOS, the biggest novelty is that starting next year, there will be even more workshops, and they will take place over three days, January 12, 13, and 14. Therefore, eleven excellent workshops await on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, featuring interesting, exclusive, and attractive topics, winemakers, and wines.

Three different topics will be explored on the first day, Thursday, January 12. At 3 p.m., representatives of Belje, one of the largest and most important wineries in eastern Croatia, will go on a journey through time into the wine past. That is, of course, tasting archival wines with interesting stories around their creation. From 4:30 p.m., sommelier Klaudio Jurčić, who has ventured into the wine industry, will talk about his friendships with winemakers while the guests are tasting his wines. The last workshop of the day, which starts at 6 p.m., is also a treat and will lure all true wine lovers. The famous Hungarian winemaker from Villany, Attila Gera, will present a vertical of his black coupage from the Kopar location.

On Friday, January 13, four workshops are scheduled, and the program will be opened at 1 p.m. by Gianfranco Kozlović with a vertical of his malvasia. At 2:30 p.m., all visitors will have the opportunity to meet another Istrian, Bruno Trapan, and his Uroboros, or aged malvasia. From Istria, at 4 p.m., the visitors can move to Fruška Gora and the Erdevik winery, which will present a vertical of its award-winning Omnibus Lector chardonnay. From 5.30 p.m., the story of the village of Umčani from the Vrgorac region and the Gašpar brothers will round it all up.

On Saturday, January 14, four unique workshops will take place as well. At 1:00 p.m., the visitors will have the opportunity to get to know the top-quality wines from the Croatian winery of the famous Mike Grgich. An hour and a half later, the story about the expansion of the Galić winery in Dalmatia and getting to know the "sea ego" of Jozo Galić is on the schedule. At 4:00 p.m., another treat for lovers of unique and different wines – a workshop of kadarka from Oszkár Maurer's cellar. The end of the programme is dedicated to the Herzegovinian winery Nuić and the native variety trnjak.

Finally, let's note that tickets can only be purchased in advance at the Viniti wine shop. Reservations can be made by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 098/1747-108. The price of individual tickets is HRK 150 or HRK 200 (depending on the workshop), while daily packages cost HRK 500 each. There are 20 tickets for each workshop, so get in touch as soon as possible to reserve your spot! You can find more information about the workshops on the WineOS website.

Wednesday, 2 November 2022

Strong Tourist Season in Baranja, More in Store for the Winter

November 2, 2022 - As early as in mid-September, the number of overnight stays in Baranja was equal to the total number of overnight stays achieved in 2019, which means that the record has already been exceeded.

Glas Slavonije reported on the positive trend which this eastern Croatian region has been enjoying. "Judging by the inquiries and planned events, we are expecting a great tourist year", said Matej Perkušić, director of the Baranja Tourist Board, stressing that it is obvious that, above all, domestic guests have acquired a new habit, "to travel and spend nights within Croatia, including Baranja."

He reminds that there is no season or postseason on the "continent", which is confirmed by the numerous visitors to several events in Slavonia-Baranja during the past months. Željka Bagarić-Dumančić from the Baranja Tourist Board claims that guests will have a reason to come to Baranja (but also a bit more).

"Let's start with the events included in the celebration of the Day of Beli Manastir, Martinje. Among the whole series of different and interesting month-long events organised by the City, Beli Manastir associations and institutions, I single out the preparation of traditional Baranja fish dishes, which will be held on November 5 in the Hungarian House of MKU Pelmonostor. On the very Day of Beli Manastir, a concert by the tambura group Fijaker is planned, and the day after a fair of local products with a rich gastronomic offer", said Bagarić-Dumančić.

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Steve Tsentserensky

Many guests will also be attracted by the traditional Karanac Winter Fair and Čvarak Fest on November 26 at the Karanac Field, organised by the Association of Keepers of Old Crafts (Udruga čuvara starih zanata), with the help of Baranjska Kuća and Baranja Tourist Board. This year too, visitors will be welcomed by numerous stands, a rich gastronomic offer and interesting content. This year's novelty is the winter Wine & Walk. So far, only the summer one has been held, and due to numerous inquiries from the participants, the local tourist board, in cooperation with the Baranja Winegrowers Association, decided to organise one during the colder part of the year as well. It will be held on December 10.

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Steve Tsentserensky

"We expect between 200 and 300 participants. On the nine-kilometer-long trail through Suza and Zmajevac, the famous wine meccas of Baranja, participants will be welcomed at numerous locations by Baranja winemakers and restaurants with top-quality wines and snacks. We will provide the walkers with a map, a wine glass and a winter hat, and the participants will need to make sure they wear comfortable clothes and shoes and a good mood", explains Bagarić-Dumančić, adding that the wineries Pinkert, Kovač, Kolar, Horvat, Gerštmajer, Svijetli dvori, Zlatno brdo, Kalazić, Josić, Szabo and Kusić will be waiting for the walkers. The energy will be taken care of (also) by the Kovač Čarda restaurant, the Oaza Mira vacation house, the "Tako je to nekad bilo" (As It Once Was) association, the Borarium Vinarium, and the Kusić cellars. The registration fee is HRK 300. The afterparty is in Katolički Surduk. Finally, let us not forget the Baranja Advent (Christmas markets) in Kneževi Vinogradi and Beli Manastir.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated Travel section.

Sunday, 2 October 2022

1st October Weekend in Osijek Was Full of Life - Trust Us, Head On East

October 2, 2022 - Osijek is too much fun. The 4th largest city in Croatia and the regional centre of eastern Croatia lives the good life. The IT scene is booming, new things keep popping up, and cultural events are ever-present. The autumn months are especially exciting. During the day, you can still chill in the sun by the Drava, and in the evening, walk through one of Osijek's many parks, picking up wild chestnuts. Or you can enjoy them as a snack if you buy them roasted from the legendary carts. And on late September / early October weekends, now traditionally, you don't even need to ask what everyone is doing. Just Head On East.

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This festival, as the name suggests, celebrates hedonism in the east. And does it shine brightly here. The organisers included the Osijek-Baranja County Tourist Board, the Osijek-Baranja County, the City of Osijek, and many of the city's institutions - schools, libraries, museums, and associations. It felt like all of Osijek just came together to create an unforgettable experience. And we don't say that lightly.

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The organisers thought of everything and made sure to accommodate all ages and personal definitions of hedonism. Whether that is food, fine wine, beautiful art and light installations, or good music, you could spend the entire weekend living in Osijek's royal parks. 

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This year's theme was a royal one, with the main venues being the royal parks of Osijek, i.e., the parks carrying names of kings and queens. Our favourite was the one that hosted the Kingdom of Wine or KraljeVINA (wordplay in Croatian: Kraljevina = kingdom, and vina = of wine). Fun fact, with 17 parks (surpassing the number of squares), Osijek is known as the Green City or the City of Parks. And Head On East utilised that to create an atmosphere of warmth, familiarity, and joy, yet excitement for something new at every step. 

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From early morning on Friday until late at night on Saturday, something was happening. Workshops and theatre for the little ones, cook-offs and culinary classes at the market, art, education, wine tasting, local food, craft beer and gin, and live concerts. What impressed us the most was the thoughtful planning and organisation of the locations and events, which made heading on east dynamic and entertaining in a way you wouldn't necessarily think about. The parks felt like a little kingdom each but were all connected by the central theme, hedonism. And though something else was happening at every location, and all the events and crowds made it busy, the route was logical and made it easy to enjoy every aspect.

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The light installations put up along European Avenue made the night simply magical. The fact that not only you could walk into the Museum of Fine Arts and look around while listening to a live jazz concert in its backyard but also try your hand at contributing to a painting while having a glass of local wine would probably make anyone suddenly start appreciating art that much more.

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To quote Ivana Jurić, the director of Osijek-Baranja County Tourist Board, we invite you to come and experience the east of Croatia more. Head On East and discover what it's all about!

Photos are courtesy of Visit Slavonija Baranja Facebook page (Marko Banić / Osijek-Baranja County Archive).

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated Travel section.

Tuesday, 27 September 2022

Days Left Until Royal HeadOnEast Festival Celebrating Croatia's East

September 27, 2022 - We are counting the days until the fourth edition of HeadOnEast. This spectacular event delights even the most demanding hedonists who will seek happiness this weekend in the east of Croatia. Yesterday in the Osijek-Baranja County, the entire program of this now traditional festival was presented.

SiB writes, "HeadOnEast is not only becoming recognisable in Croatia, but beyond. Both as a festival, and as a brand of eastern Croatia that visitors can enjoy all year round. In cooperation with the Tourist Board, Osijek-Baranja County will present the best of everything it has to offer during the two-day festival created four years ago, during the Croatian Tourism Day in the east of Croatia," said prefect Ivan Anušić. This year's HeadOnEast takes place on September 30 and October 1 with the support of the City of Osijek. So hurry up to book a good party in the city on the Drava, because according to the tourist numbers, the accommodation capacities are almost full. After two pandemic years, Osijek-Baranja County saw record numbers, just like in 2019.

"HeadOnEast truly offers the best that we have, and that's why this festival has become recognisable in such a short time. I thank the Osijek-Baranja County for its excellent organisation because Osijek also records excellent tourism results, to which such festivals certainly contribute," said Dragan Vulin, deputy mayor of Osijek.

In the most beautiful parts of the city of Osijek, the festival of hedonism wearing royal clothes will shine at several city locations. During two days, they will become kingdoms with the majority of events taking place in the parks of King Petar Krešimir IV and King Tomislav Park, and King Držislav Park.

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Festival programme, Visit Slavonija Baranja

"Every true hedonist enjoys life like a king. That's why we're starting the event at Kraljica Pija, where a royal breakfast for hedonists awaits us in cooperation with our partners HAPIH and the Regional Centre of Competence of the Hospitality and Tourism School in Osijek, followed by the Cooking show "The best fish are in the east" with fresh ingredients from our market," said Ivana Jurić, director of the Osijek-Baranja County Tourist Board.

We will continue with the classics in Sakuntala Park and the Avenue Theatre, in one of the most beautiful parts of the city, the Art Nouveau European Avenue. The program then moves to the City and University Library, where we will discuss new books and play in the royal playroom. Across the street, at the Museum of Fine Arts, we have a rich music program, and all of that as darkness falls is accompanied by the Houses of Light in European Avenue and the main HedOnEast zones.

In Kraljevina (the Kingdom), we will drink top wines, and in the King's Park, we will play the royal game with our partner associations Dokkica, Breza, and Đola - making cloaks, crowns, and swords, everything that a real kingdom must have. This part is dedicated to children because they are the kings of the game.

"Beercuz also waits with craft beers, Labos with brandies, gin and domestic whiskeys, and the unmissable street food. An evening walk under the lanterns awaits us on both days, followed by a rich music program. From Nera & Updown, Filip Pavić and the Jazz Quartet, Fluentes, Gelato Sisters, Meritas, Massimo, DJ Vladimir Božić, Croatian Funk Delegation, Surogat, Ida Prester and Lollobrigida, Daleka Obala, to Z++. Saturday morning is booked for the antiques fair and another Cooking show, "Where do the black pigs go," at Kraljica Pija, as well as several playrooms, story rooms, and exhibitions in several locations," Jurić added.

Along with the City of Osijek, the Tourist Board of the City, the Croatian Tourist Board, the Cultural Centre, the Market, HAPIH, the Museum of Fine Arts, the City and University Library, the Hospitality School, the associations Đola, Breza, and Dokkica, and Adverta, there are new partners who have recognised the value of this event. Croatia osiguranje and Ledo will support this year's royal HeadOnEast.

Osijek is about to become a big stage that will fill all the senses, even for the biggest hedonists, on September 30 and October 1. During the two-day festival, it will summarise to its visitors all the hedonistic benefits of the Osijek-Baranja County that you can experience 365 days a year.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated Travel section.

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