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

By 24 November 2021
The Realities of Life as a Vukovar Tour Guide (Interview)
Photo by Steve Tsentserensky. All other photos courtesy of Vukovar Tourist Board

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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