Thursday, 26 August 2021

Jelsa Wine Festival Returns After Last Year's Break

August 26, 2021 - After a year-long hiatus from the pandemic, one of the most popular and traditional events in the town of Jelsa on the island of Hvar marks its long-awaited return. The Jelsa wine festival starts tomorrow and includes sports, cultural activities, a great gastronomic offer, and of course, the best from its wineries.

As written by Turističke Priče, the first Jelsa wine festival was held back in 1952 on the initiative of the community of the Cooperative Association of Jelsa called the District Cooperative Meeting. In 1954, Cooperative Day was held, and since 1956, this event has been called the Wine Fair or Cooperative Rally. The Wine Fair in 1966 was held on August 14 and that day was declared the Day of Tourism in Jelsa. The festival has been held for years in the first half of August, from Friday to Sunday. The crowd would start in the morning and last until dawn the next day. Huge quantities of wine were poured because the idea was to free the taverns by selling old wine for the new one that will come with the upcoming harvest.

This year's Wine Festival is held on August 27 and 28 and in recent years this event has returned to its original purpose: to be a cheerful event to promote Hvar wines, especially the best in the Jelsa ring, a wine-growing region where we find many original varieties of islands such as Bogdanusa, prča, plavac mali, but also the popular international cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and syrah, and thus various wines, from white and red, rosé, to the popular opol and prosecco.

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Jelsa Wine Festival

For the last thirty years, these wines have stood out for their quality, won prizes in competitions, and delighted guests for whom the Wine Festival is a real opportunity to taste and feel the differences between wines from the southern slopes of the island, positions from Jelsa slopes and valleys and fields by the sea. The wine festival is an experience that tourists remember - the sun and the sea have long been the only assets of the island, but also tradition, wine, gastronomy, Dalmatian songs... the spirit of the Mediterranean as it once was.

Various sports and entertainment competitions have been announced: water polo matches are played in the port, rowing competitions are held, international regattas as well, and prosciutto is removed from the top of a ten-meter-high mast. Everything is, of course, spiced with a gastronomic offer and accompanied by concerts. This year, Four Tenors and Zorica Kondža are in charge of good music.

For the third year in a row, in cooperation with the Hvar Winemakers Association and the Wine Stars project, a Summer Wine tasting by Wine Stars is held as part of the Jelsa Wine Festival, with an emphasis on original varieties and what makes them different from other wine regions. Book the last weekend in August for Jelsa where the hosts invite you and guarantee good fun. This year's program will be conducted in accordance with current epidemiological measures and the entire program can be found at this LINK.

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Vineyard on the hills of Jelsa (Photo: Mario Romulić)

After the wine festival, when you are in Jelsa, be sure to look up and discover the starry sky. Apart from the sun and the sea and top wines, Jelsa also offers tourists a starry sky, and the stars are disappearing in modern times precisely because of light pollution, and observing the starry sky is becoming a tourist attraction that you cannot often see.

The stars will be the brightest tourist product of Jelsa, which should acquire the status of the International Dark-Sky Community by the end of the year and become the first municipality/city in Croatia to proudly bear that title. This title confirms Jelsa as a destination that has an exceptional quality of the night sky and respects high environmental standards in terms of light pollution, which together make a big step towards creating an astro-tourist offer in the area of ​​Jelsa.

Croatian wines and grapes are among the best in the world, and you can find more information about them in Total Croatia’s Guide to Croatian Wine HERE. Now in your language!

Jelsa is a slice of safe, authentic lifestyle heaven on Croatia’s premier island, with wine and beach treasures galore. Everything you need to know about Jelsa, you'll find it in our Total Croatia's Jelsa on a Page HERE.

Follow the latest travel updates and COVID-19 news from Croatia HERE.

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

Saturday, 26 June 2021

Quarantine Escape or Something More: How French Youth Live In Croatia

26 June 2021 - One TCN intern interviewed four young French people who recently moved to Croatia about their everyday life, impressions, and preferences here. A look at how French youth live in Croatia. 

They came to Croatia for different volunteering projects regardless of coronavirus pandemic, but likely would recommend their new abode to fellow countrymen as a good place to survive quarantine. The luckiest of them Mathias (26) got a chance to arrive in Split in February 2020, Axelle (22), and Clemence (22) joined him nearly a year later. Mathilde (23) came to Zagreb sometime between this period, in September 2020. 

Is the weather similar to Nice?

The climate is continental – low temperatures in winter and high temperatures in summer. “In Zagreb, there is often a fog during the winter,” Mathilde shares.  Thick fog looks unusual for newcomers and from time to time creates true ‘Silent hill’ views in Zagreb country. “It’s not windy, but you don’t see the light of the sun during two months,” she continues.

On the contrary, Split is a windy city, however, even during the winter the sun shines a lot. There are winds in France, Mathias notes. He fails to find a French analog to the well-known Split ‘bura’, a cold north-west wind that long till 10 days in winter. But there is ‘mistral’ wind in France, similar in the name and effects to Croatian ‘maestral’ that comes to Split from the north-east in summer.

If you’re sensitive to weather, you’ll probably feel winter winds in Split. Summer winds will help you. The wind cools the atmosphere, thus summer heat is handled easier in the Dalmatia. Axelle and Clemence who came to Split for spring and summer characterize the weather solely as perfect. Both moved from the northern part of France and began to enjoy sunbathing here.  Mathias compares the climate in Split with Nice. “Similar in many senses… Apart from the landscape – there are more islands and mountains in Croatia,” he said.

Is air-con needed?

My French respondents almost don’t use air conditioning. Mostly they don’t have a need for it. Axelle actually doesn’t know whether there is any air conditioner in their office. The office is situated on the first floor, it’s cool there. As for apartments it’s normally equipped with air conditioning systems. However, girls in Split are satisfied by shade from the inner yard of their house. During the summer, they just open windows wondering for what purpose these double shutters are designed. They’ve never met such a design in France. Mathilde doesn’t use the air conditioners for ecological reasons. It pollutes the atmosphere a lot.

Why do you apricot jam in a croissant?

Young people are usually simpler with food. Two of them are vegetarians, but they easily adapted to Croatia. “In France, we consume a lot of cheese,” Axelle claims. You can buy some basic cheese here like Emmental, you can buy soft cheese like mozzarella and feta. Mathias who isn’t a vegetarian, but a foodie confirms that fact.  “There is a huge lack of French cheese .” You’ll survive, but you’ll miss cheese. “I need cheese in my life,” Axelle says and goes to buy it without looking at brands.

On the plus side, there are many fresh vegetables in Croatia. Mathilde enjoys visiting open markets – you can talk, practice Croatian, create links with people, and support local producers. And prices are cheaper than in the supermarket.  Furthermore, the open market challenges your traditional tastes. While as in supermarket you’re guided by familiar names on the shelves, open market encourages you to improvise and try something new. Clemence started to eat much more vegetables in Croatia. Mathias who also visited the fish market has enriched his nutrition with seafood.

Food prices in Croatia are lower than in France. However, moving here you should configure your expectations correctly. Prices are lower, but not really low. And, of course, this isn’t about imported items. As a result, Clemence eats less ‘Nutella’ here. Hopefully, it was not a huge loss. Mathilde praises Croatian pastries, whereas she loved French pastries as well. ‘Burek’ is a universal pleasure; it has vegetarian options with cheese or spinach. ‘Burkifla’ or ‘strudla’ are a nice choice for the sweet tooth. The only stuff you should be careful with is a croissant. In Croatian bakeries, they often offer croissants with apricot jam (‘marelica’) and French often describe its taste as disgusting. Just clarify on a cashier that you want a normal croissant!

Wine is wine, if you do it in France, you’ll probably die!

Apart from croissants with apricot jam, one more strange thing the French can occasionally order in a cafe is coffee with cold milk. It’s better to specify what kind of milk you want – hot or cold, because during the summer season Croatian cafes often serve coffee with cold milk as in southern Europe. Axelle came from northern France and never expected to have something hot ordering a coffee. Otherwise, typical for the Balkan region ‘Turkish coffee’ is rarely found in modern Croatia. Expats including my respondents from France don’t like it. “First 2-3 sips are ok, but next you feel this nasty coffee ground…”

A coffee drinking culture must be attributed to the advantages of life in Croatia. You can take one coffee and stay for 3 hours. “You can’t do it in France. If you stay more than an hour, it’s anticipated you will order one more coffee or another drink,” Axelle explains to me. And it’s not only about the economics of cafes. In France, you sit in a cafe for half an hour and then go back to your business. In Croatia, there is this chill way of life. You drink a coffee, chat, and sunbathe, and don’t hurry. Croatians consume a lot of coffee. When it’s too much for Clemence and Axelle, they switch to beer. Mathilde hates coffee, however still has a lot of Croatian friends. She drinks hot chocolate. She misses 'churros’ to hot chocolate.

Mathias spent enough time both in Split and Zagreb and would prefer Zagreb cafes and bars rather than Split ones. Such places have more variety, events, and different peoples there. Mathilde who is been living in Zagreb for almost a year doesn’t attach importance to it. She’s not a huge bar lover. She settles for ‘Antibar club 44’ where she holds her French evening with students. Axelle and Clemence also have their favorite place to drink in Split. In ‘Tri volta’ there is no crowds or fancy drinks as ‘ice coffee’ or ‘Aperol spritz’, but the location and atmosphere are great.

In public drinking beyond bars and its terraces, the biggest surprise for the French was a way of drinking wine. Croatian youth usually dilute wine. Red wine plus coke has the special name ‘bambus’. White wine is diluted by sparkling water. Both kinds of wine can be watered down. This practice has a simple explanation: diluting enhances the taste of cheap wine that youth usually buy. Also, this practice is known in Italy and Spain, but not in France. Wine is wine, Axelle claims emotionally. “If you do it in France, you’ll probably die!” Clemence echoes.

Let me pay for anything!

Nobody from my young respondents spends much money on entertainment mainly because of plenty of outdoor activities. Mathias became a true expert in hanging out with people in Split. This activity requires only being at the right place at the right time. That is late in the evening on Matejuska pier and after midnight on Ovcice beach. Girls prefer Matejuska, because the public is more varied there. Youth and locals gather on Ovcice beach. In fact, Axelle and Clemence once visited the Croatian party where they were the only foreigners. It was not bad, however, it’s certainly easier to start a conversation as the majority speaks English.

Axelle shares that she would like to visit the ‘Froggyland’ museum in Split. Till the moment she didn’t manage it. With Clemence and other friends, she also tried to go to the cinema, but finally, it was ‘sold out’. Split actually discourages finding these kinds of entertainment. When you have leisure time, go straight to the beach, read a book in the shade, relax, run along a coastal line – there are so many easy ways to enjoy in Split. Mathias concludes that museums didn’t impress him and the cinema was normal. You can watch original American or French movies with Croatian subtitles.

Mathilde has succeeded to go to the cinema about 10 times. Interested in art she visited several museums in Zagreb. She’s visited once a classical concert at the Croatian National Theater. It’s a pretty good cultural gathering, although Mathilde recognizes that she would have better if it were not for the language barrier. She doesn’t go to the cinema or museum spontaneously, only when friends invite her. A pleasant surprise is that an inviter pays. Croatians are very welcoming and open people, thus you often fall into situation “Let me pay for anything!”

Where is the name of the bus stop?

Croatian hospitality is one of the reasons to make traveling your hobby here. Mathias and Axelle recall the other reasons. Croatia is a comparatively small country, most destinations are easily reached. There are a lot of historic towns, wonderful nature places. Islands aplenty stand alone. “You go on the islands and suddenly feel like you are in another county on vacation. I like island vibes!”  Axelle and Clemence visited Vis together loved the nature of the island-geopark.

Zagreb is a student city in Croatia. There are more students and more expats as well than in Split, therefore society seems more liberal and open-minded. Varazdin looks like a typical Central European town. Pula is pretty boring during the winter, but nice in summer, Mathias lists his travel within the country. “I’m not a fan of Slavonia. This is not a region for tourists, except Vukovar, maybe, for those who are interested in history. It’s good to visit when you live in Croatia for a long time,” he says.

Split is a very special story. Mathilde surprises by its closeness to mountains and sea. French who constantly live in Split loves it for a combination of historical heritage and daily dynamic life. “Diocletian’s palace is a miracle, Clemence tells. I like to go for a walk there. And now after many walks, I can say that I really know it.” Axelle stresses one more advantage: “A lot of sights are situated next to Split – Solin, Klis fortress, etc.” Omis, a tiny city with rocks is suited for hiking, meanwhile, there are enough hiking places just by the way from Split to Omis.

In regards to transport within the country Mathias’s used to prefer trains in France. A train as a comfortable and ecological means almost doesn’t exist in Croatia. It’s a disadvantage. But my French respondents quickly learned how to deal with buses. They usually travel by bus. The fact that bus stops in Croatia have no names was a little challenging for the first time. Axelle remembers how she was checking her way on Google maps. “It just takes some getting used to. In France each stop has a name.”

Could you, please, write down the name of this movie in Croatian for me?

“I don’t see any difference in culture between France and Croatia,” Mathilde states. The point is that the French consider ‘culture’ as a broad concept, barely the same that ‘civilization’, i.e. Croatia relates to the same European Christian civilization as France. Looking in-depth Croatian culture is not well-known in France.

Axelle purposely read about Croatia before coming here to have basic grounding. After 4 months in Split she knows, for example, Split raised pop-diva Severina. Clemence listens to rapper Nucci. Although he’s from Serbia, his music can be related to the ‘Balkan turbo-folk genre. They would like to know more popular songs, movies. etc. Croatians are glad to recommend some good stuff, but a problem is that they pronounce names in Croatian, and it’s difficult to catch and to remember too.

'Pomalo’

My respondents note the obvious visual difference – there are only white people on the streets. Society is more homogeneous. Dress is more homogeneous as well – no brassy, no sexy. “Don’t distinguish yourself,” the Zagreb expat concludes. Otherwise, Mathias and Clemence report that in Split people care about appearances much more, than in cities of France. Clemence is used to seeing fancy girls with big sunglasses and other attributes in Split every day. “Even on Monday morning… Once I was walking down the street in my probably worse-than-usual, after-party look. These girls looked at me really oddly…” she remembers.

Streets are cleaner in Croatia. It’s clean in France, Axelle stands up, but you can see some trash from time to time. Croatians are not taught since childhood to sort the garbage, to recycle as much as it’s done in France. “From the first glance they seem less informed, but in real life they’re more concerned,” Clemence shares her observations. Streets are safer too. “I feel really safe here. I have no fear,” French girls from Zagreb and Split agree in this. In France, you’d better go in a group of 2-3 girls together at night. And anyway somebody will impose a conversation, follow you. In Croatia, you can calmly be alone on a street at any time.

In memory of their blissful stay in Split two of my respondents and one more French girl did tattoos with the Croatian word ‘pomalo’. It’s literally translated as ‘slowly’, ‘quietly’, ‘little by little’. “Our tattoos mean more than literal sense. I mean more when I say ‘pomalo’ Clemence explains. ‘Pomalo’ commonly used to describe a Dalmatian/ Croatian mentality in one word: ‘take it easy’, ‘don’t rush’, ‘with pleasure’, ‘relax’, ‘hello’, etc.

For more, follow our dedicated lifestyle section.

Friday, 23 April 2021

12th World of Malvasia: International Evaluation for Vinistra

April 24, 2021 - The best overture for Vinistra is the international evaluation of the World of Malvasia, which took place for the 12th time, in the Parentium Plava Laguna hotel in Poreč, which from year to year breaks records in terms of quality and number of samples. Thus, 435 samples of wine and spirits arrived for this year's evaluation, of which 220 samples were Malvasia.

As hrturizam.hr reports, a new name on the wine scene, Denis Bernobić from Markovac near Višnjan, won the championship title in the category of fresh Malvasia. Competing with three other top Malvasias, his wine took the win. This is also the biggest surprise at evaluating wine and spirits and the 12th World of Malvasia, which was traditionally held in mid-April at the Parentium Plava Laguna Hotel in Poreč.

"The lineage has always been the foundation of the existence of us Istrians. My family has been in winemaking for four generations, but the focus has been on top-quality wines for the last few years. The championship title is a great success, I must admit a surprise, but also recognition and encouragement to continue in the same direction", said Denis Bernobić.

Malvasia Collina from the 2016 winery Cattunar from Nova Vas near Brtonigla is the champion in the category of mature Malvasia; Teran Barbarossa, Vina Tomaz from Motovun, won the championship title in the fresh Teran category; while in the mature category, that title went to the wine of Santa Lucia from 2018. Kozlović Winery from Momjan.

In the category of mature refoška, ​​the champion is Capo d’Istria from 2013, Slovenian Vinakoper, and five big gold medals were awarded to wines that won more than 92 points. These are the 2015 San Salvatore Muscat White Benvenuti wines from Caldir; Muscat yellow from 2019. Capo wine from Fernetić; Malvasia volcanica from 1956 by Spanish manufacturer El Grifo Canari; Merlot from 2017 Siljan wines from Krnica, and Aura biska extra from 2021 from the Buzet distillery Aura also won big gold.

"We are extremely pleased that we have managed to organize such a demanding competition in these unusual times. I am pleased with the top quality of the champion wines and the fact that as many as five wines crossed the threshold of 92 points and won great gold", said Nikola Benvenuti in front of Vinistra.

Another 139 gold and 16 silver medals were awarded, while other manufacturers received diplomas. This year, the right to the IQ label - Istrian quality was exercised by 24 winemakers for Malvasia and seven winemakers for Teran. 

The IQ - Istrian quality label is primarily intended to label high-quality wines produced from Istrian and Teran Malvasia grapes and encourage the development of production of these indigenous wines, raising the level of their quality production technologies and promotion and sales on the domestic and world markets. The IQ mark enables the consumer to recognize those Istrian wines whose quality is higher than the quality prescribed by the law for quality wines with the geographical origin and higher than what the customer usually requires and expects.

This is a unique, active wine control system in Croatia where winemakers themselves gradually raise the scoring threshold for wines bearing the IQ - Istrian Quality label to standardize and increase product quality. The IQ label guarantees an active quality control system that takes place on four levels: in the vineyard (yield control), in the cellar (vinification control), chemical analysis, and organoleptic evaluation, and after the label is awarded, market control is performed.

This is precisely how the quality of the wine region is strategically raised and branded. It is important to emphasize that the Association of Winemakers and Winegrowers of Istria was founded in 1994. Therefore, it is a continuous process and strategic goal of raising Istrian wines and branding Istria as a wine region.

Great results and championship titles are the best announcement of the 27th Vinistra, which is being held in the open air for the first time this year, in the Peškera bay in Poreč. Although it was initially announced that the 27th in a row Vinistra will be held from 7 to 9 May in Poreč, due to the epidemiological situation throughout Croatia, the organizers announced that they are changing the date and place of the event.

The exact date is not yet known. For now, the focus is on June. The organizers of Vinistra are optimistic and do not give up on organizing this year's Vinistra.

To find out more about Croatian Wine, click HERE

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

27th Vinistra Wine Manifestation Comes Back to Poreč in May 2021

March 2, 2021 – Good news for all wine lovers, experts, and winemakers, as the 27th Vinistra wine manifestation will take place from 7 to 9 May 2021 in Poreč, together with its traditional overture, 12th International Evaluation "World of Malvasia."

If there are no surprises and if the epidemiological measures allow it, the 27th Vinistra wine manifestation will be held this year after a one-year break due to the coronavirus pandemic. The preparations are underway, and this year's organizers have a somewhat more difficult task because everything should follow the Headquarters' measures and recommendations.

"As we did not hold the traditional En Primeur in Zagreb this year due to epidemiological measures, Vinistra will be an excellent opportunity to present new vintage wines, excellent in all characteristics, especially for red varieties. For us winemakers, the only positive side of 2020 was the exceptional harvest. The last two years have hit the wine and tourism sector hard, so we are very much looking forward to this year's event, meeting our partners, customers, and lovers of Istrian wines," said Nikola Benvenuti, president of Vinistra, winemakers' association, and winegrower.

He adds that the location and accompanying program will depend on epidemiological measures.

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Vinistra

Traditionally, the best overture for Vinistra is the international evaluation named the World of Malvasia, which will be held for the 12th time, from April 12 to 16, 2021, at the Parentium Plava Laguna Hotel in Poreč. Year after year, the World of Malvasia breaks records in quality and number of samples.

"The informal world championship of the most famous Istrian variety is being held this year as part of a three-day international evaluation of wine and spirits, which brings together the most famous wine experts from Croatia and the region. Of course, everything will be in line with epidemiological measures because our health and safety come first. As usual, the evaluation results will be made public as part of the 27th Vinistra," says Benvenuti.

As 24sata recalls, the traditional Vinistra fair was held in the Žatika hall in Poreč for years before the tradition was interrupted for the first time last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Almost all important politicians, presidents, businessmen used to come to Vinistra, as well as those who wanted to be photographed or filmed by journalists while they are enjoying the top drops of 'grape' juice.

Vinistra is a regional and international exhibition of Istrian wines and equipment for viticulture and winemaking. The longest-running exhibition of this type is traditionally held in the Istrian town of Poreč. The fair consists of an evaluation and exhibition part, and besides wine, olive oils and brandies are also evaluated.

Istria is continually improving wine quality and is a top eno-gastronomic destination. This is confirmed by the constant increase in the number of indigenous varieties' samples, more quality of average wine samples, and new names awarded by an expert jury every year.

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

Friday, 19 February 2021

People also ask Google: What is Croatia Famous For?

February 19, 2021 – What is Croatia Famous For?

People outside of the country really want to know more about Croatia. They search for answers online.

Here, we'll try to answer the popular search terms “What is Croatia famous for?” and “What is Croatia known for?”

Most of the people looking for answers to these questions have never been to Croatia. They may have been prompted to ask because they're planning to visit Croatia, they want to come to Croatia, or because they heard about Croatia on the news or from a friend.

What Croatia is known for depends on your perspective. People who live in the country sometimes have a very different view of what Croatia is famous for than the rest of the world. And, after visiting Croatia, people very often leave with a very different opinion of what Croatia is known for than before they came. That's because Croatia is a wonderful country, full of surprises and secrets to discover. And, it's because internet searches don't reveal everything. Luckily, you have Total Croatia News to do that for you.

What is Croatia known for?

1) Holidays


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Croatia is best known globally as a tourist destination. Catching sight of pictures of the country online is enough to make almost anyone want to come. If you've heard about it from a friend, seen the country used in a TV show like Game of Thrones or Succession, or watched a travel show, your mind will be made up. Following such prompts, it's common for Croatia to move to first place on your bucket list. If it's not already, it should be, There are lots of reasons why Croatia is best known for holidays (vacations).

a) Islands


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What is Croatia famous for? Islands © Mljet National Park

Within Croatia's tourist offer, its most famous aspect is its islands. Croatia has over a thousand islands - 1246 when you include islets. 48 Croatian islands are inhabited year-round, but many more come to life over the warmer months. Sailing in Croatia is one of the best ways to see the islands, and if you're looking for a place for sailing in the Mediterranean, Croatia is the best choice because of its wealth of islands. These days, existing images of Croatia's islands have been joined by a lot more aerial photography and, when people see these, they instantly fall in love.

b) Beaches


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What is Croatia famous for? Its holidays are famous for their beaches © Szabolcs Emich

Croatia has 5835 kilometres of coastline on the Adriatic Sea - 1,777.3 kilometres of coast on the mainland, and a further 4,058 kilometres of coast around its islands and islets. The Croatian coast is the most indented of the entire Mediterranean. This repeated advance and retreat into the Adriatic forms a landscape littered with exciting, spectacular peninsulas, quiet, hidden bays, and some of the best beaches in the world. There are so many beaches in Croatia, you can find a spot to suit everyone. On the island of Pag and in the Zadar region, you'll find beaches full of young people where the party never stops. Elsewhere, romantic and elegant seafood restaurants hug the shoreline. Beach bars can range from ultra-luxurious to basic and cheap. The beaches themselves can be popular and full of people, facilities, excitement and water sports, or they can be remote, idyllic, and near-deserted, accessible only by boat. Sand, pebble, and stone all line the perfectly crystal-clear seas which are the common feature shared by all.

c) Dubrovnik


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What is Croatia famous for? Dubrovnik © Ivan Ivanković

As a backdrop to Game Of Thrones and movies from franchises like Star Wars and James Bond, Dubrovnik is known all over the world. Everybody wants to see it in person, and that's why it's an essential stop-off for so many huge cruise ships in warmer months. But, Dubrovnik's fame did not begin with the invention of film and television. The city was an autonomous city-state for long periods of time in history, and Dubrovnik was known all over Europe – the famous walls which surround the city of Dubrovnik are a testament to a desire to maintain its independent standing for centuries while living in the shadow of expanding, ambitious empires.

d) Heritage


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What is Croatia famous for? Heritage. Pula amphitheatre is one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world

The walled city of Dubrovnik is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Croatia's rich architectural and ancient heritage. Diocletian's Palace in Split is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and still the living, breathing centre of life in the city (that people still live within it and it is not preserved in aspic is one of its most charming features and no small reason for its excellent preservation).

Having existed on the line of European defence against the Ottoman empire, Croatia also has many incredible fortresses and castles. The fortresses of Sibenik are well worth seeing if you're visiting Sibenik-Knin County and its excellent coast. A small number of Croatia's best castles exist on the coast, Rijeka's Trsat and Nova Kraljevica Castle is nearby Bakar being two of them. Most of Croatia's best and prettiest castles are actually located in its continental regions which, compared to the coast, remain largely undiscovered by most international tourists.

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Many spectacular castles in the country's continental regions are, for these parts, what is Croatia famous for

Pula amphitheatre (sometimes referred to as Pula Arena) is one of the largest and best-preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world. A spectacular sight year-round, like Diocletian's Palace, it remains a living part of the city's life, famously hosting an international film festival, concerts by orchestras, opera stars, and famous rock and pop musicians. Over recent years, it has also played a part in the city's music festivals.

e) Music Festivals


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What is Croatia famous for? Music festivals © Khris Cowley

There is a very good reason why the city of Pula leapt massively up the list of most-researched online Croatian destinations over the last decade. It played host to two of the country's most famous international music festivals. Though the music at some of these can be quite niche, the global attention they have brought to the country is simply massive. Clever modern branding and marketing by the experienced international operators who host their festivals in Croatia mean that millions of young people all over the world have seen videos, photos and reviews of Croatia music festivals, each of them set within a spectacular backdrop of seaside Croatia.

f) Plitvice Lakes and natural heritage


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What is Croatia Famous For? Plitvice Lakes, national parks and natural heritage

Known for its chain of 16 terraced lakes and gushing waterfalls, Plitvice Lakes is the oldest, biggest and most famous National Park in Croatia. Everybody wants to see it. And many do. But that's not the be-all and end-all of Croatia's stunning natural beauty. Within the country's diverse topography, you'll find 7 further National Parks and 12 Nature Parks which can be mountain terrain, an archipelago of islands, or vibrant wetlands.

2) Football


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What is Croatia famous for? Football. Seen here, Luka Modric at the 2018 World Cup © Светлана Бекетова

The glittering international careers of Croatian footballers Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić, Ivan Perišić, Mario Mandžukić, and others have in recent years advertised Croatia as a factory of top-flight footballing talent. They helped put Croatia football on the map with fans of European football. Football fans in Croatia have a very different perception of just how famous Croatian football is to everyone else in the world. If you talk to a Croatian fan about football, it's almost guaranteed that they will remind you of a time (perhaps before either of you were born) when their local or national team beat your local or national team in football. 99% of people will have no idea what they are talking about. The past occasions which prompt this parochial pride pale into insignificance against the Croatian National Football Team's achievement in reaching the World Cup Final of 2018. This monumental occasion brought the eyes of the world on Croatia, extending way beyond the vision of regular football fans. Subsequently, the internet exploded with people asking “Where is Croatia?”

Sports in general are what is Croatia known for

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Croatians are enthusiastic about sports and engage in a wide number of them. The difference in perception between how Croats view the fame this gets them and the reality within the rest of the world is simply huge. Rowing, basketball, wrestling, mixed martial arts, tennis, handball, boxing, waterpolo, ice hockey, skiing and volleyball are just some of the sports in which Croatia has enthusiastically supported individuals and local and national teams. Some of these are regarded as minority sports even in other countries that also pursue them. Croatians don't understand this part. If you say to a Croatian “What is handball? I never heard of that,” they will look at you like you are crazy or of below-average intelligence.

3) Zagreb


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What is Croatia famous for? Its capital city Zagreb is becoming increasingly better known

Over relatively recent years, the Croatian capital has skyrocketed in terms of fame and visitor numbers. Tens of thousands of people from all over the world now come to visit Zagreb each year. Its massive new success can be partly attributed to the rising popularity of international tourism in some areas of Asia (and Zagreb being used as a setting for some television programmes made in some Asian countries) and the massive success of Zagreb's Advent which, after consecutively attaining the title of Best European Christmas Market three times in a row, has become famous throughout the continent and further still. Zagreb's fame is not however restricted to tourism. Zagreb is known for its incredible Austro-Hungarian architecture, its Upper Town (Gornji Grad) and the buildings there, an array of museums and city centre parks and as home to world-famous education and scientific institutions, like to Ruder Boskovic Institute and the Faculty of Economics, University of Zagreb.

4) Olive oil


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What is Croatia famous for? Olive oil

Croatian olive oil is the best in the world. Don't just take out word for it! Even the experts say so. In 2020, leading guide Flos Olei voted Istria in northwest Croatia as the world's best olive oil growing region for a sixth consecutive year. Olive oil production is an ancient endeavour in Croatia, and over hundreds of years, the trees have matured, and the growers learned everything there is to know. Olive oil is made throughout a much wider area of Croatia than just Istria, and local differences in climate, variety, and soil all impact the flavour of the oils produced. Croatian has no less than five different olive oils protected at a European level under the designation of their place of origin. These and many other Croatian olive oils are distinct and are among the best you're ever likely to try.

5) There was a war here


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What is Croatia famous for? A relatively recent war left its mark on the country © Modzzak

Under rights granted to the republics of the former Yugoslavia and with a strong mandate from the Croatian people, gained across two national referendums, Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Yugoslavia was a multi-ethnic country, with each republic containing a mixture of different ethnicities and indeed many families which themselves were the product of mixed ethnicities. Ethnic tensions and the rise of strong nationalist political voices in each of the former republics and within certain regions of these countries lead to a situation where war became inevitable. The worst of the fighting was suffered within Croatia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina and the part of southern Serbia which is now Kosovo. The Croatian War of Independence (known locally as the Homeland War) lasted from 1991 – 1995. The Yugoslav wars of which it was a major part is regarded as the deadliest conflict in Europe since World War II. In many cases, this war pitted neighbouring houses or neighbouring villages against each other and sometimes members of the same family could be found on opposing sides. The war left huge damage on the country and its infrastructure, some of which is still visible. Worse still, it had a much greater physical and psychological impact on the population. Some people in Croatia today would rather not talk about the war and would prefer to instead talk about the country's present and future. For other people in Croatia, the war remains something of an obsession. If you are curious about the Croatian War of Independence, it is not advisable to bring it up in conversation when you visit the country unless you know the person you are speaking with extremely well. It is a sensitive subject for many and can unnecessarily provoke strong emotions and painful memories. There are many resources online where you can instead read all about the war, there are good documentary series about it on Youtube and there are several museums in Croatia where you can go and learn more, in Vukovar, Karlovac and in Zagreb.

6) Wine


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What is Croatia famous for? Its wine is some of the best you'll ever try © Plenković

Croatia is not really that famous for wine. Well, not as famous as it should be because Croatia makes some of the greatest wine on the planet. Croatian wine is only really famous to those who have tried it after visiting – you'll never forget it! A growing cabal of Croatian wine enthusiasts are trying their best internationally to spread the word about Croatian wine. However, there isn't really that much space in Croatia to make all the wine it needs to supply its homegrown demands and a greatly increased export market. Therefore, export prices of Croatian wine are quite high and even when it does reach foreign shores, these prices ensure its appreciation only by a select few. There's a popular saying locally that goes something like this “We have enough for ourselves and our guests”. Nevertheless, Croatian wine is frequently awarded at the most prestigious international competitions and expos. White wine, red wine, sparkling wine, cuvee (mixed) and rose wine are all made here and Croatia truly excels at making each. You can find different kinds of grape grown and wine produced in the different regions of Croatia. The best way to learn about Croatian wine is to ask someone who really knows about wine or simply come to Croatia to try it. Or, perhaps better still, don't do that and then there will be more for those of us who live here. Cheers!

7) Croatian produce


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Drniš prsut
is protected at a European level, one of 32 products currently protected in this way and therefore what is Croatia famous for © Tourist Board of Drniš

To date, 32 agricultural and food products from Croatia have attained protection at a European level. These range from different prosciuttos, olive oils and Dalmatian bacon, to pastries and pastas, honey, cheese, turkeys, lamb, cabbages, mandarins, salt, sausages, potatoes and something called Meso 'z tiblice (which took a friend from the region where it's made three days to fully research so he could explain it to me at the levels necessary to write an informed article about it – so, you can research that one online). While some prosciutto, bacon, sausages, olive oil and wine do make it out of Croatia, much of these are snaffled up by a discerning few of those-in-the-know. The rest, you will only really be able to try if you visit. And, there are many other items of Croatian produce which are known which you can also try while here

Truffles


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What is Croatia known for? Truffles © Donatella Paukovic

By weight, one of the most expensive delicacies in the world, truffles are a famous part of the cuisine within some regions of Croatia. They feature heavily in the menu of Istria, which is well known as a region in which both white and black truffles are found and then added to food, oils or other products. Truth be told, this isn't a black and white issue - there are a great number of different types of truffle and they can be found over many different regions in Croatia, including around Zagreb and in Zagreb County. But, you'll need to see a man about a dog if you want to find them yourself.

Vegeta


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What is Croatia known for? Vegeta

Having celebrated its 60th birthday in 2019, the cooking condiment Vegeta is exported and known in many other countries, particularly Croatia's close neighbours. It is popularly put into soups and stews to give them more flavour. Among its ingredients are small pieces of dehydrated vegetables like carrot, parsnip, onion, celery, plus spices, salt and herbs like parsley.

Chocolate


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What is Croatia known for? Chocolate is a big export© Alexander Stein

Though making chocolate is only around a century old in Croatia, Croatian chocolate has grown to become one of its leading manufactured food exports. Some of the most popular bars may be a little heavy on sugar and low on cocoa for more discerning tastes. But, lots of others really like it.

Beer


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What is Croatia famous for? Its beer is becoming more famous internationally © The Garden Brewery

The exploding growth of the Croatian craft ale scene over the last 10 years is something that is likely to have passed you by, unless you're a regular visitor to the country, a beer buff or both. Most of the producers are quite small and production not great enough to make a big splash on international markets. However, even within a craft-flooded current market, Croatian beer is becoming more widely known – in one poll, the Zagreb-based Garden Brewery was in 2020 voted Europe's Best Brewery for the second consecutive year

8) Innovation


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What is Croatia famous for? Pioneers, inventors and innovation. Nikola Tesla was born here

From the parachute, fingerprinting, the retractable pen and the tungsten filament electric light-bulb to the torpedo, modern seismology, the World Health Oganisation and the cravat (a necktie, and the precursor to the tie worn by many today), Croatia has gifted many innovations to the world. The list of pioneers - scientists, artists, researchers and inventors - who were born here throughout history is long. And, although innovation is not currently regarded as experiencing a golden period in Croatia, there are still some Croatian innovators whose impact is felt globally, such as electric hypercar maker Mate Rimac.

9) Being poor


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What is Croatia famous for? Being poor. Yikes!

The minimum wage in Croatia is among the lowest in Europe. Croatian language media is constantly filled with stories about corruption. There is a huge state apparatus in which key (if not most) positions are regarded to be politically or personally-motivated appointments. This leads to a lack of opportunity for Croatia's highly educated young people. Many emigrate for better pay and better opportunities. This leads to a brain drain and affects the country's demographics considerably (if it usually the best educated, the ablest and the youngest Croatian adults who emigrate). Many of those who stay are influenced by the stories of widespread corruption and lack of opportunity and are therefore lethargic in their work, leading to a lack of productivity. A considerable part of the Croatian economy is based on tourism which remains largely seasonal.

10) People want to live in Croatia


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What is Croatia famous for? People want to come and live here. No, really.

Yes, despite many younger Croatians leaving or dreaming of leaving and despite the low wages, many people who are not from Croatia dream about living here. Of course, it's an all too familiar scenario that you go on holiday somewhere and while sitting at a seafood restaurant in sight of a glorious sunset, having had a few too many glasses of the local wine, you fall in love with Miguel or however the waiter is called who served it and Miguel's homeland. But, with Croatia, this is actually no passing fancy, no idle holiday dream. People do decide to move here. And not just for the sunset and Miguel (nobody in Croatia is called Miguel - Ed).

Croatia may be known for being poor, but it also has one of the best lifestyles in Europe. That it's cafe terraces are usually full to capacity tells you something about the work to living ratio. Croatians are not just spectators of sport, many enjoy a healthy lifestyle. This informs everything from their pastimes to their diet. There are great facilities for exercise and sport, wonderful nature close by whichever part of the country you're in. You can escape into somewhere wonderful and unknown at a moment's notice. The country is well connected internally by brilliant roads and motorways, reliable intercity buses and an international train network. The tourism industry ensures that multiple airports across Croatia can connect you to almost anywhere you want to go, and major international airports in Belgrade and Budapest, just a couple of hours away, fly to some extremely exotic locations. There are a wealth of fascinating neighbour countries on your doorstep to explore on a day trip or weekend and superfast broadband is being rolled out over the entire country. This is perhaps one of the reasons Croatia has been heralded as one of the world's best options for Digital Nomads. In a few years, when we ask what is Croatia famous far, they could be one of the answers.

What is Croatia famous for, but only after you've visited

Some things you experience when you visit Croatia come as a complete surprise. Most would simply never be aware of them until they visit. They are usually top of the list of things you want to do when you come back to Croatia.

Gastronomy


fritaja_sparoge_1-maja-danica-pecanic_1600x900ntbbbbb.jpgGastronomy is only one of the things what is Croatia known for only after you've visited © Maja Danica Pecanic / Croatian National Tourist Board

Despite a few famous TV chefs having visited and filmed in Croatia over the years, Croatian gastronomy remains largely unknown to almost everyone who's never been to Croatia. That's a shame because you can find some fine food here. Croatia has increased its Michelin-starred and Michelin-recommended restaurants tenfold over recent years. But, perhaps the bigger story is the traditional cuisine which varies greatly within the countries different regions. From the gut-busting barbecue grills and the classic Mediterranean fare of Dalmatia to the pasta, asparagus and truffles of Istria to the sausages and paprika-rich stews of Slavonia and the best smoked and preserved meats of the region, there's an untold amount of secret Croatian gastronomy to discover.

Coffee


restaurant-3815076_1280.jpgWhat is Croatia known for? Well, to locals, it's famous for coffee - not just a drink, it's a ritual

Croatians are passionate about coffee and about going for coffee. It's a beloved ritual here. Going for coffee in Croatia is often about much more than having coffee. It's an integral part of socialising, catching up and sometimes being seen. It doesn't always involve coffee either. Sometimes, you'll be invited for coffee, only to end up ordering beer. It's not about the coffee. Although, the standard of coffee in Croatia, and the places where you drink it, is usually really good.

The misapprehension: What is Croatia known for (if you are a Croatian living in Croatia)

Handball, music

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Friday, 29 January 2021

Vinart Grand Tasting: Biggest Wine Event in Croatia to be Held in Spring 2021

January 29, 2021 – Winemakers are delighted as it's announced that the Vinart Grand Tasting, the most important business wine event, will take place in the spring of 2021.

As Turizam24 reports, the Vinart Grand Tasting will be held on April 30 and May 1, 2021, in Zagreb's Lauba. The organizer, the company Vinart, moved the fair's date from the beginning of March to the beginning of May due to the uncertainty of the epidemiological situation and the duration of anti-epidemic measures.

As a reminder, last year's Vinart Grand Tasting was the last professional wine fair in Europe. It was held on March 6 and 7, 2020, just before the first lockdown, while many details about the COVID-19 virus were unknown.

"It was uncertain until the last second, and in the weeks before the fair itself, we practically didn't sleep because of worries. We prepared the program, and after the fair, we organized a study trip to Croatian wine regions for a group of about twenty important European and American journalists. We invested a considerable amount of money, hoping that we would make a big step to recognize Croatian wines and winemakers globally, and everything was so risky and uncertain. In the end, only three journalists canceled our trip, and others came and were delighted with the offer and quality of Croatian wines. We did everything in our power to eliminate the risk of transmitting the virus," says Saša Špiranec, director of Vinart.

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Wine tasting / Copyright Romulić and Stojčić

At last year's fair, there was no information that anyone had become infected. From that experience, they are ready to boldly enter into the preparation of this year's edition of the fair.

If the economy doesn't restart in May, we can say goodbye to winemaking

On this occasion, Špiranec answered questions about the situation in winemaking after the pandemic 2020. As expected, the autumn wave caused the most significant damage to this branch of the economy, extremely important for the tourism sector.

"Judging by the comments we received from winemakers, last year's drop in turnover was more than obvious. Different wineries have different experiences, but the average should be between 20 and 30 percent drop overall. The year's start was a shock, and sales stalled, but a good spring and early summer made up for that decline. The second, autumn wave did more damage that was only partially offset by sales in December when many winemakers had good results in direct sales due to gifts and increased household consumption. If such problems remained in 2021, they would surely become insurmountable for many wineries. If the situation after the Easter moves towards full normalization, then most wineries will recover," said Špiranec, who explained the chosen date in the still uncertain first part of 2021.

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Copyright Romulić and Stojčić

"We have chosen dates when spring will already be in full swing. The days are long and sunny, and we believe that in the meantime, the measures and vaccination will significantly reduce the risks. We think May is the last moment for normalization, regardless of the circumstances with COVID-19, and that is why we chose the first days of May for the fair. If the economy does not start working normally in May, we can say goodbye to winemaking as its branch," concluded Špiranec, the leading Croatian expert in winemaking.

This announcement speaks best about the consequences of a pandemic. They hope that the situation will normalize after Easter. In that case, we can still expect the recovery of most stakeholders on the wine scene.

2021 is crucial for winemaking

Winemakers and wine business people are delighted by the announcement of the Vinart Grand Tasting.

"The capacity, which is further limited this year, is almost full after the first week of opening the applications. Winemakers and their customers send us numerous messages that they cannot wait for the fair and the start of activities and wine events. Now, things that they used to complain about, like too many fairs and trips, seem to them to be a blessing compared to this past year of passively waiting and staring into space," announces Špiranec.

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Vineyard in Istria / Copyright Romulić and Stojčić

It is evident that this year is crucial for winemaking. Without the opening and launch of the economy in the spring, there will be no winemaking. It remains to be seen how the situation will develop by May, but any such announcement and event that gives hope that the recovery will begin soon is optimistic. For winemakers, as well as for caterers, it is necessary to start economic activities no later than Easter. Otherwise, we will have a total collapse.

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

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. They instead do this to mark the tradition of Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia.

As a name, Vincent has many variants, Vinko being one popular in Croatia. Similarly, Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia, is also known by several different names in the country, depending on the region. You can hear it called Vinceška, Vincekovo, Vincelovo, Vinkovo 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 - St Vincent's Day in Croatia, is mostly marked in the northern continental area of the country and throughout the entire east, in traditional Slavonia and Baranj 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, actually it's not so simple.

The related name Viktor (also used in Croatia) gives us the best example for 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 ('in vino veritas' - in wine there is truth), the word for wine is much, much older and may have an entirely root.

Ilok2020.jpgVinkovo in Ilok 2020 © Youtube screenshot

Nobody is really sure where the word 'wine' comes from. The ancient Greek word 'oinos' certainly pre-dates the Latin but, truth be told, its true origins have been lost in time, providing entertaining mystery for today. What we do know is that there is a common origin word for wine that crops up in several completely different language groups.

You can find a similar ancient word for wine being used from southern Russia, right the way down through the Caucasus and the non-Indo European languages used in the area of modern-day Georgia, and in the western Semitic languages of the Levant (Arabic: wain, Hebrew: yayin). From the Mediterranean tongues of Latin and Greek, back up again to Russia, this time via Slavic and Germanic lands, the word is the same. It seems that ever since people learned how to cultivate and ferment grapes, different peoples have all know the end product by the same word.

Who knows? Perhaps there is a shared origin for the words? As any winemaker will tell you, the production of excellent vino does indeed require a conquering of the vines. The vines from which we grow grapes actually hail from wild varieties that grew in 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 a conquering act of cultivation. In early Indo-European languages, the root 'wei' means to turn or to bend. 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

Although several saints share the name Vincent, Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia, marks the death of the saint known as Vincent of Saragossa. Born to a well-off family in Saragossa (Zaragoza), north-eastern Spain, Vinncent 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, asked to renounce his faith - which he refused to do - and was martyred around the year 304. We mark Vincekovo - 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. St Vincent is not only the patron saint of winemakers, but also the patron saint of vinegar makers, which may come as comfort to some of the less able wine producers of the region.

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

As with other mysteries surrounding wine, quite why the midwinter period of 22 January, Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia, should be significant to winemakers also poses some questions. “I have no idea!” said one Dalmatian winemaker 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 Christianity itself.

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 favourite ancient God at the party, Dionysus was the Greek God of wine, the grape harvest, fertility, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, festivity and theatre. His celebration took place in the period from the 11th to the 13th of anthesterion, which corresponds in today's calendar to between around now and 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 and the celebration marked the impending arrival of the new season – spring. And, this too is how Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia, is marked.

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 correspond to significant points in the agricultural calendar, tellingly revealing their pre-Christian roots. Another of those corresponding to winemaking is Martinje – St Martin's Day in Croatia. 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 - St Vincent's Day in Croatia is a day more traditionally associated with their boss the vineyard owner. It is also traditionally a more testosterone-filled affair – a sausage party, if you will. 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. Without very much fanfare at all, they have been significant contributors of food to the relief effort for the 29 December 2020 earthquake in Sisak Moslavina County. In Baranja, you'll most likely hear this day called Vinceška © Belje

Around this time, vines within the vineyard will be cut back. There is a limited amount of nutrients that may pass down a vine and this cutting back ensures the nutrients are concentrated to help guarantee a limited, good crop. Whether this cutting back has actually taken place in days prior, on Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia, vineyard owners are charged with visiting their vines – whatever the weather – and ceremoniously cutting back a vine, usually one with at least three new buds on, which is then traditionally brought into the home and placed in a watered jar. The progress of the buds supposedly predicts the next season's crops, although many other folk traditions associated with Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia, also serve the same purpose. Melting snow, rain and sunshine on Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia are also traditionally regarded as predictors of a fine harvest, although water dripping from the eaves on Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia could mean the year will be wet.

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

As the gregarious Dionysus might have said himself, you can't really have a celebration with just one guy. And, famously gregarious themselves, Slavonians rarely make the trip to the vineyard alone. Neighbours, family, friends and even musicians might make the journey with them to 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 and 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 - St Vincent's Day in Croatia, it is traditional to hang kulen and/or švargla (another monstrous preserved portion of pig product) from a post 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 and with the ceremonious part taken care of, the taste for another class acquired and the body accustomed to the cold, 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 like kulen, a roasted pig, fis paprikas, a wild meat stew (cobanac) or even the tamburica musicians who came to the fields with you. If not, your neighbouring winemaker might well greet you with these. If you live in an area of traditional winemaking, that's a lot of neighbouring wine cellars to visit and 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

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

24th Croatian Sommelier Championship Final Has Been Postponed

December 1, 2020 – Due to the poor epidemiological situation in the country, the Croatian Sommelier's Club reported that the final of the 24th Croatian Sommelier Championship is postponed.

Precisely because of the worsening situation with the pandemic, the Croatian Sommelier Championship was planned to be held in two parts. In the first, quarterfinal part, which took place on November 10, 2020, the 12 best Croatian sommeliers were chosen to compete in the second, final part of the competition on December 7, 2020. However, the second part of the championship was postponed until the epidemiological situation normalizes.

"Unfortunately, due to the increasingly complicated epidemiological situation, we are forced to postpone the semifinals and finals of the 24th Croatian Sommelier Championship, a competition we planned to hold on Monday, December 7, at the Westin Hotel in Zagreb.

Since November 13, when we published the list of twelve semifinalists of this year's Championship, the epidemiological situation in our country is becoming more complicated, with more and more infected every day and the recommendations and decisions of the Civil Protection Headquarters are more stringent and restrictive.

Today, a week before the finals, the situation is no better. For these reasons, we believe that, at this time, it would be extremely risky to organize the finals of the Championship wherein one place there would be twelve semifinalists, nine judges, and seven organizers and technical staff.

Besides, such a gathering would violate several recommendations of the National Civil Protection Headquarters and, most importantly, it would endanger the health of our members.

Therefore, the 24th Croatian Sommelier Championship (semifinals and finals) will continue as soon as the epidemiological situation normalizes," reads the statement from the Croatian Sommelier's Club official page.

Despite the not so great situation, 24 candidates applied for the 24th Croatian Sommelier Championship, which is being held under the sponsorship of the Croatian Tourist Board. The 12 best sommeliers were chosen, and they are in order: Siniša Lasan, Filip Božić, Ivan Jug, Tomislav Mikinac, Josip Orišković, Marko Škarica, Mate Negulić, Miljenko Čehulić, Monika Neral, Toni Arbunić, Zoran Gregorović, and Ivan Dušić.

"We did not expect it and we were positive until the very end. We don't know how long this postponement will last, but our 12 semifinalists will certainly get a little more time to prepare for the continuation of the fight," they added on Facebook.

 To read more news from Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

PHOTOS: Martinje! Saint Martin's Day Celebrated Across Croatia

November 11, 2020 – Saint Martin's Day is today celebrated across Croatia, a time to be thankful for the successful harvest that will tide you through winter. We take a look at Saint Martin, his close connection to Croatia and the distinct traditions here that mark his day

Saint Martin or Martin of Tours is one of the most recognised of all Christian saints. He is the patron saint of beggars, wool-weavers and tailors, soldiers, geese and the country of France. He is also the patron saint of innkeepers and winemakers. He is celebrated all over the Christian world on September 11, the day of his burial (Saint Martin died on 8th November, 397, and was buried three days later).

wine-259876_1920.jpegAcross Europe, the long-held celebration of Saint Martin's Day is closely associated with the autumn harvest - in Croatia, particularly the wine harvest in continental regions

The feast of Saint Martin began to be celebrated in France, where he died, before spreading all across Europe and the Christian world. In the northern hemisphere, Saint Martin's Day coincides with a key time of year. It is the end of harvest time, the beginning of natural winter. It is the time for food to be conserved for the forthcoming colder months, the time for animals to be slaughtered and vegetables to be preserved. It is also the traditional time that the year's first new beer and wine first become ready to drink. Depending on the local crops and climate of the country, Saint Martin's Day can be associated with different foods and drinks, but with similarities occur, throughout Europe in particular. In the great winemaking country of Croatia, Saint Martin's Day is often most closely linked to that particular agricultural endeavour.

Louis Anselme Longa, La Charité de Saint-Martin Huile sur toile. Eglise de Saint-Martin d'Oney.jpgSaint Martin depicted in Louis Anselme Longa's, La Charité de Saint-Martin Huile sur toile

Saint Martin feels at home in Croatia. And well he might. Martin of Tours was born less than 90 kilometres from today's Croatian border, in Pannonia, present-day Hungary. His father was a tribune in the Roman army and, being the son of such, Martin was required to follow in his footsteps. At the age of 18, he was stationed in Amiens, present-day France, probably as an elite cavalry bodyguard of the Emperor, who accompanied him on his travels around the Empire. So important did Martin become to the spread of early Christianity in the region, that many details about his life were recorded by a biographer, Sulpicius Severus, who lived within Martin's lifetime and who met him.

Martinje-visit daruvar.jpgA previous celebration of Saint Martin's Day in Daruvar © TZ Daruvar

While Martin was still a soldier, it is said he experienced a vision. One day, as he was approaching the city of Amiens, he met a beggar. Martin instinctively cut his military cloak in two, so he could share his clothing with the poor man. That night, Martin dreamed Jesus was wearing the half-cloak he had given away.

Martin's cloak became a famous relic preserved in the Marmoutier Abbey near Tours. During the Middle Ages, it was carried by the king into battle and used as a holy relic upon which oaths were sworn. When it was not in use, so important was the cloak that it was assigned its own military priest who would watch over it. He was called a cappellanu, his title taken from the Italian word capella, meaning cloak. This is the origin of the word chaplain that we use today to describe a priest assigned to the military, and for the word chapel, meaning small church, which comes from the building assigned to house Martin's cloak.

Saint Martin and the Beggar by Anthony van Dyck.jpgAnother depiction of Martin splitting his cloak for the beggar - Saint Martin and the Beggar by Anthony van Dyck

Opinions about the length of time Martin spent in the army vary, as he is said to have renounced violence in keeping with the Christian faith he had already adopted before he joined. However long he spent in service, it is to a life of religious devotion he entered upon his departure from the ranks. He travelled back home and is said to have converted his mother in Pannonia to Christianity. He returned to present-day France with his mentor, Hilary of Poitiers, where he helped establish a building that would become the oldest known monastery in Europe, Ligugé Abbey. From there, he toured the region preaching Christianity, spreading his religion and, perhaps unwittingly, also his name.

graddugoselo.jpgIn this picture, the local clergy bless the full harvest in Dugo Selo on Saint Martin's Day © Grad Dugo Selo

Being a renowned Holy man, Martin was asked to attend a sick man in the city of Tours. The request was a ruse. Christians within the city wanted to have Martin as their bishop and had lured him there. Reticent to take up the position, Martin is said to have run away and hidden among a barn full of geese to avoid his persuaders. This is where the association of Martin and geese comes from. In many countries, the cooking of a goose is traditional on Saint Martin's Day, including Croatia. Not everyone has always been able to afford such a grand bird - poorer families have traditionally served duck, turkey or, more recently, chicken on Saint Martin's Day. The traditional accompaniment in Croatia is layers of pasta known as mlinci.

mlinci.pngMlinci, sheets of thin pasta, traditionally served as an accompaniment to a roasted bird in Croatia, especially on Saint Martin's Day

As bishop of Tours, Martin had a much greater responsibility and area to minister over. In these early days for Christianity, it was all too common for force and the military to become involved in the conversion of non-believers. But, Martin had renounced violence. He used an alternate method - the power of persuasion. Martin is said to have been such a formidable opponent in discussion that royalty would refuse to grant him an audience for fear he would inevitably leave with the terms he sought. He often campaigned for the forgiveness and freedom of prisoners, even those whose religious views he opposed.

kutjevo2.jpgSome of Croatia's best white wines come from Kutjevo in Slavonia - it's no surprise to see them go big for Saint Martin's Day © Kutjevo doo

From the late 4th century to the late Middle Ages, a 40-day period of fasting starting the day after Saint Martin's Day was observed over much of Christian Europe. This long period eventually relaxed and receded, becoming known as Advent – the time of spiritual preparation for Christmas. However, the great feast just before the fasting remained - Saint Martin's Day.

visitmedimuje.jpgA typical scene from St Martin's Day in Medimurje © Visit Medimurje

In Croatia, Saint Martin is the patron saint of Beli Manastir in Baranja, Virje in Koprivnica–Križevci County and Čepinski Martinci in Slavonia. Each has a church named after Saint Martin. These are far from the only places where Saint Martin's Day is significant in Croatia. In Istria, as work in vineyards would come to an end, winemakers would often come together to taste the fruits of their labour together. Saint Martin's is celebrated across several days there, from village to village, and tradition holds that the new wine most liked on Saint Martin’s Day will be the best wine next year.

3bc7aa7f337d2b6d218588b9fca9e94f_L.jpgCelebrating Saint Martin's Day is a long-held tradition in Croatia, as this old photo from Požega City Museum attests

Northern and eastern continental Croatia have an extremely strong reputation for producing great white wine. It is their harvest which most closely coincides with Saint Martin's Day, so it's little surprise to see it marked so significantly in these regions. In particular, Sveti Martin na Muri in Međimurje, Požega and Kutjevo in Slavonia, Daruvar in Bjelovar-Bilogora County, Velika Gorica, Sveti Ivan Zelina and Dugo Selo in Zagreb County are big fans of Martinje. But, anywhere that grows white wine is likely to mark the day.

purica_4-maja-danica-pecanic.jpgTurkey and mlinci is a dish commonly served on Saint Martin's Day in Croatia. Both the turkey and mlinci of the Zagorje region are protected by the EU for their distinct place of origin © Maja Danica Pecanic / Croatian National Tourist Board

Within these regions, in particular, the folk custom of 'Baptising' the wine, to purify it, is a part of proceedings. In many places, this is even done by a real priest. The ceremony frequently takes place on town squares and is enthusiastically attended by locals. After the lighthearted formalities, the celebrations are usually extended with food, music and, of course, wine.

grad daruvar.jpgAnother scene from a previous Saint Martin's in Daruvar © Grad Daruvar

Outside of continental regions, the island of Korčula is one of the few - if not the only - place in Dalmatia where Saint Martin's Day is seriously celebrated. The party there starts the night before, with children making a procession with lanterns. This is a commonplace way to celebrate Saint Martin's Day in The Netherlands, some parts of Germany and Belgium. Indeed, so significant is the day in western Flanders, Belgium, that children receive their annual gifts on Saint Martin's Day instead of December 25th. They don't go that far on Korčula, but they do make special foods for the occasion and celebrate Saint Martin's Day, like many places in Croatia, with joyous song and dance.

47_KUTJEVO3.jpg© Kutjevo doo

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© Kutjevo doo

Sunday, 25 October 2020

85% of Croatians Drink Wine, Survey Shows

ZAGREB, October 25, 2020 - Eight-five percent of Croatians drink wine, whether occasionally or frequently, a survey shows.

The survey was conducted by Ja Trgovac magazine and Hendal market research agency in September on a representative sample of Croatian citizens aged 16 and over.

As many as 78% of respondents said they preferred Croatian wines, as opposed to 7.6% who rather drank foreign wines, while 14.5% were undecided.

The survey revealed that 8% of Croatians drink wine on a daily basis, 21% once a week, 20.4% once a month, while 20.7% said they drink wine only on special occasions. 14.8% drink wine rarely and 15.2% never.

A total of 48.4% of respondents said they prefer red wine to white, which is preferred by 44.3% of those interviewed, while only 7.3% said they like pink wine (rosé) best.

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