Saturday, 25 July 2020

How a Viber Community Helped a Slovenian American Couple Wed in Istria Yesterday

July 25, 2020 - Getting married during a pandemic - how the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community helped American Joshua and Slovenian Noemi marry in Umag. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has been littered with personal stories of tragedy, death, loss and separation. Enough misery to last a lifetime.

But there have also been some stories with happier endings, or reunification and a cementing of loving relationships, sometimes in the form of marriage. 

A marriage such as that of Noemi and Joshua in Umag yesterday, for example.  

viber-community (1).jpeg

I have never met either of them, although I have corresponded with Noemi at length via Viber messenger, but theirs is the one love story that I have followed with interest this year, right up until its happy conclusion and the exchange of rings in Istria yesterday. 

I first became aware of the couple's plight shortly after co-founding the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community a couple of months ago. An early contributor was a Slovenian lady named Noemi Jugovac from Buje, whose life plans were seriously threatened by the corona crisis, as she had been planning to marry her love, Joshua Shaquille Johnson from Philadelphia, in a ceremony in Umag on July 24. 

viber-community (2).jpeg

It quickly became obvious that Noemi was going to stop at nothing to find a way to get her American beau into Croatia for the big day, as she devoured every piece of advice and every update, asking for clarifications.  

viber-community (6).jpeg

The big day itself, of course, was destined to be a much more muted affair due to corona, with just 6 people planned in attendance. But if Noemi could not get her man to Croatia, there would be no wedding at all.  

viber-community (4).jpeg

Finally, thanks to the help of Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community co-founder Kresimir Macan, as well as great feedback from other community members who had made the journey from the USA via airports in Frankfurt, Zurich, Amsterdam, Paris and Copenhagen, Noemi and Joshua were confident enough to book the ticket and be reunited a few days before their wedding. after some two years apart.  

The flight was set for Sunday, July 12, some 12 days before their big day. 

viber-community (8).jpeg

And then, late on Friday, July 10, less than 48 hours before Joshua was due to fly - disaster! Croatia suddenly - and almost immediately - changed the rules for all non-EU/EEA/UK citizens and residents. From midnight on Friday night, less than 48 hours before he was due to depart, a sudden restriction that could potentially scupper their plans. There was no way to get a test done in time and get the results. The alternative was to arrive and have 14-days self-isolation, thereby missing the wedding.  

viber-community (9).jpeg

I will never forget that next morning as had given several staff the day off and was looking forward to a quiet Saturday, with slow, weekend traffic on the Viber community. I could not have been more wrong. The announcement was made on a Friday night and implemented at midnight, but then it was the weekend and much harder to reach officials and offices to find out what the situation was. The community was full of panicked messages from airports from Kiev to New York CIty, as passengers with all the documentation for travel painstakingly prepared found themselves with a last minute spanner in the works. Would they be allowed to travel at all?  

viber-community (10).jpeg

Thanks to the information and help obtained through the Viber community, the couple received clear instructions on what to do and what the procedures are, and within a month of contacting the team with Total Croatia Travel Info, Joshua finally arrived in Croatia. Immediately upon arrival, he went for testing to the Hrvatski zavod za javno zdravstvo, and after it was determined that the test was negative, he was released from self-isolation after waiting for the results overnight. He was then free to proceed to his fiancee's house in Buje, and from there the big day. 

 viber-community (11).jpeg

The wedding took place yesterday, a very small affair with Noemi's parents and the best man in attendance, and there will be a much bigger party when all this is over.  

viber-community (3).jpeg

We wish the happy couple all the best in their new union, a love which corona could not stop, despite its best efforts. 

The wedding has already attracted the attention of the Croatian media, and it was featured last night on the national news, with both Noemi and Joshua speaking to the cameras in English.  

About the Total Croatia Travel Info Viber community

The Total Croatia Travel Info Viber community is intended for foreigners who, despite the situation with COVID-19, want to visit Croatia. Up-to-date and verified information on travel, borders and flights to Croatia is exchanged in one place through the community, and thanks to automatic translation, messages can be read in 24 languages. Communication in the community is two-way and members receive real-time information that interests them about coming to Croatia and exchange experiences with each other.

Founded in May on the initiative of Paul Bradbury, founder of the Total Croatia News portal and communication expert Krešimir Macan, this Viber community today has more than 5,000 members. It achieves more than 150,000 views on a monthly basis and, depending on the day, between 300 and 500 messages are exchanged in the community on a daily basis. Thanks to the adequate informative support, advice and experiences of other members, the community regularly receives thanks from all those who arrived in Croatia safely through Total Croatia Travel Info.

Join the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community (you will need to download the app).

For the latest travel info, bookmark our main travel info article, which is updated daily

Read the Croatian Travel Update in your language - now available in 24 languages

Monday, 22 June 2020

Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber Community Sees 100K Visits in First Month

June 22, 2020 - The new Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community passes 100,000 visits in its first month - thank you!

It is just over a month since I visited the main Bregana border crossing between Croatia and Slovenia with PR guru, Kresimir Macan. It was certainly an educational trip, which showed the realities on the ground

On the way back to Zagreb, I asked Macan why Croatia did not have a Viber group for the latest travel information, as it did for corona updates. The corona Viber updates have been an invaluable service in keeping about half a million subscribers fully informed. With so much confusion regarding travel in these uncertain times, why did the Ministry of Tourism not follow the Ministry of Health's excellent example?

"Let's do it ourselves and create our own Viber community. Come to the office on Tuesday, and we will do it."


And with the help of these two Manjgura interns initially, Macan of course, and several other members from the TCN and Manjgura teams (huge thanks to all), our little Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community became quite a fascinating project, and one which I have learned a lot from in the last month. 

Yes, we were giving out lots of free information, but the community was also giving us gold - real-life experiences of border crossings (successful and unsuccessful), of flights boarded and flights where boarding was denied. 

It is, I believe the place where the most accurate information in this very uncertain time can be found about travel to Croatia, and I am immensely proud of the whole team involved for what we have achieved. 

Especially since I got word from Viber today that our little community has been visited 100,000 times in its first month. Many thanks to all of you who have joined the community and shared your experiences, so that we could build a more comprehensive and accurate picture for tourists who are yet to arrive. 

If you would like to join the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community and have your question answered in real time, you can join here (you will need to download the Viber app). 

For the latest travel info, bookmark our main travel info article, which is updated daily

Read the Croatian Travel Update in your language - now available in 24 languages