Sunday, 6 February 2022

Meet Vukovar 365, Full of Life: Saša Salamon of Code Consulting

February 6, 2022 – Meet Saša Salamon, the founder of Code Consulting, a software development company that found its home on the banks of the Danube. Not only have they been successful in establishing an excellent brand, but the team is also constantly growing, and Saša is inviting all potential candidates to step forward and become part of his amazing team.

If you've been following the Vukovar 365 series, you've met some of its creative souls, sports enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, overall impressive, engaging, and positive examples of the human species. Lucky we are to have them. Hopefully, the series broadened your views and understandings and made you look at Vukovar as a breathing city, indeed full of life and ready to face the future. And no image of the future would be complete without the IT guys powering it all. Time to learn about the IT scene in Vukovar and the fantastic team (Corgi included) behind it all. 

Code Consulting is a reasonably young but reputable software development company whose home is no less than this humble town on the Danube. It was brought to life by Saša Salamon, who left a full-time permanent job (the dream of many Croatians) to start his own business in 2013. Since then, Code Consulting grew and established its position mainly within the medical industry. Saša spoke about the beginnings, the now, the future. He finds Vukovar to be the perfect place to live and grow. Asked about the Vukovar Card idea, he does say that the schedule is packed full and that our guests might need a break. One could argue that this only shows how much there is to offer. It also highlights one of the more important points of the true Slavonian (and Croatian) lifestyle – take it easy. Focus on the real values in life and appreciate those around you, at least as much as Saša appreciates his team.

Tell us about Code Consulting - what do you do?

CodeCons is a team of about 60 web and mobile application development professionals. We mainly deal with solutions in the medical industry for clients in the US. Our team consists of experts in different areas of software development, from architecture, design, development, testing, infrastructure... thus we can cover the entire course of software development, from the initial idea to production. We work mainly on long-term projects that last for several years and constantly evolve.

How did it all start?

It started a long time ago, about 10 years. I had a permanent job in a large company, but I would spend my free time programming, mostly freelance, with various clients from all over the world. My clients were quite happy with my work and wanted to continue our collaboration, so I decided to start doing it full-time at one point. As the business expanded, I kept looking for and hiring more people, so it all kept unfolding.

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

IT is a location-independent industry. Whether it's Vukovar, Zagreb, Varaždin... it doesn't matter where you are. The team is important; you need to make up a good team of people who love their job and are experts in what they do.

The biggest challenge has always been finding good people, enough good people to get the job done. So we are constantly hiring; in fact, I would like to use this opportunity to invite anyone interested to contact us, check us out and see if you like what we do here.

As far as location goes, it wasn't about that at all for us. Our team is crucial for our success.

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

I am happy. We have an excellent team, regular clients satisfied with our product, and we are working on some new technologies. So far, we have been doing well, and I hope the trend continues.

What opportunities are there in our city and our region?

Vukovar is a small town, and we need to keep that in mind. The pros of living here include no crowds, everyone knows everyone, and we are a very safe city. There are also some cons, primarily that we lack some facilities, but Osijek is 30 minutes away, which is not that far. When it comes to work, like anywhere, it heavily depends on what people do.

What is your view on other small businesses in the area?

We are trying to connect with other IT companies in the region. In 2019 we founded the association VVIT to connect and get to know IT companies in the region and promote our IT sector. Our region is not just about agriculture; we want to show a strong IT community here to get more people and companies to come in this direction.

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If we were to implement Vukovar Card, would you support the initiative, and what would you add to this idea?

I believe that tourism is a neglected economic branch in our region and any initiative to raise it to a higher level is welcome. However, I don't know whether this is the right way to do it. I don't know. We need good ways to attract people to come and see experience Slavonia, but this requires a joint effort of the state and private companies in tourism or related to tourism. The situation is getting better year by year, but very little has been done so far.

I read about this initiative and the proposed itinerary, and my suggestion would be to tone it down a little. Seven days at such a pace might be too much, and people would not get the real experience of Slavonia and Baranja, living a slow pace in which everything is still achieved. I am afraid that by day 3, our guests would become tired and would have had enough of it. Also, why not include family farms and private accommodation facilities, which are plentiful and offer much more than hotels in terms of experience and comfort.

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

When you say Vukovar, the first thing I think of is the Danube. It is the second-largest river in Europe and the city that literally lies on its banks. The Danube provides sailing, fishing, swimming, exploring nature from land or water. Rare are the cities that lie on such large and mighty rivers.

I love living in a small town; I think it gives me everything I need at the moment. I always tell people to come and see, try, experience it. Give yourself a time plan in a relaxed way. Oh, and we are not that far from Zagreb... they say that Zagreb is about the same distance from us!

Where can we find you?

Check out our website as well as our Facebook page.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Saturday, 29 January 2022

Homeland Movement Leader: This Year's Sowing to be Most Expensive Ever

ZAGREB, 29 Jan 2022 - Homeland Movement (DP) leader Ivan Penava said in Osijek on Saturday that this year's sowing in Croatia would be the most expensive ever and that it would result in the collapse of the national farm sector and citizens' living standards.

"The government is ignoring the problem and is late in responding," Penava told a news conference.

A member of the DP Agriculture Committee, Darko Dimić, said that the coming pre-sowing fertilisation would be a number of times more expensive than last year.

Talks with farmers have shown that they will reduce the use of artificial fertilisers by 25-50%, which will result in a drop in yields and their quality, Dimić said.

Asked by reporters to comment on an increase in the number of deaths in 2021 in relation to the 2015-2019 average, Penava said the incumbent government did not concern itself with demography just as previous governments had not.

As for a reporter's remark that Vukovar and Vukovar-Srijem County had lost the largest number of residents, according to preliminary results of the 2021 census, Penava said that it was true when one spoke about relative percentages but that Osijek-Baranja County was the one to have lost the largest number of inhabitants.

"I have been saying for ten years that Vukovar does not have 27,000 inhabitants, which is the number from 2011, but 22,000. This census will prove that we were right and that the number was exaggerated," Penava said, noting that Serbs did not account for almost 35% of Vukovar's population.

"I have been saying for years that the only one who benefits from that percentage is the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), because the number of its councillors (in the Vukovar city council) and its income from the city budget as well as its other rights depend on it," said Penava, who is also Mayor of Vukovar.

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.

Saturday, 15 January 2022

Meet Vukovar 365, Full of Life: Vanja Maksimović of Lima Baby

January 15, 2022 – Meet Vanja Maksimović, the owner of Lima Baby – a shop with handmade pieces of bedding and mats for your little ones

Meet Vanja Maksimović, a young laboratory technician, soon-to-be mother of two, and business owner. Vanja says that she has always been the energetic, creative type with a constant bug to decorate and redecorate, to change things up, doing it all on her own. If you follow her on Instagram, you will know exactly what I mean – she has salvaged so many old pieces of furniture and turned them into not only perfectly usable but visually outstanding pieces of décor and practicality for her house. There is nothing this lady cannot do, from chairs and cabinets to building her own bed frame. On one occasion, she even took her skills to the silver screens as a contestant in the TV show INdizajn with Mirjana Mikulec, but says that she prefers designing in the relaxed atmosphere of her home. You can have a sneak peek here

Her house is also the home of Lima Baby, Vanja’s pride and joy. The idea that handmade products for the little ones should be widely available at reasonable prices propelled Vanja to try and start designing and sewing these pieces together. When the people of Vukovar showed interest, the cutest shop around was born. Alongside the interesting designs, Vanja makes sure that all the materials she uses are hypoallergenic and safe to use from the youngest ages.

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

Lima is a shop with various products for babies and little children. More precisely, I design and sew bedding, mats, crib rail covers, blankets, and pillows.

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

At the time when I started production, such products weren’t widely available in our area, so people would usually order them internationally. When my friend ordered something similar, I did some maths and realised that I could produce the same thing for a lot less money. Before that, I had only tried using a sewing machine a few times, but I quickly learned the basics which allowed me to start my business. 

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

As I was already employed with the Department of Microbiology in the Public Health Institute of the Vukovar-Srijem County, I did not have any major issues registering an additional job or trade.

My accountant, Melita Marić, helped me a lot in the very beginning, as well as later, as I did not have any knowledge in that area. She explained everything, step by step.

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

I'm satisfied. I think that people in Croatia love handmade products and try to support small businesses. For now, I don't have any big plans for the future of my business, but I hope that it will one day become my primary job.

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

Possibly, people do love Vukovar, and will therefore love anything that was made here.

What opportunities are there in our city and region?

Starting a business is fairly easy. The incentives for self-employment are great and you will receive a lot of support.

Personally, I haven't used any incentives so far since my business is not my primary employment, but it’s good to know that such support exists. I might want to try and take advantage of that in the future.

What is your view on other small businesses in Vukovar?

Since I have two jobs, a small child and another on the way, in the past year I haven’t had that many opportunities to collaborate with other entrepreneurs in our city. We do, however, always stay in touch, supporting each other and helping as much as we can.

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

Of course, we would love that.

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

I can't name a single thing I don't like about Vukovar. Every aspect of life here suits me and I would not change a thing. My husband and I are two different nationalities (Croatian and Serbian), which is certainly not the norm in Vukovar, but we haven’t had any obstacles.

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Success in all areas of life requires a good idea, passion, and willpower. And when it comes to starting a business, the city of Vukovar will indeed be very helpful.

I always say that our city should be given a chance and should be viewed through a lens of positivity. I recommend a visit to Vukovar with all my heart. This is a place where you can see a lot, enjoy some beautiful nature, taste excellent food, take different kinds of tours, and yet enjoy a break from crowds and busy life.

Where can we find you?

On our Facebook page – Lima baby, and our Instagram lima_baby.

For more, check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 11 January 2022

Vukovar Satisfied with Tourism Results in 2021

ZAGREB, 11 January, 2022 - Vukovar had over 11,500 visitors in 2021 and 27,500 overnight stays were generated, which is an increase of 87% in arrivals and of nearly 104% in overnights stays, the Vukovar Tourist Board said on Monday.

Last year saw 70% of the arrivals and 80% of the overnight stays generated in the record year 2019, not including school trips, of which there were nearly none due to the pandemic crisis, say Vukovar tourism workers, adding that the number of visitors to memorial sites rose by about 35%.

The Vukovar Water Tower attracted more than 85,000 visitors in a year since its opening at the end of 2020, while other memorial sites in that city, jointly known as the Vukovar Nocturne, saw 40,000 visitors.

In the year ahead, we will continue with the project of quality management and with the realisation of a major project -- the construction of the Archaeological Park Vučedol, said the director of Vukovar Tourist Board, Marina Sekulić, adding that the city would so get another great tourist attraction in the near future, in addition to the Vukovar Water Tower and the Vučedol Culture Museum.

Last year, 11,349 passengers visited Vukovar on 125 river cruise boats. If the epidemiological situation does not change dramatically, it is expected that even more cruise boats will visit Vukovar in 2022 than in the record 2019, which saw 351 cruise boats arrive in that city on the River Danube.

Saturday, 8 January 2022

Meet Vukovar 365, Full of Life: Darko Bilandžić of Culex

January 8, 2022 - Meet Darko Bilandžić, the co-founder of Culex, a studio focused on the future through VR, AR, and XR.

Today’s edition presents someone you couldn’t miss if you ever visit eastern Croatia (and not only because of his height). Darko is a young entrepreneur born in Vukovar, studied and played basketball for a while in Chicago and Dallas, lived in Zagreb as well, but came right back to eastern Croatia to establish his business and start a family. He is energetic, outspoken, frustrated with the system just a little bit, but ever so positive with high hopes for the future of Croatia’s east. He is currently the director of marketing for the Vučedol Culture Museum in Vukovar (run, do not walk, to visit this magnificent place), but the reason we spoke to him was for something else. A couple of men posing for the camera

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With Mario Mikić Vučak (right), Darko started a specialised studio developing and producing unique experiences through VR, AR, and XR. This is, in his words, the future of any industry. Even though it took a while for the public to become familiar with the concepts, the general population is starting to appreciate more technologies like this. Here is what Darko had to say about it all.

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

We are a specialised studio focused on developing and producing unique virtual experiences and interactive cinematic 360° video content.

The virtual world is slowly but surely merging with the real one. Diverse forms of extended reality (XR) are being applied in digital marketing, construction, architecture, healthcare, culture, tourism, sports, education, fashion, communications, and other thriving industries.

We believe that it is always a better option to actively participate in creating the future of our surroundings than being a passive bystander. Therefore, our projects thrive towards innovation, process optimisation, and new trend creation. 

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

We always lived in a 3D world; the transition to Virtual Reality (VR) or Augmented Reality (AR) was the logical next step for us.

We started with a VR arcade playroom back when such virtual or augmented reality content could not be found. Since we were ahead of our time, we transitioned into making interactive and unique virtual experiences.

Our projects are our signature and what sets us apart. The best thing for us is that most of our new projects come to life by word of mouth. As a result, we tend to exceed the expectations of all our clients. 

How was it setting up a business in eastern Croatia? What were the main challenges?

It was challenging, as all new and unknown areas are. It was hard to get people to understand what we do and what these VR and AR things are.

Fortunately, the shift happened, and the way we communicate with our clients today compared to just two years ago is way different, easier. In addition, people are more educated about interactive technologies such as VR and AR.

What is your perspective for the future?

The future will be very interactive.

Virtual and augmented reality are the logical next step for any industry. We can prove that with our list of clients, including marketing, tourism, culture, architecture, museums...

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

No! Eastern Croatia is more developed than the rest of Croatia regarding the IT sector.

What opportunities are there in our city and region?

Many opportunities! We have already done many exciting projects for Vukovar-Srijem County and Osijek-Baranja county. Mostly in culture and education. There are so many amazing untold stories here in eastern Croatia that we are overwhelmed with all that can be done. So we are negotiating with different towns/cities, tourist offices to implement these modern technologies to tell their stories.

You have done projects for the city of Vukovar before. Can you describe them and tell us about your experience? 

We have done many projects for Vukovar and Vukovar-Srijem County. These are just a few of them: A picture containing calendar

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Project name: Virtual Reality in Bibliobus

Technology: Virtual Reality

Concept: Culex XR Sudio, in cooperation with Vukovar-Srijem County, has set up a virtual reality project called "Virtual Reality in Bibliobus," which aims to popularize new technologies and present the cultural sights and riches of eastern Croatia.

The project uses VR technology through educational workshops in the Bibliobus (bus library), which stops in smaller rural areas and schools.

The user is introduced to 21 interactive scenes that describe cultural landmarks throughout this project.

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLY-ghIlob8&ab_channel=CulexXRStudio 

Project name: Virtual Reality project by the University of Lavoslav Ružička in Vukovar

Technology: Virtual Reality

Concept: The project “Virtual Reality project by the University of Lavoslav Ruzicka in Vukovar” has made a significant step forward in modern education, not only in the territory of the Republic of Croatia but also globally. Using virtual reality technology in synergy with Culex XR Studio, the quality of education of both lecturers and students has been greatly enhanced.

Motivated by new technologies in education and learning about virtual reality, this application aims primarily at Physiotherapy and Preventive Physiotherapy students. Therefore, the university also equipped a cabinet with 11 devices.

A professor within virtual reality manages the application. Using their VR kits, students actively participate in the teacher’s lecture and independently manage the application and explore the human body in virtual reality. The app lets the user know the human body/anatomy in detail through virtual reality!

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLWhmXUvfy4&ab_channel=CulexXRStudio

Project name: Autonomous aircraft unit VR

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Concept: Culex Studio had the honour of participating in creating the first Croatian virtual landmark. Project “Autonomous aircraft unit VR” was developed in cooperation with Memorial Centre Vukovar.

This virtual landmark was built in memory of the unit founder Marko Živković, pilot Mirko Vukušić, and two parachuters: Ante Plazibat and Rade Griva. Unfortunately, all of the members tragically died on their last flight on 2 December 1991.

Autonomous aircraft unit Osijek was one of the first airborne units formed in independent Croatia. They were most active during the siege of Vukovar. Their flights brought medical supplies, food, and ammo to defenders and used improvised explosives to charge enemy territories.

Our virtual simulation is based on the exhibit unit of the “Antonov An-2” model aircraft used for AAU missions. It allows you to fly with the crew on one of the 1991 flights to Vukovar. The simulation starts in the city of Đakovo, and soon after take-off, you can experience the Vukovar war zone first hand. You are in the company of pilots and two parachuters ready to deploy the supplies. At the same time, enemy forces are trying to shoot the plane down with rapid-fire.

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXnALMlcLDU&ab_channel=JUMCDRVukovar

So far, we have worked with great people on significant projects in the east of Croatia, and I hope we will continue to do so.

Do you cooperate with other businesses in Vukovar / the east? If so, how has your experience been so far?

Thus far, we have not worked with other companies in Vukovar since our work is based on specific skills that we have not found locally. We did, however, do some outsourcing with people from Osijek. We are delighted with our cooperation thus far. There are some really smart and capable people in the east.

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If we were to implement the Vukovar Card, would you take part?

I am sure we can arrange something!

Finally, tell us about life in Vukovar. What is it that you love the most? What would you say to all potential visitors?

Life in Vukovar and eastern Croatia is great. I have lived in Chicago and Dallas in the USA and our capital Zagreb, but I would not change it for what I have in Osijek or Vukovar.

I know people in the east are intelligent, friendly, and great hosts.

I have found all the tranquillity I need here, far from the big city noise.

I would advise everybody to visit the east and get to know our amazing cuisine and our culture. From a business perspective, I strongly recommend people come and work with the amazing talent we have here in the east. Map

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

Tuesday, 28 December 2021

Meet Vukovar 365, Full of Life: Mario Ivanković of Rolling Wheels Youth Association

December 28, 2021 - Meet Mario Ivanković, the founder of the Rolling Wheels Youth Association, who is on a mission to popularise skateboarding in Vukovar.

Following decorations, gifts, and last week's cakes and sweets, for this week’s edition of Vukovar 365, we decided it was time for creativity combined with movement and sport. And to celebrate this extreme, and to many an unusual sport entering the Olympic realms, I decided to speak to one of its rare representatives here in Vukovar.

Meet Mario Ivanković, the founder of the Rolling Wheels Youth Association, who has been on a mission to popularise skateboarding. In a bid to bring it closer to the general public and to educate the residents of Vukovar on the many benefits of always hitting your ankles with a wooden board, Mario founded Rolling Wheels with his friend Igor in 2009. Icon

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In the twelve years that have since gone by, the Association has successfully organized events and festivals, become known country-wide, and managed to convince the city of Vukovar to finance building not one, but two skateparks. Not too bad, is it? The skateboarding population in Vukovar also grew from the initial two skateboarders (you guessed it, Mario and Igor) to dozens of young and teenage boys and girls practicing this art. A skate park at night

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With skateboarding becoming an Olympic sport, their horizons have broadened and the dynamic duo is looking to transform the Association into a skateboarding club, which would allow them to carry out more activities, and on a larger scale. Not only are there new places to spend time opening up in Vukovar, but they also help us come up with new things to do. We do advise not trying it at home, though.

Tell us about your association. How did you begin and what is it that you do? 

Rolling Wheels was founded in 2009. Our first goal, which we achieved in 2013, was to have a skatepark built in Vukovar. Other than that, we wanted to popularize skateboarding in Croatia. Extreme sports were always put aside and were considered dangerous and mischievous. Skateboards were frowned upon by the City council and Vukovar’s residents. To popularize skateboarding and present it in a more positive manner we decided to get together and organize skateboarding contests. 

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What projects did you do in Vukovar, can you describe them? 

Our main project that went on from 2009 until 2018 was Vukovar Street Art. It was a one-day festival of extreme sports (skateboarding, BMX, and inline best trick contest) including alternative cultures like hip-hop concerts, graffiti workshops, and B-boying. Vukovar Street Art was special because it took place in the city center where skateboarders would show off their skills to everyone and anyone that happened to pass by. On top of that, it was the first “best trick” contest in Croatia. Every year the contest grew and had more and more visitors. 

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How many people took part, where were they from? What about those who just came to observe? 

The observers were mainly locals that came with children who were more than impressed by tricks than the skateboarders themselves. It was something unusual and different since it gathered a bunch of different people from all around Croatia that did tricks on a piece of wood, so to speak. The contestants and visitors came from all around Croatia and even from Serbia, Bosnia, Germany, Slovenia, and Brazil. A person sitting on the ground next to a wall covered in graffiti

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How successful were you in acquiring sponsorship? 

Getting sponsors from skateboard shops and skateboarding brands was quite easy, actually. Since it was a different kind of contest everyone was down to support us. Getting the scene together was always a pleasure and the smiles on our friends’ faces were what kept us going. The difficult part was getting the financial support we needed but it always somehow ended fine. The main financial sponsor was always the City of Vukovar.

What’s in the future of the association? 

The Association is now going through the process of change. Since skateboarding became an Olympic sport, it became clear that it is here to stay. In order to join the Croatian skateboarding committee, it now needs to become a skateboarding club. To do so we must make some changes within our organization, including changing the statute. By becoming a skateboarding club, we will secure a full membership within the Croatian Skateboarding Committee and will be able to organize national cups in Vukovar.  

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Are you planning new projects any time soon? 

One of our main goals for 2022 is to hold a national cup in Vukovars’ newly built skatepark. The Cup will be under the sponsorship of the Croatian Olympic Committee, more precisely the Croatian Skate Association. 

Would you be interested in working with CROMADS and taking part in the Vukovar Card initiative? 

Yes, we would. It could broaden our horizons and introduce us to some new people.

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Finally, tell us about Vukovar. Why should people visit? 

Firstly, because of its rich history. The city is filled with beautiful buildings and houses and the river Danube gives it a special atmosphere. Nearby cities are also worth visiting. If you visit Vukovar you should definitely visit the City Museum, the newly renovated Water Tower, the Memorial Centre of Homeland War, and take a stroll through the city centre and the promenades along Vuka and Danube.

Where can we find you?

You can check us out on Vukovar Street Art’s Facebook page.

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

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. 

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(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.  

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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 Index.hr 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.  

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.  

CROMADS

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

Total Croatia Travel Portal

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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. 

Cheers!

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

 

Saturday, 18 December 2021

Vukovar 365, Full of Life: Lidija Mlinarević of Slatkoteka

December 18, 2021 - In today’s edition of TCN’s Vukovar 365 series, meet Lidija Mlinarević, the owner of Slatkoteka, a sweet shop in the Vukovar city centre.

So many times have I heard my friends and acquaintances complain of nowhere to sit down for cake and tea. Lidija is still in the process of acquiring her license to be able to offer a place to sit down, but the cake is ready. Her offer includes traditional recipes, as she says “from our grandmothers”, which are usually rich in walnut and butter and never fail to bring back memories of warm winter nights by the fireplace. Though she built her business on that idea, Lidija does also provide some modern little treats, including cupcakes, cake pops, letter cakes, modelled cakes, desserts on the go, and more. She is always happy to listen to her clients and bake the most delicious and stunningly decorated cakes for various occasions.

She was happy to take some time out of her incredibly busy day and share her thoughts and opinions with TCN.

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

I sell cakes and sweets, including custom-baked and decorated cakes for any occasion.

  

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

I would not really call this an idea, but rather a calling. Some people dream of becoming doctors, police officers, some are called to serve God, while I wanted to become a baker since I was little. The offer is unique not only in our city but in a wider area, because it focuses on traditional recipes of our grandmothers instead of a more modern approach.

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

In short, Vukovar is my city. I am a mother of two beautiful little girls and I wanted to make sure I inspire them to love the city just as much as I do, along with all its traditions and history. That is where it all started and eventually resulted in me deciding to start my business here. The challenges were your standard clerical little quirks, but it was all worth it. May be an image of food and indoor

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

I would dare say that I am more than satisfied considering the fact that my business has only been open for a few months, though the paperwork is a bit tough. As for the future, I truly can see how much this city offers and I can see so many opportunities in general, but even more so in the tourism sector.

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

I would not say so. The location has nothing to do with it. I really believe that if you love something and give it your all, success is guaranteed. 

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What opportunities are there in our city and region?

There are opportunities to develop our economy, especially focusing on tourism and gastronomy. We have got such a rich cultural heritage. In our region, I would say Osijek is an excellent example. Rural tourism was developed in a very clever way there. If there were opportunities to connect and create itineraries that would get tourists to experience both Vukovar and Osijek, that would certainly create a better offer and ensure that our visitors stayed for longer periods.

What is your view on other small businesses in Vukovar?

Firstly, I would like to say that I never really viewed them as competition, but I was quite surprised when owners of businesses similar to mine came up to me to start some kind of cooperation. I am happy to work with others.

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

I would love to take part! I think that is an excellent, clever, and much-needed incentive.

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

One thing that I love the most about my city is the fact that I can really see my future and my families’ future here. It is a city with perspective and there is so much to learn and do.

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Where can we find you?

My shop is located on Ulica I.G. Kovačića 3 in Vukovar. You can also find me on Facebook – Slatkoteka Vukovar and Instagram @slatkoteka_vukovar

For more on lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Contract Signed for Project Documentation for Vertical Quay in Vukovar Port

ZAGREB, 16 December, 2021 - A contract was signed on Wednesday between the Vukovar Port Authority and the IGH Institute for making project documentation for a vertical waterfront at the Vukovar Port worth €1.67 million.

The project is being co-financed with EU grants, which account for 85% of the funding, while the remainder will come from the state budget. The project should be completed by 31 March 2024.

"When the project is completed, we will have 300 metres of a new vertical waterfront at the Vukovar port. To date, we have signed a contract for project management and today we have signed a contract for project documentation with a consortium of bidders comprising IGH, KPMG Croatia d.o.o. and the Vodoprivredni Projektni Biro from Zagreb", the port's acting director, Iva Horvat, said.

The document should result in the issuance of building permits, after which we will apply for EU funds required for construction, she added.

"The idea is to construct 300 metres of a new vertical waterfront at the Vukovar Port that will be connected to the railway infrastructure by building new industrial tracks, as well as with the road infrastructure by building access roads. A new handling area and warehouses should be built as well," she said, adding that this would enable ships to dock regardless of the River Danube's depth.

IGH management board president Robert Petrosian said that the project is part of a broader development project for the port along the Rheine-Danube corridor.

The head of the inland navigation office at the Ministry of the Sea, Transport and Infrastructure, Duška Kunštek, said that this was a strategic project for Slavonia's development.

Vukovar Port is the only river port in Croatia. It is located on the right bank of the Danube River and enables navigation throughout the year.

The port covers an area of about 19 hectares, with 2.68 hectares used by concessionaires. The four-berth waterfront is 450 metres long. With its current capacity the port handles between 1,200,000 to 1,500,000 tonnes of cargo annually.

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