Thursday, 14 April 2022

Good Friday With Fasting Meals For Citizens From 10 AM in Vinkovci

14th of April 2022 - The City of Vinkovci, the Independent Trade Union (DZZP) and the Vinkovci Technical School, along with the support of multiple companies from Vinkovci, have announced the distribution of fasting meals for all citizens on Good Friday.

As Novosti.hr writes, the now traditional event that occurs every Good Friday before Easter will have fish and potato salad on the menu this year as well. Future chefs, more precisely the students of the Vinkovci Technical High School will be in charge of preparing the food.

Mayor Ivan Bosančić will also take part and help in the morning food giveaway in front of the Vinkovci Gymnasium (School) from 10:00 on Vinkovci’s main square. He emphasised that meal itself is not the main motive for gathering people together, but that going out to the square and spending time together in the festive spirit is the point, as we celebrate the greatest Christian holiday, Easter.

 

Everyone is happy to respond when it comes to celebrating traditions like this - the Trade unionis, the City, various donors and of course, the hardworking student chefs who will prepare more than one thousand portions of meals for the occasion. Whether it’s Good Friday or Christmas Eve, a sense of togetherness is the most valuable part of it all.

Let us also remind ourselves that Good Friday is one of the two days of strict fasting in the liturgical year, with Ash Wednesday when Lent begins.

Fasting for Catholics means taking only one full meal a day as opposed to fasting when eating the usual three meals except meat. Strict fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday isn't just fasting, but the practice of abstinence at the same time, which means believers on that day eat only one full, modest and simple meal to the brim. Good Friday is a day of renunciation and penance and in that sense, the meal served on the table should be exactly like that.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Thursday, 7 April 2022

Traditional Festivities in Slavonia - Unmissable Events

7th of April 2022 - There are a lot of festivities you can visit in Slavonia - from beer and food festivals that became really popular in recent years, to modernized cultural manifestations which teach us something new. However, traditional festivities in Slavonia which are held for more than half a century, are still an irreplaceable staple of this region.

When reviewing the list of festivities in Croatia, a tourist or even a Croatian citizen, is shocked by the variety and content Croatia organizes every year for their visitors. Urban, cultural, and gourmand festivals are in forefront of most tours and offers, especially with summer coming soon and since Croatia became a really popular destination among tourists, they also got more interested in the tradition and cultural heritage of the region they visit. For instance, Dubrovnik, which is a jewel of the Adriatic coast, not only attracts visitors with its gourmand offers or beautiful historic sites like Tvrđava, they also have the Dubrovnik Summer Festival (Dubrovačke ljetne igre) which brings visitors closer to tradition and the way native people of Dubrovnik lived centuries ago. This event brings Dubrovnik back to the golden age of renaissance and baroque, the living spirit of drama and music, and many more, which were bestowed upon Croatian cultural and scholarly history. That’s why Dubrovnik is so good at tourist offers, they bring everything to everyone. 

However, with different tourists comes different tastes and recent years showed an increase in interest in Eastern Croatia, more precisely, Slavonia and Baranja, which are labeled as more “rural, folk” regions. Slavonians and Baranians recognized the potential these regions have and started adapting to tourists' wishes and needs. Yes, they devised and organized multiple new festivals that will be held for many years to come but they realized their traditional festivals, which are really popular with lovers of everything related to tradition and locals, need more exposure. 

Đakovački vezovi - Đakovo 

Today, Đakovački vezovi is a well-known and affirmed manifestation of original folklore. The first manifestation occurred in July 1967, as part of then the International Year of Tourism and from the beginning, the event was a great success with people from Slavonia and beyond. The main event kept its original date and it’s held every year in July. Contents of the festival include original folklore from Slavonia, Baranja, Western Srijem, and other parts of Croatia with accompanying events such as the opening of various exhibitions, equestrian events, and other cultural and tourist events. The entire city participates in the event and in 2005, it received the International Tourism Charter (European Federation of Tourist Journalists based in Rome) Merits for Tourism. Thousands of folk costumes pulled from the chest of oblivion, thousands of participants from Slavonia, Baranja, the whole of Croatia, even Europe, and the world, bring us songs, dances, and customs of their homeland for decades in Đakovo. If you’re a gourmet, you’re settled. Hundreds of different dishes are served and ready for degustation. Wine lover? Multiple winemakers with their best wines are ready to show off their products which are a reflection of the beautiful, rich region of Slavonia. Artists, folk, history lovers, and even animal lovers can come and have the time of their lives which makes it one of the largest and most popular traditional festivities in Slavonia. For more details, check out their official website.

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 The opening of "Đakovački vezovi" in 2019 (photo credit: Photo Gallery - djakovacki-vezovi.hr)

Vinkovačke jeseni (Vinkovci Autumns) - Vinkovci

Definitely, the largest cultural event in the region, arguably in Croatia and some would say, in this part of Europe. The First Vinkovačke jeseni was organized in September 1966 and soon became one of the most famous festivals of its kind in all of Croatia. The foreground of the manifestation is the care of traditional folk dances, costumes, and customs in order to preserve various values of folk and traditional life of Slavonia. What’s really interesting is the fact that the manifestation is organized in September because of autumn - a season that rewards Slavonians for their hard work. After its founding, the festival soon began to connect all lovers of cultural heritage, not just Slavonia, but all the regions in Croatia. So every year hundreds of Folklore Societies from Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, and many more come to Vinkovci to display their culture to visitors. However, they didn’t stop there. Organizers recognized the tourist potential of their event and upgraded it for modern times, so apart from the main event which signifies a closure of Vinkovačke jeseni, the whole week before the opening is dedicated to its visitors! For instance, the opening of the event comes with a big performance by the local theatre with other guests from all over Croatia and in the evening the concerts of the biggest Croatian music stars begin, every evening of the week! Personally, I watched biggest Croatian performers on Vinkovačke jeseni stage like Dino Dvornik, Severina, Jelena Rozga, Klapa Intrade, Giuliano, Prljavo Kazalište and so many more. It truly is for everyone. Then, when the show of the manifestation ends on the last day of the week with the biggest folklore parade in this part of Europe (nationally televised), with the most popular folk and traditional commentator in Croatia, Branko Uvodić, every visitor feels enriched with Slavonian tradition, cultural heritage, food, art, folklore and more. That’s why Vinkovačke jeseni is one of the biggest traditional festivities in Slavonia and one of the best representatives of Croatian traditional, cultural heritage in this part of Europe. For more details, visit their official page. If you want to read more about Vinkovci, check this TCN article.

 

 

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"Vinkovačke jeseni" parade - the main event on the last day (photo credit: Vinkovačke Jeseni - Facebook page)

Aurea Fest - Zlatne žice Slavonije (Golden Wires of Slavonia) - Požega 

In the middle of Slavonia lies the city of Požega, located in the hilly parts of the region where none of the roads are straight - a place where hills are dotted with roads. Surrounded by the old hills of Psunj, Papuk, Krndija, Dilj, and Požeška Gora and home of the famous Croatian poet, Dobriša Cesarić, it doesn’t seem odd that this city is the home of one of the biggest traditional, cultural and musical events of folklore, tamburitza but also pop music, which has been held in Požega since 1969, with a break between 1981 and 1990. Zlatne žice Slavonije today is a four-day event with more than 40,000 visitors and more than 100 accredited journalists from several countries. Songs, top-tier wines, gastronomy events, concerts, exhibitions, art colonies, sports competitions, folklore festivals and other events are slowly making Požega and the Golden Valley one of the tourist destinations in Croatia in September. It hosted multiple Croatian musicians (mostly “tamburaši”) like Gazde, Zlatni Dukati, Miroslav Škoro, Slavonske lole and so many more. CDs and cassettes were pretty popular back in the day, which meant that almost every Slavonian household had a copy of musical repertoire from Golden Wires of Slavonia! So, if you visit Slavonia, definitely visit Požega in September - great content, songs, dances, food, and most importantly, people. The main event, the concert, is nationally televised on HRT every year. For more information, visit their official page.

For now, we’re stopping here. There are a lot of traditional festivities in Slavonia but these three events are staples of traditional festivities in Slavonia and the whole of Croatia. From entertainment to food and sports recreation, these manifestations are unmissable events if you want to visit Slavonia. Slavonian spirit cannot be recreated anywhere else, so if you want to relax further after a summer tour of the Adriatic, come to Slavonia, they’re going to welcome you with open arms.

For more, make sure to check out our travel section.

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Poetry As Preservation of Slavonian Cultural Heritage and Tradition

31st of March 2022 - Meet Željko Čuljak, whose poetry and stories about the beauty of Slavonia and its residents aim to preserve the cultural heritage and tradition of his village Cerić and the whole Slavonian region.

We spoke with Željko in his home in the small village of Cerić, which is located near Vinkovci and has suffered a tragic fate. During the Homeland War, Cerić fell and was destroyed to the ground - residents lost everything and inevitably fled the enemy aggression which destroyed everything in their way. Željko, with his fellow fighters and villagers, stayed behind and helped to protect Nuštar, a nearby village that resisted tireless enemy attacks and led bloody battles that lasted for days. On the 5th of October in 1991, just a few days after surrounding villages fell to the enemy hands (Cerić and Marinci), Croatian defenders resisted enemy attacks and, in the end, managed to protect the village from aggressors. This event is forever inscribed in the history books of the Homeland War as the “Battle of Nuštar”, which was one of the biggest wins of the Croatian army in an effort to protect the country of Croatia from aggressors. Why is this event mentioned? Because its consequences left a big scar on Cerić and its surroundings - destroyed homes, displacement of the residents, destroyed the most recognizable symbol of the village, the church and so much more. The identity of the village was shattered by those buildings and still has an impact on the village's atmosphere today. However, returnees to the village and new residents made it their mission to bring back the old glory of Cerić, promote how people lived before the war, and show that their tradition, cultural heritage, and their lives were not erased on that fateful day in 1991.

Thus, join us in meeting Željko, who is at forefront of the mini “Slavonian revolution” which is propelled by his stories and poetry about the past and present and the future of Slavonia as well.

Željko, can you tell TCN readers a bit about yourself? 

My name is Željko Čuljak, a folk poet and a writer, a defender of the Homeland War and a retiree, who in their free time raises pigeons and writes stories about Cerić and Slavonia. I am a father of three children, a grandfather, and a husband. My writing is connected to the exile of our village, ten years of watching my village from the frontlines. To understand my writing and me in general, you need to see where I live.

What is Cerić? If you look at it as an outsider it seems like any ordinary Slavonian small village, so what is so special about it to you? 

We live in Slavonia, a rich and “full” region that through time attracted a lot of conquerors and consequently, misfortunes. People who lived here suffered a lot during a few wars that happened in this region and after those casualties, the number of residents rapidly decreased which led to people all over the country migrating to Cerić. In the beginning, a lot of conflicts occurred between immigrants and the old residents, who felt threatened by the newcomers. However, after some time, harmony and love prevailed and connected these different groups. Love won in the end and those newcomers accepted the village's customs and cultural heritage and traditions of this region. In conclusion, calm people live here.cerić_cultural_heritage.jpg

"Evenings with Poetry" in Cerić, (photo credit: Vedran Čuljak)

When did you discover your passion for writing?  

I don’t talk much, a lot of the things I prefer keeping to myself and we were taught “if you don’t have anything nice to say, it’s better for you to be quiet.” I endured the war better while I was in it than when I came back to destroyed homes and a neglected village, it fuels the anger in you. That site slowly but surely built up anger and rage in me and I couldn’t express it to others nor me. Then, one time at the mass, I heard a priest talking about anger and saying: “Love your enemies, forgive!” How can I do that?! I realized that I need to forgive myself to let go of that anger. When I’m surrounded by so many good people, how can I be angry?! And those experiences fueled my inspiration for writing. Firstly, I started writing for myself. I write about the beauty and happy adventures of our lives and their residents. I felt sorrowful for not sharing my work with anyone, so I started gifting and selling my work to family and friends. When they liked and praised my work, I felt like I was doing something right. Also, I am part of the Folklore Society of Cerić "Slavko Mađar" and they always need new ideas or “old” ideas I realized that war kind of erased part of our history, people who “disappeared” from this place took the tradition and cultural heritage with them. Today, I’m sort of a keeper of memories in Cerić, one of the people who bring those old stories and memories back to residents and it, unfortunately, seems that people forgot most of them. I try my best to save and preserve that cultural heritage for children of the future. We have a very nice combination of us poets who write and the rest of the village who “absorb” everything we make. We give our poetry soul and actors from Folklore give them life.

Željko, do you think there are enough of these initiatives that have the mission of preserving and promoting Slavonian cultural heritage?  

Folklore Societies are keepers of tradition and it’s well represented, not just in our region but throughout all of Croatia. Every village and town have their own Folklore Society. The question is, are people aware of them? Once upon a time, people were actually running away from tradition and it was an embarrassment to even be connected to these groups because everything else foreign was better. Then we realized during War that we miss sitting under the old mulberry tree while the spring sun is shining, harvesting our own crops and so many more things that make this region unique. Simply, all of the residents of Cerić realized that that’s the point - it’s nice to go abroad to a beautiful country or city but in the end, there is no place like home.

Do you have any of your original work published?  

I have a collection of poems called Trace of The Soul (Trag Duše) which came out in 2019. It’s mostly poems about the war we experienced, adventures, and traditions Cerić offered and inspired me to write about. I wrote another book of poetry expected to be published near the end of the year, it should’ve been published before but COVID-19 slowed down the process. It’s easy to write for me since there’s a lot of inspiration around me like children going back from school, the boy who’s a head shorter than the girl but still carries her bag, and those kinds of stories make my writing worthwhile. Everything is simple and lively in this village.


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Original cover of "Pattern of the Soul" (Trag duše), Željko's published work, (photo credit: Vedran Čuljak)

 

Who’s your biggest critic? 

My wife is my eternal inspiration to me haha AND my biggest critic of course. Everything that works and everything that doesn’t work she always tells me. She knows how to read my poem better than I! I don’t know how to interpret it when I write it! To me, it’s a blessing and brings me a lot of joy when every poem finds its own role, every person finds themselves in my poem, my story. We are extremely lucky that our whole village participates with us.

Can you tell us the events or manifestations that you organize every year in your village? 

We have “Evening of Poetry” which is usually held during summertime at the end of June. It’s part of the celebration of our saint of the village, Ivan (John), or how we say it here, Ivanje. Usually held in the evening, residents gather and light up the torches, we sit on bales of straw in the middle of Cerić and recite our poems and stories. Residents and our guests also participate in the event and it’s such a beautiful celebration of Slavonian cultural heritage and traditions. We have one more event, the “Yearly concert of Folklore Society” which is held around Municipality Day of Nuštar. Local people criticized this manifestation since it was held on 2nd of the October which was the day Cerić fell in the Homeland War. We were accused of celebrating the biggest tragedy this village experienced in its history. What they didn’t understand is that we always celebrate life, coming back to our homes, all of those people who were exiled or have left us for other reasons and we do it with songs, socializing, being happy and that’s the most important part.



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One of the manifestations celebrating the cultural heritage of Cerić and Slavonia, (photo credit: Vedran Čuljak)

As we know, Slavonia lost a lot of its residents in recent years, do you think that factor will affect your manifestations? 

I don’t think so. Residents of Cerić notice our work as our guests as well. For example, we had a group of school children coming to our village as part of their trip, it was some kind of Vinkovačke Jeseni program and let’s just say the children weren’t that positive coming here. Why? Because they didn’t know what Cerić is, never heard of it and of course, they’re just not interested in those places, what can Cerić offer to them? However, after we hosted them nicely, organized nice lunch, their teacher, who was in charge, told us that this is the first time in her career that the children didn’t want to go home, they didn’t want to enter the bus and go. I know it’s a small sample but everyone who comes here, goes back home happy and they come back every year. There is still interest and to me, it seems it’s growing in the last few years.

Does that mean that there are successors and willing children to continue doing what you started? Promoting and persevering Slavonian cultural heritage? 

Definitely! More and more children realized villages' worth, their traditions, and cultural heritage. Cerić and its residents are unbelievably close and connected, while other villages talk about the alienation of their residents from their heritage, we prosper every year more and more. When a child puts on our traditional folk costume (šokačku nošnju) and when you look at the photos of their ancestors in the same costumes, those children are vivid pictures of their predecessors, great grandmothers, great grandfathers, only the hair and clothes changed. Everything stayed the same. There are successors and always will be. They will never disappear!

Thank you Željko for your time! Can you recite one of your original Slavonian poems for the TCN readers? 

From the poem "Slavonia, Mother"

"When I leave my homeland at dawn
I carry in my eyes a memory far from
far from the eye, to the heart, it's also hard
I will return once through tears, I said
.....
We'll meet again under the old oak
when the years close my dreamy eyes
until then I love you and always think of you
in my dream, almost every night I dream about you."

Events celebrating Slavonian cultural heritage mentioned in this interview are held in Cerić on the 24th of June "Evenings with Poetry" and the 2nd of October "Yearly Concert of Folklore Society "Slavko Mađar". If you're ever close and for instance, ever come to  "Vinkovačke Jeseni", visit Cerić and their events, Slavonia, as always will welcome you with open arms.

For more, check out Made in Croatia.

Sunday, 27 March 2022

Walk for Life to be Held in Ten Cities

ZAGREB, 27 March 2022 - This year's Walk for Life will be held in ten cities across Croatia on Sundays in May and June, a news conference heard in Osijek on Sunday.

Representatives of the civic group "Walk for Life, Family and Croatia" told reporters that marches would be held in Vinkovci, Varaždin and Slavonski Brod on 7 May, in Zagreb on 14 May, in Split and Imotski on 21 May, in Zadar and Ploče on 28 May, and in Osijek and Sisak on 11 June.

Lidija Blagojević of the civic group said that the Walk for Life was a peaceful walk for every human life from conception to natural death, for the protection of unborn children and their mothers, and for the protection of every family.

The national coordinator of the Walk for Life, Željka Markić, said this year's campaign was taking place in the context of a horrible war in Ukraine, noting that many volunteers of the Walk for Life initiative were involved in collecting aid and providing accommodation for Ukrainian refugees.

"The killing of people we have been witnessing every day makes us particularly sensitive to the need to build the culture of life and fight for every human life, from its beginning to its end", Markić said.

For more, check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Friday, 18 March 2022

Festivities in Eastern Slavonia: Things To Do in Spring

18 March 2022 - Spring is on the horizon! Ceremonies and events are slowly but surely moving outdoors and since TCN already covered “Five Places You Must Visit During Spring in Croatia”, this is a look into what festivities in Eastern Slavonia are happening during the new season. 

Firstly, we need to start with the biggest city of Eastern Slavonia - Osijek. As usual, the greenest city in Croatia has various events that can fulfill any person's preferences: from music, film, theater, and traditional events to sports and other activities that include all of citizens and guests. Since there is no shortage of events this spring season, we had to single out a few that will happen soon. It doesn't hurt to mention again that Osijek is going to host the 29th Porin Music Awards on the 25th of March. For more details, check the article here.

 

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Antiques Fair, (Photo:Okusi sreće by Pavica/Facebook)

 

Antiques Fair - 2nd of April 

The citizens of Osijek love their culture and heritage so it’s not surprising that the Antiques Fair is one the most popular events in the city. From old gramophone records to lost books and masterpieces from local unknown artists, this festivity is for everyone. Excitement as you pass by a sea of stalls that potentially contain a lost “treasure”? It is guaranteed only at the Osijek Antique Fair that is usually held on the first Saturday every month in the Old Town of the city - Tvrđa. However, the next Antique Fair will be held in King Držislav Park near the famous urban statue The Shell (Školjka) on the 2nd of April. The Park is located just across from Tvrđa, so it is not hard to find it. You can check for more here.

 

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Osijek Ferivi Half Marathon (Photo Osječki Ferivi Polumaraton/Facebook)

18th Osijek Ferivi Half marathon - 9th of April 2022 

This event, as the name suggests, will take place in Osijek, with four different races included: a half marathon (21.1 km), relay (3 x 7 km), citizens’ race (5 km), and a race for the youngest - children. These events will be accompanied by a music festival, instrumental, dance, and singing groups with a goal to entertain the visitors and competitors. Since its foundation, Osijek Ferivi Half Marathon has had an increase in the number of participants every single year and it’s becoming one of the biggest sporting events in Osijek and its surroundings. If you’re interested, the application is still open for everyone - it doesn’t matter if you’re a professional or casual, everyone is welcome!

 

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Craft Beer Festival in Osijek (Photo: Osijek CRAFT BEER Festival/Facebook)

Craft Beer Festival - sometime in May (to be determined) 

How can Spring pass in Osijek without an event for beer lovers? In the last decades, Osijek has become a center for beer connoisseurs, not only in Eastern Slavonia but for beer enthusiasts all over Croatia. This fact is not surprising at all if we take into account that Osijek is also a center of multiple small breweries that produce various types of beers which have become iconic for this part of Croatia. Craft Beer Festival has been held last year during June but this year it’s probably coming back to its original date in May. We still don’t know the exact date. Nevertheless, the event will come back to the famous so-called “beer street” - Sun Street (Sunčana Ulica). For updates check their Facebook page.

If you’re interested in breweries in Osijek, check an article from our intern Toni.

After Osijek, we go further East and present cities of Vinkovci and Vukovar. Two historical Slavonian cities have a lot to offer with the support of surrounding small towns and their own events that enrich the lives of locals in Vukovar - Srijem County.

 

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Flower Festival in Vukovar (Photo: Miroslav Slafhauzer/Turistička zajednica grada Vukovara)

Flower Festival - end of the April 

Flower Festivals are a common event in Slavonia (we already had one in Osijek during Women’s Day). At the end of April every year, a Flower Festival is held in the center of Vukovar which brings together local and regional plant growers, florists, arrangers, related craftsmen, and lovers of flowers and ornamental plants. The Fair has sort of an exhibition and sales character which gives a completely different, colorful, and warmer look to the center of Vukovar. This event is also an overture for marking City Day.

 

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Svi zaJedno Hrvatsko Naj Festival in 2019 (Photo: svizajedno.eu/Galerija)

Svi zaJedno hrvatsko naj - cultural and tourist event - part of Vukovar City Day, 3rd of May 

This festival is fairly new - it was firstly held in 2018, as a part of the European Year of Cultural Heritage. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it is the first Croatian festival to present protected Croatian intangible cultural heritage on the national and UNESCO list with the most attractive tourist events, attractions, and destinations from all over Croatia. During the event, visitors have a chance of exploring various manifestations held all over Croatia by tasting autochthonous Croatian dishes and enjoying the offer of the best Croatian wines. Of course, what would be a Slavonian event without traditional music and dance groups? For more details, you can check their website.

 

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"Motorijada" in 2021 (Moto Klub Županja/Facebook)

Motorijada by Moto Club Županja - 10th of April 

Motorijada (Moto Race) is an event that is organized by Moto Clubs all over Croatia. Motorcycle enthusiasts organize these events to promote, among other things, motorsports and use this opportunity to meet with their fellow motorcycle buddies. This April, Moto Club Županja is organizing the 16th Opening of Moto Season of Vukovar - Srijem County with the aim of drawing the attention of other road users to the presence and safety of motorcyclists in the traffic. They will start their tour in the village Rajevo Selo and go through multiple towns in Vukovar - Srijem County with the ending in the host city - Županja. Everyone is invited and if you’re a motorcycle enthusiast or just love looking at the motors, this is a great event to visit. For more information, check their Facebook page.

 

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Logo of the Festival (photo: Festival Glumca/Facebook)

Actor’s Festival - all cities of Vukovar - Srijem County, 13 - 22 May 

The festival was founded in 1994 by the Croatian Society of Dramatic Artists and Vukovar - Srijem County and it is the only festival in Croatia dedicated to the actor and their artistic work. Today, this event has grown into a festival that brings chamber and large ensemble performances to the audience. If you’re interested in the festival full of character, good acting, acting personality, talent, and originality, visit Vukovar - Srijem County from 13th to 22nd May this year. Every city will have its appropriate events surrounding this festival. For more, check their official website.

 

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 Petrovačko Zvono event few years ago (photo: savezrusina.hr)

Petrovačko Zvono - sometime in June, 49th edition 

Rusyns are a national minority in Croatia with most of the residents residing in the village of Petrovci, which is located near Vukovar. Tradition, heritage, and constant maintenance of their culture for more than 40 years made this event one the most important in Vukovar - Srijem County. Rusyns from all over Croatia and other countries, visit Petrovci to connect to their fellow Rusyn people. They have a strong connection to Ukraine and their people, so if you’re nearby, visit this event, learn about the traditions of the people who’ve chosen Croatia as their home, and enjoy Petrovačko Zvono and its celebration of their heritage. For more details, you can visit their website here.

This is it for now. There are a lot more events that need mentioning, however, this article won’t be enough. TCN will bring you stories from some of these events and part two of places to visit in Eastern Slavonia is already on the way. Stay tuned!

Make sure to check out our dedicated travel section.

Monday, 14 February 2022

Romantic Vinkovci: Roses, London Phone Box in Europe's Oldest Town

February 14, 2022 - Looking for a Valentine's Day photo-op with a difference? Head to romantic Vinkovci, whose famous London red telephone box has undergone a love transformation.

It is one of the most surreal things I have seen in my time in Croatia. Until I saw the rest of the story. 

There, slap bang in the middle of the oldest continuously inhabited town in Europe (8,300 years) in eastern Croatia, stood a well-maintained, genuine red London telephone box.

Which actually still worked.  

And is lovingly maintained. 

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 But if you visit today, you will see something even more unusual, as romantic Vinkovci celebrates Valentine's Day in quite some style. Red roses for a red telephone box. 

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But if you think that a working red telephone box in a town in eastern Croatia is a little unusual, wait for the explanation of its journey from the UK to its final resting spot in romantic Vinkovci. 

Back in 1991, a dour Yorkshireman called Steve arrived in Croatia to fight for the country as a volunteer. He was wounded in the war and ended up staying in Vinkovci, marrying a lovely local lady with whom he had 6 children. 

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Steve did a lot of work with UK NGOs who were bringing assistance to Croatia, and they really appreciated his help. After the last delivery, they asked what they could send him from the UK to thank him for his considerable help. A barrel of his favourite Yorkshire beer, he declared. 

Or if not that, I don't know, a red telephone box, he added as an afterthought. 

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Six months later, the afterthought came to Vinkovci. A phone call from the Vinkovci authorities. A red London telephone box had been delivered. What to do with it? 

He may be a tight Yorkshireman when it comes to money, but Steve is very generous when it comes to telephone boxes. He agreed to donate it to the city, on condition it was kept as a working telephone. 

It still is today, and you can buy cards at a nearby kiosk. 

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And if you thought this might be the strangest part of the story, read on. For Steve will probably be spending this romantic day in his favourite space in the world, truly exceptional - How I Came to Open an English Pub in a Field in Eastern Croatia.

Happy Valentine's Day from Vinkovci. To learn more about this fascinating historic town, read Vinkovci: 10 Things to Know about Europe's Oldest Town.

 

Thursday, 13 January 2022

Osijek, Varazdin, Vinkovci Voted Most Beautiful Advent in Croatia

January 13, 2022 - So where was the most beautiful Advent in Croatia in 2021? The results are in, and a celebration of Slavonia, Full of Life. 

I am still smiling from my 6-day trip to Slavonia and eastern Croatia back in November. Such an incredible, action-packed trip, and I genuinely think it was my most enjoyable week exploring of my 18 years in Croatia. 

In Slavonia.

In November. 

Osijek in particular opened my eyes to a truth that they are not telling you in Zagreb - that Slavonia is actually VERY Full of Life. Or perhaps they don't know. This is entirely possible when the Croatian National Tourist Board publishes 'promotional' articles on inflight magazines and cannot even find the right river that flows through Osijek. Read more in A Slavonian Geography Lesson for the Croatian National Tourist Board.

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You can read about the magic of eastern Croatia and our 6-day trip in Time to Tell the Truth about Slavonia Full of Life. I encourage the Kings to read it as well - they might learn a few things about Croatian tourism in the east. 

Thankfully, Slavonia does not have to rely solely on the Croatian National Tourist Board to get its message across, and a very nice bit of PR, powered by the voice of the people, as Osijek has been voted the Most Beautiful Advent in Croatia 2021.

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The vote, organised by the website Gradonacelnik.hr (the Croatian word for Mayor) held a 9-day poll of Advent in Croatia in 44 cities and towns, but there was only one winner with the most likes - Osijek. 

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Closely followed by another continental Advent in Croatia - Varazdin. I visited both last month, and both were very impressive. 

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And with Vinkovci in third and Slavonski Brod in fourth, it was a strong showing for continental and eastern Croatia. Having travelled a lot around Croatia, I can honestly say that the Advents away from the coast in general have a lot more soul, and apart from Zagreb, no other city comes close for winter living and life than Osijek. 

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There is a LOT of ignorance about what can be found in eastern Croatia, both in Zagreb and the rest of the county. There is SO much more to the east than war, Vukovar, and emigration. It is time that that story was told in full. Small little awards like this are one tiny step in that direction. Congrats to all concerned. 

To learn more about Osijek, check out the Total Croatia Osijek in a Page guide

 

Monday, 20 December 2021

Traditional School "Window Concert" of Christmas Carols Held in Vinkovci

ZAGREB, 20 Dec 2021 - The Vinkovci Josip Runjanin Music School on Sunday held its traditional Christmas Carols concert with about 150 current and former students and teachers of the school participating in the event.

The concert with singers standing by the school windows is traditionally organized on the fourth Advent Sunday, and only last year the COVID-19 pandemic prevent the organization of the concert

This year's traditional Christmas carols concert also paid tribute to the composer of the Croatian anthem, Josip Runjanin, in memory of the  200th anniversary of his birth in this eastern Croatian city. The music school in Vinkovci is also named after him.

"I don't think anyone in Croatia has something like this. We all got together and unified around this project which has grown into a traditional event with former and current students and teachers and Vinkovci citizens to give this city a present it deserves," the school principal Dinka Peti said.

The concert "Let there be Music..." was staged with the choir standing along with the high school's windows while the orchestra played on the plateau in front of the school with a large audience attending, including Mayor Ivan Bosančić.

"This is one very beautiful event which makes us all proud and which ushers in the Christmas holidays. As we can see a large number of our citizens turned up and I am pleased that Vinkovci has been recognized for this concert as something that will enrich us all and make us happy for Christmas," Mayor Bosančić said.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Can You Name the World’s Smallest Town? (And a Few Other Superlatives in Croatia)

Can you name the smallest town in Croatia (and the world)? What about the biggest, oldest, or safest? Take a guess, and then check out our list of champion towns in six different categories

Did you know that the Croatian language doesn’t distinguish between the terms city and town? We call them both grad, which refers to an urbanized area with more than 10,000 inhabitants. Exceptions are made for less populated settlements if they have significant historical, economic or geographic features. 

If there’s one thing we don’t lack around here, it’s places of historical significance, and thus our technical nomenclature goes down the drain. You’ll often see very sparsely populated places being referred to as towns - what’s basically a village in terms of population could have easily had a status of a city in medieval times.

When you think about Croatian cities and towns in terms of superlatives - largest, oldest, safest - none of the leading tourist destinations make the cut. The biggest Croatian cities sure have their appeal, but this time around, we’re looking at a few peculiar title holders among Croatian towns.

 

Smallest: Hum

This medieval hilltop settlement located in central Istria is not only the smallest town in Croatia, but also referred to as the smallest town in the world. 

Its exact population is somewhat debatable: Hum had 30 residents at the time of the 2011 census, but more recent sources place the number closer to 20. We’re curious to see what the 2021 census data will show.

Entirely built in stone, Hum is also minuscule in size, but packs a handful of houses, one restaurant, two churches and a cemetery within its town walls. While it's not technically a town, its history, cultural significance and urban structure make it quite a distinctive settlement.

One of the many Istrian legends has it that the giants who built other central Istrian towns in the valley of the Mirna River used the leftover stone blocks to create Hum as one last masterpiece. 

It’s a place worth visiting on a tour of Istria: it’s incredibly picturesque and well preserved, is the last stop of the scenic Glagolitic Alley route, and is also the home of biska, a popular Istrian brandy made of rakija, white mistletoe and several other herbs. 

 

Largest: Gospić  

Based on population alone, the winner in this category would definitely be Zagreb - expected and a bit too boring for a list of this kind, so we’ll go for different criteria instead. What’s the biggest town in Croatia based on surface area?  

If you’d stick with Zagreb as the answer regardless, you’d be wrong. Surprisingly, the biggest town in Croatia only has a population of about 6,500, but is larger in size than Paris, Berlin or Barcelona.  

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Gospić / iNekic Wikimedia Commons

The biggest town in Croatia is Gospić, with an impressive area of 967 square kilometres. The town itself definitely isn’t that big - it owes its staggering size to some 50 smaller settlements in its wider area that administratively belong to Gospić, as there are no other municipal units nearby to take them under their wing. 

Fun fact: Nikola Tesla, the groundbreaking inventor, was born in the nearby village of Smiljan and grew up in Gospić

 

Highest: Delnice 

Unsurprisingly, we’re heading to a mountainous area to look for an elevation champion. Located in the Gorski kotar region, the town of Delnice sits at an altitude of approximately 700m above the sea level. Its lowest point is situated at an altitude of 210m, and the highest at 1528m!  

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Delnice / Lan Vlad Wikimedia Commons

We’d be remiss not to mention Begovo Razdolje, officially the highest settlement in Croatia at an altitude of 1028m. It’s located in the same region, on the slopes of Bjelolasica mountain, and has a population of 40. While it’s not technically a town, it’s the only inhabited place in Croatia situated at an altitude over 1000m! 

 

Oldest: Vinkovci 

In a country that counts an amphitheatre and a Roman emperor’s palace among its cultural monuments, you’d probably look for the oldest settlement somewhere on the coast. And while it’s true that the Adriatic is lined with some of the oldest towns in Croatia, we have to look inland for the oldest of them all.

The town of Vinkovci in Slavonia has been continually inhabited for 8300 years, making it not only the oldest town in Croatia, but Europe as well! 

Vinkovci has a lot to be proud of other than its age: it’s the birthplace of two Roman emperors, home to the oldest known calendar in Europe, and hosts the biggest Croatian folklore festival. Check out the 10 things to know about Vinkovci in this dedicated piece

 

Youngest: it’s complicated

How to approach the concept of youth when it comes to a town? We can think of three main ways to look at it:

Among the 128 towns and cities in Croatia, Popovača is the one which gained the legal status of a town most recently. It used to be a municipality and was ‘upgraded’ to a town in 2013, effectively becoming the youngest town in Croatia in terms of administrative status. 

If we ditch the legal criteria and focus on how long it’s been since the inception of a certain settlement, the youngest town in Croatia is Raša. It’s located in south-eastern Istria and was purposely designed and built as a mining town in the 1930s during Mussolini’s colonization of the region. Two pairs of streets lined with former miners’ houses meet at the central square, where you’ll find the church of St Barbara, uniquely built in the shape of an overturned mining cart. 

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Raša © Raša Tourist Board

And finally, what about the population? Well, this is a tough one to track down as the demographic situation varies from year to year, and data isn’t always readily available. With apologies to any other town that potentially took over the title at some point, we’ll declare Solin to be the youngest town in Croatia population-wise. Located near Split in Dalmatia, Solin has a population of some 30,000 inhabitants, 6,500 of which are under 18 years of age. The average age in Solin is 34,3 years - well below the Croatian average of 43,6 which ranks us among the oldest populations in all of Europe.

 

Safest: Sinj

Croatia is widely considered to be a safe country overall. Its population definitely seems to think so: a recent report published by Numbeo and represented on a map by Landgeist shows that Croatia is one of the countries in Europe where people feel safest walking alone at night. It ranks second, after Slovenia - read more here

What’s the safest place in the second safest-feeling country in Europe, then? For this we turn to actual statistics in an annual report published by the magazine Zaštita and the Faculty of Economics in Zagreb. They rank the 29 biggest Croatian cities and towns according to four separate crime rates (assaults, traffic offences, property crimes and drug abuse).

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Sinjska Alka © Romulic and Stojcic

The town of Sinj, located in the Dalmatian hinterland, ranked safest in Croatia four times in a row in recent years. It’s a nice title for Sinj and just one of things it’s known for - the most famous certainly being Sinjska Alka. 

Inscribed on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage, Sinjska Alka is a traditional knight’s game held every year in August. It commemorates the victory of 700 Croatian soldiers over the army of 60,000 Turkish invaders in 1715 - a report from a reenactment of the battle is available here.

Sunday, 7 November 2021

Dutch Humanitarians Visit Vinkovci

ZAGREB, 7 Nov 2021 - Dutch humanitarian activists Tineke Sta-Bol and Ton van Bree, who have been organizing summer holidays for children from eastern Croatia in the Netherlands for 20 years, were received by the deputy mayor of Vinkovci, Josip Romić, this week.

Romić praised the efforts of the two humanitarians, who every year raise donations for summer holidays for about 40 children from Vukovar-Srijem County in a summer camp in the small Dutch town of Ermelo. During their stay there, Croatian children have many interesting activities aimed at improving their social skills.

For many of those children it has been the first such experience to travel abroad for summer holidays, the deputy mayor said.

Summer holidays for children in Ermelo have been organised by the Stichting Vrienden Speciale Kinderhulp (SVSK) for 20 years.

The war and suffering of people in eastern Croatia in the early 1990s prompted Tineke Sta-Bol and Ton van Bree to launch this humanitarian drive. They have also helped raise funds for the construction of playgrounds in the villages of Bapska, Čakovci, and Petrovci in Vukovar-Srijem County.

The two Dutch activists have been decorated by Queen Beatrix for their humanitarian work.

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

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