Thursday, 26 March 2020

New Croatian Travel Restrictions: Meet the Neighbourhood Borders of Varazdin

March 26, 2020 - So how do the new measures and travel restrictions in Croatia look at a local level. A snapshot from Varazdin resident Paul Fischer or Rural Property Croatia

All they need to do now is to cut the phone and the Internet and the television, and we would have no idea what is going on. 

The new travel restrictions in Croatia have come into force, in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus,and it is clear that the authorities are taking this VERY seriously indeed. 

The first inkling I had locally was last night here in Jelsa on Hvar. I have been here for about two weeks in self-isolation with my family, and I am yet to meet anybody from the island. I am chained to the laptop from 5 am until midnight, apart from meal breaks and one precious hour when I go for a walk alone by the sea or along the riva - there is absolutely nobody else about. 

It is a walk I can take no longer. Two police cars were patrolling the town of Jelsa last night, and I was informed that the outside world is now only for food shopping, pharmacy visits and other essentials. 

While inconvenient, I fully support these measures and I am very impressed at how seriously the Croatian authorities are taking this, after a slow start. It is a policy which will save lives. 

But how is it elsewhere in the country? Now that we are not permitted to travel, it is hard to tell, but the Internet is a wonderful thing. My good friend Paul Fischer, a longterm resident of Varazdin, posted this on Facebook this morning, which gives a very nice snapshot of how things look on the neighbourhood level - at least where he is. 

Do you have an interesting story with photos of the new measures where you are in Croatia? Send through to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject New Measures. 

And now, her is Paul Fischer on life in his hood.

Just to compare with how things are being done where you are.....

In Varaždin, new neighbourhood borders have been established where each has at least one groceries shop and chemist within it. Roadblocks have been established to prevent us from moving from neighbourhood to neighbourhood without reason. To get the necessary permission, you need to convince the local civil defence people of your reason/s and they will give you a code number. You must present your photo ID at any roadblock and quote your permission number, they will check that you look like you are doing what your permission allows and, if so, let you through. The pic is of the checkpoint near me.

Only one person may enter a shop (or be in a vehicle) and you must have gloves and mask before they let you in and spray you with ... whatever. Everyone else must wait outside until their turn comes.

I don't know what the Croatian is for "no messin'".... but that would sum it up nicely. Public disobedience is not strong here so people are playing the game properly. Time will tell if it will prove effective.

For the latest news about coronavirus in Croatia, check out the dedicated TCN section



Friday, 13 March 2020

Coronavirus Panic v Reality: Croatian Supermarket Shopping in Varazdin

March 13, 2020 - Experts say that panic surrounding coronavirus can be more dangerous that the virus itself. Amid news of panic Croatian supermarket buying, TCN visits three supermarkets in Varazdin to see the realities on the ground.  

Even though TCN is enjoying record traffic at the moment (who would have thought mid-March, out of the tourist season and with no football happening, we would have more traffic than Croatia reaching the World Cup Final in July 2018), I will confess that I am not enjoying my job at the moment. I am also realising the ease and the power of fake news in a time of international panic. The conditions for clickbait and short-term Adsense gain are huge. As someone who has always been relaxed about my style of writing, I realise that this is a time to be careful about every word we publish. And with people searching for trustworthy sources of information, providing non-sensationalist, reliable information is what we are aiming for. One of the aims of this approach is to provide some kind of buffer against the understandable panic and hysteria that the current situation can easily create.  

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Stories of panic buying of items such as toilet paper have done the rounds all over the globe, with Australians distinguishing themselves in this particular sport. 

Stories of panic buying in Croatian supermarkets have started to circulate, so I decided to see what the situation was on the ground this afternoon here in Varazdin, a city close to the Slovenian border. Varazdin has four confirmed cases of coronavirus and, along with the rest of Croatia, it was announced today that schools would be closed for an initial two weeks from Monday. So how was the panic buying in reality?

First stop, Spar.  

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At least if there was no food, we would be able to drown our sorrows.

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But food was indeed plentiful.  

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And, for from panic buying, trolleys were not overloaded, and queues were short.  

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Bread was plentiful.  

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As was the selection of fresh meat.  

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And then the most important item, it seems - are you watching, Australia?  

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So much toilet paper, in fact, that there as an extra pallet in an aisle, with discount sales. Who would have thought! 

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Off to Plodine. 

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Toilet Paper Heaven! 

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Nothing out of the ordinary about those queues.  

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And plenty of tissues and other sanitaries.  

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Plenty of choice to stock up on.  

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Including a healthy meat selection.  

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Off to Lidl. 

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A nice welcoming bread selection.  

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I fought my way through the panicked crowds.  

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Mercifully, for any visiting Australian tourists, there was still some dunny paper for sale. 

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And the sort of waiting time that this impatient shopper can deal with.

Keep Calm and Carry On. Croatians know well how to survive hardship and crisis, as their recent wartime experiences will attest to. If hard times come, Croatians will adapt, as they always do. The situation here in Varazdin is very calm, and as long as we all stay calm, we will avoid the panic. And if we avoid the panic, half the battle is won. 

For the latest on the coronavirus crisis in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Coronavirus in Croatian Football: Rijeka and Istra Without Fans, Lokomotiva Limiting Spectators

March 10, 2020 - A closer look at how the coronavirus outbreak is effecting Croatian football.

Following the announced measures of the Croatian Civil Protection Staff from March 9, the relevant bodies of the Croatian Football Federation (HNS) issued instructions for playing football matches in the following period.

The following instructions have been determined by the leadership of the Croatian Football Federation, headed by President Davor Šuker and Executive Director Marijan Kustić, HNS Executive Board, HNS Medical Commission with President prof. Dr Dragan Primorac, HNS Competition Commission led by President Ante Vučemilović-Šimunović, Commission of Football Referees with President Anto Kulušić, HT First League Competition Commissioner Josip Brezni and HNS Security Commissioner Miroslav Marković:

1. It is obligatory to adhere to all decisions, measures and recommendations which he has prescribed and which will be prescribed by the Civil Protection Staff of the Republic of Croatia or other competent state institutions.

2. Considering the HNS competition calendar, all competitions under the HNS's jurisdiction shall continue with or without spectators.

3. Match organizers are obliged to fully respect and implement the measures of the Civil Protection Staff of the Republic of Croatia.

4. We emphasize the obligation of the organizers to obtain the consent of the County Civil Protection Headquarters and the competent Institute of Public Health regarding the fulfillment of the prescribed conditions for the organization of the match before the matches.

The Croatian Football Federation will continue to closely monitor the situation with the epidemic of the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and will, if necessary, determine new measures and issue new instructions, which will be notified to the football family and the public promptly.

In accordance with the recommendation of the Civil Protection Staff, the opinion of the County Institute of Public Health of Istria County and the decision of the Croatian Football Federation to continue the competition, Istra 1961 announced that its 27th and 28th round HNL games, scheduled on March 14 and 21, will be played without spectators.

On Saturday, March 14, Rijeka will visit Pula to play Istra, while a week later, Hajduk will visit Aldo Drosina Stadium.

"Both games will be played without the presence of spectators and there will be no ticket sales," the first-league team from Pula said.

The Istrian Institute of Public Health on Tuesday issued special recommendations to prevent the coronavirus epidemic, which, among other things, delays all outdoor and indoor gatherings, from children's events and birthdays, to sports, cultural, business and other events.

The Istra decision was only the first since Rijeka and Varazdin later came forward. Both have suspended ticket sales for their next home games.

Varazdin will host Dinamo on Sunday, March 15, and three days later, Rijeka will host Osijek in the Croatian Cup semi-finals. Both Varazdin and Rijeka have stopped selling tickets for those duels.

Lokomotiva will host Osijek at Kranjceviceva stadium on Friday from 6 pm.

'According to the published measures of the Civil Protection Headquarters of the Republic of Croatia, NK Lokomotiva, as the host of the match, will adhere to the maximum extent and implement all instructions, measures and recommendations regarding the organization of the match by the County Civil Protection Headquarters and the Institute of Public Health.

The maximum number of viewers will be 1,000.

NK Lokomotiva will provide checkpoints with disinfectants and urges viewers to refrain from the usual non-verbal communication that involves shaking hands and avoiding closer social contact.'

The club also urges fans with respiratory illness and/or fever (greater than 37.5 C) not to attend the match.

Tickets are purchased exclusively at the stadium ticket office on the day of the match, two hours before the start of the meeting (from 4:00 pm). 

Hajduk will play against Inter Zapresic at Poljud on Sunday at 3 pm as part of the 27th round. It is the first of two championship matches to be played in front of the empty stands because of the penalty that HNK Hajduk received for violations committed during the Hajduk - Dinamo match played on March 4.

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

Monday, 6 January 2020

Svijet Prirode (World of Nature), a Healthy Hidden Diamond of Varaždin Breg

January 6, 2020 - Looking to get back to nature and a healthy start to 2020? A wonderful family business highlighting Croatian indigenous goodness - Svijet Prirode near Varaždin Breg.

The Lukač family is the proud owner of a little zoo with various native species of Croatia. They have about 80 animals who enjoy living in a spacious meadow and eating healthy food. This heaven on Earth is in Varaždin Breg, along the old Varaždin-Zagreb road.

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Back to 2014

About five years ago, Nikolina and Josip wanted their kids to eat healthier, so they got a donkey, goat, and sheep to get milk and to make cheese. After some people heard that the Lukač family owns different kinds of animals, not just domestic ones, people start to call them and asked them if they can come to visit. Step by step, they started gathering many species of animals. As they met one guy in Hrvatsko Zagorje and wanted to buy a turkey (Zagorska purica), he told them something that led to all that they have now. He said to them that not long ago, a bus full of Chinese tourists came to his place to see his turkeys. Then Josip said: “Why wouldn't we have a private zoo with the native species of Croatia? People could see all of those animals in one place!”

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This whole thing started five years ago as an OPG (Family Farm), but as they also organize children's birthdays, they needed to open a company. All those years, they are continually making something new, building wooden houses, or extending the fences. Mostly they do it all by themselves or with the help of close family members. They have increased not only the numbers of animals but also in the area of the property. Now their animals are free to roam in an area of about 55 thousand square meters! Every animal has its part of the meadow and wooden house. The walking trail is about one kilometer long.

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Ever since Josip was a kid, he wanted to work with animals. A combination of circumstances led him to have his company and worked in it for about four years. He was so disappointed with people that he decided to leave this job and start working with animals. I quote (with permission): "I wanted to show certain people that it's easier to work with animals than with livestock."


Living with 80 animals, a man could think they get up at 5a.m., but...

…but they get up whenever they want. Their schedule depends on kids' obligations such as kindergarten or school. In the summer, there isn't a lot to do. They give animals food and water in the morning, and in the evening, they put the animals in their cottages. In the winter, it is a different story because the animals are in cottages, so Josip does the cleaning both in the morning and evening. It takes him 2-3 hours to do that. But, he said with the smile: "I am tired in the morning, of course, but when I come to these animals, I feel relaxed more than anything else."

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Kids (ages 1, 3, 5, and 7) show interest in animals and spend their summer holidays with them. These kids are raised without phones, computers, or PS4, but they aren't sad because of it. They sincerely enjoy playing on vast meadows along with the sheep and donkeys.

Out of the many activities they organize, The Christmas Story steals the show

They host children's birthdays which are led by entertainers, while Nikolina and Josip provide food. The best indicator they are doing a great job is that 90% of the kids who once celebrated their birthday there, come back the next year. As the saying goes, children are the most honest beings, so it is all clear here. ;)

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Besides the birthday parties, they organize summer children camps, a search for Easter eggs, Chestnut evenings (popularly called Kestenijada), weekends with knight orders, carnival days... But when it comes to their favourite activity, The Christmas Story is their favourite. Three years ago, Nikolina was Mary, and Josip was, well... Joseph. They even had a baby back then who was in charge of being Jesus. This was their first big deal as a family. Today, they have a whole program and people who are acting, making fire show, or play drums. Traditionally, at the end of the program, visitors release lanterns of good wishes.

Big dream and none of the help from the county

The county loves to promise them support and publicity for their events, but – as is often the case in Croatia – this support remains as just promised. Nikolina and Josip remain disappointed about the county, so now they rely on themselves and close friends. Their plans for next year include gathering all of the native species of Croatia. Besides that, they would love to have an orchard and plantations of Croatian species of trees. Among the plans for the future are more wooden houses for barbeque, sports terrains, and even some little apartments.

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The reason why this what they do is so special lies in their unique approach to guests. They don't have an ordinary playground for children, nor do they want one. Parents are sometimes disappointed by this fact. Yet they stayed amazed at how their kid plays on his own without any toys around. While parents enjoy their coffee with the owners of the farm, children find something exciting or play with the animals. "You could often hear parents saying: "Oh Gosh, I forgot that our kid is also with us here!" and that is what makes us happy."

What visitors appreciate the most is the friendly and open relationship the owners have with them. If visitors want to discover the farm by themselves, they can. But if they prefer to have the owners as their guide, Nikolina and Josip will gladly join them. After they see everything they want, they enjoy the coffee, ice cream, beer, mulled wine, or something else.

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The Lukač couple was concerned about having a farm near a road, but visitors often say to them that there is no feeling that they are near the road. They are completely relaxed and pay no attention to passing cars.

And if you are still making you mind about visit them, check this out:

Every group of kindergartens and schools plant their trees. Soon there will be educational trails with different species. For example, A Path of Acacia (Put bagrema) is already in the making.

If you have a family, this would be a perfect trip for every member. Owners said that more and more young couples like to come to their farm as a date. And if you don't have plans for Valentine's Day 2020, there will be a movie night in a cozy wooden house.

And if this story amazed you a bit more than usual, you can come and volunteer. The whole family would be happy to have you around occasionally.

Make sure you follow them on Facebook and on the official web site

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Radimir Čačić Re-Elected Alps-Adriatic Alliance Chair

ZAGREB, November 21, 2019 - Varaždin County prefect Radimir Čačić will again head the Alps-Adriatic Alliance (AAA) over the next two years, the Alps-Adriatic-Council decided in Varaždin on Thursday.

Čačić was elected Council chairman in Klagenfurt in 2017 as the first prefect from Croatia.

The emphasis in the next term will be to have big joint projects, not just small ones, financed from European Union funds, he said, adding that Varaždin County had also founded the Alps-Adriatic Association as an operational core to which all member states were invited.

AAA secretary-general Thomas Pseiner said he and his Steering Committee had approved 66 projects over the past two years, mainly for culture, but also for cross-border defence from natural disasters.

Čačić said there was interest for the northern Serbian province of Vojvodina to join the AAA.

The AAA has been active 41 years and comprises the Austrian regions Burgenland, Carinthia, and Styria, the Croatian counties Istria, Karlovac, Krapina-Zagorje, Koprivnica-Križevci, Međimurje, Primorje-Gorski Kotar and Varaždin, the Association of Cities and Towns of Slovenia, and the Hungarian county Vas.

More Varaždin news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Living in the Past: Meet the Knight Order of St Nicholas in Varaždin

November 20, 2019 - We are delighted to welcome Janja Šestak to TCN, the first of our three new interns from the Faculty of Political Science & Journalism in Zagreb. A really great first piece on the Knight Order of St Nicholas Varaždin. And you thought Gen Z was lost all day in gadgets...

A new departure in the random TCN journey of life, as we start our first internship programme. Am very grateful to Janja, Ana and Paula for agreeing to join this experiment. I first met Janja after I gave a lecture at the university. She told me that she wanted to apply for the internship, but was not sure what she could write about, and she was worried that her English would not be good enough. I told her to relax, we discussed what her interests were. 

And then she produced this!

Excellent start, young lady - more of the same please... 


Have you ever dreamt about stepping a few steps back in history? Have you ever dreamt of what was like to live in a castle? Dancing around the field with the knight and ladies? Crazy, isn't it? And what if I tell you all of this is possible in the 21st century? Even crazier, right?

In the small, baroque city of Varaždin in northern Croatia, you can find real knights and real ladies from the Middle Ages. You must be wondering right now, how is this possible? Let me introduce you to the Knight Order of St Nicholas Varaždin. This reenactment group retells the stories from the past, covering the history of the 12th to the 15th century.

Croatia has its reenactment scene and plenty of groups that go back in time almost every weekend. Every weekend they appear in a different place depending on the story behind it. Today I will present you a group that is protecting the ramparts of Varaždin.

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Escape the 21th century and come back with me to where the idea came from

The historical group was founded on 27 December 2011 by three archers, Radivoj Miladinović, Nenad Slukić, and Sanjin Rožić. They were in a sports club, but they wanted something different, something new. One of the first rules they agreed on was that the group would be unprofitable. "Money corrupts people", they said. They wanted to be in a relaxed, friendly circle of people.

After they studied the history of Varaždin in detail - customs, traditions, clothing, even material for clothing - they started with some real things. They sewed their clothes in the exact form as it was, they made a couple of tents, wooden chairs and tables, agreed on a hierarchy in the group, and started gathering people. The first people to join were family members and friends. As the group was spreading, it gathered people with different talents and abilities. Some of them knew how to sew clothes, some of them were making jewelry, one woman knew calligraphy, a few of them were making swords, axes, chain-mail, shields, even authentic boots! If you notice, every person has some task in this group and it is something they are good at. When they go on tournaments, you know exactly who is in charge of what. And because of that, it's much easier to maintain a group.

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How do they dress?

Given that such clothing cannot be bought anywhere, they started making their clothes. They have learned from historical sources what material it should be, what patterns, how many layers of clothing, how citizens dressed, and how the nobility dressed. The women wore an underdress (smock) and houpelande, made of flax or raw cotton cloth. Depending on their stock, that is, their position in society, they enriched their clothes with various fur ornaments, the jewelry they made and belts around their waists. They would have a leather pouch called a gipser, which carryied the most essential items on their belt, just like men. Take the example of an ordinary citizen. His clothing consisted of pants made of flax or raw cotton cloth, with wool hose and leather shoes over them. The upper part of the body would be covered by a kirtle also made of the materials already mentioned, and a long tunic of wool or other warmer material would be put over it. During evening gatherings or cold nights, mantles were used, not with hoods as we see it in the movies, but those that looked more like a poncho. These are called paltocks. The hood was worn separately and was designed to cover the shoulders and part of the chest. It was made of wool because in previous times winter and evening were colder than they are now. Both men and women wore lightweight headgear throughout the day. A noble's clothes differed by being more luxurious, with gold buttons, with more fur, more elegant, better quality. Flax was mainly used for underwear, pants, while the outer layers were made of wool. All members of the group adhere to these rules because what they are constantly striving for is authenticity.

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And what do they need to look like authentic warriors?

Each member of the association has a specific role in the Order and therefore owns certain equipment. Members who choose to be warriors with swords own a sword, a shield, a helmet, chain-mail that has tens of thousands of connected small iron rings, armour, shoulder protectors, arms, elbows, knees, shins. Likewise, every warrior owns a gambeson, a piece of equipment that resembles a modern coat, stuffed with multiple layers of fabric for colder days, and also to ensure that the metal armour does not go on the tunic alone. The gambeson, in addition to the coat, includes pants and a hat that goes under the helmet to prevent the helmet from damaging the head and to dampen any impact.

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Depending on preferences, a member of the association chooses the weapon he or she wants; sword, ax, mace, knife, spear... Of course, all weapons are legally blunted and no injuries can occur. Archery warriors have their bow, arrows, bow, arm and finger protectors. They also wear helmets and headbands for protection. Archers were more readily equipped than knights who had full armour on them. The full armour worn by the knights weighs at least twenty pounds. For this reason, it is very difficult to move, fight or run. It is especially tiring when in such metal armour they have to stand in the sun or fight in the sun. But they do it all of their own free will, and they do not mind because they are already used to it.

You can check them out above on Lake Bled where they represented a military tactic called shield wall and archery training.

You might be wondering how their camp looks like

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Furthermore, each knight's association has its camp, which usually consists of an awning and two tents. This is the case with this Order, where one tent serves them as a kitchen. It contains all the food, drinks, a table where food is prepared, a wooden shelf containing plates and glasses, and a trash bag. The awning is only covered, but if the members sleep under the awning at night, "walls" can be added for a warmer and more comfortable atmosphere. By day, all members are under the awning, there are tables, benches, under the awning is lunch, etc. The third tent is for personal belongings; all the bags, the sleeping bags, everything that belongs to the modern world. Each knightly association makes sure that there is nothing modern on the tables or in a visible place. Many photographers and cameramen go through the camps, so, looking at what is in the camp, they prove their authenticity. The plates are wooden, the glasses are ceramic and wooden, the accessories are wooden or metal. In the evening, they set up torches in front of the camp, which they also made themselves, which creates the perfect atmosphere.

Who is in charge and how to become a knight?

At the head of the Knight Order of St. Nicholas Varaždin is the President, Grand Master Luka Borščak, Vice-President Alen Posavec, and Secretary Ivana Kovaček. The members of the Presidency are elected for a term of two years and re-election is possible. The Supervisory Board consists of Aleksandar Farkaš, Vlatko Lazić, and Ratko Ćosić. As the principal of the association, they arrange tournaments, the programme to be run, find transportation, take care of all the documentation, and generally the operation of the group.

When a person just joins the Order, they are first introduced to the rules, hierarchy, plans, actions. First, an application is signed on which to write their personal information, talents, or abilities and what he/she would like to be in that Order. After that, the search for clothing and sewing materials begins, aided by members of the Order who know more about it. When a person obtains appropriate clothing and footwear, he or she can participate in events. For the first year, he has the status of a squire. At the first meeting, the person is assigned his mentor, and the new person is his squire. This means that the mentor instructs the squire in the world of chivalry, the knight's code, the work of the association, gives advice, and the squire assists the mentor in dressing military equipment, for example. For the first year, the squire is observing. The Order looks at his will, whether he has progressed in something in that year, looks at his behavior in the Order, whether he helps when the camp is building, or whether he helps other members. It is not some kind of surveillance, it simply pays a little more attention to the squire to decide after a year whether they are admitted to the Order or not.

If they prove to be worthy of joining the Order, men can claim the title of knight. The authorisation process can be done, at the request of the candidate, at an event or in a circle of association members. Most of them choose to be knighted at an event because it is a great honor and the audience has a rare opportunity to see the ceremonial process of authorisation. The ceremony is led by the Grand Master of the association, with the squire first standing in front of him, then kneeling on one knee. The Grand Master asks the candidate some of the following questions: Did you do a good deed? Did you save a lady in distress? Did you save your master? Did you learn archery, fencing and horse riding skills? Did you protect the weaker than yourself? Are you ready to defend women, the powerless and the master? Did you learn court dances? Are you ready at any moment, at the urging of your master, to defend your region, your people and your country?

This is followed by the sentence: “Now you will receive the last slap in your life that you cannot answer. Get ready.” After that comes the slap. Then the Grand Master pulls out his sword and says, "Get up Nicholas, Knight from the Raven's Mount."

Women, unfortunately, cannot become a knight because this is not historically accurate. Although the association is more indulgent than other associations in terms of women's clothing, for example, becoming a female knight cannot be implemented. Therefore, this association devises a way for women to have their ceremony of becoming a lady.

Absolutely everyone has their responsibilities and there are no differences or highlights in this Order. Whether president or newcomer, everyone does the same. By work I mean loading things into a van, unloading, erecting a campsite, tent, and awning, assistance with the kitchen... According to the President, there is a friendly atmosphere, mutual support, openness in this Order. People like this association because it is what they are interested in, what they love, and that makes it easier immediately.

In the association, the members agree on what they want to do regardless of gender and stereotypical division into male and female jobs. Just as women are in the kitchen and sewing clothes, so are men cooking, making shoes, clothes, playing.

Check their Facebook page to stay in touch with their work.

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Why there is a battle in May in Varaždin?

The Knight Order of Saint Nikola Varaždin also has its tournament. The "Anđeoska strijela" tournament is traditionally held on the last weekend in May at the foot of the Old Town Castle in Varaždin. Each year, there is an increasing number of participants, a richer program and many visitors. In the morning, the associations arrive and set up their camps or camps. First, they make their way through the city, where all the associations, led by their flag, follow one another with the sounds of drums, flutes, songs. The tournament is officially opened by the mayor of the city, followed by an archery tournament where up to 50 competitors compete. Archers are shooting traditional wooden bows and wooden arrows at a distance of 20 meters. The archery tournament is followed by a solemn announcement of the winner, lunch, court dances, performances, demonstrations of military tactics, an archery workshop and even a brewery and production of local beer. At events like this, booth owners who sell their products are always present. So you can see blacksmiths, seamstresses, people who make jewelry and those who make little wooden swords and shields for the youngest. With the archery tournament, the most important thing is the Battle of the Granary of 1242. All associations take part in staging a historic battle relevant to the city of Varaždin. Before the battle, all members of the visiting associations who wish to participate in the battle come to the host camp to agree on a battle plan. Usually, the two warlords compete with each other, giving reasons why the other should relent and surrender. In this case, the knight of Varaždin Mihajlo defends the granary from the Tatars who burned and looted the surrounding villages. At the beginning of the battle, both warlords send three of their best knights to a duel of what is called God's judgment. Everyone agrees that the army whose knights defeat enemy knights, that she is the victor and that there is no need for the further battle and bloodshed of hundreds of people. The duels are always played between two knights from the same association as they have rehearsed choreography and no injuries can occur. But whoever wins the duel, the undefeated side is never satisfied and decides to attack the rivals. The battle is played out according to a plan that the audience, of course, does not know, so everything looks very attractive and interesting. What is always taken care of is the safety of the audience and participants. The audience has a place where they can see everything and make sure that nothing happens to them. Battles always end with great applause and exclamations, taking pictures and smiles. Still, staging a historic battle is not something every day and people are delighted to see authentically trained people fighting for their city. They are especially surprised to see women in battle, whether fighting with the sword or as an archer.

(Tournament “Anđeoska strijela”, 2017 in the video above)

How I got involved and what it’s like to be a woman dressed up like a man?

In my 2nd year of high school (Prva gimnazija Varaždin), there was a Medieval Week where we could learn about the Middle Ages in a different way than usual. I applied for a day when two knights came, actually members of the Knight Order of Saint Nicholas Varaždin. Honestly, I have never heard of them before, but this seemed interesting so, why not? These two were former Grand Master, Radivoj Miladinović and secretary of the association, Luka Borščak. They brought with them a lot of medieval weapons, such as swords, axes, shields, bows, and arrows. I had been interested in all of this since I was a kid. You know, when you grow up with one sister and two brothers, you enjoy making bows and arrows at home and enter the feeling of Lord of the Rings. So, I asked the Grand Master (his nickname is Pajo) if I could take the bow and pull the string. He was terrifically skeptical about that, but he let me. Once I pulled the string and did it pretty well, he looked at me pretty much speechless. "I have never seen someone do it so well, even some boys can't do it like that!" I think in that exact moment, my interest in archery was born.

knight-order-of-st-nicholas (11).jpg

After that, I tried sword fighting with Pajo and enjoyed that throwback in history. He saw something in me and left me his business card. He told me: "Come to our meeting next Thursday and bring your parents with you. Since you're under 18, you'll need the permission of one of them." This was funny to me, like, he already saw me as a member of his Order. Well, I came next Thursday with my mother, it was the 5th of May, 2016. I didn't know what to expect, like, how many members there would be, the average age, who they even were. When we stepped into the yard, I was shocked. There were a couple of members and one of them was making a barbecue. A barbecue? Really? Like, okay people, I'm yours.

Joking aside, people were really nice to us, welcoming and friendly. Everything seemed to be awesome, till the moment I heard something about having to wear a dress. "But... Do I have to wear a dress? I'm not really into it... How will I move? Run? Fight in the battle?"

They looked at each other in confusion and finally said: "Okay, you can dress as a man, wear a tunic and hose."

knight-order-of-st-nicholas (2).jpg

I believe I was the first woman to dress as a man in this Order. And I can tell you, sometimes I feel sorry for not wearing a light dress in those hot summer tournaments...

But nevermind, I got the status of the squire and through the next years, I was learning about the history of the Order, of Varaždin, etc. My role in the Order was an archer. They even bought me a bow and arrows! I enjoyed being in the battles and being part of the history group which nurtures chivalry, cavalierism, tradition, history, and friendship.

In addition to archery and swordsmanship, the Knights Order of St. Nicholas also performs staging, practices medieval military tactics, participates in various Medieval and renaissance festivals, organises workshops, etc. I met wonderful people, got chances that helped me in various ways, tried things I never have before and visited beautiful places. And believe me, it is not a cliché, I really enjoyed spending time in nature, sleeping under the stars and going into a night battle with fire on my arrowhead. Quite unique, isn’t it?

knight-order-of-st-nicholas (5).jpg

(The last photo is from Dimitrije Dimović.)

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Croatian Cup Round of 16: Hajduk Falls to Gorica, Dinamo, Rijeka, Osijek Move to Quarters

October 31, 2019 - Dinamo and Rijeka routinely advanced to the quarterfinal of the Croatian Football Cup, while Gorica eliminated Hajduk in the most interesting match of the round of 16. 

Gorica and Hajduk met in the biggest game of the round of 16 on Wednesday in Velika Gorica, which saw the home team top Hajduk 2:1 to reach the Cup quarterfinal for the first time in their history, while Hajduk has been eliminated from the round of 16 for the third time.

However, the last time Hajduk fell in the round of 16 was as the title defenders nine years ago to Istra, led by Zoran Vulic. They were also eliminated in the round of 16 in 1995 when they were shocked by Marsonia.

Gorica took the lead in the 64th minute from a 25-meter free-kick by Kristijan Lovric, and came one step closer to the victory in the 85th minute when Joey Suk scored from the counter to make it 2:1. A glimmer of hope for Hajduk was brought by Stanko Juric in the 88th minute for 2:1, though Hajduk was unable to score again. 

There were no surprises in the match between Dinamo and Opatija, so much so that Dinamo secured the victory in the first half when all three goals of the match were scored. 

The Croatian champion led with a goal by Damian Kadzior in the eighth minute. Mario Gavranovic's penalty in the 29th minute increased Dinamo’s lead to 2:0, while another goal by Gavranovic the 36th minute made it 3:0. 

In the final round of 16 match, the title defenders Rijeka defeated Varazdin 2:1

Rijeka led 2:0 with goals from Petar Mamic in the 47th minute and Alexander Gorgon in the 54th minute, while Leonard Vuk scored in the 83rd minute to make it 2:1. 

Lokomotiva had no problem against the third-seeded Vinogradar and won 3:0 for a spot in the quarters.

Slaven Belupo topped BSK Bijelo Brdo 2:0 to secure their spot in the next round, and Sibenik beat Belisce 2:1.

Osijek already advanced to the quarter last week after celebrating against Zadar 3:0. 

Round of 16 results on Wednesday, October 30

Opatija - Dinamo 0:3

Gorica - Hajduk 2:1

BSK Bijelo Brdo - Slaven Belupo 0:2

Sibenik - Belisce 2:1

Vinogradar - Lokomotiva 0:3

Istra 1961 - Inter Zapresic 1:2

Varaždin - Rijeka 2:1

On Wednesday, October 23

Zadar - Osijek 0:3

Source: HRT

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

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Varazdin County First in Croatia to Give Train Passengers Free Bicycle Transport

October 29, 2019 - Varazdin County moves to a more sustainable transport model by offering train passengers free bicycle transport. 

HRTurizam writes that at the railway station in Varazdin, the chairwoman of the Varazdin County Tourist Board, Natalija Martincevic, and the director of the Varazdin County Tourist Board, Miran Bojanic Morandini, presented a unique project - free bicycle transport on trains.

“The County of Varazdin, in cooperation with HZ Passenger Transport, is the first in Croatia to launch the free bicycle transport project for train passengers. Citizens thus also acquire the right to free bicycle transport on trains operating in Varazdin County by purchasing a passenger ticket,” said Martincevic.

By combining bicycle and train transportation, tourists visiting Varazdin County, as well as locals, get even more travel options, resulting in a better and more meaningful offer. Better accessibility of the beauty of the County, as well as convenience in carrying out daily tasks, result in increasing the quality of life, stronger development of a new tourist offer, but also a more sustainable transport system.


TZ Varazdin County

“Varazdin is currently the last point on one of the most beautiful and longest cycling routes from the source to the mouth of the Drava. More than 200,000 bicycles pass through this route and many of them use integrated transport, which allows for a much wider radius of travel. This is important news for both tourists and locals alike,” said Miran Bojanic Morandini, director of the Varazdin County Tourist Board.

This is just one of the many measures that Varazdin County is implementing in order to achieve traffic sustainability. Some of the other goals are to increase bicycle transport, as well as the share of rail passenger transport. This opens up new possibilities for sustainable travel for its citizens and tourists, which significantly contributes to the reduction of pollution, but also traffic safety.

“In the two years of our mandate, we have provided more than HRK 1,700,000.00 for the development of cycling tourism and cycling routes in Varazdin County. Varazdin County is one of the three Counties in Croatia to introduce the Cyclist Welcome Quality standard, and as many as 30 accommodations and catering facilities in Varazdin County have become part of it,” concluded Natalija Martincevic, chairwoman of the Varazdin County Tourist Board.

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

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Varaždin Wins RegioStars Award as Part of CityWalk Project

ZAGREB, October 13, 2019 - The CityWalk international project, of which the northern Croatian city of Varaždin is part, which promotes walking in cities with a view to reducing pollution and improving people's health, received the RegioStars award in Brussels earlier this week.

This European award for innovative regional projects has been presented since 2004.

The goal is to improve air quality, reduce noise and make people healthier, said the European Commission, which organised the presentation of the award.

CityWalk received the award of the basis of votes by EU citizens, submitted online between July 9 and September 9.

Seventeen partner institutions from Croatia, Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia participate in CityWalk, which provides city dwellers with information on routes via a mobile phone app, encourages them to refrain from driving cars, and encompasses recommendations on encouraging mobility in cities and the expansion of pedestrian zones.

A total of €2.2 million was invested in the project, of which 1.9 million from the EU budget. The pilot project lasted from December 2016 to May 2019.

More Varaždin news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

MUP Varazdin: Celebrating Croatian Bureaucratic Excellence - Yes, Really!

October 10, 2019 - Croatia is not known for its efficient bureaucracy, but let's celebrate the exceptions, such as MUP Varazdin. 

My record with Croatian bureaucracy is poor, and I dread all contact with officialdom here, for more often than not you are sentenced to an afternoon of being sent from room to room, waiting for hours and then being told you are missing a piece of paper and to try again tomorrow. For years, my wife took pity on my 'I am a useless foreigner who can't speak the language' look and heroically became a buffer zone between the bureaucrats and I, taking all of the pain away from me. 

But there are some things that even she cannot help me with. 

Like Brexit. 

Being British and living in Croatia, I get asked about Brexit on a daily basis, and I am embarrassed to say that I have nothing smart to say on the subject, as it really does not affect me much. I have not lived in the UK for 20 years and do not plan to again, and I consider myself a citizen of the world rather than any particular nationality. If Brexit does indeed happen, a quick trip to Dublin will secure Irish EU passports for me and the kids via my Irish parent should there be a need. So Brexit doesn't really affect me in any way. 

Apart from one. 

The driving licence. 

Swapping my UK licence for a Croatian one has been on my list of chores for years now, but with the reality of Brexit, it would appear that having a UK licence was going to be a pain. And so I braced myself for one more visit to Croatian bureaucracy. I was not encouraged by the experiences of one friend in Zagreb, who needed no less than five visits to MUP and endless hours of waiting before she finally got her driving licence a few months later. 

But I had an advantage - I was dealing with MUP Varazdin. Although we like to complain about bureaucracy on occasion at TCN, one should also remember the positives. And MUP Varazdin deserve gold stars and chocolate biscuits for their efficiency, even if it has caused me some frustrations in the past. 

As I previously wrote, after living in Dalmatia for thirteen years, it was quite a shock moving to Varazdin and finding that my daughters could not graduate from their year at school until Croatian bureaucracy had reduced their number of fathers from three to one - you can learn about why you should never have too many names in Croatia and the curious case of Paul David Raym here

MUP Varazdin not only managed to establish the legitimacy of this father in the eyes of my daughters' school, but they even succeeded where those chaps in Dalmatia failed, by finding a little more space on my ID card when I moved. And so, after a decade of living officially as Paul David Raym Bradbury in Dalmatia, Paul David Raymond became my official name once more

And so to my Brexit driving issue. With 3 weeks to go until Boris takes us out of the EU or prefers to be found lifeless in a ditch, the clock was ticking and I headed in to MUP Varazdin. I was braced for the wait, the language issue, the lack of comprehension of my UK licence and a host of questions, mentally resigned already to returning the next day with some piece of paper I needed to bring with me. But this was MUP Varazdin. 

I was in and out of the building in 18 minutes, UK licence exchanged for a temporary one valid for 30 days, while I wait for my permanent one to arrive in 2 weeks. Total price 173 kuna. 

And in just 18 minutes, my Brexit to-do list was completed, and my faith in Croatian bureaucracy at least partially restored after 13 years of Dalmatian marendas and 'come back sutra.'

It is not every day that things work in Croatia, but when they do, it is worth celebrating. 


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