Saturday, 24 December 2016

The 10 Most Popular Stories on Total Croatia News in 2016

A busy media year is coming to end. So which were the stories which proved the most popular in Croatia in 2016?

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

A Year in the Life of a Total Croatia News Writer

As 2016 draws to a close and people prepare for the festive season, a look back at 2016 through eyes of a Total Croatia News writer on December 21, 2016. It has been quite a year!

Thursday, 3 November 2016

How Many Foreign Ingredients Does Croatian Tourism Need?

As an international halal conference opened in Opatija on November 2, 2016, just how many foreign ingredients does Croatian need for its tourism?

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Is Croatia Finally Becoming the 12-Month Tourist Destination It Should Be?

Whisper it quietly, but a number of factors are turning 'The Mediterrean as It Once Was' from a summer beach destination into one of Europe's most exciting and diverse tourism countries going into 2017, 12 months a year. Meet Croatia. 

Friday, 8 July 2016

A Year as a Foreigner in the Croatian Media: Total Croatia News Turns One

Total Croatia News celebrated its first anniversary on July 8, 2016. Some reflections on running a Croatian media portal as a foreigner.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Journalist Feeling Sad As He Got It Right - Overview Of The Croatian Appearance at EURO 2016

One sad writer analyzes the Croatian Team at the 2016 EURO.

Sunday, 7 March 2021

Is It Really Necessary to Poison the Minds of the Next Generation?

As Croatian divisive politics harks back to the past and continues to divide the country, is it really necessary to poison the minds of the next generation?

I am aware that this article will alienate a number of people, particularly the large number who will not read past the headline but still pronounce their social media hatred and threats. I am ok with that. I am aware that the article will probably get a lot of hits, but I don't write for the hits, as TCN is not a clickbait website, but I think that it is an important thing for people here to consider as they debate the past and the future. 

It is an article I have wanted to write for a very long time, but I have hesitated, knowing the likely reactions it would bring, but the time is right, particularly now with the current cycles of division and hatred in the political scene. 

As a parent, there are events and dates that you never forget. Being present at the birth, first smile, first steps, the first day of kindergarten. And so on. 

And in my case, November 19, 2014, a date I will never forget. 

It was 6am, another tranquil early morning on the island of Hvar, and I was starting the day's blogging in bed when the door opened and my 7-year-old daughter entered shaking and sobbing. I took her into the bed, wrapped her in my arms and kept her warm and safe, not talking to her. I was trying to figure out what in the world would make her so upset in this paradise childhood on Hvar, surrounded by a loving family, where everything was safe, safe, safe. 

Racking my brains at trying to find clues to anything that may have upset her - an argument, something. Nothing. And then I saw the date on my computer. The day after November 18, an important day in the Croatian psyche, remembering Vukovar. It is a very dignified memorial of a recent and horrific event, as streets bearing the city's name all over the country are lined with candles, and town squares are filled with candles put there by those who will not - and should not - forget, including school children. It must have been something about Vukovar that so upset my daughter. 

"What have people been saying about Vukovar? Is that why you are upset?"

"Yes, Daddy, it is horrible. The Serbs came with tanks and they destroyed everything, and then they took an old man and put him on this thing, and then stretched his body, and then they put cigarettes out in his eyes." And she cried again.

I held her tight and changed the subject, tears welling up inside me - a mixture of sadness and anger.

Seven years old, first grade at school.

What had been taught at school and what discussed in the playground, I have no idea, but the case is certainly not isolated to her school - it is common all over Croatia. Time passed, but the thing would not leave me, and as I was chatting to my girls the other day, I asked them to show me their homework for Vukovar. Above is the homework of my younger daughter, seven years old when she did it.

"Some of my friends drew dead bodies, Daddy, but the teacher told them that they should not draw dead bodies."


Well done to the teacher, but what kind of society are we living in, when young children are drawing dead bodies for their homework, creatively reproducing the images that their society has given them?  

Remembering - and learning from - Vukovar is of the utmost importance, but is this really the way to do it? People will tell me now (once again) to fuck off back to London, and what do I know, coming from a country which has not experienced the horrors of the Nineties here. And I would agree up to a point. I was in Rwanda in 1994 during the genocide, where 8,000 people a day were killed every day for 100 days until 800,000 people or 11% of the population had been killed. Looking at the progress Rwanda has made in the last 20 years from its horrors is striking compared to here. 

But that is a separate discussion, for my concern here, are the minds of the next generation. Should they not be filled with love and beautiful things, to give them the strongest possible start in life, rather than drawing dead bodies at the age of seven? Isn't there a time later in their childhood when they can get into the torrid detail, if they must?

The burden of the young modern Croatian child is not restricted to the recent conflict, it continues with politics. My daughter came home from school one day, again aged seven, to tell me that one of her friends was HDZ and the other SDP. She had no idea what either meant, but kids had been branded, almost like Hajduk supporters, and the education of division at home has started. The number of times I heard the words Ustasa, Fascist, Partisans and Communists among Jelsa's younger generation after the famous Christmas star episode, is alarming. 

Croatia is the most political country I have ever lived in, by far. Ask the average adult Brit on the street how many politicians they can name by face and job title, and the answer will probably be about 5-10. Despite what people may think with the running of this website, I am apolitical and politics is never discussed at home. Despite that my daughter can name and recognise the following:

Mayors Peronja (Jelsa), Baldasar (Split) and Bandic (Zagreb - did you see him trying to speak Italian, Daddy - so funny).

Presidents Mesic, Tudjman, Kosor (the day after yesterday Daddy), Josipovic (did you see him falling off the stage in Belgrade, Daddy, so funny), Kolinda.

Tim, Bozo, Tomi K., Zoki - she knows them all. Not because she is into politics at all, but because politicians are celebrities here, spouting their division and harking back to the past at every turn. 

Nine years old. 

We can't move forward until we have dealt with our past, they scream in the bars in Sydney. Lustration. Nothing without lustration. I abhor all totalitarian regimes, and true horrors occurred on all sides in this region for too long. But what is the plan for the future? To continue to poison the minds of the future of Croatia, to prolong the hatred for another generation? And then another, and another? To provide the first nightmares in the lives of your children and grandchildren? For what?

Croatia desperately needs to move on before all its young talent has left, it needs to look to the future. People say it is still filled with its Communist past, with the prominent people in yesteryear pulling the strings today, without the mentality changing. I can accept that, but those people will become less and less by generation until they are all gone, and then we will have a new Croatia, a Croatia which has new heroes - Mate Rimac, Luka Modric, Janica Kostelic and others, people who were themselves barely touched with the horrors of the past, apart from early childhood. These are the role models and symbols of the new Croatia that children should be talking about and trying to emulate, rather than learning about political division and how to draw dead bodies.

The hate in Croatia is unbelievable (and my inbox is a small snapshot of it), and while I understand it, the question to the haters and those who refuse to move in is this:

Is this really what you want for your children? Inducing nightmares on your own kids, and watching them express their creativity by drawing dead bodies at the age of seven?

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Total Croatia News Speaking at 17th HUOJ PR Conference: Croatian Tourism Through Foreign Eyes

TCN is delighted to be invited to speak at the 17th Croatian Public Relations Asocciation (CPRA) conference on a panel called Times of Change: Croatian Tourism through Foreign Eyes. 

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Is a Foreigner Allowed to Have an Opinion in Croatia?

The joys of expressing an opinion as a foreigner, or why Croatia will never change. Is a foreigner allowed to have an opinion in Croatia?

I was chatting to a fairly senior Croatian diplomat recently about Croatia, the Croatian mentality, the ineptitude of this government (I may as well say it publicly, as their men in dark suits and expensive surveillance equipment were listening to every word at the Liberland conference I attended in a village north of Osijek this weekend - Evelyn Waugh, where are you when we need you to satirise A Weekend in Alice in LiberWonderLand), and the diplomat said something that really made me smile:

"We are a half-retarded nation surrounded by beautiful nature."

It was a comment I shared with perhaps 20 Croatian friends, and none of them disagreed, with several laughing wryly at what they saw as the sad truth of the statement, but my smile had nothing to do with the statement itself, more with the reaction that would have been evoked if I had stated the words as my own. 

The opinion of a foreigner... 

As an aspiring blogger, I was extremely sensitive about any comments from the general public when I started the Total Project 4.5 years ago. Every comment was analysed, and even the mildest criticism would have me contemplating, making me extra careful for the future. I was on reasonably safe ground, however, as I was writing positive promotional stuff for Croatia's premier island, articles which were getting international attention, and which even inspired a couple from Mexico City to move to Jelsa (and they are still here in Croatia, more than three years later). But even when you are positive as a foreigner, the criticism is not far behind. My all-time favourite:

"It is not right or fair that a foreigner has the best website about Hvar." Excuse me for breathing.

 It did not take me long to realise that the occasional criticism when you were being positive could turn to an avalanche if you dared to say anything negative. It is one of my fascinations with Croats in general, much as I love them. When the system or an issue really sucks, it will appear in the newspapers, outrage will be expressed online and in cafes, and nothing will change. But if that issue is aired in the English language, thereby widening the publicity and with a greater chance of effecting that change, well - the shame! Foreigners might hear there are problems. Never mind that there might be change, or a greater awareness of the issue - by expressing an opinion as a foreigner, all the problems of the issue are heaped upon the person without Croatian blood. 

It used to bother me, but now I found it both amusing and constructive as, for every 100 comments of hatred from trolls with erectile dysfunction, there is one email - actually more each time - of support from people who are tired of pretending all one has to do to love life is wrap oneself in the flag and relive the good old days. Those one, two or increasingly more emails have given me renewed hope for this country, as I am finding that there are enough committed people to make a change. 

To get to that small minority however, you have to go through the wall of hate, and listen to the majority who deny you the right to an opinion. While privately many will agree with you about the ineffectiveness of certain officials, or about the lack of information, should you dare to write about something like bus timetables in Jelsa, the vilification begins, and friends who agreed with everything you said a week before in private, now unfriend you on Facebook, look the other way on the street, and join the online campaign to discredit the foreigner who dared to say something negative about a local. A closing of ranks, and if things are so bad here, why don't you just fuck off back to England?

The fact is I DO like it here, for all its faults, and I would not have invested so much time promoting Croatia internationally if I did not. I also think I have a right to an opinion, and I do find it amusing the way any criticism of anything Croatian is automatically redirected against the opinion maker, rather than admit that he might have a point. While people can spend the entire day complaining about what is wrong with Croatia, should a foreigner dare to express the same opinion, he is ostracised. It is one of the reasons why Croatia will never change, for its people are unwilling (or incapable, I am really not sure which) of taking on board constructive criticism. 

The reaction to my last editorial on the discovery of the uhljeb left me genuinely surprised. The first surprise was how widely the article was read. I have travelled all over Croatia these last couple of weeks and met lots of new people, and nearly all of them had read the article. Unless they were an uhljeb, I didn't meet anyone who disagreed with a single word, but of course behind the curtain of online anonymity, what right did this British idiot have to criticise us - he should look at his own country (that deflecting the problem somewhere else again). 

It is not just me. While almost everyone I know complains about the economic situation and Croatia's poor performance, when an establishment like the EU points out a couple of things, they should be checking Bulgaria and Romania instead (our old friend, deflection again). A constuctive criticism of Croatia is always seen as an attack on Croatia, and as such encounters resistance and zero change. 

I had perhaps my most uplifting meeting of the year last week in Split. It helped perhaps that there was beer and my four companions were engaging and attractive young ladies, but what really inspired me was that here were four women from Hvar, Korcula and Solta who were motivated by the desire to bring positive change for their communities, and they have started a great initiative to bring together the positive energy of the islands into one place online in Croatian. I was more than happy to agree (and felt privileged to be invited) to join their project, and Total Croatia Islands will start later this year. Thank you for an amazing evening, ladies, if you are reading. 

"But Paul, can I ask you about those articles you wrote about the new Hvar brochure. There are a lot of people in Hvar Town who are really pissed off with you."

Ah, the brochure. Island of Hvar - Genuine Hedonism.

"I really don't understand, none of us do. Hedonism is about good food, good wine, indulgence. Why did you complain so much?"

It was a question that was asked in the Facebook comments when the foreigner expressed an opinion, before telling him to fuck off back to the UK. The thing is, I explained to the lovely lady opposite, I know exactly what you are trying to say, and what hedonism means in Croatian (I lived next door to Andro Tomic), but in English it means something a little different, and to prove my point, I entered the word 'hedonism' into Google Images, which is where I found the lead photo above. Don't try this at work unless you are not easily offended by lots of naked flesh in strange position - a wonderful promotion of Hvar. 

"Oh my God, now I completely understand," said my new, energetic friend. 

But how many others will, and will the brochure be distributed and cause more damage than the cost (and two years) of production? Of course it will, for the opinion of a foreigner is to be discarded, for what does he know, he is not from here. Of course I am not from here, and this is another thing which amuses me. Two of the most vocal groups in my experience are the Croat who has never travelled but has the most informed world view, and the son of the diaspora who has grown up abroad on stories of Croatia from older generations, spiced up with a month holiday in the summer each year. What could a foreigner, who has visited more than 90 countries and lived in 10 (including 13 years full time in Croatia) know about Croatia, the world or anything else? 

Reading through this, I wonder if I come across as bitter. I really am not, and I can honestly say that I have never felt more energised or motivated in my 13 years here. One has to wade through the trolls with erectile dysfunction to find the quality people here, but I am finding it easier to meet those people, and once we make of a success of Total Croatia Cycling, Total Croatia Wine, Total Croatia Technology and Total Croatia Islands, I am sure the ratio of trolls to quality people will become more even, and I look forward to that VERY much. 

In the meantime, I will continue to express my opinion - that is, of course, if a foreigner is allowed to. 

For more editorials from TCN, click here.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Meet the Total Croatia News Writers: Slobodan Kadic

I have been privileged over the last couple of years to have been invited on numerous Croatian press trips around the country. Privileged because I am often the only foreigner and also because I am not a trained journalist, and so I usually feel that I do not belong. But there are some journalists on these trips who not only make you feel welcome, but also who make you feel that you belong.

I can think of no better example of my (now) good friend Slobodan Kadic, an outstanding journalist from Glas Slavonia in the north-eastern territories where most Jelsa boys never venture. From the moment we met at Palmizana on my first Gastronaut trip, Slobodan has had me smiling and laughing every moment of our time together, and we have agreed to embark on a project together writing the definitive guide to Croatian vegetable festivals when time permits. 

I am feeling bolder about asking my writing friends for help with Total Croatia News, but I have to say that nobody has so far reacted quite as positively or as quickly as Slobodan. Not only did he agree and send his first article within an hour, but he called me this morning with a couple of ideas for stories if they would be of interest to the site. 

Thank you, Sir, and I am honoured to have you on the team, and I look forward to our readers discovering the magic of Slavonia through your keyboard.

About Slobodan Kadić

Freelancer - journalist of Glas Slavonije daily newspaper and photographer, member of FIJET Croatia (World Federation of Travel Journalists and Writers) Executive Board. Winner of HZSN award for work/activities in local media.2009. Now living in Moscow (Russia) and Klokočevci (Croatia).

I am available for writing services. Please contact me on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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