Friday, 22 January 2021

22 January: Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia

January 22, 2021 – January 22 is Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia. Marked significantly in continental winemaking regions, its folk traditions pre-date Christianity and are celebrated with food, wine, music and merriment

Nearing the end of January, it's not uncommon to see snow on the fields of Croatia. The ground can be hard, brittle, frozen. There's little to be done in them right now. And yet, on 22 January in Croatia, winemakers traditionally head to their vineyards. They do this not to undertake a day's work – for today is a day of rest. Instead, they go there to mark the tradition of Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia.

Croatia_Baranja_Belje_Vineyard_0184_1.jpgSt. Vincent's Day in Baranja © Romulić & Stojčić

Vinceška, Vincekovo, Vinkovo, Vincelovo, Vinceće - St. Vincent's Day

As a name, Vincent has many variants, Vinko being one popular in Croatia. Similarly, Vincekovo is also known by several different names. For example, St. Vincents Day in Baranja is called Vinceška, in Erdut it's Vincekovo, in Ilok it's Vinkovo, but you can also hear it called Vincelovo and even Vinceće.

Vincekovo_GVT-2019-14a_1.jpgVincekovo marked with wine and meat in traditional folk costume in Varaždinske Toplice © Grad Varaždinske Toplice

Vincekovo is mostly marked in the northern continental area of the country and throughout the entire far east of Croatia - eastern Slavonia, Baranja and the Croatian part of Syrmia, around Ilok. In these places, it is a day inextricably linked with the production of wine. That people seem to associate St Vincent as 'the wine guy' seems reasonable – Vinko and vino (the Croatian word for wine) are almost the same, right? Well, not quite.

The related name Viktor (also used in Croatia) actually gives us the best example of the meaning of the name. Vincent comes from the Latin word 'vincere' (to conquer or to be victorious). But, although it looks similar in Latin, the word for wine is much, much older. And it may have an entirely different root.

Ilok2020.jpgVinkovo in Ilok 2020 © Youtube screenshot

Why we say 'wine'

Nobody is really sure where the word 'wine' comes from. The ancient Greek word 'oinos' certainly pre-dates the Latin but its true origins have been lost in time. This provides an entertaining mystery for today. Fascinatingly, we find a common origin word for wine in several completely different language groups.

You can trace the historic use of the word 'wine' through a vast territory. In ancient times, the name was used in the area of what is today southern Russia and nearby in the Caucasus. Although they belong to a different non-Indo European language group, peoples in what is modern-day Georgia used the same word. In the western Semitic languages of the Levant (Arabic: wain, Hebrew: yayin) it is the same. In Mediterranean languages like Latin and Greek, it is also virtually the same word. Travelling back up to the territory of modern-day Russia, this time through regions where ancient Slavic and Germanic languages were spoken, the word is still the same. It seems that ever since people learned how to cultivate and ferment grapes, they have somehow all referred to the end product using the same word.

Who knows? Perhaps there is a shared origin for the words? As any winemaker will tell you, to make good wine, you do need to conquer the vines. DNA testing proves that the vines from which we grow grapes originally come from varieties that grew historically in the wild in an area that is today Russia and central Europe. Yet, the earliest traces of wine production are found in more southerly regions, where the climate is warmer. This journey itself is a conquering act of cultivation. In early Indo-European languages, the root 'wei' means to turn or to bend. Could the word wine be referring to human manipulation of the wild vines?

The earliest evidence of grapevine cultivation and wine production comes from the South Caucasus, present-day Georgia and dates back at least 8000 years.

1275px-Barry_capitaine._F._25._Grand_vase_pour_la_conservation_du_vin_en_Kacheti_Géorgie._Mission_scientifique_de_Mr_Ernest_Chantre._1881.jpgA Georgian man in traditional dress stands alongside a qvevri, a clay pot used for making Georgian wine in 1881. Once filled, the clay amphora are buried beneath the ground, which helps regulate the temperature of the fermenting wine. Evidence of winemaking in the region is the oldest in the world - it goes back 8000 years  © Public domain

Saint Vincent aka Vincent of Saragossa (Vinko iz Zaragoze)

Vicente_de_Zaragoza_by_Tomás_Giner_14621466_1.jpgVicente de Zaragoza by Tomás Giner

Although several saints share the name Vincent, the Saint Vincent we celebrate on 22 January is Vincent of Saragossa. Born to a well-off family in Saragossa (Zaragoza), north-eastern Spain, Vincent devoted his life to the church and became deacon in the Church of Saragossa. He was tortured under the persecution of Christians demanded by Roman Emperor Diocletian. Vincent was asked to renounce his faith - which he refused to do. Subsequently, he was martyred around the year 304. We mark St Vincent's Day in Croatia and the western Christian world on 22 January as this is presumed to be the actual day of his death. Vincent of Saragossa is not only the patron saint of winemakers but also of vinegar makers. This may come as a comfort to some less able wine producers.

Basilica_del_Pilar-sunset.jpgCathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar and the Puente de Piedra bridge on the Ebro River in Saragossa, the birthplace of St Vincent © Paulo Brandao

Quite why the midwinter period of 22 January should be significant to winemakers poses some questions. “I have no idea!” one Dalmatian winemaker told TCN when asked to explain the significance of the day to his craft. “But, you know those Slavonians are all crazy, right?” And, on the surface, his unknowing is quite understandable. There is little happening in the frozen fields right now. But, it is possible that this celebration pre-dates not only St Vincent but also Christianity itself.

History of 22 January as Saint Vincent's Day (Vincekovo)

Vincekovo-slika-Likovna-Republika.jpgA Croatian painting tellingly shows how traditions of St Vincent's Day in Croatia have little changed over the years © Tourist Board Jestrebarsko

Everyone's favourite ancient God at the party, Dionysus had a wide portfolio of fun stuff to look after. He was the Greek God of wine, the grape harvest, fertility, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, festivity and theatre. He was traditionally celebrated in the period from the 11th to the 13th of anthesterion - which in today's calendar corresponds to the period between late January - around now - and the start of February. On the wild feast of Dionysus (who is sometimes called Bacchus or Liber, as in liberty, freedom), barrels of new wine were broken open. The celebration marked the impending arrival of the new season – spring. And, this too is how people mark St Vincent's Day in Croatia.

1775px-Cornelis_de_Vos_-_El_triunfo_de_Baco.jpgThe Triumph of Bacchus, a 17th-century painting by Cornelis de Vos © Public domain

Several saints' days in Croatia and Europe correspond to significant points in the agricultural calendar. This tellingly reveals their pre-Christian roots. Another of those corresponding to winemaking is Martinje – St Martin's Day in Croatia (which you can read about here). However, Martinje is traditionally a more proletarian festivity – it comes at the end of the harvest when there is no more hard work for all the manual labourers to do. Vincekovo is a day more traditionally associated with their boss - the vineyard owner. It is also traditionally a more testosterone-filled affair – a sausage party, perhaps. Well, you could say that, and in more ways than one.

Vinceška-Vina-Belje-2019-21-960x640meats.jpgKulen and other sausages, hung traditionally beside the vines on St Vincent's Day - the company that made these, Belje, is one of the best and most famous in Croatia. They trace their history in the Baranja region back to the year 1697. In Baranja, you'll most likely hear this day called Vinceška © Belje

Music, food, theatre and wine - traditions of Vincekovo, Saint Vincent's Day in Croatia

Around this time of year, vines within the vineyard will be cut back. There are a limited amount of nutrients that can pass down a vine. This cutting back ensures the nutrients are concentrated and helps guarantee a limited but good crop. Whether this cutting back has actually taken place in days prior, on Vincekovo vineyard owners are charged with visiting their vines. Whatever the weather, they will march into the fields and ceremoniously cut back a vine. Usually, it's one with at least three new buds on. Traditionally, this vine is then brought into the home and placed in a watered jar. The progress of the buds supposedly predicts the next season's crops. Many other folk traditions associated with Vincekovo also serve the same purpose of 'predicting the crops'. Melting snow, rain and sunshine on Vincekovo are also regarded as predictors of a fine harvest. Although, some believe that water dripping from the eaves on Vincekovo could mean the year will be wet.

Pavlomir_Novi_Vinodol_Primorsko-Goranska.jpgVincekovo celebrated in Pavlomir, Novi Vinodol, Primorsko-Goranska County © Youtube screenshot

Again following Dionysian traditions, Slavonian people are famously gregarious. They rarely make the trip to the vineyard alone. Neighbours, family, friends and even musicians might make the journey with them and join in the blessing of the vines. In Croatia today, you can still see some people undertaking this ceremony in traditional folk costume.

Vinkovo_in_Ilok_2019.jpgVinkovo in Ilok 2019. Brrrrrr! © Youtube screenshot

The vine that has been pruned is ritually sprinkled with old wine. Song and drinking accompany the ceremony. Both old and new wine may make an appearance. No Slavonia or Baranja party is complete without kulen, their king of sausages. And, on Vincekovo, it is traditional to hang kulen and/or švargla (another monstrous portion of preserved pig product) from a post. Supposedly, this theatre is done in order to encourage the next season's crop to be as fertile and bountiful as these sizeable sausages.

1626px-Sacrificio_a_Baco_Massimo_Stanzione.jpgSacrifice to Bacchus by Massimo Stanzione c. 1634 © Public domain. Some of the folk traditions observed on St Vincent's Day in Croatia probably pre-date Christianity

Hearty snacks usually accompany the celebration in the fields. After the ceremonious part is taken care of, people now think to return indoors. Although, not necessarily to your own home. Because now is the traditional time to march around the locale to visit the wine cellars of your neighbouring growers. If you're a winemaker of a Dionysian bent, you'll probably take along some food with you like kulen, a roasted pig or even the tamburica musicians who came to the fields with you. Croatians rarely arrive at a party with empty hands. If such treats are not taken to the event, probably they'll already be waiting in your neighbour's cellar. Although, you might have to pace yourself. If you live in an area of traditional winemaking, there could be quite a lot of neighbouring wine cellars to visit. Subsequently, celebrations on Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia - can extend well into the night.

fishp.jpegFiš paprikaš is a spicy river fish stew, richly red from paprika. It is popular in Slavonia, Baranja and Syrmia. Along with the wild meats stew čobanac and whole šaran (carp), butterflied and cooked outside over an open flame, it is a warming and popular dish to eat in eastern Croatia on St Vincent's Day © Romulić & Stojčić

Thursday, 18 November 2021

PHOTOS: The 21 Most Incredible Croatia Castles To See Year-Round

November 18, 2021 – Serving as Christian Europe's defensive front line for centuries, incredible Croatia castles can be found throughout the country. Whether on a summertime day trip, set next to the spectacular backdrop of autumn's colours or postcard-pretty covered in winter's snow, here are 21 of the best to visit year-round

Croatia Castles Mailáth and Prandau in Donji Miholjac

DM-DvoraMailathcZdenko_Brkanić.jpg© Zdenko Brkanić

Mailáth Castle is located in Donji Miholjac in Osijek-Baranja County. The town famously lies just next to the Hungarian border in the traditional region of Slavonia. It's well worth making the trip to see this wonderful building, not least because it sits right next door to an earlier manor. After being gifted lands for fighting the Ottomans, in 1818 the Prandau family built its first castle/manor in Miholjac in the Baroque style. But, in 1901 its grandeur was supplanted by Mailáth castle.

croatia_slavonija_donji_miholjac_004NTB.jpgDonji Miholjac in Slavonija gives you two adjoined Croatia castles, Mailáth (right) and Castle Prandau (left)  © Croatian National Tourist Board

Built over four floors, its decorative chimneys, spacious terraces with neoclassical balustrades and wrought iron fences identify its debt to the Tudor style. The building has some 50 rooms across roughly 3500 square meters. Its interior was decorated with hunting trophies from Count Mailáth's travels in Asia and Africa, set above oak paneling which lines every room. In recent times, the building was used to house city authorities. But, considerable effort has been made to restore the building and open it up to visitors. Its grand hall now hosts events such as classical music performances, as do the immediate grounds in warmer months. These grounds extend out into a 16-hectare public park which was curated by the family and bequeathed to the town inhabitants. This is now one of the few Croatia castles to have a nationally certified horticultural monument attached. It has been classed as such since 1961.

Maruševec Castle in Varaždin County

2880px-Dvorac_Marusevec3MaGa.jpeg© MaGa

During its lifetime, the extraordinary Maruševec castle in Varaždin County has passed through a confusingly long series of different owners, many of whom have left a significant mark on the building. The original structure dates back to 1547. Since then, it was privately owned up until 1945 when it was seized from the Pongratz family by Yugoslavian communist authorities. It was the Pongratz family who established splendid gardens that surround the building.

slika-dvoracOpćina_Maruševec.jpg© Općine Maruševec

In the first years after independence, the building was used by a section of the Protestant church in Croatia. However, over recent decades, Croatia's government has begun the process of trying to return many such Croatia castles to their rightful owners. Maruševec Castle now lies back in the hands of the Pongratz family and the grounds are once again superb.

Prandau Normann in Valpovo

dvorac-air1greenroom.jpeg© Greenroom Festival Valpovo

The pictures don't do it justice. Prandau Normann in Valpovo is one of the Croatia castles that has to be visited to get a true sense of its size. If you do, you'll maybe also come away having learned of its significance and history. One of the oldest and largest castles in Slavonia, it sits within a small area of greenery upon which the surrounding settlement closely encroaches. Some trees at the edges of these thin grounds partially obstruct the view. Stretching out from the southern ends of this green island is a glorious public park of 25 hectares.

Dvorac_Prandau-Normann_dvorac_iz_zrakaRoko_Poljak.jpg© Roko Poljak

Formerly part of the hunting grounds of the castle inhabitants, these grounds were designed as a grandiose garden in the English style. Subsequently, it has been declared a national monument of natural and horticultural architecture. The sections of the castle itself form a three-walled complex with an inner courtyard. The original triangular-shaped fortress and the shorter, round tower date back to the beginning of the 15th century at which time it was surrounded by defensive moats. During the first half of the 18th century, the Prandau family rebuilt one side of the medieval structure with the Baroque palace which now lies at the front. Its tower is 37 metres high. Badly damaged in a fire on New Year's Eve in 1801, its stylings were somewhat altered when reconstructed. A true giant, it has over 60 rooms and, together with the inner courtyard, has an impressive ground space of 4031 m2. The Museum of the Valpovo Region was established here in 1956. Its continuous running was halted by both war and reconstruction work. But, it is now open again. Although the building is of significant national importance, it is to the immense credit of its forward-thinking governance that the building and grounds have in recent years been utilised for public events, including very contemporary youth culture happenings such as the Reunited Festival (here) and Greenroom Festival

Ozalj Castle

ozalj-stari-grad-za-web-ivo-biocina_0NTBFULLON.jpg© Ivo Biočina / Croatian National Tourist Board

Around 60 kilometres from Zagreb, in Karlovac County, Ozalj is one of the most picturesque Croatia castles. It has simply everything you would want from a visit to a castle – an impressive approach, towers, defensive walls, surrounding waters, incredible views, a museum and a fascinating amalgam of different buildings. Sat spectacularly on a cliff above the Kupa river and the surrounding settlement of Ozalj, this castle was once the entire town.

RedZugang_Schloss_Ozalj1BernBartsch.jpeg© Bern Bartsch

First mentioned as a free royal city as far back as 1244, the walled medieval stronghold gradually become a castle structure, with significant additions taking place up until the 18th century. It is a building of great national significance. Ozalj is the site of the Zrinski–Frankopan conspiracy which, although unsuccessful, is regarded an important marker in Croatia's struggle for autonomy. Between them, the Croatian families of Zrinski and Frankopan owned the castle from 1398 until 1671. Thereafter, both family lines were severed when the Zrinski–Frankopan conspirators were executed by the ruling Habsburgs. There were further ramifications. An additional 2000 nobles of the region were also arrested and the Protestant church was suppressed, Habsburg troops attacked commoners in both Croatia and Hungary and the position of Ban of Croatia, formerly held by Nikola Zrinski, would be left completely vacant for the next 60 years. The conspirators were executed on April 30 which, in remembrance, became the city day of Ozalj.

Trakošćan Castle in Varaždin County

TURISTIČKA_ZAJEDNICA_OPCINA_BEDNJA.jpg© Turistička zajednica Trakošćan - Općina Bednja

One of the most-recognisable Croatia castles, from its surroundings Trakošćan looks like something out of a fairytale. Its position - on a hill near Krapina, Varaždin County, not far from the Slovenia border - was obviously decided upon for defensive reasons. But, today, this positioning serves only to bolster the romantic vista. Trakošćan dates back to the 13th century, although local legend says that it stands on the site of an even earlier fortress. Nobody really knows who commissioned it nor who originally lived here.

TrakoscanCroatiaTZ.jpg© Croatian National Tourist Board

In 1556 the castle came under state control. But, just 18 years later, it was gifted to the Drašković family. In the second half of the 18th century, the castle was abandoned. The Drašković family resumed interest in the building in the middle of the 19th century. They renovated the house and constructed the gardens. Today, the surrounding gardens are a significant highlight of any visit to Trakošćan. The family lived here until 1944. But, the Drašković's were forced to emigrate to Austria and the state assumed ownership. It is now owned by the Republic of Croatia and has been renovated considerably. Inside there is a permanent museum.

Trsat Castle in Rijeka

Domagoj_BlaževićTrsatKvarner.jpg© Domagoj Blažević / Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner)

The city of Rijeka rises sharply from sea level into the nearby foothills. This abrupt ascent is the cause of Rijeka's above-average rainfall. But, there are some positives. Residential tower blocks have been built in these foothills and the cityscape vista is superb from their balconies. But, the best view of the city of Rijeka is from Trsat.

TRSAT_gradina-trsat01-pogled-domagoj-blazevic-19.07-724x500.jpg© Domagoj Blažević / Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner)

Rječina valley separates Trsat castle from the competing high-rise blocks. Looking down at the city from the castle, the river itself is immediately below you. It scores a path through an industrial landscape, then the old city. Eventually, it spills out into Kvarner Bay. Sitting 150 metres above the city, it's thought that Trsat castle lies on top of an earlier Illyrian or Roman fortress. Today, the castle is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Rijeka. Inside there's a cafe bar. Throughout the year, the inner courtyard hosts cultural events like theatre and music concerts. Needless to say, the castle is a wonderful backdrop to these public events, as it is during Christmas when it becomes a highlight of Rijeka and Kvarner's Advent celebrations.

Stara Sušica Castle

DomagojBlaeviStaraKvarner.jpeg© Domagoj Blažević / Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner)

One of the most bewildering Croatia castles, the fantastical architecture of Stara Sušica is explained by a series of restorations and additions that have taken place over many generations. It's far from being the biggest of Croatia castles, but it's certainly one of the most intriguing.

Stara_Susica_0004Domagoj_BlaževićKvarner.jpg© Domagoj Blažević / Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner)

By prior arrangement, you can actually stay in this castle. It has previously hosted groups such as those who engage in fantasy role-playing games. The mysterious-looking building must be the perfect backdrop to such wild imagination! This architectural gem of a castle is located 60 kilometres to the east of the city of Rijeka. It sits in the shadows of tall coniferous trees, just outside of the town of Stara Sušica, near Ravna Gora.

Veliki Tabor Castle in Zagorje

veliki-tabor-optimizirano-za-web-ivo-biocina_1600x900_0Croatia.jpeg© Ivo Biočina / Croatian National Tourist Board

The sizeable Veliki Tabor is another of the Croatia castles that sits atop a hill for defensive purposes. It dominates a beautiful rural landscape of agricultural land, gently rising hills and vineyards near Desinić in Zagorje, less than an hour's drive from Zagreb.

veliki-tabor-web-ivo-biocina-1CROATIArfghbnjm.jpg© Ivo Biočina / Croatian National Tourist Board

Dating from the middle of 15th century, most of the castle was built by the Ráttkay family from Hungary, in whose ownership it remained until 1793. The castle is said to be haunted. Legend says a local woman was murdered upon false accusations of witchcraft and entombed within the actual castle walls. Although, the ulterior motive for the killing is said to have been the castle's owner didn't want his son to marry the woman. Her voice is said to still inhabit the building. Today owned by the state, Veliki Tabor now holds a permanent museum and is a popular tourist attraction. Events significant to local culture take place here, like food festivals. The castle also hosts some nationally recognised happenings, such as the famous Veliki Tabor short film festival.

Lužnica Castle near Zaprešić, Zagreb County

Luznica2ZCTY.png© Zagreb County Tourist Board

Set back from the main road and obscured by ancient trees, the immediate approach to Lužnica is incredibly impressive. The castle is surrounded by neatly trimmed lawns and you can reach it from several different directions. The pathways leading to the building are bordered by low-lying hedges. At the end of these paths sits the baroque castle. It shares its name with the nearby settlement of Lužnica, just a few kilometres to the west of Zaprešić in Zagreb County.

LuznicZaagrebCounty.jpg© Zagreb County Tourist Board

Lužnica castle was built in 1791 as a residence for a noble family. But, since 1925 the building has been owned by the Convent of St. Vincent de Paul. After acquiring the building, nuns used the castle as a residential and care home for elderly members of the sisterhood. From 1935 the building was used for the care of poor children, and then, afterwards, for educational classes organised by the nuns. In 2005, a purpose-built modern property was constructed nearby and this assumed the residential care of retired nuns. This facilitated much better public access to the castle. The nuns still hold spiritual and educational programs inside the castle and it also hosts secular conferences and seminars.

Krašić

KrasicZgC.jpg© Zagreb County Tourist Board

So well suited to its contemporary purpose as a church does Krašić look that it's difficult to imagine that it was ever anything other. But, this complex of buildings originally dates back much further than the hundred or so years it has served as a place of worship.

krasic08RegionalDevelopment_agencyZagrebCounty.jpg© Regional Development Agency Zagreb County

It was first built in the Gothic style of the late 14th century and later reconstructed in the Baroque style. It only assumed its current religious role after reconstructions that took place between 1911 and 1913. Nowadays, villagers know it as the Parish church of the Holy Trinity. It serves the population of Krašić, near Jastrebarsko, about 50 km southwest of Zagreb. Enthusiastic hunters of Croatia castles who are visiting Zagreb and Zagreb County will also not want to miss the nearby Pribić. It is located just three kilometes east of Krašić. There you'll find an incredible triumvirate of spectacular neighbouring buildings - two castles and one Greek Catholic church.

Pejačević Castle in Našice

Dvorac_Pejačević._NašiceSamir_Budimčić.jpg© Samir Budimčić

Though they are most commonly associated with Slavonia, the Pejačević family extends back to at least the 14th century, during which time some of them settled in north-west Bulgaria. Alongside Bosnians and Germans attracted to that region by mining, these immigrants brought Catholicism to the area around Chiprovtsi. Subsequently, there was a famous uprising there against the Ottomans. The Pejačević family are thought to have been among the instigators of the failed rebellion. They fled to lands recently liberated from the Ottomans and eventually acquired significant titles and estates in Slavonia. For centuries they were very influential in the region's political, social, economic and cultural life.

Zavičajni_muzej_Našice_Našice_local_history_museum.jpg© Našice local history museum (Zavičajni muzej Našice)

Pejačević Castle in Našice today is the home of Našice local history museum / Zavičajni muzej Našice (here). The castle is actually one of two castles the family built in this town. They have two more castles elsewhere in traditional Slavonia - in Virovitica and Retfala, Osijek. If you want to read more about the Pejačević family and their castles in Našice, then look here.

Stari Grad Varaždin

VarazdinZup.jpg© Turistička Zajednica Varaždinske Županije

The city of Varaždin once served as the capital of Croatia and, as its focal point, Stari Grad fortress is therefore of significant national importance. In acknowledgment, an image of the fortress used to appear on the back of the old 5 kuna bank notes. Although, presumably due to some printer's error, the image appeared in reverse to how it sits in real life.

varazdin-ivo-biocina-NTZ.jpg© Ivo Biočina / Croatian National Tourist Board

The building is mentioned as far back as the 12th century. But, it was reconstructed as a Renaissance fortification in the 16th century. At the end of that century, it came into the hands of the Hungarian-Croatian family Erdödy. Today, Stari Grad holds a permanent museum. It is one of the most famous tourist attractions in a city that's not short of great reasons to visit.

Bosiljevo Castle

Dvorac_Bosiljevo_-_panoramioKrittinskiy.jpg© Krittinskiy

Something of a bratić (cousin) to Ozalj Castle, Bosiljevo is in Karlovac County and was also owned by the Frankopan family. It is a sprawling set of structures, impressively situated on a hillside within forest land. The nature of the building and its remote location perhaps contribute to the fact that it is abandoned and unrestored. However, it is still one of the Croatia castles worth visiting year-round, not least because the surrounding trees grant a spectacular backdrop that changes throughout the year's seasons.

bosiljevoopcinacas.jpg© Općina Bosiljevo

Although access is limited, you can get up close to the fascinating buildings, the intricately decorated defensive walls and its towers. The earliest sections date back to at least 1344. Following its seizure by the Austrians in 1671, Bosiljevo passed through the hands of a series of private owners. They included Irish-born Laval Nugent von Westmeath, who started his career as a loyal soldier to Austria but finished his life in Bosiljevo as something closer to a Croatian patriot. The property was seized by Communist authorities after the Second World War. Its decline began when it was thereafter ill-purposed as a retirement home, restaurant and cheap motel. It was finally abandoned in the 1980s.

Čakovec Castle

stari_gradcakovectz.jpg© Čakovec City Tourist Board

Situated within a sizeable park, in the town centre of Čakovec, Međimurje, Čakovec Castle is a beast of a structure. Like some of the previous Croatia castles, it is actually several buildings. Access to the park is great from all sides. These grounds are a green space much-enjoyed by Čakovec residents and visitors. So too are the spectacular buildings which lie at their centre. The original 13th-century fortress was built by Count Dmitri Čak, hence the town's name. Its walls form the basis of the complex's front section, behind which the 16th Century Zrinski Castle sits detached.

MuseumMedimurjeCak.jpg© Museum of Međimurje, Čakovec

The Zrinski castle houses Croatia's biggest museum, the Međimurje County Museum. The courtyard hosts cultural happenings like music concerts, theatre and food events. Although this independent structure is known as the Zrinski Castle, the Zrinski family were not responsible for the building's construction. However, this is one of the most significant Croatia castles because it was their family seat during a time in which several family members served as Ban of Croatia.

Feštetić Castle, Pribislavec

dvorac_festetic_01visit_medimurje.jpg© Visit Međimurje

One of the most singular-looking of all Croatia castles, not least because of its unforgettable neogothic tower, Feštetić Castle in Međimurje actually pre-dates the Feštetić family who lends it their name. The original building dates back to at least the beginning of the 18th Century.

Feštetićvisitnorthcroatia.jpgGosh! The occasional darkened skies above Međimurje seem to suit the neogothic Feštetić Castle almost as much as do the clear blue! © Visit North Croatia

Throughout its life, the structure that lay here was ravaged by war, fire and natural disasters and therefore rebuilt several times. We can attribute its striking neogothic stylings to the Feštetić family, whose work on the castle began in 1870. The building has been in continuous use ever since, serving at times as a retirement home and a school. It is therefore in great condition and sits on grounds that are also enjoyable when you visit.

Nova Kraljevica Castle

Domagoj_BlaževićKraljevicaKvarner.jpg© Domagoj Blažević / Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner)

Located atop the start of a peninsula at the entrance to the Bay of Bakar, less than 20 kilometres east of Rijeka, Petar Zrinski started to build Nova Kraljevica in 1651. The castle has large towers at the corners of each of its four walls.

dvorac-nova-kraljevica07-atrij-domagoj-blazevic-11.07-1200x800.jpgThe ornate inner courtyard of Kraljevica Castle © Domagoj Blažević / Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner)

They surround an inner courtyard decorated with archways on two floors. Petar's wife, Katarina Frankopan, is said to have paid close attention to its interior design. The couple spent much time here. It is one of the few Croatia castles to sit directly on the Croatian mainland's shore. The castle's main salon was decorated with gilded leather wallpaper, had marble fireplaces, floors paved with a marble mosaic and doors made of black and white marble. This spectacular and well-preserved castle also once held one of Croatia's very first museums. It is not only great to visit on foot, but also a spectacular sight when approached from the Adriatic by boat.

Miljana Castle, near Kumrovec

DisscoSC_0248-visitZagorje.jpg© Visit Zagorje

Though not currently open to spontaneous visits like many of the Croatia castles on this list, you can go to the Baroque castle of Miljana near Kumrovec, Zagorje. You just have to arrange to do so in advance. That's because this picturesque building is undergoing a gradual restoration.

Miljana_Castle_near_KumroveKrapina_Zagorje_County_Tourism_Board.jpg© Zagreb County Tourist Board

Miljana is impossibly pretty, as are its grounds. Three wings surround a central courtyard. A striking black plaster covers the walls, periodically interspersed with white plaster ornamentation. Its construction began in the late 16th century under the Rattkay family. Although, it was expanded and adapted several times before its last substantial remodeling in the 18th century. Its first floor has eight salons, seven of which hold frescos on the walls. These are the basis of much of the current restoration work. It promises to be an unmissable treat once the painstaking work is complete.

Kutjevo Castle

dvorac-kutjevoTZK.jpeg© Tourism Board of Kutjevo

Built on the site of a much earlier monastery, Kutjevo castle still has the ancient wine cellar that belonged to its predecessor. This cellar dates back to the year 1232. The rest of the original monastery buildings were destroyed by the Ottomans. After they left, the land was gifted to Zagreb canon Ivan Josip Babić in 1689. He invited Jesuits to make a home for themselves here. They cleared the land and built the castle between 1704 and 1735.

Kutjevo-ParkCROATIA.jpg© Croatian National Tourist Board

One side of the castle is a church. The other three wings are less overtly religious in appearance. They surround an inner courtyard and, beyond them stretches a large park area. The park has a circular motif in its centre. Around it, pathways wind through the grounds passing the large trees which live here. Perhaps the most striking feature of the building is its polygonal tower on which sits a bulb-shaped roof. The building is privately owned and its interior is not open to spontaneous visits from the public.

Eltz Castle, Vukovar

Vukovar_Dvorac_Eltz_SKStjepkoKrehula.jpeg© Stjepko Krehula

One of the most famous, spectacular and oldest castles in Germany is called Eltz Castle. This one, located in the easterly Croatian city of Vukovar, is clearly something other. However, the two are connected by the same Eltz family, the descendants of which still inhabit the German castle, just as their ancestors did in the 12th Century. The family owned huge tracts of land around this section of the Danube. By far, this was their most significant territory outside Germany. Eltz Castle in Vukovar was their main residence until 1945 when the family was expelled by the Yugoslav communist regime.

GradskiMuzejVuko.jpg© Gradski muzej Vukovar

The front facade is a sea of ornate baroque windows, painstakingly (but speedily) reconstructed following the building's near-complete destruction by bombing during the 1990s. Since 1968, the castle has housed the Vukovar City Museum (here), one of the most significant in Pannonia. It charts the history of all the peoples who have inhabited this area of the Danube and contains valuable exhibits returned to it from Zagreb, Novi Sad and Belgrade.

Lukavec Castle, Turopolje

LukavecTZZC1.jpg© Zagreb County Tourist Board

Lukavec is built on the site of a wooden fort that was first mentioned in 1256. Could some of the wooden bridge that gives access to this castle be made of remnants of its ancestor? Maybe not, but it's nice to imagine the lineage being so palpable. This replacement structure dates from 1752 and is marked by outer walls covered in gold-coloured plaster. This colour contrasts beautifully against white borders, the red-tiled roof and the darkened top of the main tower.

The_Old_Town_of_Lukavec_6Zeljko.filipin.jpeg© Zeljko Filipin

In the building's courtyard sits an old cannon. This remnant reminds of a military past that is otherwise unapparent in the unblemished building. Lukavec is an integral part of the local community's cultural and social life and hosts many events.

Kerestinec Castle

kerestinec2-10svetaned.jpg© Grad Sveta Nedelja

The Renaissance-Baroque building in Kerestinec, Sveta Nedelja, is one of the Croatia castles that has seen much better days. Its construction was commissioned in 1565 by Petar Erdödy, then Ban of Croatia. So, originally it would have been built to high standards and specifications. The castle was remodelled several times over the centuries and is today notable for circular towers that sit at two corners of its four wings.

dvorac_helikoptersvetanedelja.jpg© Grad Sveta Nedelja

In recent memory, the castle's central courtyard has hosted events such as a dance music festival. This may be far from its original purpose, but such events continue to breathe life into a spectacular building that perhaps otherwise would be completely abandoned.

All of the photos of castles in Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Kvarner) were taken by Domagoj Blažević for the Route Of The Frankopans website (here), which allows visitors to trace a path through all of the former Frankopan properties in the county and is recommended reading for castle hunters

Friday, 30 October 2020

VIDEO + PHOTOS: Vukovar Tower Opens In Spectacular Ceremony

October 30, 2020 - Fireworks pierced the sky, music filled the air and a striking choreography of colours lit the Vukovar Tower at this evening's grand unveiling

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© Marko Džavić 

Fireworks pierced the night sky, music filled the air and a striking choreography of colours lit the monument at this evening's official unveiling of the renovated Vukovar Tower. In a well-measured and memorable ceremony, the chill of the autumnal early evening was replaced with a myriad of heartfelt emotions.

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One of the most recognised symbols of remembrance of Croatia's Homeland War, the Vukovar Tower has been under renovation for three years. Famously damaged in fighting during the war, its scars are a constant reminder of the heavy bombardment the town received. The Vukovar tower has undergone renovation needed to ensure its survival and to open up the structure to public visitation. Around 46 million kuna has been spent on the project, with much of the money coming from public donations.


Fireworks, as seen from spectators on the ground

Music at the opening ceremony ranged from solemn ballads delivered by Croatian pop stars, several all-male choirs and the traditional tamburaci folk music of Slavonia. The ceremony was broadcast live on the web pages of the City of Vukovar and on local TV channels.


The full hour-long ceremony

The Vukovar tower was built in 1968 and stands 50 metres high. It is difficult to judge its size from pictures, but at the time it was built, the structure was one of the largest water towers in Europe. In the times before the war, it held a restaurant with a panoramic view of the town and the surrounding Slavonian countryside. During the war, the Vukovar Tower was hit with more than 600 missiles. It thereafter became a symbol of resistance, then of remembrance.

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An integral part of the monument, the scars on the tower have been preserved in the renovation but shored up so that the Vukovar Tower can stand indefinitely. A new memorial space within the tower was presented as part of the unveiling. The monument will hereafter become part of Vukovar's most-visited buildings. Tens of thousands of Croatians visit Vukovar each year. Its art, culture and beautiful nature draw many, but large numbers also make the trip in remembrance of the war and the lives lost in the town. Almost every Croatian school year will make an organised trip to the town for this purpose.

Screenshot66.pngAll uncredited photos © Grad Vukovar

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Saturday, 3 October 2020

Continental Croatia Trains: Inland Opens Up With Green Travel

October 3, 2020 - With charter airlines in a state of flux and Croatia Railways beginning a renewal of their fleet in Slavonia, are continental Croatia trains the eco-friendly and best way to unlock the inland's amazing potential?

Everything changes. Nothing stays the same. Even before 2020 arrived, lifestyles and trends were headed in new directions. Eco-tourism and agro-tourism were two of the fastest-growing areas within the travel sector, this behaviour change a response to concerns about the environment. And nowhere in the country stands better poised to take advantage of this interest than continental Croatia.

ivo-biocinaCNTB.jpgImpossibly pretty Zagorje - the region lies just north of Zagreb and is accessible by continental Croatia trains © Ivo Biocina / Croatia National Tourist Board

From the impossibly pretty hills of Zagorje, the peaceful rivers of Karlovac county and the hidden vineyards that surround the capital Zagreb to the vast Pannonian flatlands that stretch to Slavonia, Baranya, Vukovar-Srijem and beyond, the varied topography of continental Croatia is wild, exciting and - by many - wholly undiscovered.

This is land where agriculture and nature thrive side by side, where the stresses of modern-day existence ebb away as you readjust to a way of life that would look mostly familiar to the people who lived here centuries ago. These are places where you can truly be at one with yourself and with your surroundings. In continental Croatia, you often find yourself in an environment that is both timeless and traditional, yet wholly contemporary in regards to its ecological aspirations. And you're never far away from an exciting city environment that you can dip into on a whim – not just Zagreb, but Osijek, Slavonski Brod, Karlovac, Sisak and Varaždin too.

kalendar04.jpgTo those who really know and love Croatia, Osijek is simply unmissable. It is both the capital of and the doorway to Slavonia and Baranya and should be more accessible by continental Croatia trains. Sadly, international transportation links to the city by air are also quite poor. Improvements in accessibility to Slavonia and Baranya by rail and road are imminent © Romulić & Stojčić

Unlocking the incredible potential of continental Croatia relies on getting the message out there and facilitating travel to these regions

In recent TCN features we have detailed that motorways within Croatia are among the best in Europe - once you're inside Croatia, travelling by car (or bus) between the regions couldn't be easier. We have also seen evidence of the huge interest in travelling here by rail and using continental Croatia trains.

Of all the modern methods of long-distance travel, rail is by far the most eco-friendly. What better way to begin an environmentally friendly holiday than by arriving on continental Croatia trains? When the country wisely decided to prioritise its internal motorway system, a modern and fast inter-regional rail network was put on the back burner. Nowhere suffers greater from this decision than continental Croatia.

Croatian Official Document uploaded to Wikipedia by Epepe.gifThe Croatian rail network © Croatian Official Document uploaded to Wikipedia by Epepe

The only high-speed line that currently exists in Croatia links Rijeka to Budapest, via Zagreb and Koprivnica. Planned improvements hope to cut journey times between Zagreb and its nearest coastal city to an hour. Same as it ever was - Rijeka was the first Croatian city to be connected internationally by rail. That line also ran into the heart of Austro-Hungary and facilitated upper-class travel to places like Opatija. But does it best benefit the country to invest in more links to the coast or in continental Croatia trains? Well, the inland is not being ignored. Upgrades are being made to continental Croatia trains.

IMG_8990.jpgThis impressive beast actually services the country's coast. But would more investment in the continental Croatia trains network better service more people and help unlock the inland to tourists? Around 70% of the country's inhabitants live in continental Croatia © HŽPP

The rail link between Zagreb and Slavonski Brod is so historic that it was once part of the four routes of the Orient Express. It has been maintained to a standard where you can make a relatively quick journey from the capital to Vinkovci via Slavonski Brod. The same cannot be said for rail travel to Osijek, the access point to Baranya and much more. So slow is the connection between Osijek and Zagreb that it has been possible over recent times to reach the Slavonian capital quicker by taking the train to Vinkovci, then the bus to Osijek, rather than travelling direct by rail.

Slavonija_Osijek0191.jpgOsijek train station. A renovation to the building is planned for the near future © Romulić & Stojčić

However, in February this year, Croatian Railways introduced four direct daily lines between Slavonski Brod and Osijek. And there will be a new tilting train line that will run between Zagreb to Osijek on Friday afternoon and from Osijek to Zagreb on Sunday afternoon, facilitating student travel. On October 15, the first low-floor train will run between Osijek and Vinkovci as an additional part of the renewal of their continental Croatia trains fleet in Slavonia. The welcome return of Croatia's second-oldest international rail line - linking Osijek to Pécs in Hungary, via Beli Manastir and Baranya - was introduced in late 2018.

23e1f08a601e02be10403fbc28ced968_XL.jpgA motorway stretch between Metković and Dubrovnik, integrating the Pelješac bridge and the Croatian segment of the European corridor are the final big remaining projects in a three-decade-long undertaking to give Croatia one of the best motorway networks in Europe. Should Croatia's rail network be next? © Hrvatske Autoceste

Access to Slavonia and Baranya will also be massively facilitated upon completion of the European corridor, which will connect North Europe to the Adriatic. Starting in Budapest, it necessitates the building of a bridge near Beli Manastir. Thereafter the motorway will pass by Osijek, connect to the Zagreb-Slavonia motorway near Lipovac, then pass through Bosnia and its capital Sarajevo and on to Ploče.

The removal of budget airline flights to the airport in Osijek remains a hindrance to attracting many international visitors to Slavonia and Baranya. However, with charter airlines facing the greatest uncertainty of all modes of transport at the current time, though their return is a must, it is perhaps now an ambition that should remain more long term. For the immediate future, improvements to rail travel look to be a brilliant way of opening up not only Slavonia, Baranya and Vukovar-Srijem, but also an eco-friendly access point capable of serving the whole of untapped continental Croatia.

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Friday, 2 October 2020

Vukovar Student Becomes Croatia's First Animal Rights Lawyer

October 2, 2020 - Ivana Kramer from Vukovar became Croatia's first animal rights lawyer after graduating from the Faculty Of Law in Osijek

Ivana Kramer from Vukovar has become Croatia's first animal rights lawyer. She did so after graduating from the Faculty Of Law in Osijek, having received her diploma on September 23. The Faculty Of Law in Osijek is the only one in Croatia that has an elective course in animal rights.

In a recent interview with Vecernji List's Suzana Lepan Štefančić, Ivana explained that her desire to become Croatia's first animal rights lawyer stemmed from always having been around animals. “I have three dogs,” she said, in explaining her choice of the elective course in animal rights, “and my mother Željka adopts and helps abandoned animals.”

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Some of the animals that Ivana's mum Željka looks after in Vukovar. Photos from the Facebook of Željka Kramer.

Ivana commuted to the Faculty Of Law in Osijek for five years in order to complete the course, choosing to stay living at home in Vukovar rather than move to the Slavonian capital. She says she would ideally like to stay in Vukovar to begin working in this field of law.

Her elective course in animal rights was undertaken in the final year of her studies and was the step that propelled her to the status of Croatia's first animal rights lawyer. During this final year, she researched the Animal Protection Act, which was implemented in 2017, with an emphasis on the situation in the Osijek-Baranja and Vukovar-Srijem counties. Her research included dog shelters in Vukovar and Osijek, where she occasionally volunteers.

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Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Emotive New Vukovar Father And Son Monument Unveiled

September 22, 2020 – Their lives taken in the Homeland War, Petar and Igor Kačić are depicted in the new Vukovar Father and Son monument. Igor was just 16-years-old at the time he was killed

During recent days, family members, the town mayor and veterans representatives attended the unveiling of a new Vukovar Father and Son monument. The statue is the work of Zvonimir Orčić and Josip Cvrtila and was commissioned in remembrance of Petar Kačić and his son Igor. Aged just 16-years-old at the time of his execution, Igor is the youngest victim of the massacre at Vukovar.

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Petar Kačić was killed on the front line of the fighting in Vukovar on 2nd October 1991. He and other town residents were trying to defend their families and neighbours from the approaching Yugoslavian National Army forces. They were hopelessly outnumbered and inadequately armed for the task. They faced one of Europe's then-largest and best-equipped armies, whose numbers were bolstered by savage and ruthless paramilitaries.

Although the new Vukovar Father and Son monument shows the two males of the family together in defence of the town, Igor was actually killed one month after his father's passing, on 20 November 1991. While still grieving for Petar, the family had been moved into a shelter at Vukovar hospital to escape the intense shelling that rained down on the town each day. It had already destroyed their home two months previously.

Following the fall of the town, all refugees from the fighting were taken into the custody of the Yugoslavian National Army and their paramilitary accomplices. In a barbaric act that was to be repeated time and time again during the violent break up of Yugoslavia, the men were separated from the women, and small children, and then taken away.

Igor_Kačić.jpgIgor Kačić, aged 16

Although only 16-years-old, Igor Kačić was a strong and muscular boy. The look on his face was perhaps nearer that of a man, aged by grief, relentless shelling and the new responsibilities he had taken upon himself. After his father had been killed, Igor assumed the role of the family protector and stood on watch at the hospital while his mother Irena and his two sisters slept inside.

Around 300 men were taken from the Vukovar Hospital. Their number contained not only wounded fighters but sheltering civilians like Igor. They were transported by the Yugoslavian National Army to a farm in a hamlet called Ovčara, south-west of Vukovar. The army drove away, leaving the prisoners in the custody of the Serbian paramilitaries. 260 prisoners were lined up in groups, then shot. The bodies of 200 were later found in one mass grave.

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“It is not just a monument to Petar and Igor, it is a monument to all fathers and sons who gave their lives in the Homeland War,” said Igor's mother, Irena Kačić, at the statue's unveiling. Aged 69 years old, Irena Kačić had made the journey from her present-day home in Rijeka to attend the ceremony for the new Vukovar Father and Son monument.

All photos © Grad Vukovar / public domain

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Sunday, 13 September 2020

PHOTOS: Vukovar Water Tower Lights Up The Night Sky Over Eastern Slavonia

September 13, 2020 – The famous landmark is now visible out of daylight hours as a flood of colours sees the Vukovar water tower light up the night sky

With the recent completion of the VukovArt street art event 2020, you might have thought Vukovar would be retiring from the limelight for a while. Think again.

Over recent days, the Vukovar water tower has lit up the night sky over eastern Slavonia in a range of colours. The Vukovar water tower is one of the most recognisable landmarks in the town.

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The multicoloured display heralds the opening up of the tower for visits. Famously damaged in fighting during the war, its scars are a constant reminder of the heavy bombardment the town received. The tower has been undergoing work in order that the structure can survive. The reconstruction and renovation has taken place over two stages. Around 37 million kuna has been spent on the project, with half of the money coming from donations, the other half from the Croatian government.

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The water tower was built in 1968, stands 50 metres high and has a capacity of 2,200 cubic metres. At the time it was constructed, it was one of the largest water towers in Europe. In the times before the war, it also had a restaurant and offered visitors an incredible view over the town and Vukovar-Srijem County. During the war, it was hit with more than 600 missiles. It thereafter became a symbol of resistance, then of remembrance.

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© Grad Vukovar

The town Mayor, Ivan Penava, announced that the Vukovar water tower will be open to general visitors at the end of October. Between now and then, the interior will be decorated, and a memorial room completed. Children from all over Croatia each year visit the town and the Vukovar water tower on organised school trips.

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Sunday, 6 September 2020

PHOTOS: Five Amazing New Murals Vukovar Street Art 2020

Sunday, 6 September 2020 – The Vukovar street art 2020 event VukovArt has just finished. Here are the five fantastic new works its left in the colourful Slavonian town.

The paints have dried, the scaffolding has been removed and all but the last few organisers have set off home. But, though VukovArt, the annual Vukovar street art 2020 has finished, the paintings from this year will remain.

These wonderful new works join a spectacular series of paintings which decorate the town, thanks to previous editions of VukovArt (you can check them ALL out on this link). Residents of the town now live their everyday lives among these incredible pieces of public art.

Here's a look at the Vukovar street art 2020 collection and a little from some of the artists who've made them.

OKO (Croatia)

OKO Because he’s mister Strength, Courage and Health.jpg

Because he’s Mister Strength, Courage and Health

Human bodies, dressed in Victorian finery, topped with the heads of animals and, especially, birds; OKO's intricate and sometimes sinister designs have been seen at Zagreb’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the European Parliament in Brussels and in more proletarian spaces such as Zagreb’s Medika club and Theatre &TD. Her murals are often similar, only produced on an industrial scale.

"I chose to paint a bear because this animal often symbolises amazing strength and endurance," OKO told TCN. "When they invited me to paint in Vukovar it seemed like best possible symbolism for a city that endured so much and yet which still stands strong.

Boogie (Germany / Switzerland)

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Boogie down Vukovar

Some 20 years ago, Boogie aka André Morgner formed the SML Crew in a region of eastern Germany not far from the Czech border. They've been active ever since, although Morgner himself moved to Switzerland. There, he's a now full-time artist, drawing his murals on walls of buildings, parks and offices, on commission for people like Google, Burton Snowboards and BMW. His pieces are vivid and contemporary in colour, but often take inspiration from the bragging tag work of vintage hip hop.

Tea Jurišić (Croatia)

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Bora

Having worked in many different modes of visual art, Tea Jurišić is, to many, known more for her drawings, paintings and illustrations than she is her street art. Yet, she has created various murals in Croatia, Slovenia, Italy and Norway. Since 2017 she has had 8 solo exhibitions in Croatia and overseas. She uses comedy and surrealism to add a playful edge to her simple storytelling.

"My challenge was a 300 square metre wall in the Olajnica neighbourhood, which I was painting between the 28th of August and the 3rd of September," said Tea. "The mural's name is Bora. It's the name of a fiercely strong wind that sometimes visits the coast of Croatia. I chose the name as I was trying to connect thematically two Croatian waters - the continental Danube river and the Adriatic sea. I relied on fresh colours that would bring a touch of summer to the gloomy days of winter that lie ahead. I tried to adapt the colours to the building, and the environment around the building. My experience in Vukovar was wonderful - from friendly people, a beautiful city and delicious food. It was an experience to remember for a lifetime."

Eugen Varzić (Croatia)

Eugen Varzić Future Freedom.jpg

Future Freedom

A graduate of the Academy of Applied Arts in Rijeka, Eugen Varzić is something of a classicist operating inside wholly modern mediums. His paintings adorn city streets in Madrid, churches and the streets of his native Istria where, in Poreč, you'll also find his two mosaic sculptures, Trosjed and Konfin.

"This piece was a challange for me, because of the size, the positioning and the motif," Eugen said of his piece of Vukovar street art 2020. "The whole place used to be a military camp. After the fighting finished, they turned it into a memorial centre for the war, a kind of museum where you can see the planes, tanks, learn about Vukovar. Kids from all over Croatia come. There is a hostel where they can stay. When they asked me to paint this wall, because of where it is, that put some boundaries on my work. I had to think differently. This wall is not so easy to paint on – it's broken, it has windows, it's surrounded by steel, there are fire stairs."

"I decided on a half portrait of my daughter's smiling face. I wanted to show something happy and which looks forward into the future. Half of the face is pixalated, so it's clearly placed in the 21st century. I used squares within the piece because it's so connected to Croatia – you can see them on the shirts of the national team football players, on the Croatian flag. There are also 87 birds in the paintings. That number was chosen because there were 87 days of fighting before the town of Vukovar fell."

Arsek & Erase (Bulgaria)

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The Golden Snake

Operating as a duo for 20 years, Arsek & Erase create playful, bright and colourful images - and highly memorable characters - using illustration and surrealism. They have painted works all over Europe, their own native Bulgaria, and in Russia, China, Taiwan, El Salvador and the United States.

All photos Vukovar street art 2020 © VukovArt

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Thursday, 17 June 2021

PHOTOS: Inspiring and Incredible Vukovar Street Art

June 17, 2021 - International artists have visited Slavonia for the 2021 VukovART Festival. We take a look at all their fantastic new works and see how they line up in the Vukovar street art collection.

In total, 33 breathtaking artworks have now transformed the Slavonian town via VukovART. Since 2016, famous artists from all over the of the region, Europe and further still have visited this place, where the Danube and Vuka rivers meet. They've joined an effort to keep Vukovar a contemporary, forward-thinking city. And, in doing so, they've left their mark. 2021 is no exception.

In this article, we look at the Vukovar street art made in every year since the festival began. And, we show you all of 2021's new works, and where you can go and see them. The VukovART Vukovar Street Art event takes place each summer.

2016: Inspiration

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Filip Mrvelj

Thanks to VukovART, the town of Vukovar is now permanently transformed, its buildings a constant source of inspiration. But, all Vukovar street art actually stems from one temporary 3D painting made on a town bridge by Filip Mrvelj from Slavonski Brod. Residents loved interacting with the 'collapsed' bridge for the few days it lived and willingly embraced street art thereafter.

2017: Expansion

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Eduardo Relero

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Filip

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Juandres Vera

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Nikolai Arndt

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Cuboliquido 1

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Alex Maksiov

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Cuboliquido 2

3D anamorphic art again played a large part in the event's first international occurrence, when no less than 6 artists visited the town. This time, bridge surfaces and undersides were addressed, park paving became a backdrop and, for the first time, Vukovar street art appeared on the walls of buildings.

2018: Year-long and permanent Vukovar Street Art

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Marina

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Vera

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Ricky

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Ella & Pitr

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Chez & Sarme

The first year of truly permanent transformation, 2018 saw Vukovar street art works explode onto the walls of residential buildings. It brought art into the very heart of Vukovar's communities. So grand was the artists' ambition, that this year saw the first joint works, with two pairs of artists working in collaboration. You can still visit some of these paintings today.

Vukovar Street Art 2019

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Mazza

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Mehsos

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WD

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Lonac

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Zabou

With VukovART having found its true raison d'être, the previous year's successes were built on with a glorious array of new works that again got up close and personal, infiltrating the lives of the town's inhabitants.

2020 Vukovar Street Art

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OKO

Human bodies dressed in Victorian finery, topped with the heads of animals and, especially, birds; Croatian artist OKO's intricate and sometimes sinister designs have been seen at Zagreb’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the European Parliament in Brussels and in more proletarian spaces such as Zagreb’s Medika club and Theatre &TD.

Boogie_Boogie_Down_Vukovar.jpgBoogie

German artist Boogie's sometimes self-aggrandizing pieces are vivid and contemporary in colour, but often take inspiration from the bragging tag work of vintage hip hop culture.

118851924_3850602011619889_3433812963959143422_o.jpgTea Jurišić

Croatian artist Tea Jurišić is known for her drawings, paintings and illustrations and has created various murals in Croatia, Slovenia, Italy and Norway. She uses comedy and surrealism to add a playful edge to her simple storytelling. In her piece of Vukovar street art, she depicts the seasonal Croatian wind, the Bora.

Eugen_Varzić_Future_Freedom.jpgEugen Varzić

A graduate of the Academy of Applied Arts in Rijeka, Eugen Varzić is a classically trained artist operating inside wholly modern mediums. On this challenging canvass, he painted his daughter's face and 87 birds, representing the number of days of fighting before the town of Vukovar fell.

Arsek_Erase_The_Golden_Snake.jpgArsek & Erase

Bulgarian artists Arsek & Erase create playful, bright and colourful images - and highly memorable characters - using illustration and surrealism.

2021: Biggest event yet

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Kerim Mušanović 'Strawberry Flavor'
Address: Šetnica uz Vuku, Vukovar

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BoaMistura 'OSTAJEMO (We stay)'
Address: Marina Drzica 2-4, Vukovar

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Mr.WOODLAND 'Inseparable'
Address: Domovinskog rata 18-20, Borovo naselje, Vukovar

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Bustart 'Kiss by the Danube'
Address: Zupanijska cesta 61, Vukovar

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Victor Splash 'Everything is on the surface'
Address: Stjepana Radica 12-14, Vukovar

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Marion Ruthardt 'Lipizzaner'
Address: Šetnica uz Vuku, Vukovar

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Juandrés Vera 'The Heart is the Commander (We, ourselves and us)' Welcome back, Juandrés!
Address: Ul. Josipa Jurja Strossmayera, Vukovar

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Artez 'Surprise Yourself'
Address: Ulica Hrvatskog zrakoplovstva 11, Vukovar

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Jana Brike 'Procession of life by a blue river'
Address: Županijska cesta 124-126, Vukovar

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Šumski 'Portals'
Address: TBC

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Monday, 17 August 2020

Vinkovci Film Week 2020 Begins

August 17, 2020 - Now a much-enjoyed highlight of the city's cultural calendar, the Vinkovci Film Week festival pairs the 14-year-old DORF music documentary festival with the Classical Antiquity Film Nights. Here's what to expect...

At just four years old, Vinkovci Film Week has become a much-loved highlight of the Slavonian town's cultural calendar. Given its age, it's less surprising that it's become so when you find out its component events are actually very well established.

The film week actually pairs a 14-year-old music documentary festival, DORF, with the 8-year-old Classical Antiquity Film Nights. Beginning tomorrow, Tuesday 18 August, and running until Saturday 22 August, here's what you can expect to see...

Classical Antiquity Film Nights at Vinkovci Film Week

Tuesday 18 August

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'The Last Well / Posljednji bunar' directed by Filip Filković (2017, Croatia), is a dystopian tale set in a dry Croatian hinterland, where the last source of drinking water has a significant impact over life. It has won more than 30 festival awards.

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Immediately following is 'Lo and behold: reveries of the connected world' (2016, USA) by iconic German-American film and documentary maker Werner Herzog. The viewer is taken on a journey through a series of provocative conversations revealing how the internet has changed (and continues to change) the functioning of the real world and life itself - from business to education, from space travel to healthcare, as well as the very core of our private relationships.

Wednesday 19 August

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Dalibor Platenik's 'Man and Tree / Čovjek i drvo' (2019, Croatia) looks at the life of Vladimir Dimić Joda, who lives in the centre of Zagreb and spends his days hanging out with trees. He started planting trees anonymously more than 30 years ago and has so far planted more than 450 of them. He talks to them, waters them, and tends for them. In doing so, he feels he is returning a debt to Mother Earth. Vladimir Dimić Joda was actually born in Vinkovci and is a frequent visitor to the town.

DORF music documentary festival at Vinkovci Film Week

Thursday 20 August

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'Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami' (2018, USA) is a human portrayal of the intangible Jamaican icon. Through her modelling and music, Grace Jones has provocatively and unflinchingly bared all to the public. While examining these elements of her career, this documentary shows what few have ever seen before; the very real person that lies beneath the enigma.

Friday 21 August

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Premiering at the festival, short film 'xYUGOx' (2020, Croatia) follows Croatian-Serbian hardcore punk band The Truth in preparation for a two-week European tour and asks how their straight-edge lifestyle (eschewing alcohol, tobacco, and all other drugs) impacts such an undertaking.

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Also premiering here, 'Erik' (2020, Croatia) is a portrait of composer, singer, keyboardist, and award-winning songwriter Erik Balija, whose cerebral palsy restricts only his physical movement, not his spirit.

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Another premiere, 'New York: The Pilgrimage' (2019, Macedonia) follows a Macedonian hip hop obsessive as he makes a once-in-a-lifetime journey to the city which birthed his passion.

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'Winners Are Boring / Pobednici su dosadni' (2018, Serbia) is a portrait of life-long music fanatic, publicist, and journalist Žikica Simić, examining the impact the cult radio shows he has helmed have had on many.

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'Sonnyboy iz Stubičke Slatine' (2019, Croatia) looks at the life of Krešo Oremuš from rural Zagorje. By day, Krešo is a metal worker. By night, he's a blues music fanatic and one of the country's greatest blues harmonica players.

Saturday 22 August

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'Tusta' (2019, Croatia) is a biography of Branko Črnac Tusta, the leader of infamous Pula punk-rock band, KUD Idijoti. Because of his uncompromising anti-fascist and tolerant stance, this true working-class hero was considered a "communist" in the 1990s, and his music all but banned from Croatian media and music outlets. The band were not deterred. KUD Idijoti were the first Croatian band to perform a concert in Serbia after the war.

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