Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Institute for Development of Croatia-Serbia Relations Set up in Vinkovci

ZAGREB, January 8, 2020 - The first days of 2020 saw the founding assembly of the Institute for Development of Croatia-Serbia Relations (IROHS), a civil society organisation from Vinkovci dedicated to promoting, analysing and researching relations between the two countries, with former Social Democrat MP Damir Rimac at its helm.

"The IROHS staff believes that by understanding the past we can build a better future in this area, regardless of whether we call it the region or Central or Southeast Europe. For quite some time, too little has been said in public about technologies, education, economy, mobility, culture, sustainable development and quality that exists both in Croatia and in Serbia," said Rimac.

He said the establishment of the Institute was motivated by the need for the exchange of experience and the transfer of know-how, which, he said, both Croatia and Serbia need.

The institute aims to influence relations between the two countries in such a way to "close the book of memories and open a planner."

One of the Institute's first steps would be to send a letter to the two countries' presidents, parliaments and governments as well as all other competent institutions, calling for the establishment of cooperation between them.

The establishment of cooperation with similar civil organisations and the start of dialogue is the plan for the first half of the year while in the second half, the goal will be to implement certain projects, said Rimac.

Rimac said that Croatian exports to Serbia and imports from that country amounted to around 500 million euro in the first 11 months of 2019, with exports from Croatia to Serbia being higher than imports, resulting in a 64 million euro trade surplus.

"From the economic point of view, there are no obstacles to increasing trade between Croatia and Serbia by 100-120% in the next two to three years or for the value of exports not to exceed one billion euros, which would make the surplus in trade with CEFTA countries exceed two billion euros. Croatia could profit In that segment alone," said Rimac.

He said one of the priorities was also the establishment of cooperation in the area of preservation of cultural heritage, education and various technologies, sustainable development and disaster prevention.

More news about relations between Croatia and Serbia can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Croatian Railways Building 400 Kilometers of High Speed Track

Croatian Railways is building 400 kilometers of high-speed track and trains on several key routes will be running at speeds of up to 160 km/h within 10 years. The average speed of a current Croatian train is only 58.2 km/h! Only Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro have railway systems worse than ours.

However, December has proven to be the month of railways when it comes to major projects in this area of Croatian infrastructure, according to Krešimir Žabec/Jutarnji List on December 30, 2019. For years, there have been reports of billions of euros coming to Croatia to upgrade our catastrophic rail network.

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Map of Current and Upcoming Croatian Railways High-Speed Projects | Croatian Railways

Average Speed of Current Croatian Train: 58.2 km/h

The state of railway infrastructure in Croatia is perhaps best illustrated by the indicator of 58.2 kilometers per hour, which is the average speed of trains running in Croatia. Only Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro have railway systems worse than ours. But until recently, promises of a brighter future for Croatian Railways have sounded like the dreams of politicians which never produced any visible results. However, a turnaround began to take hold this past month.

First New Railway Line in 50 Years Launched in December 2019

First, after 50 years, a new railway line was launched in Croatia: from Gradec to Sveti Ivan Žabno. Then, in Vukovar, a contract was signed with the Spanish company Comsa to upgrade and electrify the Vinkovci - Vukovar railway. Eight years after its launch; the Turkish company Cengiz was selected as contractor for the Križevci - Koprivnica - Hungarian Border section of the project. And a 321 million EUR contract was finally signed to build the Lowland Railway section of Hrvatski Leskovac to Karlovac, which is being co-financed by the European Union.

Three Billion EUR Investment in Croatian Railways

Croatia, the European Union and the World Bank are expected to invest more than 3 billion EUR in designing, renovating and upgrading Croatian railway infrastructure over the next ten years. There are 18 projects in different stages of progress, of which only the Gradec - Sv. Ivan Žabno line has been finished.

Overview of the 250-Kilometer Lowland Railway Project

The international Mediterranean railway corridor connects Rijeka with the Baltic. The Croatian part of this corridor is divided into a section from Zagreb to Rijeka, known as the Lowland Railway, and the section from Zagreb to Botovo (the Hungarian border). It is a 250-kilometer railway line, and only 22 kilometers, from Zagreb to Dugo Selo, are currently two-lane and have been electrified. The estimated value of the modernization and construction of this route is approximately 2.6 billion EUR, and that tab does not include the cost of modernizing the Zagreb hub.

The other sections of this route are in different stages of completion. Work on the 38.2-kilometer Dugo Selo – Križevci section is underway and running about two years behind schedule.

The contract for co-financing and a tender for a contractor have been signed for the section from Hrvatski Leskovac to Karlovac.

Two Options for Most Expensive Lowland Span: Karlovac - Škrljevo

The Hrvatski Leskovac – Karlovac section is connected to the most difficult and expensive span, running from Karlovac to Škrljevo, which is about 150 kilometers long. Construction costs could reach 1.5 billion EUR, but he total cost of will depend on whether the Northern or Southern option is selected. Kupska, the Northern option, is 150 kilometers long, of which 61 kilometers involve tunnels and bridges. Drežnička, the Southern option, is 170 kilometers long with 45 kilometers of tunnels and bridges.

It is unknown at this time whether this section will be put into concession or the European Commission will decide to co-finance the project, due to concern over utilizing Chinese capital. EU funding for Croatia is a more favorable option as it won’t impact public debt. In the event of a concession, a Chinese company would build and finance the project, backed by state guarantees of around 1.5 billion EUR. And it would be difficult for the Croatian state to allow that.

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Close-Up of the Zagreb - Hrvatski Leskovac - Karlovac - Škrljevo - Rijeka - Jurdani Line | Croatian Railways

Location Permit and Plans for Škrljevo - Rijeka - Jurdani Section

A location permit has been obtained for the Škrljevo - Rijeka - Jurdani section and the main plans are being drawn, and are being co-financed by the EU with 8.5 million EUR. A final solution is currently being worked on for the Zagreb hub. According to projections, the entire Lowland Railway could be completed by 2030.

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Close-Up of Railway Line Upgrades to Hungary and Serbia | Croatian Railways

Work Progressing on the Zagreb - Serbian Border Railway

Another important international route is railway from Zagreb to the border of Serbia. The sections of Vinkovci – Tovarnik – Serbian Border and Okučani – Novska have been modernized and plans reconstruction and upgrade of the Dugo Selo – Novska section are underway. The estimated price tag for work on this section is 580 million EUR. Project plans for the modernization of the Okučani - Vinkovci section are also in development.

In addition to the construction of the Dugo Selo - Križevci section, two more projects are underway. As part of the modernization and electrification of the Zaprešić - Čakovec railway, work is progressing on the Zaprešić - Zabok section.

Zagreb and Rijeka Port Hubs Undergoing Upgrades

The railway network within the greater Zagreb metropolitan area plays a crucial role in passenger transport. The value of this project, which is being carried out by the Swietelsky construction firm, is estimated at 529 million EUR, with a planned completion date of 2021.

Another important project is the reconstruction and capacity expansion of the Rijeka Brajdica freight railway station.

This project includes the complete reconstruction of the existing nine tracks and the extension of the Sušak railway tunnel to a length of 423 meters. The total value of this project is 35.6 million EUR. This project is extremely important for expanding the capacity of the Port of Rijeka.

Along with these and a few other projects in the upcoming ten years, Croatia is expected to finally upgrade its railway infrastructure. As mentioned in an earlier TCN article, these upgrades will allow train passengers to travel at speeds of 160 kilometers per hour.

Croatian Railways Project Overviews:

Here is an overview of six key railway projects; their statuses and expected dates of completion:

Dugo Selo - Križevci:

Length: 38.2 kilometers
Details: Upgrade of the existing track and construction of the second track.
Contractors: Zagreb Montaža, DIV, Dalekovod Integral
Completed: 65 percent of the financial part of the contract.
Deadline: 48 months
Cost: 196.9 million EUR

Križevci - Koprivnica - Hungarian Border:

Length: 42.6 kilometers
Details: Upgrade of the existing track and construction of the second track.
Contractors: Cengiz (Turkey)
Completed: Signing of construction contract in Spring 2020.
Deadline: 48 months
Cost: 400 million EUR

Vinkovci - Vukovar:

Length: 18.7 kilometers
Details: Track upgrade and electrification.
Contractors: Comsa
Completed: Signed construction contract.
Deadline: 24 months
Cost: 55 million EUR

Hrvatski Leskovac - Karlovac:

Length: 44 kilometers
Details: Upgrade of the existing track and construction of a second track.
Contractors: Tender in process.
Completed: EU approved co-financing with 361 million EUR.
Deadline: TBD
Cost: 450 million EUR

Zaprešić - Zabok:

Length: 23.9 kilometers
Details: Railway modernization and electrification.
Contractors: Swietelsky
Completed: In progress.
Deadline: End of 2021.
Cost: 80.8 million EUR

Rijeka Brajdica:

Length: 4 kilometers
Details: Connecting track to the container terminal of Adriatic port.
Contractors: Kolektor and Euro Asphalt
Completed: In progress.
Deadline: 45 months
Cost: 29.5 million EUR

Follow our Travel page for our continuting coverage of high-speed train track upgrades in Croatia. Train schedules, tickets, route maps and news can be accessed on the Croatian Railways site here.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

After Vukovar, Foreign Veterans Gather in English Pub Near Vinkovci

November 18, 2019, the annual commemoration of the fall of Vukovar is a national event each year in Croatia. And in a small English pub in a field not far from Vukovar, the foreign veterans who served came together for a much lesser-known gathering. TCN was there. It was quite a night.

They came from all over the world - Sweden, Holland, Australia, the UK, France, Germany, Ireland, and Bolivia.

Total strangers, with just one thing in common - to volunteer to fight for the freedom of an independent Croatia. 

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And last night, in an English pub in a field in the middle of nowhere in eastern Croatia, they gathered once again, some 28 years after first joining up to fight in the Homeland War. 

The war changed them all emotionally, many physically. There were four eye patches covering missing eyes in four of the soldiers, and several of the others had difficulty walking due to the wounds inflicted during the conflict. 

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The foreign war veterans of Croatia's War of Independence, together again on November 18, the day of national remembrance for the fall of Vukovar, the most emotionally charged day in the Croatian calendar. I, like they, had spent the best part of the day walking the 6km from the hospital town in the centre of Vukovar, past the iconic water tower to a service of remembrance at the large Vukovar Memorial Cemetery. And after the emotions of the occasion, we all arrived independently at the English pub, The White Boar, which lies in a field close to the train tracks on the edge of the village of Andrijasevci near Vinkovci. 

People often ask me how I find so many unique stories in Croatia. With so many unique things to tell and nobody telling them, it is actually fairly easy. The only thing you need is a curious mind and the courage to ask questions to find out more. And so it was this time. A few weeks ago, on my first visit to Vinkovci, I noticed a rather bizarre sight - a red British telephone box. Upon asking, I learned that a man from Leeds called Steve had brought it a few years ago. This Steve was a local Vinkovci legend, having volunteered to fight for Croatia, been wounded, then stayed to build a life in Vinkovci with his local wife. That life, I learned, included opening an English pub in this empty field. Intrigued, I went to find the pub, only to find it closed. Steve was kind enough to agree to an email interview, and I really encourage you to read How I Came to Open an English Pub in a Field in Eastern Croatia

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During the interview, Steve mentioned he only has draught beer for special occasions, such as November 18, when all the foreign vets come to party after the official programme in Vukovar. 

Wait, what? All the foreign vets in an English pub in the middle of nowhere in eastern Croatia - now this was a story that had potential. 

But I was an outsider. When I was an aid worker after the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, I was acutely aware that I could not understand everything as I had been an outsider. Similarly with life in Croatia, for I was not even here during the war. And as fascinating as it would be to hear the stories of these brave men who gave so much to Croatia, it was more than likely that they would resent the presence of an outsider at their private gathering, let alone want to talk to a journalist. 

Nothing could have been further from the truth. I sounded Steve out about the possibility of me visiting, and he responded that it was a great idea, and the evening of the 18th was the absolutely best time to visit - to share in the happiness of reunion after the sadness of the day. 

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I went with a friend and was a little nervous as I approached, seeing all the flags and the vets in their battle fatigues, but two things put me immediately at rest. The first was the warm welcome from Steve and his family, who were grateful for the articles I had written about the pub. 

And the second was a message of greetings I passed on to one British veteran called Rod from a friend of mine on Hvar, Vivian Grisogono, who had met Rod in the course of her work during the war. Rod was surprised that Vivian even remembered his name (and it clearly meant a lot that someone had remembered his service and suffering) and was very touched when I read him the part of the email in which she detailed that memory. He replied with memories of his own about my friend - how Vivian had pressed £10 into his hand once in London when he was short of money and insisted he keep it. He became quite emotional. 

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Out of respect, I had decided not to write anything about the event unless they were comfortable with that - I was gatecrashing a private party after all. But if they wanted to talk, I was there to relay their words - their memories, hopes, disappointments and reflections. 

And so began a fascinating evening, but not one which ended last night in terms of reporting, for several of these foreign fighters are keen to be featured a little more, for despite their heroics, they feel that there is little recognition of the sacrifices they have made, or assistance with the ongoing battles some face, especially those living in Croatia. 

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One heart-wrenching story came from one vet now living in a small town in continental Croatia. Wounded five times during the war, he can no longer walk unaided. He received an apartment and pension after the war back in 1999, and was classified as being 70% invalid. He has an illness which has been aggravated by his injuries, but rather than receiving more help, he is getting less. His invalid status has been reduced to first 60%, then 50%, and his pension now is 55% less than it once was, as the ministry looks to cut costs. This, he observed with some bitterness, when there are over half a million veterans in Croatia today, a number which increases year on year. The result of his reduced income, he says, is that he has barely enough to survive on, and 3-4 days a month, nothing to eat. 

I had not realised that the percentage of disability affects things such as access. Another vet told me that he and this 50% invalid vet had got to the cemetery at 07:30 to get there before the crowds. He himself is an 80% invalid, but they were turned away in their car. Only 100% invalids were allowed through, so they had to turn their car, find some parking down a dirt path and add a painful additional 500 metres to their journey. 

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But there was also plenty of laughter, and I particularly enjoyed the dark humour that came from their war year experiences, as well as the fabulous stories of how they got involved in the first place. Were they all altruistic volunteers, or some mercenary, some spies? It was impossible for me to tell on such a short meeting, but what shone through from all of them was the pride in their sacrifice, their love of Croatia, and the honour and memories of those that stepped up when Croatia needed it most. 

Small stories, seemingly inconsequential in the larger picture, that stayed with these brave men. Of one who was wounded and treated behind the front line by a Croatian doctor who had returned from a successful practice in Germany to play his part. At his side was his nurse wife, while their 7-year-old daughter was mopping his brow and doing her best to make him comfortable. That female touch in that very masculine environment meant the world to him then, as it does today. 

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One decided with a friend to fight for Croatia while living in Taiwan. His only Croatian friend there was an exotic dancer, who gave them a gold watch a client had given her. She told him to pawn the watch to pay for their flights - her contribution to her motherland's war effort. 

For some, Vukovar is an annual event, a chance to remember fallen friends and to catch up with those who went through the same hell as they, but for others, last night was the first return to Croatia in over a decade. And for one British vet in particular, it was an incredibly emotional return. 

He had decided to visit some of the towns and villages in Bosnia where he had fought. Walking around one, he was recognised by a local who had fought with him in his unit. An emotional reunion led to coffee, rakija, beer, and then a question.

"Have you ever been to Johan's grave? Would you like to see it if not?"

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Memories came flooding back. Johan was another foreign vet who had been wounded at least twice. For twice was the number he had carried Johan on his back to safety. On the last occasion, Johan was really struggling, six bullets inside him, and he somehow kept going to carry Johan back to relative safety. As they were almost there, Johan took a seventh bullet, the blood spraying all over his rescuer. They made it to the field hospital, where Johan was patched up and sent down the line where he sadly died two hours later. 

And now, some 26 years later, the chance to visit his grave. A hugely emotional moment, made all the more so when he saw how well Johan's grave had been looked after. A marble top and fresh flowers. He touched the cold marble grave and got some kind of closure. 

Some time before the Vukovar event, the Office of the President got in touch with these foreign veterans requesting a meeting during the official programme. A publicity stunt during an election campaign, perhaps, but it was a request which was well received, for the majority of those I spoke to last night feel very disappointed by the way they have been marginalised after the service they gave. In the event, the presidential meeting was a total failure. As the veterans waited for their moment, a presidential aid was insisting that the President had no time to meet them as she was on a tight schedule. In the end, she did apparently come for a few seconds, but nothing of consequence was said. Another disappointment. 

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There is more, much more that I could write about last night. And I will, but another time. 

My visit to Vukovar was emotionally draining, and I was not even involved. What it must be like for these heroes, living it and the consequences of it on a daily basis, I can only imagine. 

I sincerely hope they receive the recognition and support that they deserve, and TCN's door is always open for those who want to highlight such stories. 

I went for a walk on my own. So much to take in. And when I returned, my favourite band in the world (see video above) were playing. The Smiths and This Charming Man in an English pub in a field in the middle of nowhere in eastern Croatia with a barbecue with foreign volunteers in Croatia's Homeland War. As random as life can be. 

It was an honour to be there. 

Thank you for your considerable contributions. 

 

Saturday, 2 November 2019

How I Came to Open an English Pub in a Field in Eastern Croatia

November 2, 2019 - An authentic UK telephone box in Europe's oldest town, an English pub in a Slavonian field, Yorkshire puddings in a Vinkovci restaurant, and Croatia's first cider apple orchard. Meet Steve Gaunt, the man behind a little bit of Yorkshire in eastern Croatia. 

Croatia never ceases to amaze, but my recent trips to eastern Croatia have made me realise that I will spend several lifetimes in this beautiful country and never get to know it completely. My first visit to Vinkovci, the oldest continuously inhabited town in Europe, started with a very bizarre sight - an authentic British phone box. 

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Little did I know that the phone box was just the start of it. After asking a few questions, I learned about a Vinkovci restaurant which used to serve Yorkshire puddings, found myself searching for - and finding - a truly authentic English pub in a field in a village just outside Vinkovci, which is also home to Croatia's first cider apple orchard.

And the link to all of these weird and wonderfully random British things was due to one man from Leeds called Steve Gaunt. Although I have yet to meet Steve in the flesh, I have a feeling that will change soon, and I am grateful to him for finding the time for an email interview, in which he explains why there is a British phone box in Vinkovci, why he opened a pub in a field in the middle of nowhere. And much, much more.  

1. One of my recent surprises visiting eastern Slavonia was finding a little slice of Yorkshire in Vinkovci. It started with a British phone box in the middle of town and ended with me in a field in a nearby village standing outside an authentic-looking English pub called The White Boar. And you are the chap responsible for it all. Tell us briefly how you came to be a Yorkshireman in Vinkovci for almost 30 years.

Back in 1991 when war broke out here, I was the overseas operations manager for a UK travel company and had the responsibility for running all aspects of overseas operations and troubleshooting. I was in Slovenia when it kicked off there. I decided to go to Croatia in the offseason to see how I could help and ended up in the fledgling army with a bunch of other Brits. That was early November 1991. 

I was badly wounded in June 1992, spent three months in hospital, then went back to the UK, worked a while to raise cash then came back here on Christmas Day 1992 and started to piece some kind of new life together. I got Croatian citizenship in June 1993 and also became a photo reporter, eventually becoming hugely successful; almost every day I had a front-page photo in one paper or another. 

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I was captured by Serbs in 1993 whilst on assignment and charged with spying. I was only a month in there but it was the worst time of my life. I started working for the museum on digs and such then married a young local girl and she had six children in seven years.

I keep fit building additions to my buildings and metal detecting. My collection in Vinkovci Museum is valued in six figures. I also build old fashioned HTML5  based websites for small organisations which gives me a little pocket money. The rest of the time I spend shouting at Croatians that I am not responsible for Bleiburg.

(A keen metal detecting enthusiast, Steve organises a metal detecting rally - here he is being interviewed about it.)

2. And before we talk about the pub, what is the story with the telephone box?

The telephone box was an off-hand joke. After the war had quietened down, aid came from various organisations. One of these was CARE (Croatian Aid & Relief Expedition) based in South Wales. This organisation along with others brought in tons of stuff in a most disorganised fashion. After meetings with them we organised them to adopt a village (Cerić) and bring what they needed at the time of progress with resettling in their devastated village, things like tools and materials in the beginning, toys, and other non-essential items at the end. 

This worked well and after 4 years they thanked me and asked me what I wanted for myself. Taken aback, I said a barrel of Tetley's bitter or a phone box. Not thinking to hear from them again, I got a call telling me the truck with the phone box was on its way. I went to see the mayor and he jumped at the chance to have it. As there had been a public telephone on the spot where mine now stands, we had no bureaucratic problems. I only insisted that the light should work and that a phone was installed.

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I recently found some gold paint and so touched up the phone box since your visit. As you can see, it makes all the difference. 

3. And before we talk about the pub, I also heard a rumour that you introduced Yorkshire puddings to the menu of a Vinkovci restaurant. True, and what was the story if yes? How did locals take to them?

Yes, it is true, Yorkshire puddings were once served in a Vinkovci restaurant. It was called Ruža ( sadly gone now) and they learned very quickly how to make the perfect Yorkshire pudding. If only I could get them onto making pies in this country... People liked the puddings, but this was just after the war, business was slow, and money short. The restaurant eventually closed.

4. And so to the pub, which really took me back to rural England. Tell us about the idea and the realisation. Getting anything built in Croatia is a challenge, and I assume that an English pub might have involved some additional fun and games.

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I know you had problems with paperwork in Dalmatia, but I can actually transfer ownership of land or a house in Vinkovci in a single working day. I just sold a house for one English friend to another English friend, despite the shadow of Brexit.

So, one day a local guy who was my sergeant in the war asked if I wanted to buy his land. Well I had no money, but agreed to take a look. As you know from your visit, it was a bit of a lonely spot and I wan't sure, but the plot was in the building zone. Just before we left I heard a nightingale sing from a plum tree at the end and that swung it. 

He wanted 2400 euro and I offered to pay 100 a month for two years. He refused, but called me the next day and said OK. Later on, he reduced the price if I could pay the rest immediately and by luck I had some money then and paid up. Then I started building a small wood-framed house at the end of the plot, which is the little white house at the end of the field.

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Now this plot was in an area that was an abandoned hamlet and all the plots but the one over the path from the pub were for sale, but at a price. This was 2013. Then I was approached by the widow who owned the house where the pub now stands and that came with two plots. She wanted 3000 euro and I had the money borrowed and paid before an hour was up!

I knocked down the old house and put in a cellar, then built the old house back where it was. I had dabbled with brewing before and thought it would be a fine idea to have my own little pub for it (we have a flat in Vinkovci so didn't need a place to live as such). I had also planted cider apple trees and hoped that they might thrive and let me make cider (again, mainly for myself).

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I got the electric company to put up 18 poles to run electric there and that doubled the value of the land for me and all my neighbours. I finished the pub with the help of my children in March 2016.

Meanwhile, fellow metal detectorists had been visiting from the UK including Gordon Heritage of Discovery Channel fame. Gordon wanted to move nearby so we got the cottage to the left of the White House and fixed it up fior him. Two others came and took the house behind the pub, which we rebuilt in 2016 and another mate took a house over the railway line where the little horses are. So now we had an English village.

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5. You have a really great beer selection on offer. Tell us about it and how hard it is to maintain stocks and get deliveries. There can't be many Yorkshire beers being shipped to eastern Croatia.

British beer comes in haphazardly, every visitor always brings me a load. Some can even be bought in Lidl. But I don't rely on them, there is a decent local brewer who listens to me and he produces two good ales. But where the Croats are concerned, they don't care much and will drink any Croatian beers, which are getting better and more varied.

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I only put draught on when there is something important happening, such as a private party, a detecting rally, or the event we have on the 18th of November each year when foreign volunteers attend the event in Vukovar then party at my pub.

(The foreign volunteers who fought for Croatia in the video above)

6. How is business? I assume you have a loyal set of regulars. Do many people know about the pub and do you get passing tourist traffic?

There is not much business outside organised events because I can't always have someone there. Locals don't often come, but enjoy it when they do. Whilst waiting for you we had some locals and folk from Knin, Delnice and Osijek. My second son always has partied there but that doesn't put anything in my pocket. To be honest I wouldn't want to run it as a business, far too demanding. I am happy as it is. You can see more about the pub on the Facebook page. There is also a website

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7. Did I see cricket on the pub's Facebook page? And cider production?

Well I have the equipment and myself and another local English volunteer and invalid, Rodney Morgan, like cricket, though we can't play, but we get the gear out and try every now and then until broken roof tiles and car windows puts us off.

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I ilke cider. I thought I would make Croatia's first cider orchard so planted about 50 trees and set about the great and painful five-year experiment to see which (if any) English varieties would thrive, or at least survive. I got a chap in the UK to send cuttings and I grafted them onto local varieties, and now have about 10 different ones, two of which show promise, though the drought of the last three years has set them back some.

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I got just 12 litres of juice from this year's meagre crop, but if I can make it work, I have customers for every drop I can make.

Anyway, Gordon will buy brewing gear so if the cider doesn't pan out, then we will make beer (the thing with my English neighbours is, they are rich and I am poor, at least financially).

8. For those wanting to come for a pint and meet a Yorkshire legend, tell us where the pub is and how to find it.

The pub SHOULD be easy to find, I have put it on Google maps but they continually refuse to correct the errors in the street layout and naming. 'Here we go' maps have it perfect now.

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This is the correct location above, and below what Google Maps will give you. You need to take the path to the left of the railway line, whereas Google sends you on the right. 

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I am on my land almost every day, that is always something to do (check out my Facebook page) and it gives me a quiet place to write and update my books (I have published a book on medieval rings, because nobody else had). There is also my diary of the war, just basic stuff, but it sold well in Croatian language and some other published projects.

Željeznička Ulica 39, Andrijaševci

Call 098 667 527

And this is how I eventually found The White Boar

Finding Steve's pub was just one of many discoveries on my recent trip to Slavonia. Check out 9 other things I learned while visiting during Days of Croatian Tourism

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

HeadOnEast: How to Make the Most from a Weekend in Eastern Croatia

October 23, 2019 - Even for many Croatian residents, eastern Croatia is a relatively unknown destination, so what is there to explore in a weekend? TCN decided to HeadOnEast on a family road trip to find out.

We had been discussing a weekend in Budapest or Vienna. That is one of the great advantages of living in Varazdin - there is so much that is in driving distance. But in the end, we made a family decision to go in an entirely different direction for a weekend of family discovery - Slavonia.

The initial publicity from the HeadOnEast - [email protected] has died down now that Days of Croatian Tourism is behind us and the tourism chiefs are safely back in Zagreb, but those few days reignited my enthusiasm for eastern Croatia, and the family seemed to like the photos I was sending back. Could we have a more fun weekend in Slavonia rather than Budapest or Vienna? We decided to find out. 

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School finished at 13:15 in Varazdin, and we were on the road by 15:00, destination Bilje just outside Osijek, where we would stay with friends. The journey time was much shorter than I had imagined, just over three hours via Zagreb. Slavonia was actually closer than most of the coast. 

The roads were clear and we made good progress and as we turned off the main Belgrade motorway closing in on Osijek, a huge church appeared on the horizon. But really massive. 

Djakovo Cathedral. It was only just off the road, so we decided to stop for a quick wander around. 

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And what a pretty little place Djakovo is, with one of the nicest main squares in Croatia.

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And the cathedral is outstanding, both inside and out. Mass was underway and so we snuck in - this photo above is just from one of the sides, not the main altar. 

We debated on whether or not to visit the famous Djakovo Lipizzaner horses, but decided that we would save that for next time as we wanted to press on.  

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Downtown Osijek of course his its own mightily impressive cathedral from the same era and architect, some 3.5 million bricks in all towering over the city skyline.

There was a really nice vibe around town early on the Friday night, a wonderful place to walk around and explore the historic streets and buildings. 

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Being on the Drava, Osijek has its own 'riva' just as in Dalmatia, a place of space, nature and people watching. A nice little spot for a coffee on arrival. 

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it was my family's first visit to Slavonia and I wanted them to see as much as possible, and the walk along the river to Tvrda, or Fortress, was magical. And although the fortress and old town date back centuries, some rather impressive changes and upgrades are in process, such as this spectacular new square, which was until recently mostly a muddy parking lot. 

And when the old town comes alive, it really comes alive. Things were a lot quieter during our visit, but take a tour of the HeadOnEast gourmet festival earlier this month in the video above. 

Osijek surprised us all with its beauty and the sheer number of historic buildings and wide tree-lined avenues - gllimpses of its past glories. Get more of a feel in this walking tour above, organised by locals with a lot more knowledge than this fat British blogger. 

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And so to our accommodation, and one which we were all looking forward to. A weekend without gadgets in the natural beauty of OPG Mario Romulic just outside Bilje. 

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Mario is a good friend of mine and is diversifying from his very successful career as one of Croatia's premier photographers to open his own organic farm next to his home. It is fantastic! I stayed there a couple of weeks ago for the first time, slept like a log and woke to the clucking of hens. 

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And all around the wooden house, organic produce leading to the family home. The kids loved it, especially the 15 cats (mostly tiny kittens) which were roaming freely with the hens. 

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But we had also come to explore, and the first stop was a visit to the legendary cellars of Ilocki Podrum, Croatia's most decorated winery and purveyors of wine for the Royal weddings of William and Harry, as well as the Queen's coronation back in 1953 - learn more about that and the most expensive bottle of wine in Croatia

But before the tour of the cellars, a little breakfast. A glass of Traminac with the most unusual-sounding breakfast dish I have ever come across. Literally translated - Torn Underpants. They tasted a lot better than they sounded. 

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The Ilok cellars are incredible, the stories even more so, and the wines even more so than that. There is a separate article coming on TCN, but in the meantime, just visit!

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 And plenty were visiting, even in mid-October. Just one of the day's tour groups from the United States. Despite its position as the easternmost point of Croatia, Ilocki Podrum receives some 70,000 tourists a year, 45,000 of them foreign. 

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But while I was aware of the wines, I had no idea that tourism at Ilocki Podrumi was also booming in addition to the wine. The estate of Principovac is located in splendid isolation outside of town, a very popular wedding venue and complete with restaurant, quality accommodation, tennis courts and even some golf. A really great conference centre and place to escape the stresses of life. 

And to party. The New Year's Eve festivities for 500 guests are quite something apparently. Take in the view in the video above.  

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There was just enough time to visit the compact old part of the town of Ilok as well. Really rather pretty and definitely a destination for a relaxing weekend in its own right.  

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Slavonia is VERY flat and we loved the golden autumnal colours as we drove, as well as several very quirky things along the route. The famous Slavonian straw artist has been busy in the region... 

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And then, finally, the chance to fill in one of the biggest gaps in my knowledge of Croatia - Vucedol.

And what a gap it turned out to be. I knew that there was some claim to ancient civilisation in eastern Croatia, but I had never researched it too much, and so the Vucedol Museum was quite a shock. For this modern-day suburb of Vukovar had once been as important as Paris today in terms of settlements in Europe.  

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And the discoveries of Vucedol place it very favourably with other world-famous cultures such as the pyramids in Egypt, Stonehenge etc. And yet very little is known internationally about Vucedol.  

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A very developed civilisation which gave the world the oldest calendar in Europe, the first metal casting of tools, and some rather funky fashion 5,000 years ago.  

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And rituals of human sacrifice. 

More on Vucedol coming soon, but check out the museum, it is one of the very best in Croatia and a great family attraction. And the enticing thing is this - only 10% of the area has been excavated. Imagine what else is waiting to be found if the other 90% is ever excavated. Croatia could be home to one of the world's most important archaeological sites. 

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From the ancient past to the very recent past, as we visited probably the most famous building in eastern Croatia and symbol of the suffering of the heroic city of Vukovar, which is now under reconstruction.  

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I had planned on exploring Vukovar on a future visit, but as we were so close, we decided to drive through. The iconic water tower in the distance, the Danube separating Croatia from Serbia.  

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And cruise tourism, the type you rarely read about in the news, but growing slowly and bringing tourists to the east - cruises down the River Danube. Still going strong in mid-October.  

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And so to our next stop - to the oldest continuously inhabited town in all Europe, home to some of the more sensational Vucedol finds. Vinkovci, a fascinating town we covered in some detail recently

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And since my visit a few weeks ago, yet one more sensational discovery - wonderfully preserved remains of a Roman chariot and horse.  What other secrets await to be discovered - from Roman times, the Vucedol era, and others?

There was lots to ponder and discuss as we headed back to our organic paradise on Saturday night. 

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Sunday morning was spent with Barba Mario. As far away from the stress of modern life as one could hope to be.  

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We really enjoyed our tour of his wonderful project, which you can learn more about on Facebook. and all the little details, such as this little bug hotel, which provides the right conditions for wild bees to thrive. They are essential as they work in much lower temperatures than ordinary bees, therefore pollinating where pollination would otherwise not happen. 

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And after a tour, a little breakfast - all locally sourced or home-grown.  

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Slavonia is known for many things, including the best hospitality in all Croatia, and while we had planned to leave a little earlier, a tour of Mario's 'Meat Church' and an invitation to lunch proved too hard to resist.  

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And while Mario slow-cooked the meat, we drove the one kilometre necessary to one of the natural jewels of Croatian tourism, Kopacki Rit Nature Park. 

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The weather was perfect, the nature more so - one of the most important wetlands in Europe, with over 300 species of birds. 

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And nicely constructed wooden walkways took you through the marshlands - beautifully done. 

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And we were not alone. Another boat full of tourists heads out into the Kopacki Rit waterways. 

Meanwhile... 

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Romulic the photographer combines with Romulic the masterchef. 

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Cooking as It Once Was. 

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A hearty lunch, great company and fabulous Slavonian hospitality. It was with some regret that we packed our things and headed back west to our regular lives. 

Budapest or Vienna for the weekend? Why not explore the jewels which are much closer to home instead? 

Here are 10 things that I learned about eastern Croatia this month

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Vinkovci to Develop Cultural Offer with Roman Heritage Route

October 22, 2019 - Vinkovci, known as the oldest town in Europe, is also the birthplace of two Roman emperors. Now, the city is looking to use its Roman heritage to improve its cultural offer. 

A new tourist route displaying Roman heritage is being established with the EU, i.e., the Council of Europe. 

HRTurizam reports that the creation of this Roman heritage route began at the initiative of the Council of Europe through the Routes4U project. The project aims to stimulate the development of transnational cultural routes, preserving the heritage in four European macro-regions, namely the Adriatic-Ionian, Baltic, Alpine, and Danube regions.

After several months of cooperation and many years of communication on Roman heritage, the Vinkovci Tourist Board was invited to attend a meeting with the EU and the Council of Europe on establishing a new route.

At the meeting, which brought together interested countries and specific partners from the Adriatic Ionian and Danube regions, including the Vinkovci Tourist Board, the group discussed forming the "Roman Heritage Route”, "Iron Age Route" and the "European Route of Saints Cyril and Methodius". 

Following the previously expressed interest in partnership on the Roman heritage route, the representative of the Vinkovci Tourist Board, director Martina Matković, presented her efforts to educate, promote and create content on the subject of the Roman Empire, which in recent years has been realized by the Vinkovci Tourist Board in cooperation with the City Museum of Vinkovci.

"This is the beginning of a truly new direction in the development of the cultural offer of the city of Vinkovci, which we will put into the function of tourism through various projects that we hope to realize," said Matković.

The Roman route includes Italy, Slavonia, Croatia, Greece, Serbia, Austria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Albania, with a total of 40 localities.

After the feasibility study, the partners expressed their interest in participating in this route and following the steps for certifying the route, which is a prerequisite for further development of the projects along the route, preserving the heritage and its presentation as well as tourist valorization.

As the oldest city in Europe, whose territory has been continuously inhabited for more than 8300 years, Vinkovci has kept many secrets underground - and since 1982, the entire area of Vinkovci has been declared a protected archeological zone. Otherwise, it is less known that it was precisely in Vinkovci (Colonia Aurelia Cibalae, the Roman name of Vinkovci) that two Roman emperors, Valens and Valentinian, were born.

Colonia Aurelia Cibalae was the third-largest city in the province of Pannonia Sekunda, extending into present-day Slavonia, Srijem, and Baranja, after the capital of Sirmium (S. Mitrovica) and Mursa (Osijek). The city was founded at the beginning of the first century and slowly developed into a commercial and craft center. During the Hadrian period (117-1988) it was granted the status of a municipality (Municipium Aelium Cibalae), and from the end of the 2nd or the beginning of the 3rd century, the city was raised to the rank of a colony. 

The basis of economic development was agriculture and the ceramics industry, as is evidenced by over 80 ceramic furnaces found to date. The city experienced a peak of growth through the 4th century when between 5,000 and 10,000 inhabitants lived in the town and the surrounding area, and the city spread over an area of ​​about 550,000 m2. The most important people born in Cibalae are brothers Valentinian (364-375) and Valens (364-378), the only Roman emperors born in present-day Croatia.

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

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Vinkovci: 10 Things to Know about Europe's Oldest Town

October 11, 2019 - Did you know that the oldest continuously inhabited town in Europe is in eastern Croatia? Nor did I until recently, and Vinkovci really is a fascinating little place. 10 things to know.  

I will confess that I had lived in Croatia for a full 13 years before I had even heard of Vinkovci. And if it wasn't for the energy of Goran Rihelj of the HR Turizam portal, a Vinkovci resident and passionate promoter of eastern Croatia, I might still be none the wiser. I must admit that I was a little intrigued when Goran kept signing off on his emails with the phrase - Greetings from the Oldest Town in Europe.   

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I was curious and decided to look into things a little more. And it turned out that young Goran was right - Vinkovci WAS the oldest continuously inhabited town in Europe, dating back some 8,300 years. And, as you can imagine, a true archaeological paradise. One doesn't have to dig very deep to find some antiquities of the past, not great news if you are trying to build apartment blocks. Although digging without permits is not permitted, several people I spoke to when I visited Vinkovci finally had found pieces of pottery dating back thousands of years. 

Rather than go around digging, head instead to the nearby Vucedol museum close to nearby Vukovar, where thousands of years of the culture of Vinkovci and surrounding areas is beautifully and educationally presented in one of Croatia's most modern museums. 

And it turns out that, in addition to being Europe's oldest town, Vinkovci is rather a fascinating place in its own right. Here are ten things which define it. 

1. Birthplace of two Roman Emperors

Vinkovci is a long way from Zagreb, and even further from Rome, but the town is the birthplace of not one but two Roman Emperors, one of whom continues to shape the tourism story of Vinkovci today. Both Valentinian and Valens were born in Vinkovci and went on to rule the Roman Empire, but the name of Valens lives on due to his favourite refreshment - beer. 

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2. A city of beer traditions like no other

Discoveries in Vucedol culture included a beer pot dating back 5,000 years - that is quite some beer-drinking tradition! And Emperor Valens certainly played his part. While most Roman Emperors drank wine, Valens was a beer man. So much so in fact that his nickname of Sabaiarius translated as 'Beer Belly.' Between WWI and WWII, there were no less than 14 different beers in Vinkovci, and the latest addition to the Vinkovci beer story would surely have Emperor Valens' seal of approval - a craft beer in his name brewed in the town. 

3. Home to the oldest calendar in Europe

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In 1978, during construction work on Hotel Slavonija in the centre of town, an ancient pot was found in the rubble, which experts dated at 2,600 BC, and whose patterns depicted the oldest known calendar in Europe. You can learn much more about the Orion calendar in the Vucedol museum, as well as enjoying the patterns, which have been immortalised in the paving in the pedestrian zone in the centre of town.  

4. A sausage for Guinness

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You will not be in Slavonia long before you are treated to the wonders of Slavonian cuisine, which is very much meat-based. And in the finest culinary traditions of the region, a successful attempt was made in 2009 to make the longest sausage in the world, an impressive 530 metres in length. Since then, however, others have taken the challenge rather serious, and some dedicated sausage makers in Romania in 2014 made a sausage which was an astonishing 62.7 km long.  

5. A river which flows in two directions

There are only a handful of rivers in the world which can flow in both directions. The River Bosut, which flows through Vinkovci, is one. Apparently, there is a very slight incline as the Bosut passes through the town (0.8%) and when the wind gets up, the water heads backwards. 

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6. Folkore and autumn - Croatia's biggest celebration

The most famous event in the annual calendar is undoubtedly Vinkovacke Jeseni - Vinkovci Autumns - a magnificent display of folklore and traditional dress. from all over Croatia. The aftermovie from this year's event has just come out - watch it below, it is magnificent.

7. The British influence, from phone boxes to Yorkshire puddings

One of the more unusual sights in town is an authentic red British phone box, not exactly what you would expect to find in the centre of the oldest town in the world. It is apparently due to the town's best-loved foreign resident, Steve Gaunt, a Leeds man who first arrived in 1991 to volunteer in the war, became a Croatian citizen and stayed. Someone told me he was responsible for the introduction of Yorkshire puddings on the menu in one Vinkovci restaurant - what I can confirm for sure is that he is now running what looks like rather a fine establishment just outside the town - The White Boar looks like a very authentic British pub.  

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8. Casting metal - a gift to the world

I knew that Vucedol culture had several world firsts, but I didn't know that they included the first metal casting in the world. Just one of many things you can learn on a walking tour of the historic centre, just one of many things you can pick up from the excellent tri-lingual signage (Croatian, English and German) around the town.

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9. Roman Days - a festival fit for an emperor

And in a town which gave birth to two Roman Emperors, one might expect a Roman festival, which takes part each year in late May/early June, and is described by the national tourist board as follows:

Did you know that two Roman emperors, Valens and Valentinian, were born in Roman Cibalae (today's Vinkovci)

Did you know that people used to drink beer, not wine in Cibalae?

Do you want to meet an emperor, to see a Roman legion, gladiators or Roman ladies?

Come to Vinkovci and experience the „Roman Days“ manifestation!

Gladiators' battles

A craft beer festival

Tasting emperor's beer

Workshops for children (straw workshops, ceramic workshops, circus workshops ...)

Roman games

A knowledge Olympiad

A Roman fair

Roman food

Concerts

Lectures

A presentation of life in an encampment

10. A celebration of horses - Pokladno Jahanje

Slavonia has a proud horse-riding tradition, and the Lipizzaner horses in Djakovo are world-famous, even attracting a visit from horse-lover Queen Elizabeth II back in 1972. There is a very nice horse festival each February in Vinkovci and surrounding area, harking back to an era when Vinkovci was part of the Military Frontier. This tradition has been renewed, and so in Vinkovci we can see the horse riders from our County, dressed in traditional garments, passing through the old quarters of Vinkovci - Ervenica and Krnjaš. Some citizens stand in waiting to greet the cavalcade and offer food and drinks to the participants, who all get greeted in the City centre by the County Prefect and the Mayor.  

 

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The oldest town in Europe, but one which also embraces the future, symbolised by the famous Croatian smart bench, which you can use to recharge your phone before continuing your selfie tour of 8,300 years of history. 

To learn more about eastern Croatia, here are 25 things to know. 

Monday, 7 October 2019

A Random Search for an English Pub in a Field in Slavonia

October 7, 2019 - What else would you expect to find in the middle of Slavonia than a British phone box in the middle of town and an English pub in the middle of nowhere?

It is many years since I have had a routine, and I am not sure that I could fit back into one these days if I had to. Running TCN requires a certain amount of flexibility, and living in Croatia has taught me to take each day as it comes, and to expect the unexpected around every corner. 

Some days, the unexpected is rather more surreal than normal, even by Croatia's impressive standards. 

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My first visit to the oldest continuously inhabited town in Europe took place on my trip to Slavonia last week. I was keen to learn about the considerable history of Vinkovci, but the first thing which confronted me was something altogether familiar from me - a bona fide British telephone box. 

Rather surreal. It was explained to me that it had been brought to the town by a man from Leeds who was a local legend, having arrived in 1991 as a volunteer to defend Croatia. Now a Croatian citizen, he has been here ever since. 

And he had opened a real British pub in a village outside of the town. 

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Now I really was losing the plot. I typed 'The White Boar, Vinkovci' into Google, and sure enough, images of men in a pub appeared. Never having heard of this chap or the pub, I endeavoured to pop in and say hi. A good job I had some of that TCN flexibility built into my schedule.  

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With the aid of modern technology, going off to discover things is a lot easier than it used to be. 

Or so I thought. 

As I came to the top of the road Google had decided was my route to The White Boar, the road ran out of houses, and there was still no pub. 

In fact, all that was left was... 

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A field of Shetland ponies, just what you would expect to find wandering around Slavonia looking for an English pub.  

People were fairly hard to find but eventually one local told me that yes indeed, there was an English pub, and it was close to the train tracks and there was a path of sorts to drive along. 

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I found the road that went over the train tracks, and my first clue! A weathered sign for The White Boar!

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 I will confess I was dubious as I set off up the rough path next to the railway track, even more so after a couple of hundred metres with no sign of a pub. And then the path veered to the left away from the train tracks and towards a field. I was literally in the middle of nowhere in the middle of Slavonia. 

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And then I saw it - the magnificent White Boar, which looked VERY inviting and reminiscent of a country village pub back in Blighty.  

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And, checking out the information about the landlord and the rules of the pub, it seemed to be rather a fun place indeed. 

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Sadly it was closed. I called the number on the board, then texted, but owner Steve had popped back to the UK for a few days and would be back on Tuesday. A pity, as I was very curious to interview him, as well as seeing what he had to offer inside. 

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From the Facebook page, there seemed to be quite a selection of bottled beer, as well as a couple of beers on draught.  

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The White Boar was developed from a derelict cottage near the River Bosut close to Andrijaševci. It was opened as a pub and clubhouse for campers and visitors and the small British community that is growing locally.

While we have a good selection of local beers, we also brew our own bitter and have monthly British Beer & Cider tasting. We have many events, including the bi-annual Metal Detecting Rally, which attracts visitors from all over Europe. The area is known for its abundant wildlife, it's ancient history, fishing, hunting, and local folklore. The White Boar is also a new cider farm and our intention is to make it the main outlet for our produce. 

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There is even cricket apparently!

We are returning to Slavonia in a couple of weeks to explore further, and so I will try again, but it seems that poet Rupert Brooke was right:

There is a corner of a foreign field that is forever England.

Why not seek it out for yourself? Perhaps you will even find it a little easier than I did. Follow The White Boar on Facebook

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Vinkovci Autumn, Presenting Best of Slavonian Folk Customs for More than 50 Years

September 14, 2019 - For the 54th year, the Vinkovci Autumn event will proudly preserve and nurture the customs and cultural heritage of Croatia.

Goran Rihelj of HRTurizam writes that from September 13 to 22, Vinkovci Autumn will offer the best display of Slavonian customs in an effort to preserve them - and this renowned and well-known folklore, tourist, economic and cultural event will attract around 100,000 visitors.

In addition to the vibrant traditional and cultural program that is the foundation of the event, there is also an enticing gastronomy and entertainment program: from the best Slavonian specialties to souvenirs, a variety of accompanying programs, a wine town, craft beer festival, conferences and various concerts every day.

Since 1970, as part of Vinkovci Autumn, young folklore groups also have their place in cultural and artistic societies, and by learning from their elders, they nurture and preserve the tradition and heritage of their towns. 

In order to show what they learned and rehearsed during the year, and as worthy heirs to the older guardians of traditional heritage, children's folklore groups from all counties of Croatia, as well as the diaspora, will arrive in Vinkovci, where two days are dedicated only to them. 

Thus, the Children’s Vinkovci Autumn, as this two-day event of children’s folklore groups is called, takes place on Saturday and Sunday, September 14th and 15th, featuring the most festive of folk costumes and customs. Rihelj adds that the Children's Vinkovci Autumn guarantees the survival of this event as a whole, and that this year, the Children's Vinkovci Autumn will feature 3,000 small participants, with over 60 children's folklore groups.

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Vinkovačke jeseni Facebook

Vinkovci Autumn offers one of the biggest stages of original traditional Croatian folklore, with about 8000 participants in total. The theme of this year's event is "Three dear words", in regards to Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem.

The most spectacular event will take place on the last day, when 75 KUDs and folklore groups from the country and the diaspora, 30 horse-drawn carriages and about 50 riders, or almost 4,500 participants, will parade the streets of the city in a ceremonial march. 

Find out more about Vinkovci Autumn here.

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

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Days of Croatian Tourism 2019 Programme: Will Hedonists #HeadOnEast to Slavonia?

September 11, 2019 - Days of Croatian Tourism 2019 will take place in Slavonia next month - the full programme has just been published by the Ministry of Tourism.

I am not sure how to describe the Days of Croatian Tourism annual event, which takes place in October each year. It is certainly full of pomp, with the awards ceremony broadcast on live television. The event is like a who's who of the movers and shakers in Croatian tourism, and it is usually held in one of Croatia's top destinations. Apart from being a pretty backdrop to the occasion, it is also a chance for tourism officials to decamp to a top destination on the coast away from Zagreb for a few days of relaxation and 'work'. Last year's event in Hvar Town was VERY well attended. 

I am curious to see how many of those same official workers come for the entire event at Days of Croatian Tourism 2019. After pressure from several quarters, the government seems to be taking more of an interest in Slavonia, and this year's event will take place in Slavonia. A gorgeous region with so much potential, but without the 4 and 5-star relaxation of more developed coastal destinations. 

And the programme looks great (at least for those who can read Croatian - would it be too much trouble to provide an English version for those interested? If nothing else, it sets a good example for Croatian tourism in general). I really like the slogan - HeadOnEast for Hedonist - and there is plenty to see in the three-day event. Virovirica, Slavonski Brod and Vukovar on Day 1, Slavonski Brod, Pozega, Kutjevo, Papuk Nature Park and Jankovac Park, Osijek and Vinkovci on Day 2, and a full day in Osijek on Day 3. Full programme in Croatian below.

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