Thursday, 16 March 2023

Vukovar Card to Be Presented at Dangerous Ideas 2 Zagreb Conference

March 16, 2023 - So what are the ideas to build a better Croatia? An innovative conference in Zagreb on Saturday - the second edition of Dangerous Ideas.

This is turning out to be a hugely positive week for me. 

Firstly, I welcomed on board my first official partner to try and realise my concept of the Dalmatian 'Olympics' of Traditional Dalmatian Games, an attend to preserve and celebrate the individual heritage of Dalmatian villages before some of these traditions are lost. You can read more about the concept in Introducing the Traditional Dalmatian Games Olympics: Get Involved!


Yesterday's fun was at Kaptol Cinema for the annual 3T - Tourism, Travel and Technology conference, which was a very inspiring and GREAT networking event. In addition to presenting Unlocking Croatia's 12-Month Authentic Tourism Potential, there was a great chat with conference organiser Oleg Mastruko on how Croatia can compete in the modern multi-polar tourism world. Great energy and an awesome list of speakers. 

Tonight is one of my favourite events of the year, where seemingly all the positive energy in Croatia gathers for one night - the EY Entrepreneur of the Year award. It always feels as if the future of Croatia is gathered in one room for an evening. 

And as if that was not enough fun, a nice addition to the weekend at Hotel Westin in Zagreb on Saturday, for a conference which is bound to throw out some very cool suggestions. Dangerous Ideas 2, an initiative from the Centar party nd FNF (and no, I am not interested in Croatian politics, but I do support cool ideas) to invite people to pitch their ideas for a better Croatia.

"All the good stuff you wish could happen in Croatia but nobody dares to implement."

Each speaker will have just 10 minutes to get their points across, and there is a very impressive list of speakers, and I am grateful for the invitation to contribute my 10 minutes. You can see the timetable and list of speakers below. Everyone is welcome, and the event will be streamed live here


I will be presenting my concept, the Vukovar Card, a New Deal for Eastern Croatia, which you can learn about in this video from my channel.

The conference is open to all, and entrance is free, starting at 10:00 at Hotel Westin.

The latest sprinkling of positivity in Croatia - there is a lot of it about these days. 

See you there!


You can subscribe to the Paul Bradbury Croatia Expert YouTube channel here.

What is it like to live in Croatia? An expat for 20 years, you can follow my series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years, starting at the beginning - Business and Dalmatia.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.

Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners is now available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.



Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Meet Vukovar 365, Full of Life – Matea Mađaroš

March 30, 2022 – Meet Matea Mađaroš, a young architect from Vukovar who turned down an interview with Universal Studios in Florida because she was already employed with another kickass company. 

The fact that a lot of young people end up leaving Croatia, especially the east of the country, to build a good and steady future is unfortunately well known. And as if the pressures are not enough, they are often met with judgment for not wanting to stay and keep fighting with everyone else. Yes, Croatia is developing and so is the east of the country, but it still is hard. And sometimes the reasons for that are very different as well. We spoke to a young architect from Vukovar, whose move to Denmark was purely a career choice and not survival. It was an attempt to play with the big guys, to learn and to reach heights to match her talent, ambitions, and hard work. And it’s working out wonderfully.

Meet Matea, a multitalented young lady who is known in Vukovar for her skills, dedication to art and friendly smile. She is the girl behind the keyboard making it produce wonderful sounds. It started when during primary school she attended music school and became obsessed with the piano. From a very young age, the only thing that was on her mind as a possible career path was music. She played at festivals, competitions and with choirs, including the church and the city choir in Vukovar. By the end of her primary education, however, she became interested in a different form of art. She then decided to keep music to herself and instead make her contribution to society through architecture and design. She went on to study architecture on the undergraduate level in Split. The focus laid heavily on developing the conceptual thought, and Matea found that very helpful. For her master’s studies she moved to Zagreb. By that time, she had already presented some of her projects and won awards. She stayed the course and currently works with one of the world’s leading architecture firms, the Copenhagen-based Bjarke Ingels Group. We spoke to her to see how she did it, where she is now, and to get her views on Vukovar and Croatia as well. 

Tell us about your first projects.

After my undergraduate studies in Split I had the perfect first client. Father Ivica of the Church of St. Philip and James in Vukovar asked me to design the candleholder for the newly renovated areas. I was hesitant about the idea since it had a lot more to do with product design than architecture, but I am so grateful for the opportunity as it really opened my eyes and made me realize that I can do it and that I can expand my skillset and really let creativity flow. I truly appreciate that Father Ivica gave me complete freedom and accepted all my ideas. He saw value in what I created. On my last year, another project followed where I designed the souvenir and ticket shop for the church’s museum. I was inspired by the museum itself so we decided to arrange the shop in a similar way where the souvenirs would be presented as exhibits in a museum, and the actual products for sale would stand in the background. Again, I was met with approval and the project was quickly finished and is now in full operation.

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Your graduate thesis was an interesting proposal, can you tell us about that?

I started thinking about Vukovar and I realized that one of the biggest unresolved issues there was situated right in the middle of the most valuable area – the old hotel Dunav, which now stands in ruins without any purpose. I became curious and started exploring the possibilities. I knew that it did not make much sense to just go with a massive hotel and that it needed other facilities, so I decided to make it into a conference centre as well.  As for the design itself, I wanted it to be an extension of the architecture of Vukovar so I based it on the famous arcades of the city centre.

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After I graduated, I even had an opportunity to present my project to the mayor. Though he did like the idea, the question remains of who the investor would be for such a project. There are a few different sides to the story, and it’s really about politics. It might be very slow, if at all possible, to reach an agreement and get started, but my main goal was to at least get the conversation going. I heard that the discussion is indeed happening and that makes me happy. 

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Why Denmark, how did that happen? 

At the beginning of my studies our professors presented the largest companies in the world, including Bjarke Ingels Group. I started thinking about how great it would be to work for a company like that, where it’s all about creativity and play. So many architectural offices are places where they simply churn out projects. I am more interested in architecture that brings something new to the scene, that changes perceptions. There were two ways of landing a job like that – coming from an Ivy League School or shooting directly for the stars. Obviously, I had to go for the latter. Just before my graduation, I created a portfolio of all my projects and sent it over to all the top companies along with an open application letter. The reply from BIG came in two days later, then an interview, and two weeks later I was already in Copenhagen. I was brought on as a trainee architect, but I was so lucky to have been in excellent teams with some very important people which gave me a chance to work with the very top of the company early on. After a year I was promoted to a junior architect. Ah yes, around that time they also invited me for an interview with Universal Studios, but I had to turn it down since I had already accepted the job with BIG and I was happy with that.


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Were your job expectations met?

I love working here, the atmosphere is very friendly, and we have a lot of fun. Most of our days are spent discussing ideas and just talking, and that is exactly what it should be. It is an open space where everyone is truly equal, and everyone can participate in any project. I worked on a couple different projects for opera houses, which is incredibly rare in the world of architecture. One of my projects has already been finished – the city square in Esbjerg in Denmark.

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How is life in Denmark?

I know that there are some negative opinions of living abroad, but my situation very different. I left because I knew this was the right place for me to develop my skills. I'm not here with the goal to acquire enough money to buy a fancy car and move back. I am truly growing and learning. I'm open to all cultures and other people. There are 36 different nationalities at my office. I lead the most normal life here – I have a partner and friends, and I have my family and other friends in Croatia. I do miss home, but I don’t have an urge to leave Denmark right now. As for the country itself, I would say that it’s apparent that they are richer than Croatia. What I like the most is the fact that a lot of thought is put into appearances as well as the functioning of their cities. 

What are your plans for the future, thoughts on going back to Vukovar?

I am open to anything – this company is my beginning and not my end. I am here to learn and connect with people. I do have ambition to eventually go my own direction and start designing beyond architectural boundaries. I am not bound by location either, and a lot of people misunderstand that as non-patriotic tendencies. I love our country and I love the people there. Vukovar is a place where I will always go back and will always stay in touch with. I follow the developments and I can see some new projects that look exciting. There are many ways to contribute to your home whether you are physically present or not. With that being said, I will say that if the same opportunity presented itself in Vukovar or any other part of the world, I would choose Vukovar and my roots. 

What do you think about how Vukovar is developing and the direction it’s going?

This is a bit sensitive. I will say that there is this mental barrier present, you can sense the atmosphere of our past. Building beautiful buildings and large monuments will not solve the problems. We need to work a lot more on the relationships between people, achieving balance and creating a positive atmosphere first. At the same time, with other aspects I feel like the passive period has ended and everything is now starting to bloom. As far as the architecture of the city is concerned, I do see potential in future projects, and I think that everything is going in the right direction. 

I will emphasize that great potential lies in Vukovar and its surrounding area. It is certainly the place with the greatest tourist potential in the region. It lies on the largest river in Europe, it’s at a crossroads of countries and regions. It’s steeped in nature, surrounded by nature parks, and national parks are nearby. Vukovar has always been a source of inspiration for me, and I want to give back. I hope that there are other people who feel the same way. As long as we are aware that we need to give back, everything will be okay.

For more, check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Thursday, 17 March 2022

Meet Vukovar 365, Full of Life – PRONI Centre for Social Education

March 17, 2022 – Meet Goran, the director of the youth department at PRONI, Vukovar’s centre for social education. 

Though their name and title might seem a little ambiguous, a quick visit to their website has the word youth stand out more than anything else. This is quite indicative of what PRONI stands for and what they have been doing for over 20 years. With their primary focus on youth work, which includes working directly with teens and young adults aged 18-30, as well as working with trainers and educators who are involved in such work, the main goals of the centre are the improvement of quality of life of the youth and their social awareness and inclusion. Primarily through EU social programs, in PRONI they have partnered up with the relevant institutions to promote informal youth education, mobility, and volunteer work as the modern values and ways of achieving everyone’s full potential.

We spoke to Goran, PRONI’s youth director, who told us all about what PRONI does and what the youth in Vukovar still need.

What is PRONI, how long has it been here, and what is it that you do daily?

PRONI was first officially registered in 1998, which means that we have been going strong for well over 20 years now. With our first office in Vukovar, we also opened offices in Osijek and in Sisak. The one in Sisak, unfortunately, had to be closed, but we did spend a good 15 or so years working there as well. Our focus is on direct work with the youth regardless of their status (students, unemployed, employed, etc.). This means that we also work with youth workers and institutions, including city councils, schools, and other organisations involved in social work. We are currently running 16 projects and our days are packed full of activities. We are hosting 2 Erasmus participants here in Vukovar, who spend their days volunteering, studying, and learning Croatian!

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What are your long-term goals?

Our mission is to improve the quality of life of the youth through opportunities to develop their skills, abilities, and competencies. We strive to achieve this through practical work in volunteering and social projects, as well as their inclusion in a so-called structured dialogue. More precisely, in cooperation with the city council of Vukovar and through the input we receive directly from the youth, we implement the city youth program. The program does not consider the cultural and entertainment aspect of life, but also employment opportunities, education, and public facilities to provide nurture hobbies and interests.

How do you reach the youth of Vukovar?

PRONI and its friends have a way of discovering each other. We have set up an info centre for them to easily reach us on social media or in our physical space where we always keep our doors open and the atmosphere warm and welcoming. We try to stay on top of social media and follow the trends and reach our audience across all the trending platforms. We have set up our little corners in schools as well and have engaged teachers to be our ambassadors. The students themselves also spread the word quite effectively, as they really enjoy many of our activities and are excited to come back with friends.

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What are the main projects of the Vukovar branch right now, what makes you proud?

The dialogue that we have successfully established between the youth in our city and the city council is something that we are quite proud of. The long-term results of our work are also starting to show, which is one of the most rewarding aspects of our work. Our Youth Advisory Board serves for better information exchange and resource networking with all the relevant institutions. As I mentioned, this includes the city council, the national employment office, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the local library and more. Possibly the best thing that has come out of our initiatives was the organic and spontaneous formation of School Volunteering Clubs where students are the managers and planners. They enjoy autonomy, and it keeps them motivated to keep learning, developing, and connecting.

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Which groups would you like to invite for better cooperation?

Firstly, I would like to say that we are very thankful for our partners and all the amazing work that we have done together so far. We do not lack institutional support in the physical sense, but we do think that the school curriculum should follow suit. Schools should work a lot more on encouraging critical thinking, activism, quality management of free time. Students do not have enough autonomy when it comes to extra-curricular activities where they are often offered what is available based on the teachers’ schedules and not on their interests. Schools should also be involved in, or at least promote informal education a lot more.

Is Vukovar a good place for the youth, how do your foreign volunteers perceive it?

Of course, Vukovar is excellent! It is quite small but practical. All the facilities are easily available and often within walking distance. The standard is still much cheaper than in a lot of other European cities and thanks to PRONI’s unique position in the city, there are a lot of things that we can provide for free. Our volunteers find it interesting, though different, usually coming from much bigger cities. The main things that they like about Vukovar include feeling safe, secure, and accepted. They also find that sometimes things here seem a lot simpler than in their home countries. They are excited to visit, and they leave fulfilled and happy. Another great thing for our foreign volunteers is that everything we do is integrated and we provide them with additional activities and free language courses.

What message would you like to send?

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Just that we are here and that what we provide should be used. Youth exchange is a wonderful thing and possibly one of the most enriching experiences in life. In our areas, it is still unknown and not promoted enough. Sometimes there is a fear of this unknown, but everyone should know that the process has become very smooth, and I would like to encourage young people to step forward and grab the opportunity to learn and travel.

For more, check out our lifestyle section 

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

Meet Vukovar, 365 Full of Life – Humanitarian Organisation Duga Vukovar

March 9, 2022 – Meet Jasna, Tijana, Tamara, and Nevenka, the presidents, administrators, and employees of the Humanitarian Organisation Duga Vukovar, who spoke about those in need in Vukovar, how they provide it, and how we all can do the same.

Duga Vukovar was founded back in 2013 to provide help to those who need it the most. This includes people who were marginalised for various reasons, but in most cases due to unemployment which leads to poverty. The elderly who live alone and in poverty are in an especially unfavourable position. Duga Vukovar has had a long tradition of workshops, programs and projects that would engage the most vulnerable members of our society, be it through education, financial support or by providing a place to enjoy some much needed friendly company while expressing ones' creativity. While Vukovar is developing and attracting visitors thanks to its modern infrastructure, interesting locations, awesome food and genuinely the nicest people, organisations like Duga exist to remind us that there are still many who haven't been able to live their full potential.

Tell us about the organisation. What do you do, which groups do you help, what inspired you?

Many demographic changes have happened in recent years, such as negative natural population movements, continuous emigration, unemployment of young adults, low pensions, increasing poverty rates. All this led to an increasing number of people whose incomes were insufficient for a decent life, especially in the elderly population. Often, they cannot even afford basic dietary and hygienic necessities, and unfortunately, some of them have no income whatsoever. In 2013, we decided to establish the Humanitarian Organisation Duga Vukovar to promote the quality of life and protect the human rights of the most vulnerable groups in our society, primarily those on the brink of poverty and the elderly. 

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In 2014, the so-called Vukovar Social Self-Service was founded through our organisation. It operates on the principle of collecting donations of food and hygiene items and their continuous distribution to the most vulnerable residents of the city of Vukovar. In accordance with the collected donations, we strive to continuously ensure the distribution of food on a daily basis every month of the year. This helped manage the organisation in a better way and ensured that we had more time to dedicate to each individual. It also helped build a better relationship and give people a sense of security, trust and belonging.

The self-service cares for about 600 families, which is roughly 1,500 people. Its clients are people living on the edge of poverty, elderly people with low pensions, users of social welfare, single mothers and fathers, people with zero or very low incomes. We noticed that in addition to the lack of financial resources, there is also a risk of social exclusion mostly for elderly people, as well as a lack of assistance in performing daily activities.

What is your mission, what are your main goals?

Our mission is to create a just and compassionate society of equal opportunities for every individual. Our goal is to improve the lives of the elderly and people at risk of social exclusion by having them actively participate in our projects and programs such as education and counselling programs on financial literacy, consumer rights, social and health rights which could help reduce health care costs. We also provide opportunities to learn about social care, health and disease prevention, entertainment, socio-cultural content and workshops, as well as excursions. We provide a space where people can actively spend their free time, increase their productivity and creativity, nurture their talents. We want them to feel a sense of belonging and empower them to develop a positive self-image. In addition to all that, we want to continue to network, develop and strengthen our partnerships, include new donors and continue working with our old associates, strengthen the capacity of the organisation and provide employment for the disadvantaged groups.

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Do you accept volunteers and which groups would you like to activate more?

We are especially grateful for our volunteers who enrich the work of our organisation. It is important to encourage all social groups to be actively involved in volunteer work because it is the responsibility of each of us to be active and responsible individual who participates and drives positive change in society. Of course, we would like the younger population of volunteers to be more involved. This would help shrink the growing generation gap with prejudice and stereotypes they might have towards the elderly, which can also lead to violent behaviour. Every stage of human life has its unique advantages and disadvantages. We can always learn from each other, pass on the knowledge and experience to future generations, create memories. We need to be more supportive of each other.

What is it like to run an organisation like this in Vukovar? Does the fact that you are in eastern Croatia affect your success?

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Once an industrial center, today the Vukovar-Srijem County is one of the least developed areas in Croatia, and Vukovar is one of the poorest cities. Still, if we look back at the starting days of our organisation, we do see significant progress. We keep growing and developing, and we want to expand our activities for the benefit of the wider community. As our organisation is a non-profit, we depend mostly on donations and projects. Unfortunately, such sources of funding are uncertain, with a limited duration. While the organisation is continuously making progress, the existing space has become too small and inadequate for quality implementation of our project activities and programs, hindering the work of our employees which should be a lot more pleasant. Yet, there are so many plans that we can and want to implement. Our biggest challenge at the moment is finding an adequate space. We are aware that any space that is unused and needs to be put into operation requires significant financial expenses, and as a non-profit, we are not able to cover that right now.

Would you like to participate in the Vukovar Card initiative? 

We would indeed like to participate in the Vukovar Card initiative. Vukovar has a lot to offer. Primary and secondary school students from different parts of Croatia visit us often, and they even help with donations for our social self-service. We would like their visits, as well as the visits of tourists to our city and our organisation to last longer for them to better experience all the beauty of the city. Unfortunately, most visits are only day trips.

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What are the ways organisations and individuals can help?

Our doors are always open to all who want to visit us and get to know us better.


Humanitarna udruga Duga Vukovar

OIB: 89493546468

Sajmište 23, 32000 Vukovar

Working hours:

MON - FRI - 07:00 - 15:00

Contact person: Tamara Mikulić 099 520 2211 / Tijana Prokić - 099 750 3734

Visit our website:

FB page: Humanitarna udruga Duga Vukovar

Instagram: Humanitarnaudrugaduga.vukovar

If you wish to financially support the work of our organisation, donations can be paid to the account:

IBAN: HR72 2340 0091 1105 9315 8


Privredna banka Zagreb

Payment description: Financial support to the organisation (Financijska potpora Udruzi)

If you wish to help the work of our Social Self-Service, donations can be paid to the account:

IBAN: HR42 2340 0091 5106 3886 7

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Thursday, 3 March 2022

Meet Vukovar 365, Full of Life – Lucija and Josip Salaić of Vu-Creator

March 3, 2022 – Meet Lucija and Josip of Vu-Creator, a young couple from Tovarnik near Vukovar who have devoted themselves to the sustainable production of some of the most wonderful furniture and toys for the young ones. 

Tovarnik, once a year the home of Croatia’s biggest pumpkins and an open-air fine dining experience of ox on the spit, paired with some outstanding local rakija. Dessert, of course, pumpkin, sometimes apples and walnuts in a roll. All part of the famous autumn festival. What does the place offer outside of this magnificent event? Plenty. For now, we’ll skip discussing nature, location, food, and we’ll move straight to people and their stories. 

Josip and Lucija Salaić are a young couple who decided to build their careers in something they truly enjoy and care about. Taking inspiration from their own little daughters and from the fact that woodworking was Josip’s true passion, they started designing and manufacturing wooden furniture and toys. Their goal was to create something sustainable, natural, and lasting that would keep the little ones happy. And so, Vu-Creator was born. They design all their pieces according to their client’s wishes, while all the shaping, painting, and assembling is done by hand. Their guiding principles are those of uniqueness and quality. We spoke to Lucija to find out about how it came to be, where it’s headed, and more. 

Tell us about your business, what do you do?

At Vu-Creator we design and manufacture solid wood children's furniture. Most times we use ash, and all our raw materials come from within Croatia. We produce our own designs, but we also work with our clients to create details that make our furniture unique and personalised. The entire range is made by hand or semi-mechanically and painted by hand with eco-friendly paint.

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Where did you get the idea and what makes your offer unique?

We discovered our talents over time and realised that we could make something for our children all on our own. Something that would be of excellent quality, long-lasting, and tailor-made just for them. The end result of our efforts really excited us, and we decided that we would not stop just at furniture for our children.

What was it like starting such a business in Vukovar? What were the main challenges?

The main challenges were prejudice and lack of information through verified sources. It took us a while to find the right suppliers or the right audience to introduce the quality that comes with a beautiful design.

Do you think that the fact that you are in eastern Croatia influenced your success?

Not in the least. We just didn’t think about it. We have adapted to the needs of the market, our products are sold online, and by the time the clients pick up their products they don’t even see the address where the furniture came from.

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Are you happy with how your business is developing? What is your perspective for the future?

We love what we do and we hope that this love will grow. We also hope that on days when it becomes too difficult to remember the goal, the smiles on the faces of children who receive the little furniture made just for them will keep us going. We are open to anything, the sky is the limit. Even if the doors of Vu-Creator have to close at some point, our hearts remain open to new challenges.

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What opportunities are there in our city and region? 

Depends on the ambitions of the individual. We think that the location of origin can stimulate or demotivate the start of a project but should certainly not be the reason to change one’s mind. Vukovar offers many possibilities if you want to discover them.

What is your view of other small businesses in Vukovar?

There is no competition, which is the one thing that scares most new businesses. We never come across anyone in a hostile mood. All our colleagues and friends jumped in, just like we did to help them. The atmosphere is truly one of healthy entrepreneurship. It is important to have money circulating and supporting the economy, and not just holding on to your own assets. Mutual support is paramount.

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Finally, tell us about life in Vukovar. What do you like most, what would you say to all potential visitors?

Vukovar offers perspective. Though many leave the east, many of us do stay here, and we are the ones who believe in the future of our city. Vukovar is all of us, and as long as that is the case it will be a beautiful and special city. We love this peace that many still seek, we love the togetherness. Always aware of the weight of the city's past and never forgetting what our fathers and grandfathers gave up for the homeland, we look ahead and use that gratitude as an incentive and motivation to keep going.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 22 February 2022

Meet Vukovar 365, Full of Life – Krešimir Herceg of VukovART

February 22, 2022 - Meet Krešimir Herceg, the co-founder of VukovART, a movement that has helped place Vukovar on the street art map of the world and turned the city into an open-air art gallery.

From 2017 onwards, Vukovar has been getting richer and richer in street art, with murals adorning buildings in all Vukovar’s neighbourhoods and 3D art attracting the looks of many on and along the bridges of Vukovar. The art has become a big part of the city’s visual identity, inspiring visits, hashtags, even tours and events like marathons following the path of the murals. 

In 2022, the residents of Vukovar, along with its many guests, already know to anticipate a city centre full of life, laughter, and fun, with kids creating chalk artwork on the pavement, grown-ups painting walls, and other grown-ups discussing art and tourism. For a few weeks in May and June, the city becomes a colourful workshop of art. And when it’s all said and done, we are left with some beautiful art to love and cherish and proudly present to our visitors. We found out how it all came to be, why it’s there and where it’s going. We spoke to Krešimir, whom we know as the man behind the movement. He describes himself as a marketing enthusiast working on several tourism projects, and the results have been pretty awesome. Let’s find out all about the ideas that set it in motion.

Tell us about the organizers of VukovART.

Filip and Krešo are primarily two friends who work together on several ideas and projects. One is just a marketing enthusiast, and Filip is the only Croatian 3D street artist.

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What inspired VukovART?

Although VukovART started in 2017, the whole story began a year before, while the idea of ​​a street art festival had been brewing for a while. Filip Mrvelj, the only Croatian 3D street artist, and I had worked together on several projects. So it was not surprising when in 2016, he called and suggested a collaboration on the first 3D painting in Vukovar on a bridge over the river Vuka. During our time in Vukovar, it rained constantly, and we ended up only having one day to create the paintings. We spoke to the city council about all our ideas, including the festival. Filip managed to finish the painting, and after it gained significant media attention, we officially presented the concept of ​​a street art festival to the City of Vukovar. They loved it.

Can you tell us more about the project?

VukovART is a street art festival. During a few weeks in May and June, it attracts some of the biggest names of the international street art scene. So far, the Vukovar open-air gallery has adopted 33 pieces of street art created by top world artists. We have hosted names like Zabou, Wild Drawing, Vera Bugatti, Juandres Vera, Artez, BustArt, and many others. The work of top Croatian artists can also be found in Vukovar, including Eugen Varzić, OKO, Lonac, Tea Jurišić, and Šumski. When we create our invitation lists, we are guided by the rule of excellence. There is no classic "open call", instead we try to get the best artists of the moment following the set criteria.

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VukovART is a new concept in the cultural life of Vukovar. It promotes Vukovar as a place that accepts all artists as creators of new values. Also, this concept changes the city's visual identity and makes it a more beautiful, urban, and modern place to live. The painted areas are also a tourist attraction. Vukovar, a port on the Danube, is now becoming a harbour of art – an open-air gallery accessible to all. In addition to this artistic part as the basis of VukovART, we have been organizing an accompanying programme of children’s workshops, concerts, panel discussions, lectures and gatherings, and exhibitions in recent years. For example, during the last VukovART, we enjoyed concerts by Mia Dimšić, Vatra, and Akvarel, a band from Osijek. Many visited, including Robert Knjaz, Dušan Bućan, Davor Gobac, and other familiar faces of the Croatian creative scene. There was a painting workshop and chalk drawing one in the main square for the little ones; we organised bike rides and more.

It is important to note that the City of Vukovar largely stood behind the festival, and so did our sponsor PPD Vukovar, who keeps investing in Vukovar’s community.

What is the significance of such a project for Vukovar and Slavonia?

From the beginning, we believed that VukovART would be of great importance for all of Slavonia, and this was confirmed. Many still perceive Croatia’s east as a very rural region, not to say that we shouldn’t be proud of our traditions and customs. Yet Slavonia is much more than that. The nature is extraordinary, its cultural and gastronomic offer yet to be discovered. VukovART is the only project of this type in Slavonia that has practically become a tourist product and is one of few in this part of Europe.

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The artists themselves are delighted with the culture, the city's cleanliness, the kindness of the people, the energy of the festival, and filled with emotions about Vukovar's past. When they go home, they keep telling the story of Vukovar and Slavonia, a Croatian region still unknown to many.

What were the main goals, did you meet them?

The main goal was to create a success story for locals and tourists. We believe that we have managed to meet all the goals in creating a different urban tourist product. As a result, Vukovar has been placed on the map of street art cities of the world and has become recognized for top art of top world artists. People's reactions on social media and their posts from touring the open-air gallery are proof that we are on the right track.

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Another goal was education. The gallery showcases different styles and techniques. Our many workshops help educate the younger population primarily, while through seminars, we all learn from the best Croatian creatives (Dušan Bućan, Robert Knjaz, Domagoj Jakopović - Ribafish, Dubravko Mataković). In our panel discussions, we show the best examples in practice. With all of this, we believe that the goals we set have not only been achieved but exceeded.

Will there be a VukovART in 2022?

VukovART is coming this year, but we are still preparing the program, and it should come out sometime in May. As it all stands, the world's top street art names are coming back, and the program will be dense and exciting.

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Apart from the art that now adorns our city, why is Vukovar worth visiting?

Firstly, Vukovar is a place that evokes pride and respect for all the sacrifices it has gone through. However, people need to be aware that Vukovar is a beautiful city that lives, where you can enjoy some amazing things. The Vučedol Culture Museum is the best example. It is one of the most important cultural points of Western Europe. The Eltz Castle is magnificent. Many do not even know that Lavoslav Ružička, the first Croatian Nobel Prize winner came from Vukovar. The Danube, its promenade, the park forest Adica, the baroque city centre, and the newly opened Vukovar Water Tower. Besides, the gastronomic offer is getting better and better… Vukovar more than deserves a visit!

Have you done any similar projects in other cities in Slavonia? Are there more coming?

We have done cultural and tourist projects, mainly in Slavonski Brod. From the one in memory of Ivana Brlić – Mažuranić to the legendary bicycle race Mali Pariz – Klakar. Our biggest recent project was CoolTour Lab, funded by the EU. We organized workshops for young people throughout the year. There is also the Bikademy project, an innovative cycling tourism project in Slavonia, which is developing beyond Croatian borders. We keep planning, always coming up with new ideas, but we will see where it takes us. Right now, we are focusing on a few things that are already in motion, like VukovART and Bikademy.

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What does the future hold for tourism in eastern Croatia?

We hope for a promising future, and we hope to contribute to it. Indeed, it will take a lot of work, learning, and marketing to build a community. Slavonia and Baranja are a destination with all that a tourist destination should have. It makes us happy that it is slowly becoming recognized as an excellent and unexplored destination, and the potential is huge. The east of Croatia is also attractive for active tourism, and I am sure that the tourist offer will rise to a very high level in just a few years.

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Home is where the heart is.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Saturday, 22 January 2022

Meet Vukovar 365, Full of Life: Dario Hegeduš of TS Allegro

January 22, 2022 – Meet Dario Hegeduš, a multi-talented young man who is working hard on preserving Croatian heritage in the east through music.

If you’ve ever watched a promo video about Slavonia, it’s likely that you heard the sound of tamburica. This little instrument is a type of lute, with a small round body and a long neck. It is believed that it originated in Persia and by way of Turkey reached its home in eastern Croatia where it remains an integral part of a good time (or a way to drown your sorrow). From festivals and parties to weddings and funerals, the sound of tamburica will follow the journey of the Slavonian soul. Just like anything traditional, though, in modern times, it sits on the margins of the music scene. So, to the rescue come people like Dario.

As he says, Dario started devoting his free time to the art of music as soon as he grew strong enough to hold a tamburica. Now he counts more than 20 years of experience and numerous successes, be it professional, on the music scene, or private – all involving the tradition. He started his own tamburaški sastav – a music band playing tamburica music, as well as a tamburica orchestra of 27 members. He has travelled half the world showing off his skills and made some beautiful friendships on the way. Dario also works for the Vukovar Tourist Board’s marketing department, creating and sharing some outstanding material promoting this beautiful city.

How long have you been involved in music and where did your love for the tamburica come from?

I’ve been involved in music for a full 20 years. It started when I was 9 and I finally gathered the strength to press the strings on a tamburica. All of my family is quite musical – my parents dance in a traditional ensemble, my sister and brother dance and play musical instruments, so I didn't want to be the black sheep. I started playing tamburica, grateful that I can help preserve Croatian tradition and heritage.

You decided to start your own tamburica band. Tell us about it.

When my friend and I remained among the youngest members of the tamburica section in HKGD "Dunav" (HKGD stands for Croatian Cultural and Musical Society), we realized that we should show our friends that playing tamburica is no less "cool" than other hobbies. After persuading everyone we knew, we managed to get all of three other guys to rejuvenate the tamburica section a bit, and ended up forming a band. After a few years, the team grew, and now I also conduct an orchestra of 27 members. A group of people posing for a photo

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What are your biggest successes?

I hope that the greatest successes are yet to come, but the first thing that came to mind was that I convinced this girl, a hip-hop rapper (now my wife), to become a lover of traditional music and that today she leads the children's dance section in HKGD "Dunav" in Vukovar.

As for awards, my favourites are those with my band and the orchestra, as being the national champion among many tamburica orchestras and representing Vukovar on the national and international scene is a true privilege.

What are all the possibilities open to you? Are you limited to eastern Croatia?

The music we play here is traditional Croatian and truly represents Eastern Slavonia and Srijem where we live. Traditional instruments are not so popular among the younger generations, but the tamburica and its great potential have found a place among young people. It is interesting to explore different types of music, from classical through rock, and of course traditional tunes, all in a tamburica version. Two tamburica studios have opened in Croatia, and the instrument is becoming popular in the rest of the world as well – as evidenced by our guest appearances and performances throughout Europe, in Canada, but also in China! A group of people holding a flag

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What are the best parts of your job in music?

Socializing and traveling, being part of a team creating the history of Vukovar through the preservation of tradition. This feeling makes me feel stronger and more enriched than anything else.

What are your hopes for the future?

I believe that the tamburica can become one of the reasons for tourists to visit our area, because of its uniqueness. It cannot be digitized, there is no virtual form, and combined with our cultural and natural heritage, the experience would enrich all travel itineraries.

Do you think that traditional music is sufficiently represented, how can we promote it?

It is sufficiently represented in the circles of our society through various festivals, events, media support, publishing houses, etc. The best promotion is to use the tamburica as an experience in our tourist offer. Imagine allowing every tourist to play their favorite song on an instrument they’re holding for the first time. A group of people performing on stage

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Apart from the fact that everyone in Vukovar knows you for your music, you work for the local tourist board. What is your job and what is the future of tourism in Vukovar?

I think that working for the tourist board goes hand in hand with the work I do in my free time. The PR, marketing, creativity, ideas, organization, acquisition of new skills and knowledge through working for the Tourist Board can be applied to music, and vice versa. The future of tourism in Vukovar looks bright, as evidenced by numerous analyzes of tourist arrivals and overnight stays, as well as cruiser arrivals. Cyclists, groups, and individuals who seek to explore cultural, sacral, natural heritage, memorial tourism, rich social content, gastronomic offer, etc. should all see Vukovar as the perfect destination.

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What do you think about the Vukovar Card idea? Will our Tourist Board support this initiative?

The Vukovar Tourist Board supports any initiative that contributes to the development of Vukovar as a tourist destination as well its economy, and Vukovar Card is another good idea. Currently, the Vukovar Tourist Board in cooperation with IQM Destination utilizes a Welcome Card that connects our tourist entities and facilities and provides tourists with additional value while visiting our city. I believe that Vukovar Card could be one of the additional motivators for the arrival of foreign and domestic tourists.

Finally, tell us why everyone should visit Vukovar, what is the best thing here?

The best thing here is certainly the people. Everyone knows that we are the best hosts, and when you have a good host, your visit to Vukovar cannot be any less than the best! And Vukovar – visit it for yourself. Getting to know the city will emotionally drain you, but then fill you with pride and joy which will always bind you to it. You will always come back. A group of people standing in front of a tall tower

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Let’s hear some of your music!

Check out our Facebook page where we share our music, successes, funny stories, and all you might want to know about us. For a soundtrack, go directly to our YouTube channel.

For more, check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Thursday, 23 December 2021

Improving Croatian Tourism: 8 Key TCN Areas of Focus for 2022

December 23, 2021 - 2022 will be a year of change for tourism in Croatia. An overview of 8 key areas TCN will be focusing its efforts on improving Croatian tourism in 2022.

2021 has been a great year at TCN, as we diversified from a news portal into some other projects. There is such potential in so many areas in this country that I am constantly surprised at how few people I see exploring the opportunities. I know a few people who laughed when a certain Dutch expat announced he was going to grow tomatoes in northern Croatia, but having seen the project develop at first hand, it is heartening to see that such ideal dreams of Jan de Jong, Jerko Trogrlic and the team at CROP Hrvatska will become a reality. 


(The Slavonian Wannabe Tomato Growers Convention with CROP Hrvatksa, Osijek, December 2021)

And once it starts, the floodgates could open. Contrary to the general media portrayal, I genuinely think that this is an incredibly exciting time to be alive in Croatia. And I leave 2021 and enter 2022 with perhaps more energy, optimism and determination than ever before since I moved here permanently back in 2003. 

Of course, Jan is a much more successful businessman than I could ever hope to be, and so my main focus in 2022 will be to develop the eco-system of sustainable tourism all over the country, 12 months a year, rather than watch the current lazy status quo which is slowly destroying Croatia's Adriatic jewels. 

It has been another completely random 12 months at TCN. Just as I never expected to be named International Medical Travel Journalist of the Year in Malaysia a year ago, so too I did not expect to be giving a keynote speech at Digital Nomad Week based out of Bali on VIP Day almost exactly a year later - you can see the first presentation of our new CROMADS platform during my online presentation above.

2021 was a year of awards and lawsuits for TCN. A total of 11 international awards for projects that we were partners in, and an impressive 3 lawsuits, the first in my life (I don't count the one publicly announced in 2018 by Mayor of Jelsa, Niksa Peronja, as it never arrived). Seven awards for the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community, delivered in partnership with Manjgura and Mediacor (including 3 at the Polaris Awards in London), 2 for Zagreb Digital Nomad Week with Saltwater Nomads and Zagreb Tourist Board, and 2 for Dubrovnik Digital Nomads-in-Residence program with Saltwater Nomads, City of Dubrovnik and Dubrovnik Tourist Board. 

But as nice as it was to win the awards, it was actually the lawsuits which gave me the inspiration for a new direction for TCN. If our constructive criticism was not only read by the Kings of Accidental Tourism, but bothered them so much that they were prepared to sue me for 100,000 kuna, perhaps I had a voice that was being heard further than I had imagined.  


I am certainly very grateful to the Kings for the lawsuits. Apart from being described by one journalist as the biggest PR own goal in the history of the Croatian National Tourist Board, it was also the best free promotion TCN has ever had (thank you!), as a staggering 16,000 people took part in an online poll by after the story hit all the major news networks. 

If the Kings were that sensitive to a few words, what might happen if we publicly started pushing a few initiatives via TCN to see what stuck, and what progress we could make? The lawsuits will be entering their third calendar year next month, and you can follow progress every step of the way in our Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit feature, which will probably go on for years until we win in the European courts in Strasbourg. TCN promo budget 2022 - 2026 - tick.  


But it seems more and more people are recognising TCN and the various initiatives we are pushing to celebrate the little guy and connect the eco-system outside the crumbling walls of the Mighty State of Uhljebistan. It was an honour earlier this week, for example, to receive an invitation from His Excellency Raj Srivastava, Indian Ambassador to Croatia to the launch of the India-Croatia Startup Bridge. Even more so when the Ambassador told me he was a TCN reader and that some of our articles celebrating Croatian startups influenced his thinking on this initiative. It is a great initiative, and I look forward to TCN reporting on various successes.

Rather than just reporting on the news and blogging about the latest lawsuit postponement by the Kings (Read more in Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit: 50 Lawyers, No Secretary, No Hearing), I started to think about ways that TCN could advocate for positive change in some targeted niches. Although I am not a tourism expert, I am getting to know Croatian tourism very well and travel extensively. Meeting so many people from all walks of life has helped me form a few conclusions on how we could improve a few things. 

As we take a break for Christmas (TCN will be offline from midnight tonight until December 28), here are 8 key areas we will be focusing on in 2022, in addition to delivering you your daily Croatian news in English. 

Split Winter Tourism Roundtable


After posting a few TCN articles on the potential of Split winter tourism and questions why we no longer have much, some of the private Split tourism operators came up with a suggestion that TCN host a winter tourism roundtable, inviting all key stakeholders (including the Mayor of Split, Split Dalmatia County, regional and city tourist board director, Split Airport, State Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, GMs of Split's 5-star hotels, representatives from the restaurant, hotel, hostel and MICE sectors, and tourism consultants) to have an open exchange of ideas in search of a way forward. 

Not only did everyone invited come, but they all engaged and left an excellent lunch at CHOPS Grill with the desire to try. We meet again in January. Special thanks to Jasmina Kruscic, Jelena Tabak, Mare Mustapic, Daniela Rogulj, Mario Seric and MIchael Freer for pushing this initiative. Let's see 2022 deliver the first results.  You can read more in Reflections on the First TCN Split Winter Tourism Roundtable

Vukovar Card and Vukovar 365, Full of Life


How many of you have been to Vukovar on any other date than November 18?

Having been to Vukovar Remembrance Day in 2019 and 2021, as well as several other visits, I came up with a suggestion called the Vukovar Card, a chance for people who change their Facebook status every November 18 for a day to do something more concrete (Vukovar Card: Support Local Economy Rather than Temporary Facebook Status). I was very grateful for the positive reaction and support of regional tourist board directors Ivana Juric and Rujana Busic Srpak, who devised a Vukovar Card 7-day itinerary through the magic of Vukovar Srijem and Osijek Baranja Counties. I sent this to Minister of Tourism Nikolina Brnjac and State Secretary Tonci Glavina with a request for a meeting to develop the concept. 

That meeting will take place on January 10 at the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, and I was encouraged by Tonci's positive initial feedback at the Split winter tourism roundtable.  

If you are interested to know more about the new Vukovar and the people and businesses framing a brighter future, follow the TCN series, Vukovar 365, Full of Life, with new TCN writer Katarina Andjelkovic from Vukovar.

Digital Nomads


The growth of the Croatian digital nomad story has been one of the highlights of my year. So much positive energy, innovative ideas, fabulous people and unforgettable experiences - it has been a privilege to be part of the journey. Working with Jan de Jong, Saltwater Nomads, the Digital Nomad Association, the Digital Nomads Croatia Facebook group,  Swanky Travel, Zagreb Tourist Board, the City of Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik Tourist Board, Doma Zagreb Aparthotel, and others has been one of the undoubted highlights of 2021. Zagreb Digital Nomad Week & Ambassador Program and Dubrovnik Digital Nomads-in-Residence program complemented Jan's visa initiative and has helped put Croatia well and truly on the digital nomad map.

2022 will be more of the same... and more. Exciting initiatives in both Zagreb and Dubrovnik will be announced in early 2022, and if we can dot the Is and cross the Ts on a couple of other projects, things could get very interesting. It seems that next year will have me travelling internationally to promote the Croatian digital nomad story, with Digital Nomad Festival in Turkey in May, and Digital Nomad Summit in Bali in September already in the diary.  

Medical tourism and digital nomads


2022 will see the 10th anniversary of my favourite conference in Croatia, the annual Crikvenica International Health Tourism conference in Crikvenica. CIHT has been good to me over the years, giving me my first exposure to the global medical tourism community (and leading to those awards in Malaysia). The pioneering work of Ognjen Bagatin and the Kvarner Health Tourism Cluster have placed Croatia firmly on the medical tourism map, and after the major blip that is the pandemic, it is time to renew efforts. You can read a report on CIHT 2021 in Kvarner Full of Health Tourism Opportunity, as CIHT 2021 Shines.

A major new medical tourism opportunity has presented itself since 2019, one which I will be pushing hard - digital nomads. Rather than having to work hard to attract foreign patients to come to Croatia for treatment, why not instead spend less energy informing all the nomads who are already here how Croatian medical tourism can fix their medical issues at a fraction of the price back home. No need to travel, for they are already here. 

The potential of the Kvarner region for health tourism is huge, and there is a much underutilised airport on Krk, Rijeka Airport. An issue I will also discuss with Minister Brnjac on January 10, as she is a transport expert.  

Spreading the Truth about Slavonia, Full of Life


The biggest surprise of 2021 for me was not only how full of life Slavonia is, but how ignorant the rest of Croatia is about what is really out east in their own country. I was shocked at how few of my Zagreb friends who are among the 200,000 Croats who go skiing abroad each year had ever been to Slavonia and the East. With such little local knowledge, how can we expect tourists to know?

Lots of activity coming next year on this, including a fun survey on the streets of Zagreb to highlight the gap in knowledge. Here are two questions from the survey to get you in the mood. How many of you can answer both:

1. What is the main town in Baranja?

2. Can you name three famous buildings in eastern Croatia, not including the Vukovar Water Tower? 

Want a taster of what you are missing? Read more in Time to Tell the Truth about Slavonia Full of Life

Danube Drone Days


What happens when you meet an English businessman over breakfast at your hotel in Osijek in November?

Sometimes it leads to a night of sushi and gin in the company of the CEO or Orqa, three drone geeks, and a plan to promote Slavonia and the Danube with some of the best drone pilots in the world. 

 I love the concept of Danube Drone Days, and I am looking forward to working with these two geeks above to make it a reality.  


Our new baby. What more can I say, but watch the official promo vid above, and check out after Christmas for more. This is going to be fun.  

Total Croatia Travel Portal


2021 also saw TCN launch its sister site, Total Croatia, a multi-lingual tourism information platform answering the questions people are asking. Launching in May, I was perhaps a little ambitious wanting to be the leading portal by the summer, but we are working hard behind the scenes to make sure Total Croatia's first full year in 2022 will be a big one. You can check it out here

And that - more or less - is that. If you are interested in getting involved to build the eco-system outside the crumbling walls of the Mighty State of Uhljebistan, drop me a line at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject TCN 2022, explaining how you can help and what you can offer. 

Enough from my side, except to thank you all for your company, interest and support in 2021. We have a great readership, and I even enjoy the contributions of the trolls these days. 

Things are starting to move slowly but surely. The default negative mindset is being challenged by new ideas and shoots of positivity. Croatia is a great country with a really bright future once we overhaul the current system. 

And you will be able to read all about it on TCN in 2022. 


TCN will be offline from midnight tonight until December 28. Merry Christmas to All. 


Sunday, 12 December 2021

10 Vukovar Christmas Gifts You Can Buy Online

December 12, 2021 - Need something unique this Christmas? A look a 10 Vukovar Christmas gifts you can buy online. 

Christmas shopping – a favourite festive activity or just fa-la-la-stressful? Maybe it depends on the person, the place, and the weather. In any case, shopping for your loved ones online makes things significantly easier. Whether its clothes, gadgets, knickknacks, snacks and sweets, toys… I mean, you could buy a house online these days. In a world of choice, however, analysis paralysis sets in quickly. You started browsing mugs, went over lamps and rugs, somehow ended up in the stationery department. There needs to be a better way. 

Why not make your presents special and unique in a different way? Today we will help you help the local economy of one of the most beautiful yet sometimes overlooked places in Croatia. In a bid to keep things developing and implement some new strategies, Paul Bradbury of TCN officially proposed the idea of the Vukovar Card and presented an itinerary for your visit. Here, we will show places where, once you do visit, you can buy souvenirs, but for now, browse through their offers and find the perfect Christmas presents.

1. Ella Design: Facebook Mamine Ručice, Instagram mamine_rucice


To open a series that aims to explore positivity in Vukovar, we presented Lidija Azinović with her brand Mamine Ručice. Lidija runs a small family business creating gifts of wood, plywood, acrylic, MDF, etc. Among the many beautiful things that she and her husband design and create by hand, there is a variety of Christmas-themed presents to discover.

2. Cvjetni Studio Čarolija, Instagram Čarolija Vukovar


You can never go wrong with flowers! Whether it’s flowers on their own, beautiful bouquets, arrangements, door or table wreaths, advent decorations, tree ornaments – you name it, the girls make it. 

3. Vu Creator, Instagram VU Creator


Lucija and her husband, as they say, enjoyed making and decorating baby furniture so much that they decided to make it into a business. With the main goal for all their creations to be unique and of outstanding quality and durability, Vu Creator will surely provide you with something special for your little ones to love this Christmas.

4. Lima baby, Instagram lima__baby


Talking about little ones, Lima baby will delight you with the offer for the youngest members of any family. Stuffed with the softest hypoallergenic materials, they sew all their crib protectors by hand, and the same goes for the cutest all-natural and baby-friendly bedding that you’ll find.

5.  Vu Life Shop, Facebook Vu Life Shop


Whether it’s gifts for the young ones you’re looking for, natural cosmetics, clothes or traditional footwear, even souvenirs, Vu Life Shop liaises with small businesses in the Vukovar area to put out natural, homemade and handmade products that will bring a smile to every face. 

6. The Vučedol Culture Museum’s souvenir shop 


For all those history buffs and archaeology nerds, the Vučedol Culture Museum is the place to shop! Whether you’re looking for decorative items and want to go for replicas of the essential findings, clothes with Vučedol motives or jewelry inspired by the fashion of the 3000s (BC), you are in the right place.

7. Slatkoteka Vukovar, Instagram slatkoteka_vukovar


The sweet tooth is strong with this one. Of course, cake is always a good idea, but nothing beats festive cakes in green and red, gold, filled with delicious chocolate, vanilla, fruit, whatever your heart desires. The shop’s offer includes cake pops, cupcakes, a dozen other little wonders. And a partridge in a pear tree. 

8. Opg Štalmajer MEDŠtalmajer.png

If you decide to bake yourself, why not get some homemade honey? Even if it’s just for tea, make sure that you enjoy this top product. The Štalmajer family keep their bees and produce the finest honey and beeswax products like beautiful advent candle sets and single candles, propolis, pollen powder, and more.

9. Vrhunsko Vukovarsko, Facebook Vrhunsko Vukovarsko


When the search for presents makes you hungry or thirsty, quickly stopover in Vrhunsko Vukovarsko. This collaborative of top local produces of homemade deli meats, cheese, honey, wine, and so much more will make you want to shop for yourself secretly. On top of all that, they offer unique souvenirs, business gifts and packages for different occasions. So give them a call or send a message and see what they can put together.

10. Mesnice Bođirković

And now for those who feel like they lack protein. Presents or Christmas dinner – you pick. Mesnice Bođirković is an old local butcher’s shop where you know for sure that you’ll find the finest and freshest cuts of meat. That is not the main reason you should visit their website, though. It’s the sausages with the perfect balance of spices, smoked meats, ćevapi and čvarci. The best of Slavonia, all in one place.


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

Sunday, 12 December 2021

Meet Vukovar 365, Full of Life: Mirjana Kopf of Cvjetni Studio Čarolija

December 12, 2021 - Last week we introduced a new TCN series exploring talented local businesses in Vukovar, with innovative and persistent owners behind them with the right mindset for Vukovar's future. This week, meet Cvjetni Studio Čarolija. 

Cvjetni Studio Čarolija is a small flower studio in the city centre, run by two amazing, ambitious and incredibly hard-working young women. A picture containing indoor

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Neither Mirjana nor Dijana had any formal education or experience before they started their florist business and, as they say, decided to go based on their instincts and pure passion. In the meantime, they did acquire formal education and now hold certificates, but they achieved so much more. In the past three years, they have gained the trust of Vukovar's residents and there is not a person in this city who doesn't know about their studio. Besides building flower arrangements, they decorate venues, events and festivals, and create personalised gifts working together with other Vukovar's creatives and businesses. They have also done projects for the city and its tourism board, including the magnificent autumn fair held in September 2021.

Čarolija (Magic) is what they call their studio, and there is no denying their magic touch. 

This is the kind of passion and energy that will drive Vukovar, including its tourist offer, forward, and I was delighted to speak to Mirjana.  

Tell us about your business, what do you do exactly?

We are a Flower Studio and we design flower arrangements, bouquets and decorations from living and fresh flowers, as well as dried and artificial. In addition to that, we also offer decorations for various ceremonies such as weddings, christenings, birthdays, and all other celebrations. We also make personalized frames with prayers, graduation celebration texts, etc. Other than the mentioned, you can also find various gifts such as chocolate cakes and pralines, special gifts for newborns, savory and sweet packages that often include a few bottles of alcoholic beverages to cheer up our stronger halves. 

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Where did you get the idea and what makes your offer unique?

Primarily the idea came about because we had nowhere to buy any of the above when we needed it. So, we made the decorations and gifts ourselves. Realizing that something like this was missing in our city, we first did a floristry course, passed the exam in the Chamber of Crafts and then embarked on this little journey. What makes us unique? Hmm, simply put, everything we do. We are not a classic flower studio with a classic offer. We can really find something for everyone, and when clients come to us with an idea that we haven't tried so far, we don't turn them down, in fact, we really look forward to creating something for them. Our studio itself is different from anything you can see in Vukovar, so often people come to us just to see “what we made of the space now".

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What was it like starting your own business in Vukovar? What were the main challenges?

It is not enough to say that it was challenging. However, we are one of those who really do not give up easily so we have successfully overcome all the obstacles so far. One of the bigger challenges was finding a space where we could open our own studio. When we resolved that, everything else somehow just came together. With the support of our families and their help, we put everything in order very quickly. Our clients quickly recognized us as something valuable in the market and we did not have any difficulties in this segment either.

Are you satisfied with how your business is developing? What is your perspective for the future?

We really are. Although I am by nature never completely satisfied, I always think that something can be better, I would dare say that is not a bad thing. During the first year of our existence, we managed to hire our first employee. In the future, we hope and want to expand our business to some other segments, hire at least one more person and provide something good again for Vukovar. We also hope that the cooperation with all our fellow entrepreneurs will continue but also expand. For now, we are cooperating really well, but good things can always be improved.

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Do you think that the fact that you are in the east of Croatia influenced your success?

Yes and no. Eastern Croatia has its advantages, but unfortunately also its disadvantages. I got the impression that it would take us much longer to be recognized in the market if we were in another part of Croatia, even though we are followed by people from all over the country. On the other hand, if we were in a bigger city, maybe the demand would be so high that we would already have more employees, more space to work and more clients. We are really pleased with what we have brought to the east and that the east of Croatia has recognized us in turn.

What opportunities are there in our city and region?

So many! Both Vukovar and our region are not just about the war. We are a city of joy, friendship, companionship, love, work and so much more. Vukovar and its surroundings have positive young people who are eager for progress and change. We still need some restaurants, pastry shops especially, where you can sit and eat some fine cake, drink a cup of hot tea and simply enjoy life. We do lack some places where we can relax and enjoy our free time.

What is your view on other small businesses in Vukovar?

I see them as great support. We recently had a gathering where the need was expressed for this support that we provide to each other. Most of us have the same problems and it's easier when you know you're not alone. By buying from each other, we give each other support and express how much we appreciate the local products in Vukovar.

If we were to implement the Vukovar Card, would you participate and offer our guests discounts or special packages?

Of course. Vukovar Card is something that would further connect us and encourage people to shop locally.

Finally, tell us something about life in Vukovar. What do you like most, what would you say to all potential visitors?

Vukovar is one of the most beautiful cities in eastern Croatia. We have a lot to offer no matter what others think. We have beautiful museums that you simply must visit, great family farms that have top local products, a lot of creative people who run their own shops and crafts. Finally, I have to mention the promenades along the Danube, as well our park forest Adica which you can visit and rent bikes to cycle around and see some beautiful nature.

Where can we find you?

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Our shop is located in Ulica K. A. Stepinca 9, in Vukovar.

You can also find us via our Facebook page Cvjetni studio Čarolija Vukovar and our Instagram carolijavukovar

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

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