Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Thursday Column - Croatia Lifestyle 3: Newspapers, TV, Radio and Theatre

Today’s posting is mostly for ex pats who want to know what newspapers they can get in Croatia and for holidaymakers who can’t do without television. Of course you can get almost anything over the net these days and ADSL is slowly rolling out over Croatia but, for those that prefer traditional media, read on.


In summer, you’ll find foreign newspapers in most villages of any size, in bookshops and on stands. In winter, you’ll need to head for the nearest town. We get our papers in the English bookshop, on the Riva in Split, or at Split airport. At any time of the year the papers will be two days old before they’re available and it will cost you about £3 for a Telegraph. One of the nice touches of the British Airways flights, between Split and London, is that same day newspapers are available free in departures. There are no local newspapers in English yet, though I’d like to be a part of making that happen once the numbers justify it. If you’re learning Croatian, and want to try your luck with one of the local papers, then Slobodna Dalmacija is a good place to start - plenty of local news and not too highbrow.


We have a friend in Zagreb who is the leading distributor of English magazines in Croatia and is doing his best to get the prices down to a realistic level. For more details see Again you’ll probably have to go to the larger bookshops to find them but the availability is slowly increasing. There was an English magazine, published every two months, called Croatia Times, which had a great mix of news. Unfortunately it just faded away about a year ago and I guess it may have been ahead of its time. Of course you can always subscribe and get your magazine posted to you. Croatia normally qualifies for Europe rates but it will take 7 to 10 days to arrive.


Croatia is almost as far advanced as western Europe on the availability of satellite TV though only the bigger hotels tend to offer the full range. Private satellite dishes are conspicuous almost everywhere you go with old stone houses, and even some historic monuments, failing to escape the aesthetic degradation. However, English speakers can easily do without satellite as long as they can get their daily dose of news from another source. Croatia is a country with a population of 4.5 million and has a language which is not widely spoken elsewhere. Producing a lot of Croatian films, TV dramas and high budget soaps is not really an option. Most local TV is therefore a mixture of news, documentaries and games orientated shows in Croatian and foreign soaps, films and drama series. Invariably the foreign content is subtitled so you will get the original version and a chance to improve your Croatian. Fortunately for us, the vast majority of films and TV dramas are in English though a Mexican soap is very popular early evening viewing and there are occasional French, Italian and German produced emissions. From eight o’clock to midnight you will normally have a good choice of films, detective and crime series all in English. Most of the films are quite recent and Desperate Housewives and Lost are the current favourite soaps. In the afternoon you can also see the likes of Oprah and some low budget US sitcoms.

If you want to know what’s on for the week you can buy a local TV guide, but better still, get Slobodna Dalmacija on Thursday and keep the TV section. They used to give the film titles in English, where applicable, but you now have to look at the pictures and do some elementary translation to make an informed choice.

The local TV network has four channels: HRT 1 and 2 are government owned; Nova and RTL are independent to a large degree. Reception varies and we couldn’t get Nova when we lived on Ciovo island. If you’re in a good reception spot, you may also be able to tune into a couple of other local channels, including the shopping channel!

Our favourite local programme is the 7.30 news on HRT1 and, notably, the weather forecast just after eight. Fortunately for us there are plenty of pictures so we can at least get the gist of what is happening. The weather is a constant source of fascination and, as everywhere, a great topic of conversation with our neighbours. More seriously, if you’re contemplating a long drive, it’s a good idea to check the weather as the occasional strong winter Bora winds can result in road closures, particularly over bridges, in some areas.


Local radio has a great mix of music – Croatian and International – and not much in the way of advertising, particularly, in the winter. Our favourite is Radio Riva, based in Split, with a frequency of about 98 FM. On Saturday morning it features an English DJ, Kevin Halsey.In the summer, a number of local stations will become active and you will normally get traffic and weather reports in English every hour which are worth listening to. The police are obliged to announce where they will be carrying out speeding or spot checks each day which can be useful to know! The World Service is of course available but still needs a lot of tweaking to get a good signal at certain times of the day.


There are cinemas around but don’t expect the luxury of UK cinemas. We’ve not tried them out yet and suspect, from what we’ve heard, that they’re more for the teenage brigade.


Split, Rijeka, Zadar, Dubrovnik and Zagreb all have National Theatres. Most of the buildings are spectacular and, apart from the summer, with the more eclectic festival offerings, these theatres tend to provide “high brow” entertainment – a repertory style mix of ballet, opera and traditional plays. A new theatre has just opened up in Zagreb, dedicated to English speaking productions and there are a small number of independent theatres around. None of them have big budgets or a big enough audience to import large foreign productions so it may be a while before Mamma Mia! tours Croatia!


I hope today’s posting has given you a feel for what you can expect from Croatia in the way of “home entertainment”. We’ll be watching out for interesting events at the theatres and other venues and keeping you posted in the Friday, Week in Review, column. Today's photo is of the Zagreb National Theatre


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