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Danijela Knezevic & Tony Polzer (Tony da Roma)
As Joshua Levine said in his article The Next Riviera, "Who needs France? Croatia's sun is warm, its seas azure, its hills scented with rosemary and its real estate cheap."
Full of natural beauty and rich with history, Croatia offers something for everyone. It has a very good way of making up for its size (only 89,810 square km) with its beauty, so you can easily spend a lot of time exploring nature (8 national parks, 10 nature resorts and 1,185 islands) as well as its' old buildings which are hiding in almost every town.
As early as 400 BC, Greece had colonized islands in the Adriatic Sea and the Romans had the east coast under their rule. To this day we can still find traces of both of their cultures.
Since 600 AD, when the first tribe of Croats inhabited this area, they were never independent. In 1102, after a short period of 500 years of Croatian kings, the continental region of Croatia entered a union with Hungary. Until 1918 (fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) Croatia was fighting to be a full partner rather than a colony (which it never was) in this empire.
At the same time the coastal region of Croatia was under Venetian rule, while the Republic of Dubrovnik was the only independent part of Croatia. In 1815, after Napoleon had already managed to put a stop to Venetian rule and to the Dubrovnik independence, almost the entire territory of Croatia fell to the Habsburg Monarchy.
It wasn't until 1847 that Croatia won the fight to change the official language from Latin to Croatian. In 1918 Croatia became a part of the Kingdom of Serbians, Croats and Slovenians, which later changed its name to Yugoslavia, within which Croatia was a Republic.
Yugoslavia was under communist rule and we all know what that means - "everything belongs to everyone" (yeah, right!!!). Not to go into details of the problems that existed at that time, but Croatia was exploited and all of its resources and riches were exported. In addition, it stayed extremely underdeveloped and much neglected. No need to say that the people were not too happy about that and when it decided to split from Yugoslavia in 1991, war broke out. A lot of its heritage was destroyed, the economy collapsed and there was a big problem with refugees.
Croatia finally regained its independence in 1992, but its territory was not fully united until 1998 and today it is still recovering from all the damage the war caused. Its current effort is to enter the EU (European Union). This would mean the end of long struggle for its independence and a final acceptance in the society of Western Europe where it feels it belongs.
Under Roman, Greek, Venetian, Hungarian, Austrian, and Turkish rule, Croatian culture and language was influenced and slowly changed. Therefore, it has very rich heritage of old buildings, historic documents and traditions.
Croatia is divided into 3 geographic areas: Pannonia (meadow area), Lika and Gorski Kotar (mountain area) and Adriatic Sea (coastal area).
In the east and north-west, hot summers and cold winters are the norm. In the mountain area the summers are mild and the winters are very cold. Lastly, the coast has mild winters and hot summers. The Adriatic coast, with about 110 sunny days in the year, is the sunniest coast in Mediterranean with sea temperatures averaging 25˚C - 27˚C in the summer.
To Croatia by Air
German Wings flies direct from Cologne to Zagreb and Split. Other cheap airlines fly to Italy, Austria, Hungary and Slovenia from which you can take a bus, train or ferry to Croatia.
German Wings: www.germanwings.com
Ryan Air: www.ryanair.com
Sky Europe: www.skyeurope.com
To Croatia by Bus
Trieste bus terminal: 800 915303 or +39 040 425020
Buses depart from the main bus terminal in Trieste, situated in Piazza della Liberta 11 (next to the main railway station).
1. Trieste - Opatija - Rijeka (total 2 - 2.5 hours)
2. Padova - Venice (P.le Roma) - Mestre - Palmanova - Trieste - Rovinj
- Vodnjan - Pula (total 6 hours)
3. Trieste - Buje - Pula (total 3 hours)
4. Trieste - Buje - Poreč - Rovinj - Pula (total 4 hours)
5. Trieste - Zagreb (total 4 hours)
Main bus terminal for Zagreb: +385(0)60313333
To Croatia by Train
You can check any train schedule on: www.hznet.hr
To Croatia by Ferry
There are several charter companies that connect the Italian and Croatian coasts:
C/F Azzura: www.agestea.com/azzurra_ita.htm
SEM Marina: www.sem.hr
Venezia Lines: www.venezialines.com
Croatian currency: Kuna (100 Lipas)
Bills: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000
Coins: 0.01, 0.02, 0.05, 0.10, 0.20, 0.50, 1, 2, 5, 25
Click for the Slow Travel Currency Converter.
Domestic currency can be exported only up to 2000 KN, but foreign currencies can be imported and exported with no limits.
Credit cards (Visa, Euro Card - Master Card, American Express, Diners Club, Maestro...) are accepted almost everywhere.
If you need to exchange money the best way is to use ATM machines because they give you the best rates at the moment of exchange and they charge you a fee which your home bank charges you. At the same time you are avoiding risk of carrying cash.
If you prefer exchange offices you can easily find them. Most of the exchange offices don't charge an exchange fee. However, during high season that may vary from place to place so make sure to check that they are not ripping you off and take your receipt.
Zagreb is a great example that history can be combined with modern life.
After almost 1000 years, Zagreb has developed into a modern city which offers
good quality shops, restaurants, recreation and sport facilities, but still
shows its history via historical monuments, galleries and museums.
National Park: Plitvička jezera (Plitvice lakes)
Sixteen little lakes connected with fabulous waterfalls, rich forests,
several caves, springs, flower meadows, and numerous animal species are just
some of the reasons that make this heavenly place a UNESCO World Natural Heritage
Some people call it "Little Rome" because of its style and architecture,
but there is much more to Pula than that. Yes, there is a Roman amphitheatre
(which is much better preserved than the more famous Colosseum) and yes, walking
down the streets you can see a big influence of Italian culture, but there
are artifacts that show that Pula might have originated before the Roman era.
Pula could possibly be 3,000 years old. That alone proves that Pula is full
of history and amazing monuments to captivate anyone's mind.
National Park: Brijuni
Brijuni is a group of two large and twelve small islands protected as a
national park. The entire archipelago is an amazing botanical garden with
thousands of different plants and a little safari park. It is not famous just
for its natural beauty, but for its historical value as well. There are several
dinosaur footprints embedded in rocks on the islands, and there are numerous
ruins from different eras in history. It had been closed to the public for
a long time as the former presidents liked to keep it as their summer residence.
Rovinj was originally an island, but in the 18th century the canal that
was separating it from the mainland filled in with earth. It is a small picturesque
ancient town which makes you fall in love with its narrow, cobbled streets
and stone houses.
Motovun is an extremely small, but amazing town surrounded by city walls
in the form of one full ring and two half-rings. Looking down from the city
walls, as far as the eye can reach, you can see vineyards and Motovun Forest.
Where one just might find a truffle. If you have time for a day trip this
little town is something you should put on your "must see list".
Kvarner and Highlands
Because of its central position and easy access, Rijeka has developed to
be the most important port in Croatia as well as the center for business tourism.
Therefore, it should be avoided by nature lovers!!! It is a city to see, but
not a place to spend your vacation at.
National Park: Risnjak
Risnjak was named after its famous inhabitant the lynx (in Croatian called
RIS). In this incredibly small area it houses numerous types of forests as
well as plant and animal species that make it a perfect place for hiking.
National Park: North Velebit
The most beautiful mountain in Croatia became a national park only in 1999.
Every nature lover can enjoy fabulous mountain forms, botanical gardens and
one of the longest caves in the world.
Since the beginning of the 19th century, Opatija has been a town with a
long history in tourism. At the time it was the favorite place for vacation
for the aristocracy and till this day it is still considered a high-end place.
Due to this standard, it offers high-level entertainment as well: International
Yachting Regatta, the Opatija Yachting Cup, Porin (Croatian music award) and
it also holds numerous business conventions.
Zadar has something to offer to everyone who visits. Its rich history has
left marks in the architecture and ambience of this beautiful city. While
at the same time, it still boasts a very modern way of life. The Church of
St. Donat, together with numerous museums tell the story of this old city.
Not to be missed are the cafes where one can people watch.
This city is the location of the smallest cathedral in the world (Church of the Holy Cross). Outside of its historical and archeological importance, it also amazes its visitors with natural beauty. Its sea is very shallow and salty which lends way to extremely clean and clear water. The city is surrounded by several lagoons and its connections to the mainland via bridges make it just a spectacular site. It is well known for health tourism because it has the largest deposits of medical mud on the Adriatic Coast.
National Park: Paklenica
In this relatively small area there are several climate zones with rich
flora and fauna. The most impressive sights are the two magnificent canyons
of Velika and Mala Paklenica which are vertically cutting into the mountain.
Surprisingly, this is almost the only city in this area that wasn't founded
by the Greeks or the Romans, which makes it the oldest Slavic city on the
Croatian coast. The symbol of Sibenik is the amazing cathedral of St. James
built in the 15th century. It was designed by Italian architects, but finished
by Croatian sculptor Juraj Dalmatinac.
National Park: Kornati Islands
George Bernard Shaw once said: "On the last day of Creation God desired
to crown His work, and thus created the Kornati islands out of tears, stars
and breath." The Kornati archipelago is made of 140 islands in a 300km2 area
(114 square miles). It is filled with beautiful little coves and surrounded
by crystal clear water.
National Park: Krka
Krka is a river which flows through different kinds of soil creating very
narrow and deep canyons, while also flowing over travertine barriers that
create fascinating waterfalls. The most visited are two 10 meter high waterfalls:
Skradinski Buk and Manojlovac, which used to be used for hydroelectric power.
Knin is one of the proudest towns of Croatia, as it was once the throne of the Croatian Kings. Today it commemorates the victory of the recent war (liberated in 1995). The symbol of the town is non-mistakably the Knin fortress, which rises above the centre of the town to offer a magnificent view.
The second biggest city in Croatia with over 1700-years of history also
makes it onto the UNESCO World Heritage List. The most famous of its monuments
is without a doubt Diocletian's Palace. It is spectacular to see how this
city was built inside of, on top off, and around this massive palace. While
there, don't miss a little hike up to the Marjan Forest Park which has the
most beautiful view of Split and islands close to it. These two items alone
would be worth the visit, but Split doesn't stop there. It has a lot to offer
and it would be a shame not to see it.
Trogir is another UNESCO world heritage site. It was founded by the Greeks
in the 3rd century BC, and over time it was ruled by Rome, Venice, and Austria;
all of which left their fingerprints on its architecture. We can still see
the city walls, city gate and a cathedral which all date to the 13th - 14th
The most famous thing in this area, from the ancient times till today, is the Brač stone which was used to build a lot of major buildings around the world (including the White House in Washington D.C.).
But, don't think that Brac is a big chunk of stone! It is also famous for its agricultural products such as figs, nectarines, olive oil and wine.
In addition, it has the most famous and beautiful beach in Croatia. Zlatni
Rat is the only beach in the world that stretches vertically from the coast
and its tip is always changing form from one side to another due to winds
If you visit Hvar remember that its hoteliers are so proud of their beautiful
weather that if it rains for more than four hours a day you get a discount
for your stay, and if it snows your stay for that day is free of charge! No
need to say that it is one of the islands with the largest number of sunny
days in the year which (except for attracting tourists) also helps the growth
of lavender, rosemary, sage and marjoram.
Dubrovnik is another one of the Croatian riches that has been included on the List of World Heritage Cities by UNESCO and it is one of the most attractive cities in this part of Europe. Dubrovnik has a very rich and impressive history. Although it is very small, it stood alone and held its independence for 700 years until Napoleon abolished it in 1806. It had great relations with Turkey, India and Africa, and in the middle ages it even had diplomatic relations with the English court!
Often called a jewel of Croatian heritage, Dubrovnik was built as a fortress
and behind its walls there are narrow streets, tiny squares and beautiful
monuments. Do not miss it!!!
Main places to visit on this island are the towns Korcula, Vela Luka and
Lumbarda which are small but very charming towns full of tradition and every
day life. One of the most interesting attractions for tourists is the fisherman
singing folk songs in the evening hours. An interesting fact (not too many
people are aware of) is that Marco Polo, the famous adventurer, was born in
Korčula and his house is still preserved
National Park: Island of Mljet
Mljet is another extraordinary island which is characterized by two big
salt water lakes whose level is actually above the sea level (the Great Lake
and the Small Lake). It is for sure one of the most impressive sites.
Important numbers and addresses
Croatian National Tourist Office, UK
Croatian National Tourist Office, USA
Croatian National Tourist Office, Zagreb
Croatian National Tourist Office, Vienna
Croatian National Tourist Office, Frankfurt
Croatian National Tourist Office, Paris
Croatian National Tourist Office, Rome
Croatian National Tourist Office, Milan
Croatian National Tourist Office, Netherlands
Croatian National Tourist Office, Brussels
British Embassy, Zagreb
US Embassy, Zagreb
British Consulate, Split
British Consulate, Dubrovnik
© Danijela Knezevic & Tony Polzer, 2004
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