Let's talk about hotels!

Tihana used to work at the reception of the hotel in which my husband and I stayed seven years ago with our son who was only a baby at the time. We had a strange experience with the restaurant staff, which I felt compelled to comment on my blog's Facebook page. Although I did not say which hotel restaurant it was, Tihana realized it was the one where she worked. She took the initiative and e-mailed me to apologize on behalf of her employer even though she didn't have anything to do with it directly. I was amazed by the sense of responsibility this young person had shown and was really wowed by her. After that I kept in touch with Tihana through Instagram and her culinary blog that I followed closely, reading about her departure to Stuttgart and a new job, about her trips and her wedding, and I was really pleased that it was all coming together for her.

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/  @cojanbanjuga

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/ @cojanbanjuga

 What was it like when you were first starting out in hospitality industry?

First I was working at the reception. The job at reception had everything I wanted at that time. Speaking foreign languages, meeting new people on a daily basis and dealing with exciting aspects of tourism and hospitality business. So I worked as a receptionist (in 3 shifts - yes, night shifts also) for almost seven years and it wasn't always easy. After the recession in 2009 the job and salary market in Croatia collapsed and I worked without pay for almost 6 months. Those were probably the worst six months of my career. After those six months I quit and took some time off to clear my head. 

 What happened then? Did you start working in tourism soon after that or did you look for a different job?

Since I always saw myself in this business and had a lot of experience, I naturally went there again. To be precise, to one of the best workplaces I have ever had - LifeClass Terme Sveti Martin in Međimurje County. There I worked my way up from reception to telephone sales, as a sales manager for the Croatian market, and to my final position there as a sales manager for the German and Croatian market. This job lead me to the life I have now and I am eternally grateful to my former boss - Mr. Dan Vidošević - who believed in me and gave me the freedom to become what I am today. He also supported my decision to move to Stuttgart and accept an offer I really couldn't refuse. 

Tihana was always a valuable member of my team, always the creative one, ready to go the extra mile. I always knew I could rely on her to get things done and all our clients could confirm their positive experience. Her eye for detail was perfect which she took advantage of when enjoying her hobby of making cupcakes in to little masterpiece deserts.
— Dan Vidosevic, Tihana's former boss
Photography: Bojan Canjuga/  @cojanbanjuga

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/ @cojanbanjuga

 Have you ever thought about living abroad before that?

 My husband and I always dreamed of living in a foreign country and our dream came true. My main quote about life is:

You can’t get anywhere in life without taking risks.
— Esme Bianco
Photography: Bojan Canjuga/  @cojanbanjuga

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/ @cojanbanjuga

… and so in 2015 my husband and I packed our bags in the small Suzuki and moved 800 km away from home - to Stuttgart. Here I accepted assistant manager job in a small family-run hotel and restaurant. Owing to my past experience and my entire CV, I got not only a job, but also an apartment and was entrusted with running a hotel and restaurant with over 30 employees. It was very challenging since I was in a foreign country, with new laws and rules and I had to learn all of it in a very short time. In just 3 months I got my first raise and was promoted to manager. 

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/  @cojanbanjuga

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/ @cojanbanjuga

 What is your perception of hotels, now that you have worked in your fair share of them? Do you secretly resent certain things and admire others?

Wow, that is really a question that I need to think about. I really love traveling and staying in hotels - and I am picky. I really care about two things when I come to a hotel - the staff and the cleanliness. A hotel can be old and not furnished well, but these are the things you can see when you book it. But when you arrive, the main thing is how the staff treats you and how clean the rooms are.  Not that long ago I had a really bad hotel experience in my hometown. I knew in advance that the hotel was older, but that doesn't mean that you don't clean the rooms before your guests arrive - and you know they are coming because they have booked months in advance. There is no excuse for not cleaning properly. 

What did you do in that situation? What should any guest actually do?

In that situation I would first inform the reception and try to get hold of the manager and talk to him about it. Depending on the answer, I would go one step further and write the online review as it was. I always write my reviews and that is really important - I also take pictures and post them online so people can see the real deal. 

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/  @cojanbanjuga

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/ @cojanbanjuga

 What are you like as a hotel guest?   
I as a guest? I am a very simple guest if you are nice to me and the rooms are clean. I sympathize with the staff since I have been in their shoes for a very long time and I know how hard the shifts can be. But again, that doesn't mean that you can't be nice. What I learned early on was that if you have private problems, you should leave them at home and try to be professional with guests.

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/  @cojanbanjuga

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/ @cojanbanjuga

What kind of guests do you like? 

As every hotel employee would say - uncomplicated guests! :) It often depends on the guests and the day they had. If they had a bad day, almost everything bothers them - even if everything is as it is supposed to be. I also like "normal" people who understand that we all are only employees and most of the time we are not in charge nor can we change some major things. Like the fact that the architect made the rooms as they are and things like that. 

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/  @cojanbanjuga

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/ @cojanbanjuga

 What annoys guests the most?            

Probably the fact that you lose their reservation or that the room is not that what they imagined it would be. Over the course of many years it has also happened to me and that is human - we all make mistakes. 

 How would you sum up the life of a hotel employee?

Here I would just put a quote:

My momma always said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” -
— Forrest Gump

….that is the life of a hotel employee. Each day is different and brings different problems, but you feel accomplished after you receive good feedback from guests. 

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/  @cojanbanjuga

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/ @cojanbanjuga

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/  @cojanbanjuga

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/ @cojanbanjuga

 Would you say that working in a hotel is all-around business education, where you learn all about marketing, client relations, HR-u, bookkeeping... 

If you work as a hotel manager, you really learn new things every day. Especially if you are in charge of employees, their contracts, payments, working plans and the fact that the laws are always changing and you have to follow them. But what you learn the most is how people behave! After so many years in this business, I have to say I have a hunch that tells me if someone will be a good or a bad guest. It has rarely failed me. 

 What kind of accommodation do you prefer when you travel?

Now that I look back, at my former job as a sales manager I traveled a lot and always booked hotels - since there were comfy beds and good breakfasts - all you need before a big day of meetings and traveling. Now I also book smaller private rooms and apartments that have a story. Like the one in which we stayed in the Dolomites, Italy, where we slept on a hill, in 500-year old beds that were amazingly comfy. 

 Which hotel did you find enchanting?

From the bigger hotels I stayed at, we really loved The Connacht Hotel in Galway, Ireland - amazing rooms, close to the city, free parking and an amazing breakfast. Just a few weeks ago we visited a small hotel in Austria, Der WILDe EDER and were amazed by the traditional but modern rooms and by a star worthy five course dinner.  

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/  @cojanbanjuga

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/ @cojanbanjuga

Do you prefer smaller hotels or big chains? 

I would always book smaller hotels with a story and a background - but since I travel to lots of big cities, we often stay in some hotel chains. I really love the Motel One Chain - I visited many of them in Germany and was never disappointed. 

  “If you're passionate about travel and hospitality, the hotel industry is a lifelong career path. You'll meet interesting people – team members, guests, vendors, media – that open your eyes to the world and help you clarify your own goals. Getting to ‘talk story’ with guests is a highlight of the day. You have connections around the world." One hotel manager said that, how much truth is in those words?

This is very true. I meet so many interesting people, from business people who have been in my hometown 50 years ago, to celebrities. People with amazing life stories that inspire you and make you happy that you choose this path. 

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/  @cojanbanjuga

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/ @cojanbanjuga


 This whole time Tihana kept working on her food blog Just Cake The Cupcake and back in the early days of blogging, she became the first Croatian ambassador for the KitchenAid. This year she decided to launch her own business enterprise that would tie in everything she has done so far with her passion for cooking and creating. I feel pretty certain that she will succeed in anything; just remember the girl from the beginning of this story: someone who is a natural people person with a strong sense of responsibility rates very highly nowadays.

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/  @cojanbanjuga

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/ @cojanbanjuga

PHOTO ESSAY - Vienna

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I really like the city of Vienna. I like its art, its music and its architecture. In short, I like the culture that Vienna represents. What really captures me is the period around 1900 - the time of Freud, Schnitzler and Klimt. This is the period in which the modern view of mind was born.
— Eric Kandel, neurobiologist, Nobel Prize-winner
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“Vienna wasn’t just a city, it was a tone that either one carries forever in one’s soul or one does not. It was the most beautiful thing in my life... Vienna in winter and spring. The allés in Schönbrunn... Morning ridings in the Prater. I remember all of it exactly, and I wanted to see it again...
— Sándor Márai, writer and journalist
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The streets of Vienna are paved with culture, the streets of other cities with asphalt.
— Karl Kraus, writer and journalist
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Vienna is a handsome, lively city, and pleases me exceedingly.
— Frederic Chopin, composer and virtuoso pianist
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Best day trip from Zagreb - lovely Ljubljana

Each of us has their own town, an hour or two away from the one we live in, to which we go once or twice every year. We go there to get a shot of inspiration, a taste of some design, a photography and a feeling that you have been far away. That you have crossed the border and maybe even taken passport with you.

So each of us knows the streets of that town, has their own place where the coffee is great, knows the slant of the sunrays on the main street in the golden hour. And when bags in which they are carrying the shopping done in those charming stores cut into their palms, they long for a couple of hours more to soak in or maybe hide, collect and file away everything that has happened that day.


9 am breakfast in Ek Bistro, a place that serves great breakfast in an unusual interior chock-full of great ideas, far from the hustle and bustle, a place reminiscent of student days in some country where we had been on student exchange.  Or on holiday. A place to ease your way into the day.

Ek bar Ljubljana Project We Travel.jpg
Ek bistro Ljubljana Project we Travel.jpg
Ek bistro Ljubljana Project We Travel.jpg

10:30 am coffee in Tozd. Tozd is the place to start or finish your day. The place for sunrises or sunsets. For tousled hair, sun glasses, sitting cross-legged on the floor, for ideas, for the gang, for parents who do not wish to grow old, for kids hanging around those un-old parents. A place to pause and stay. For a long time.

Tozd Ljubljana Project We Travel.jpg
Tozd Ljubljana Project We Travel.jpg
Tozd Ljubljana Project We Travel.jpg

At 1 pm I choose to have my lunch at Bazilika because it always reminds me that my life could be better and healthier. And that I should start right there and then, in the company of the great people running this restaurant.

Bazilika Ljubljana Project We Travel.jpg
Bazilika Ljubljana Project We Travel.jpg
Bazilika Ljubljana Project We Travel.jpg

2:30 pm a walk through Tivoli Park because one healthy turn deserves another. And besides, the park is close to Bazilika.

Park Tivoli Ljubljana Project We Travel.jpg
Park Tivoli Ljubljana Project We Travel.jpg

4 pm sweets in the Vigò pastry shop because that's what we always do in the lovely Ljubljana. We love the place. It is slightly touristy so we play the part although we know the town so well. And that's precisely why the ice cream there is just the way we like it.

Vigò Ice Cream Ljubljana photo

Vigò Ice Cream Ljubljana photo


4:45 pm coffee-to-go in Črno Zrno, a place with top-quality Colombian coffee and a place to have what seems to be our third coffee of the day. Because the owner is great and we can chat with him about coffee, people and the country. And because it closes at 5 pm.

Črno zrno photo

Črno zrno photo


5 pm shopping in Gud Shop for some more happiness, those little things that put a smile on your face and that we always keep close at hand. Or decorate our home with. Or ourselves.

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For more adventures from Slovenia read here.

What is Swedish fika?

Fika is “together time” over a coffee, tea and maybe a Swedish “bulle” or a cake. It’s taking time out, relaxing and chatting with friends, colleagues or family in a cafe, in the office or at home. I love fika <3
— Linda Hugod, Employer Branding Academy / @lindahugod

It's easy to get used to fika in Sweden. Fika (pronounced “fee-kah”) is a daily ritual that is mandatory for Swedes (and Scandinavians). More than just once a day.

Drop coffee Stockholm Project We Travel.jpg

Fika is much more than just a coffee break. Fika teaches us that we should take time out, chat with colleagues, friends or family members over a cup of coffee and nibble on something sweet like kanelbulle. Or if you prefer savory, smörgås - open-faced sandwich - might be more to your liking.

Fika does not include a laptop or scrolling down your cellphone, fika is about people, talking, laughing. When it is fika time, those who happen to be on fika may not answer your call. Because the now that we seek and wish to live in is happening right now and requires complete dedication.

People need to hang out to stay healthy. It would be strange if someone would refuse to go to “fika” with the people from their office... The job will always wait for you...
— Maja Tibinac / @majatibi
Pascal cafe interior Stockholm Project We Travel.jpg

I was thinking a lot about fika when I was in Stockholm, watching people having a fika. It was lovely to see them talking, smiling, with a cup of coffee in their hand. They were not always sitting down, those good looking Scandinavians were standing up more often than not and seemed to be immersed in the moment they were experiencing just then.

Fika means connecting. It is the most brilliant , tasy and relaxed way of building network, hanging out with friends or spotting some new ones. Fika is cup of coffee, cinnamon bun and love. It’s a way of saying - let’s get to know each other - for real.
— FRUKOST STOCKHOLM GUIDE / @frukoststockholm

My places in Stockholm for fika, taking a break, people, smiles, sweet and savory snacks, gentle atmosphere...

... for big decisions and first well told jokes, places for hellos and goodbyes, places where you ask for pastry recipes and place where you just quietly say "I'm happy" because that's what you really are, these places are...

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1.       Drop Coffee, Wollmar Yxkullsgatan 10, Stockholm (Metro: Mariatorget) 

Drop coffee Stockholm, Project We Travel.jpg
Drop coffee Stockholm, Project We Travel.jpg

2.       Pascal, Norrtullsgatan 4 (Metro: Odenplan)  &  Skånegatan 76 (M: Medborgarplatsen)

Pascal cafe details Stockholm Project We Travel.jpg
Pascal fika Stockholm Project We travel.jpg
Pascal cafe Stockholm Project We Travel.jpg

 3.       Kaffeverket, Sankt Eriksgatan 88 (M:  S:T ERIKSPLAN)

Kaffeverket coffee in Stockholm Project We Travel.jpg
Kaffeverket coffee in Stockholm, Project We Travel.jpg

Enjoy Zagreb Like a local - part II

Britanski square Zagreb
Britanski square Zagreb

As mentioned in my first post about Zagreb, my favorite coffee place in Zagreb, Cogito, is the place where I start my journey through my everyday life. Close to Cogito is the Britanski Square, which enjoys the reputation of the most Zagrebian of Zagreb squares. The older generations are appalled by what the place has become. But we younger people find some events, places and people that pique our interest. We will happily stroll around this square on a Sunday. From early morning antique dealers start converging here, or rather, those who are reselling the content of their cupboards for which we won't get the price we'd like. Because they are merciless. And they know they will find the right customer somewhere among the stalls.

Up the hill from Britanac is where the quiet zone begins, the zone of happiness and first kisses of high school kids. Rokov perivoj and its little park provide a backdrop of old houses in which I would like to take that cup of coffee I was writing about. The third one that day. I wouldn't be loath to knock on your door and say, I've just come over to see how you live so that I won't ever again have to regret passing by your house without ringing the bell. But I never do. I just enjoy looking.

Zagreb Rokov perivoj
Zagreb Rokov perivoj

You can climb down from Rokov perivoj on two sides, one of which will literally drop you into a street full of beautiful men and women, gorgeous shop windows and the stories behind them.

I don't feel like going there today. I'm more interested in how you will react when you see what is above Rokov perivoj. I suggest you to walk over to the Museum of Architecture. Or rather, its building. The courtyard hidden behind it. Don't go there on weekends because for some reason it's not open then. Surprise them during the week. They will be glad to see you. 

Museum of architecture Zagreb

From the museum there are several ways to reach the center, the tourist mecca of Gornji Grad. Mine is the way you will end up telling about to your friends. The other is easily forgettable. Nothing wrong with it. It's just that is doesn't have the same effect.

It will take you 10 minutes to get here and another 10 minutes to reach the center. The locals don't really go here. Not unless it's on their way.

Academy of Fine Arts Zagreb

But true Zagrebians know this street and this part of the city. Its name is Jabukovac and it makes you think of the Jabuka club, the Arts Academy, sculptures in the forest and nice houses. I am certain most of the people in Zagreb had at least once (or even regularly) ended up in the Jabuka club. The club that has been torn down, a cult club where the 70-year olds of today used party hard in their 20-ies, collecting stories they now talk about while playing chess on Britanac. What a club that was! I too went to Jabuka (who didn't!) on more than one occasion! It is unbelievable how well I remember every single thing.

On Jabukovac you will also experience the rebellious spirit of the Jabuka bunch when you stroll around the Arts Academy and see what new things the students threw out. Into the yard. Because they don't need them anymore. Perhaps you will want to take something with you? Or maybe simply touch those textures they have been playing around with.

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Academy of Fine Arts Zagreb

The Academy is surrounded by a park that is home to some of the sculptures by these young talents. Climb up because everybody does. Nothing will happen.

Academy of Fine Arts Zagreb
Academy of Fine Arts Zagreb

And yes... By all means, lean against one of Academy's windows. And just peak in like a kid... Keep peaking and let yourself feel.

Academy of Fine Arts Zagreb

And after this story go get a dose of Zagreb from your brochures. Don't let me drag you along one place or another that will stick in your memory. I might shake loose too many emotions. Raise too many questions... And the next thing you know, you will be sending e-mails, writing in, asking for explanations.

Climb up to Gornji Grad to experience history, take a picture, take in the view of the city. Go shiver all over at noon when you hear the cannon from Grič. Go get a story too. Because we have some great stories from Gornji Grad. Especially those by our great writer Marija Jurić Zagorka who lets her characters inhabit precisely this part of town. Her works have not been translated into any language, a sad fact. But you can catch one of the shows in English and Croatian from The Secrets of Grič, a project that takes you through the back alleys of Gornji Grad. Zagorka herself will take you there. Mostly in summer. Walking alongside her, you will find yourself immersed in a world from the early 20th century. 

Upper town Zagreb
Upper town Zagreb
Upper town Zagreb
Upper town Zagreb

My Zagreb is slightly different, but it is mine. And when we lose each other, he and I, we meet up on Gornji Grad or in Rokov perivoj and realize that we are still here, for each other.

Photo by Sanja Bistričić

Photo by Sanja Bistričić

Upper town Zagreb
Upper town Zagreb