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.

Thursday, 9 December 2021

Vukovar Card: 7-Day Tour to Enrich Eastern Croatia Understanding

December 9, 2021 -  What if it was possible to support Vukovar economically rather than just emotionally, while having an incredible discovery of eastern Croatia. Meet the proposed Vukovar Card and itinerary. 

The idea is simple, and it puts money into the Vukovar economy, allows Croatians from all over the country and the diaspora to have a direct connection and contribution to the Vukovar today, as well as having one of the most incredible weeks of discovery of a part of Croatia that few know about in details. Here is a detailed look at my recent 6-day trip to eastern Croatia in November. It was one of the best weeks of my 18 years in Croatia.

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I presented the concept of the Vukovar Card recently in Vukovar Card: Support Local Economy Rather than Temporary Facebook Status.

The concept is simple.

Vukovar is a very emotive issue for all Croatians after the events of 1991, and November 18 sees an outpouring of emotion each year, as Facebook statuses are changed to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. 

While emotion and remembrance are appreciated in Vukovar, there is zero economic impact for a region which is suffering economically more than the rest of Croatia. 

Many Croatians have never been east and have little knowledge of the magic they are missing out on. 

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The Vukovar Card provides a partial solution to that. 

Once in a lifetime, rather than heading to the beach for that 2-3 week holiday, take 7 days to head on east instead. Go and meet the people of Vukovar, drink in their cafes, eat in their restaurants, and enjoy a fabulous 7-day tour of eastern Croatia that will literally blow your mind and wonder how you have been missing out on all this for so long. 

Once you take the tour, you receive the proposed Vukovar Card. It is proposed that the Vukovar Card is like a loyalty card (a little like the ill-fated Cro Card). Hotels, restaurants and bar owners on the coast, can all play their part to boost the Vukovar economy by offering a 10% discount on selected services by bearers of the Vukovar Card. 

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Nothing more complicated than that. 

I pitched the idea to the two regional tourist board directors, Ivana Juric of Osijek-Baranja County, and Rujana Busic Srpak of Vukovar Srijem County, and they were both supportive of the concept. I asked them to prepare a sample 7-day itinerary that would show that, far from being charity, the Vukovar Card was actually a great way to stimulate tourism in the east and give participants a genuinely amazing tourism experience. I told them that if they came up with the itinerary, I would make an appointment to present the concept to Minister of Tourism and Sports, Nikolina Brnjac, to see if we could get national support for the initiative. 

This is what Ivana and Rujana put together.  I am emailing Minister Brnjac later today. 

Proposal for visiting Croatian Danube region: Srijem and Slavonia and Baranja

Day 1

08.00 – departure from Zagreb

10.30 – Syrmian breakfast, restaurant Aquarius, Bošnjaci

11.30 – visit brandy tasting room Matkova pecara, Bošnjaci (announcement required)

Option: Forestry Museum in Bošnjaci

12.30 – visit to Gradište, Snašini kućari – tour of the estate, presentation of old crafts and traditional architecture (announcement required)

lunch

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14.00 – visit to Otok, Bio-ecological centre Virovi: walk on the educational trail, kayaking, canoeing, cycling

16.00 – Nijemci, ride on the tourist boat Sv. Katarina from the centre of Nijemci according to the desired direction (reservation required)

18.00 – Vinkovci, tour: Vinkovci Town Museum, Birth house of Ivan Kozarac, overnight stay

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Day 2

09.00 – visit to Vukovar

09.30 – Tour of the Eltz castle

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10.30 – War hospital museum

11.30 – Franciscan museum

12.30 – Ride on the Danube

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13.30 - Lunch, recommendation: „Lola“

14.30 – 16.30 – Afternoon city tour: Zadruga Vrhunsko vukovarsko, Vukovarsko pivo, Street art

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16.30 – Vučedol Culture Museum

17.30 – Tour of the Memorial house Ovčara

18.00 – Departure to Ilok

19.00 – dinner

20.00 – Tour and tasting: Wineries/Vinarija: Ivan Čobanković, Papak

Ilok, overnight stay 

Day 3

09.00 - A tour of the medieval core of Ilok: the church of St. Ivana Kapistran with the monastery, Ilok Interpretation Center, Ilok City Museum

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11.00 - Tour of Ilok cellars: tasting

12.30 – Lunch, recommendation restaurant of the hotel Dunav

14.00 – Principovac

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Departure to Osijek-Baranja County 

NOTE: the program is proposed in a way to visit the key attractions and experiences of Vukovar - Srijem County in 3 days. The proposed facilities can be visited for a longer, more relaxed period of time, according to the choice of the traveller.

Day 4.

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16.00 Arrival in Osijek, check in Hotel Osijek 4* / Guesthouse Maksimilian 3* / Hotel Boutique Tvrđa 4* / Hostel Stara Pekara (or other)

17.30 Sightseeing of the city centre: discovering Picasso along the most beautiful river promenade in Croatia, Bridge of Youth, finding traces of Freemasonry and tour of Co- Cathedral; local craft beer tasting (Von Becker’s, Runda, Beertija, Gajba, etc.)

20.00 Dinner Crna svinja (meat), Čepin / Slavonska kuća (traditional), Osijek / Lumiere

(international, city center), Osijek / Hotel Osijek – Zimska luka restaurant (international,

city center), Osijek / Čingi lingi (traditional), Baranja-Bilje / or other 

Day 5.

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8.30 Breakfast

10.00 Kopački rit Nature Park – Heart of the Danube, boat ride, interpretation centre or

boardwalk stroll, https://pp-kopacki-rit.hr/index-en.html

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11.00 Tikveš castle sightseeing

12.00 Visit to Asztalos Art Ceramic Atelier, Suza; option: workshop can be arranged

https://www.facebook.com/Asztalos-Keramika-113478782041244/

12.30 Discovering the typical style old wine cellars in Zmajevac village

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Wine tasting and lunch, Josić winery, http://josic.hr

14.00 Batina Battle Memorial Complex / WW II - Red Army

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Batina

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Sightseeing point over the Danube and three countries - Croatia, Serbia, Hungary

15:00 OPG Matijević family farm in Suza village, tasting of local products with PGI certificate, http://www.kulen-matijevic.hr/

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15.45   Belje wine road in the Bansko brdo hill, rolling wine yards and the breath-taking views of southern Baranja and Osijek in the background

16.30 Arrival to Osijek, break

19.00 Sightseeing of the Tvrđa, old town

Other options for Baranja:

  • Village “museum” - Ulica zaboravljenog vremena / Street of forgotten time, Karanac

https://www.baranjska-kuca.com/

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  • Lunch in Baranjska kuća in Karanac (traditional), https://www.baranjska-kuca.com/
  • Lunch in Hotel Lug (top chef), https://hotellug.hr/
  • Vinarium Borarium, Zmajevac – collection of Baranja’s wine history
  • Guided hiking on Bansko brdo with “Landranje team”

(https://www.facebook.com/LandranjeBaranjom/)

  • Discovering Zlatna Greda, the forest lodge with adrenalin park and picnic site in the nature park Kopački rit, http://zlatna-greda.org/en/

Day 6.

Erdut-Aljmaš-Dalj area:

8.30 Breakfast

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Milutin Milanković Cultural and Scientific center, http://www.milutin-milankovic.com/

10.30 One of the family run boutique wineries / Antunović – Dalj (https://vina-antunovic.hr/?lang=en) , Brzica – Erdut (https://www.brzica.com/), Magistra – Erdut (https://www.facebook.com/Vina-Magistra-286222865311970, Siber – Erdut (https://vinasiber.com/), Danubio (https://www.danubio.hr/, offers accommodation), Janečić (https://vinarija-janecic.hr/)…

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12.00 Visit to Erdut vineyards / Erdutski vinogradi, historic wine estate

https://www.erdutski-vinogradi.hr/index.php/en/

Visit to Erdut tower

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Lunch – OPG Etno kuća Stari dud / Zlatica Blagojević

https://www.facebook.com/etnokuca.staridud.1

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Visit to Aljmaš – pilgrimage site, Lady of Shelter, Marian shrine since 1704 

Return to Osijek, free time

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Day 7.

Đakovo:

Breakfast

9.30 State stud farm Đakovo – Ivandvor, http://ergela-djakovo.hr/en/about-us/ivandvor-2/

10.30 Visiting sacral cultural heritage - Cathedral of St.Peter 

http://tzdjakovo.eu/index.php/en/znamenitosti/muzeji/item/34-st-peter-s-cathedral?rid=175

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State stud farm Đakovo – the stallion station, http://ergela-djakovo.hr/en/about-us/stallion_station/ 

Lunch, departure

Optional: visit to Wine cellar of Đakovo-Osijek Archdiocese and to family-owned wineries in Trnava and Mandićevac wine area surrounding Đakovo (fantastic views!). In case of visit during spring and summer we recommend also visit to Borovik lake.

I have personal and recent experience of just how amazing eastern Croatia is on a 6-day tour. Learn more in Time to Tell the Truth about Slavonia Full of Life.

Wednesday, 8 December 2021

Dylan Dog in Vukovar: 35 Years of Famous Comic Series in Croatia

It’s been 35 years since Dylan Dog made his first appearance in Croatia. An exhibition dedicated to the popular comic series opens in Vukovar on December 8th, 2021

 

Here at TCN we’re well aware there’s plenty to see in eastern Croatia all year round. That being said, we still get an occasional surprise - it’s not every day that you see Dylan Dog and Vukovar in the same sentence.

It’s been 35 years since Dylan Dog was first introduced to Croatian readers, just one year after its first Italian edition published in 1986. It soon gained a cult following and remained massively popular in Croatia to this day. 

To celebrate the 35th anniversary of the beloved comic series in these parts, an exhibition of selected illustrations and notable Croatian editions of Dylan Dog is being put up in the Vukovar Municipal Museum. 

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It’s worth noting that some of the works on display feature well-known landmarks from the Croatian capital, such as the Zagreb cathedral, the Cibona tower and the iconic Džamija!

The exhibition was first displayed in Zagreb earlier this year, organized by the association Crtani Romani Šou in collaboration with the Italian Institute of Culture. It’s now heading to eastern Croatia, to the beautiful Eltz Manor that houses the Vukovar Municipal Museum. 

The exhibition opened today, December 8th. It will remain on display until January 8th, 2022 and can be visited free of charge.

 

Vukovar Municipal Museum

Address: Dvorac Eltz, Županijska ulica 2, Vukovar

Working hours: Tuesday - Sunday 10am to 6pm

Monday, 6 December 2021

Meet Vukovar 365, Full of Life: Lidija Azinović of Ella Design

December 6, 2021 - In our new TCN series, we meet the Vukovar businesses that are changing the landscape of the city. First up, introducing Ella Design. 

Vukovar, oh Vukovar. What comes to mind when you hear the name? Most likely war, the parade, the memorial museums. Its citizens are leaving, searching for a better life in Ireland, Germany, Austria. Fortunately, that is not all it is. It is a living breathing city, full of wonders and full of amazing people with passion and a vision for a bright future right here. The thing is, not many people realize how much potential there is in a place that is now brand new. How many smaller cities (bigger, too) can show off their refurbished baroque facades, perfectly maintained parks and greenery, strategically grown all around the city centre to allow for walks of several kilometres along the river? New infrastructure, housing, and roads? A 10-minute drive or a pleasant walk to get anywhere? An abundance of schools and kindergartens? What a dream. And yet, rarely is this a picture that is painted. There is tradition, culture, gastronomy, you name it. And with the implementation of Vukovar Card, outlined here who knows where we can go? Though the challenges are numerous, so are the advantages. 

In this edition, we will discuss business, ideas, perspectives. 

Running a small business anywhere in the world is quite a challenge. Doing so in Croatia is a slightly bigger one. Starting from scratch and running one in the east of Croatia, in Vukovar – mission impossible. Or is it? In a series of interviews, we present some excellent businesses in Vukovar. We talk to the owners to see how they are doing at the moment, the challenges they are facing, and their plans for the future. We also discuss the Vukovar Card idea with them to see what they think and if they would be willing to take part. Let their stories inspire you to visit and shop their products in Vukovar! 

Today we present Ella Design, a family-run creative design business. The owner, Lidija Azinović, is a bubbly personality with lots of stories to share and ideas to discuss. Her family's way into this was not very straightforward, but eventually, Lidija and her husband, who is now her employee, decided that it's worth pursuing a hobby if you love it.  They built a successful business selling personalised gifts such as picture frames, hanging decorations, and keychains. All their products are custom designed and made by Lidija and Kristijan in their home in Vukovar. Even though the times are quite challenging with the price of materials having gone up 100% for some, they keep a smile on their faces and a more than positive outlook with ambitious plans for the future. After our conversation, I had a sudden urge to go home and create something, start a business, be colourful, imaginative. I'm much better at writing though, so for now, I will only share what Lidija said to some of my questions:A person and person posing for a picture

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

I am the owner of Ella Design, more specifically the brand “Mamine Ručice” (Mother’s Little Hands), and I make custom gifts for various occasions. The materials that I use include wood, MDF panels, different kinds of plywood, acrylic sheets, etc. We cut the shapes out with a CNC laser and then sand, paint, put together, and pack by hand. A picture containing text

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Where did you get the idea and how did you begin? 

I got the idea when I gave birth to my little daughter Ella as I was searching for something to decorate her room. Two months later, my husband and I created our first MDF wall decor and handed it as gifts to our little friends at my son Leon’s birthday party. Back then we did not have a laser but used my father-in-law's manual CNC machine which was, you can imagine, slow and tedious. We managed to surprise our friends and family who immediately wanted to order more! And so it began.

What makes your product unique?

I think that our offer is quite unique in the sense that it is really wide-ranging and customizable. I really dove deep into the idea of setting up a business and used all the advantages that I had. We did not need to rent space since we had some spare rooms in our house. Also, I made sure that my products are available outside of Vukovar in all of Croatia. A picture containing text, indoor, different, chain

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How was it setting up a business in Vukovar? What is your outlook for the future? 

I am really pleased with the way we were able to set up our business, conduct it and grow so far. The fact that our efforts are seen even outside of Croatia makes me so happy. I am looking forward to all future projects and collaborations and I think that we will soon expand our business. 

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

The fact that we are located in the east did not affect our business in any significant way. I truly believe that the things that matter for success include willpower, desire, and hard work. With these combined, success will come your way no matter the location. 

What opportunities are there in our city and region? 

The opportunities in the city, as well as the region, are numerous, with a good business plan and vision, any business owner can create an amazing story of their business. I believe that it is important to connect with the city, the county, as well as the end client. A picture containing indoor, wall

Description automatically generatedLong-term success is not about how much money you make, but about how well connected you are and how much you matter to the community. 

What is your view on other small businesses in Vukovar? 

I liaise with other business owners, I buy their products and use their services because I want to encourage them and support their work and effort. Those who really try I support through my social media accounts, I praise their effort and recommend them to my followers. They do the same for me, creating an amazing circle of positivity. I see them as my partners and not competition. 

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

The idea is excellent! I would be more than happy to take part in order to boost the local economy and connect with other stakeholders and express our support in such a way. To make it all worth it, we would be happy to offer discounted prices of our products for the holders of Vukovar Card. 

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

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I love everything about Vukovar! I love the fact that there is more to our city than war tourism and that is slowly but surely coming out to the surface. An excellent offer of restaurants, wine, museums. Vukovar is a place that is only about to reach its peak and our generation will make sure that it does soon. 

Where can we find you? 

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On my Facebook page “Mamine Ručice” and my Instagram - mamine_rucice.

Welcome! Hopefully, you can find something you’ll love. 

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

Friday, 3 December 2021

Smart Villages Concept Presented in Vukovar

ZAGREB, 3 Dec 2021 - A project - Smart Villages - EU Concept for the Development of Rural Communities - was presented on Friday in Vukovar, with Croatian MEP Tomislav Sokols saying that the document represents a good basis for efforts to keep young people in rural areas and halt the scaling down of the local population.

"Investing in health and education infrastructure, developing business, good management, strengthening human resources and building additional capacities in communities are required for the concept of the smart village to come to life in the full sense," said Sokol and added that this is a new concept that is supported by the EU and has already opened new prospects for Croatian villages.

According to Sokol, the Smart Villages project "will enable the development of health, education, traffic and other infrastructure throughout rural areas to make them more attractive, particularly for young people."

Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković, who attended the presentation, supported the concept saying that the ministry would continue to finance social and utility infrastructure and that it has gone a step further and will request financing for agriculture infrastructure.

"There is no smart village without smart people, nor a future without young people. That is why we have increased planned support units through the 6.1.1 operational programme which is earmarked for young farmers," said Vučković.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 26 November 2021

Danube Full of Life: American Cruise Guests Still Visiting Vukovar

November 26, 2021 - The Dalmatian coast may be sleeping through winter, but out east it is very much the Danube Full of Life, as the river cruise ship tourists keep on comin'.

One of the most controversial aspects of tourism on the Adriatic surrounds cruise ships. With over a million passengers a year, they undoubtedly bring traffic, but at what cost? There are pros and cons to the argument, and it has been a hot topic of discussion, at least until the pandemic temporarily halted that discussion. 

But Croatia has another cruise ship sector which receives much less attention, and one which is still going today at the end of November - Danube river cruising. 

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CRUISE FROM : BUDAPEST TO GIURGIU

Touch history in Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania, as you sail along the exotic lower Danube. Celtic fortifications, medieval towns and grand cities, along with the natural beauty of pastoral landscapes and the Danube’s famed Iron Gates, showcase the best of eastern Europe. Nature lovers will relish the opportunity to see Bulgaria’s natural wonder, Belogradchik, a fairytale stone world of fantastic shapes associated with interesting legends; or to bike through Belgrade’s sprawling Kalemegdan Park. Wine connoisseurs will have a chance to taste history from the centuries-old wine-growing hills dating back to the Romans in Ilok, a royal and vinous town. Be treated to the flavors, sights, sounds and cultures of this diverse swath of the continent.

Some 60 American guests arrived in Vukovar today as part of their cruise. Three buses were waiting to take them on their excusions. And there were two choices on offer. Two buses took the tour of Vukovar, Eltz Palace and Ovcara, while one bus headed for one of the best wine tasting exepriences in Croatia, the fabulous Ilocki Podrum in Ilok. 

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We visited Ilocki Podrum last week. Where else in the world can you hold wines that were served at the Queen's coronation in 1953, as well as the weddings of both Prince William and Harry? You can try them too. There are 92 bottles of the Traminac 1947 left, the wine that the Royal household served 11,000 bottles of at the coronation. A bottle of this unique wine today will set you back 55,000 kuna.

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Our fearless guide from last week, Dom Butkovic, was on hand to take the American guests around Vukovar, and I am willing to bet that there are at least four bottles of rakija just outside this shot. 

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Today is the last cruise of the year, but cruise ships in November show that there is plenty of life in eastern Croatia, even if few people write about and promote it. 

For more news on Vukovar, follow the dedicated TCN section.  

Friday, 26 November 2021

The Vukovar You Never Hear About: Igor on 'Dinner for 5'

November 26, 2021 - The people of Vukovar live 365 days a year, and not just on November 18. Nice to see the fabulous Vrhunsko Vukovar food and wine garden featured on RTL's popular 'Dinner for 5' show. 

One of my top finds on our recent trip east was the Vrhunsko (Excellent) Vukovarsko Cooperative Food and Wine Garden and Shop. If you were looking for a symbol of the new Vukovar, then this was it. Around 20 top producers of local products have come together to offer the finest gourmet products the region has to offer, direct from the small local producers. 

Located in the city centre on the main route of the November 18 Remembrance Day Parade, I spent quite a bit of time with the fabulous team at the shop, and it was a strange contrast sipping a glass of refreshing Grasveina as we took a break from filming as the estimated 50,000 participants walked by.  

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We will be doing a LOT more on this wonderful place and the personalities who run it in the coming months, but I was very pleased to notice that the wine garden was featured on national television earlier this week on the popular RTL show, Dinner for 5. Below is the report from 24 Sata. Photos are from the cooperative's Facebook page, as I don't have permission to use the ones from the show. Great place, check it out on Facebook, and feel free to order from their online shop

Igor’s burger surprise in “Večera za 5”: The food was so greasy, it was dripping all over”

As a gift, the contestants received products from the cooperative where Igor works, which made everyone happy. As a special surprise, they sang famous Slavonian songs on karaoke.

Today's host in the Vukovar edition of “Večera za 5 na selu” was Igor, an agricultural technician, who served his guests a Black Burger, the Šokačko-srijemski Steak and Drunken Crepes. Some people didn't like the appetizer, while others loved it, the main dish was mostly well received, and the wine chateau crepes didn't sit equally well with everyone. Despite having prepared interesting dishes with a lot of effort to prepare dinner, Igor only scored 35 points and missed out on taking the lead.

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He greeted his guests with plum brandy (šljivovica), pear brandy (viljamovka) and cherry liqueur and they toasted for a good dinner and even better company. "The best choice of aperitif so far, I adore viljamovka," said Marina, and the others praised the brandy. For starters, they ate burgers with black Slavonian pig bacon. Everyone liked the wine that the host served, however they had some objections to the meal. "Grease was dripping all over, I don't like it when it's too greasy," said Marina, while Nenad disagreed: "Tasty, good, juicy, greasy, yummy… I swallowed it in three bites."

The host then brought out two main dishes in one - veal steak and stuffed breaded pork steaks in a sauce, and everyone noticed how nice the plate looked.

“It's hard to describe. It was as if I had tasted a ray of sunshine, as if I had tasted a piece of paradise…, the mushrooms, the sauce… It was very, very good“, Lorena praised the main course, and Marina and Nenad found it tasty even though they found the pasta to be a bit much. “The veal steak was fine, though it could have been a little less cooked so that it preserved a little of that juice. You can tell he made an effort, so thumbs up for that”, concluded Mario.

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Dessert was wine chateau crepes. Nenad especially looked forward to that because his mother used to make it for him, while Mario found that his plate was too full. “It was difficult to start eating the crepes without having the chateau overflow” he said, adding that the chateau was unfinished. The others thought it was delicious.

As a gift, the contestants received products from the cooperative where Igor works, which made everyone happy. As a special surprise, they sang famous Slavonian songs on karaoke.

Lorena and Nenad rated Igor's dinner with tens because they thought everything was great – the food, wine, ambience and the mood, while Marina and Mario were more critical - Marina didn't like the appetizer because it was too greasy, so she rated it with an eight, and Mario said, “I rate it with a seven because the appetizer was too greasy, the main course bulky, and the dessert was average.”

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For more news and features about Vukovar, follow the dedicated TCN section

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Remains of Homeland War Victims Found in Eastern Croatia

ZAGREB, 25 Nov 2021 - The remains of at least five persons which, according to preliminary findings, dating back to the Homeland War, were found in the Bobota area in Vukovar-Srijem County on Thursday as part of the tracing of those who disappeared in the 1991-95 war.

The war veterans ministry said it had organized the exhumation of the remains and further search of the site.

The remains will be taken to the Forensic Medicine Institute in Zagreb for processing and identification.

Croatia is still looking for 1,853 persons gone missing in the Homeland War, including 520 from Vukovar-Srijem County.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

The Realities of Life as a Vukovar Tour Guide (Interview)

November 24, 2021 - As the annual November 18 interest in Vukovar subsides, TCN's interest in this majestic city on the Danube is only just beginning. In the first of a series of interviews with the people of Vukovar, new CROMADS recruit Katarina Anđelković on life as a Vukovar tour guide, and tourism and the future.

Vukovar lives 365 days a year, not just on November 18, and there is plenty to see and do apart from doing a war tour, as Katarina explains in our first interview in an occasional series on the people of Vukovar. 

Vukovar is globally known for the horrendous events of 1991, which brought tremendous suffering to Vukovar's residents. What is it like to do war tours with something which has affected you and your family so personally and recently?

It’s never easy. I don’t mind talking about it at all and I am of the opinion that history definitely needs to be taught. However, sharing stories feels very different to me than doing a whole war tour. That should be just a part of your visit to Vukovar.

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What are the general reactions of tourists who come, and how much do people from other parts of Croatia know about what actually happened?

It’s very hard to generalize, as we get different reactions from different groups. The one thing that our visitors have in common is that they are touched by the bravery and humanity of those who helped Vukovar.

As for the history, foreigners will usually not know that much and will react in an empathetic way, genuinely wanting to learn about the events. Croatian tourists are more likely to come here with assumptions, attitudes, opinions and tend to be more interested in politics and the way things are now. Which is not necessarily a bad thing when we get to focus on the future.

All in all, however, I would say that people are interested in learning, and that is quite encouraging.

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30 years later, Vukovar is still known mostly for the war and not about its tourism offer. How do you feel about that?

I am on a mission to change that. Even though war tourism will always be a part of our offer, it should not be our identity. We are the cradle of civilization in Europe, we offer the finest dining, the purest nature and the warmest people. Come and check that out.

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The water tower has reopened and is now in use again as a museum and viewing point, while keeping its damaged exterior. What are the opinions about the project locally? 

Just like with anything, opinions vary. There is a lot of pride in calling the water tower our symbol of perseverance and unity. For some, it’s a painful reminder, for others it stood even though it was beaten. It’s all about perspective. For me, the views from the top are undeniably magnificent.

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November 18 is obviously a very emotional day each year. How do you spend it, and how do you feel about the influx of tens of thousands who come?

I am touched by the rivers of people who flood in to show support and walk the walk, and I am especially moved by those who do so by walking, running, cycling. What I don’t like (and many will tell you this) is that the next time you will hear about Vukovar in the media is around the same time next year.

As for how I spend the day – it depends. Some years I walk and some years I do something else in an attempt to distract those who lived it all. The same thing does not always feel right.

Now let's talk about tourism of the future. What incredible things do you have to show us? Give us a flavour with your top 5 things to see and experience.

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Vučedol, Vučedol, Vučedol! When was the last time you visited a museum that was built on the very site where an ancient civilization lived? Completely blended into nature as well, with a number of awards for its architecture! Everyone will tell you about Egypt and Mesopotamia, but not many know about their contemporaries who lived right here. It never fails to leave our guests speechless,

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The Austro-Hungarian legacy and the Eltz castle. With our city museum displaying historical as well as contemporary artifacts in a wonderful area right next to the Danube, an afternoon spent learning and sipping coffee with a view will surely leave you feeling fulfilled. Can you tell I kinda like museums?

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The baroque city centre. With its architecture completely reconstructed to showcase the decorative style of the era, today it houses traditional artisan shops as well as some modern endeavours to tickle your senses. I’ll keep that one as a little secret to share with those who visit around lunchtime.

 

Cruising the Danube with a glass of wine. Take the Vukovar WaterBus into the sunset, witness the beauty of this powerful river and forget about worry for this truly relaxing experience. 

Its people! Wherever you go you will be met with a smile, a shot of rakija and some kulen just to start you off. What follows is stories, experiences, places, just incredible things. I especially love talking to our older residents who will happily tell you about the times of glory in Vukovar.

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I have not even scratched the surface there. The fabulous food, wine and craft beer, our parks and forests, our river island, the murals done by some amazingly talented artists, the tradition, the future in the form of VR and AR, so so much to discover.

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You are the tourist board director of Vukovar for the day. How would you brand Vukovar for tourism, and what are its key strengths? 

As much as it pains me as a tourist guide, the key strengths of Vukovar might lie in what’s been hidden for so long. It is so rewarding watching people react to all that we show them which they had absolutely no idea about. And the magic behind that. You will find something in the east that is quite unique in Croatian tourism – we try so hard. We don’t see others as competition but rather as allies in bringing people here and showing them what is there to see, experience and taste. All chased down by some unbelievable stories.

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Tell us a little about the energy of the small but fabulous eco-system of tourism businesses and offers which are emerging in Vukovar. 

As I said in my previous answer, the uniqueness of Vukovar’s tourist offer lies in the fact that all the businesses work together rather than against each other. The quality of their products is just outstanding, everything works so well together and choosing just one thing to take home sometimes seems impossible.

For more news and features from Vukovar, follow the dedicated TCN Vukovar section.

Do you have a business or social initiative in Vukovar that you would like to have featured on TCN? If yes, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject Vukovar. 

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Vukovar Card: Support Local Economy Rather than Temporary Facebook Status

November 23, 2021 - 30 years after the fall of Vukovar, the global Croatian community commemorates the horrendous event, but is it time to support the Vukovar community with something more concrete than an annual Facebook status update? A practical suggestion to introduce the Vukovar Card.

For many, many years, I avoided writing about the topic of Vukovar, and with good reason. 

I am not Croatian, I was not there, and how could a foreigner have an opinion worth having about one of the most painful periods and events in Croatian history? And not only that, but how could he possibly understand? 

Having spent a year as an emergency aid worker in Rwanda, arriving two weeks after the genocide that killed 800,000 people in just 100 days in 1994, I had an understanding of suffering, but the complexities of the Vukovar situation and my lack of knowledge meant that I avoided writing about the topic. Instead, I limited my involvement to accompanying my kids to light the annual candle, and also delegating the topic to a native writer to cover.

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Years passed. The November 18 remembrance parade took place each year, every Vukovar Street in the country was lined with red candle holders on each side of the street, Facebook became a sea of images with messages such as Never Forget and City of Heroes. 

It was powerful stuff. As I wrote after the World Cup which was followed by the death of Oliver Dragojevic, which led to In Life and In Death, Croatia are World Champions at Celebration.

And they really are. It is amazing to watch the passion of Croats in times of extreme joy and extreme pain. 

But as the years went by, I realised that by the time November 19 came round, Vukovar was forgotten for another 364 days. And while the Facebook statuses and candles were no doubt appreciated, Vukovar was forgotten for another year as soon as the candles went out. 

Two years ago, I realised that while the November 18 remembrance parade takes place each year, there was nothing online about the actual experience in English. I decided to go and document the whole event as a foreign neutral, to at least give some perspective for TCN foreign readers. 

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It was one of the most harrowing, but also one of the most educational days in all my 18 years in this country - Vukovar Remembrance Day Through the Eyes of a Foreign Resident.

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These two photos - taken with permission - killed me. The look of joy on the young boy's face as he ran in to see everyone marching past was pure innocence and happiness. Finally, something was happening in the city, even if he perhaps did not appreciate what. That face, that innocence, and that joy has stayed with me ever since. The innocence will not last long in the Vukovar of today, but what can we do to keep the smile on his face and give him a future that will keep him? 

Temporary Facebook statuses and extinguished candles were not going to be enough. 

Back then, inspired by that smile, I wrote Vukovar: How to Honour the Fallen and Assist the Survivors? It was not so widely read as I had hoped, but after returning from Vukovar and this year's event, I feel compelled to try again. 

The 2021 Vukovar Day was a much different experience for me. The initial shock was no longer there, as I knew what to expect. But there were other differences. The water tower was open, and the experience became more one of joy, celebration, and national pride than looking at a national scar. Perhaps it was the fact that it was the 30th anniversary, as well as comrades being reunited after the more muted, pandemic-affected 2020 Vukovar Day, but there was a much more positive atmosphere overall. There was respect and remembrance of course, but a notable toning down of the politics, lots of hugs, and sharing of rakija. 

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As we filmed, I was struck by how many people asked us to take their photos. And many begged us to take one of their flags. These guys wanted to tell me about Travnik (I already knew about it from previous visits to Bosnia). They wanted the world to know they were in Vukovar. And the selfies. For every person grieving by an individual grave, there were ten talking selfies in the cemetery with friends reunited. 

It didn't feel wrong. 

But the main difference to me this time was the time I spent with local people from Vukovar, as they observed this mass invasion with a mixture of emotions. I heard stories over wine and rakija that brought tears to my eyes, and stories of resilience and survival that had me welling up again. And LOTS of stories about the great new things happening in Vukovar. Of new opportunities, of local people having a go. The conversation that stayed with me was with a lovely guy who fought back the tears as he told me his story, before going to pick up his young kids so that they could walk to the cemetery. 

Don't hate but never forget. I want my kids to know what happened and to respect that. We have our past but it is not the first thing tourists need to know when they arrive. We have a great tourism offer based on the future. I am proud to live here but things have to change. I want to leave a better Vukovar for my kids so that they will stay.

We didn't fight for a country like this. It is rotten in every way. Why do journalists come looking for positive Vukovar stories every year on November 18 only? Why never in March?

Unlike most visitors who only come once a year, 3 days later, I found myself back in Vukovar offering an extraordinary young lady called Katarina a part-time job. And I can't tell you how excited I am about hiring her. This is not a charity job offer - far from it. With her help, we will be telling the positive stories of Vukovar and eastern Croatia not just once a year, but throughout the year. Stay tuned. 

So how can we honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice, while providing economic benefit to those living in Vukovar today? And how to keep that smile on that young boy's face, while also allowing those far away to keep that connection to Vukovar and to never forget?

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There is a very simple solution that I will be proposing to the Minister of Tourism, Nikolina Brnjac, who promised me a meeting when we met in Dubrovnik recently. 

It could actually use the infrastructure of a previously failed initiative by the Kings of Accidental Tourism before Minister Brnjac's time - the CRO Card.   

It is called the Vukovar Card. 

I had lunch with the regional tourist board directors of both Vukovar Srijem and Osijek Baranja counties last week. I told them my idea and asked them if they could produce an award-winning 7-day itinerary of eastern Croatia, which not only gave participants more than enough time to honour and grieve for the tragedy of 1991, but also to give eastern Croatia's visitors a unique tourism experience that will blow their minds. As it did mine on a similar itinerary last week - more soon next week. 

Is this a charity case? Yes, it is. This is eastern Croatia saying no hard feelings about being ignored for 25 years and giving its visitors an outstanding and unforgettable 7 days showcasing a Croatia they hardly knew existed. I have travelled all over this country, and the last week in eastern Croatia with digital nomad videographer Steve Tsentserensky, was probably the best in my 18 years here. 

Many of the diaspora who change their Facebook status for November 18 come to the Adriatic coast each year for 2-3 weeks. So here is the simple suggestion. On one of those visits, for 7 days only, take the Vukovar Card package, experience a Croatia you never knew existed, pay respects to those who fell to free this country, and put money into the local economy of those who are left behind. The tour is sensational.

And there is a bonus if you do. 

For all those tourism businesses on the coast who change their Facebook profile each November 18, offer a 10% discount on some services for holders of the Vukovar Card. Your way of giving back. 

And that, as they say, is that. 

The infrastructure for the Vukovar Card is already there with the CRO Card, as well as the brilliance of Croatian Tourism Month, which ran from October 1 to November 7. The only practical suggestion I would make is to keep this project away from certain failure is to exclude the Croatian National Tourist Board from the project entirely. Otherwise we might have a repeat of the situation recently when a huge national campaign to promote (among other things) our celebrated gastronomy could result in the only thing to eat in half the country being popcorn from Cinestar. Yes, really. Gourmet Croatia: 35% Off Popcorn the Only Offer in Kingdom of Accidental Tourism

Once I receive the 7-day itinerary, I shall request that ministerial meeting. If anyone with more knowledge of how these things work would like to get involved (ideally take over the project completely, as I have plenty of work to do), then please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject Vukovar Card.

If I have angered or offended anyone with this suggestion and article (I am aware of how emotive Vukovar is), that was not my intention. I hope, at least, that it would be welcomed by those who matter most - those who gave their lives, and those who were left behind. 

And if in any small way it helps to keep that smile on the little boy's face, it will have been more than worth it.  

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