When you visit Croatia, it’s “Dobra Došla!”. That means “Welcome!” – to the middle of the European world.
Croatia is sandwiched between classical Western Europe (London-Paris-Rome) and the intriguing East (Turkey, Greece and Russia). With warm, temperate seas and an ideal climate – not too humid, not too dry – it has the advantage of lying between the Alps and the Mediterranean Sea. Easily accessible and economically affordable, it is one of the world’s best kept secrets and hottest vacation spots in all of Europe.
Many expect to see women clad with veils, but that is a rarity here in Croatia. Predominantly Roman Catholic, it is dotted with ancient churches, many as old as the 5th century, as well as castle fortresses. Generally speaking, Croatia is a cultural and architectural feast for the eyes.
In Rijeka, the Italian influence is very acute, and in fact, its neighbor Trieste was originally located in Croatia. There, you can expect to dine on a plate of risotto with a glass of white wine near a lovely balcony decorated with picturesque Venetian windows. The Byzantine influence can be found on the Istrian Peninsula in Poreć. In the southern Metropolis of Split, lies the last great example in the world of the Late Ancient architectural style at the Diocletian’s palace, built in 304 A.D., a UNESCO protected treasure. There, you will enjoy the wonderful seaside delicacies like fresh fish on the grill, world famous wine and dark green salad greens, olive oil ….
To the south, the situation gets blurry. Croatia once extended well into Bosnia but after many wars, the territory is smaller. As you approach the proud Herzegovina border there are many Croatian built sites. The food becomes more Turkish / Middle Eastern with dark Turkish brewed coffee, baklava, spicy meat sandwiches in a pita bread called čevapčiče (cheh-vap-chit-chay).
In the north, the Austro-Hungarian influence can be readily felt, particularly in the gothic city of Zagreb, its capital. Heartier food is eaten in the north, followed by one of many Austrian pastries, a lovely treat after a night at the opera or a visit to Vatroslav Lisinski Hall, home to many concerts. The baked cheese strukli is made of fresh cheese and hard to resist! Home to a million plus residents, it’s bustling with industry, trend and up to the minute services as the entire country prepares for imminent EU membership later this year (2013).
When you get off the plane, you will feel the amazing hospitality here. Croatians are proud of their unique culture, which is a mish-mash of Slavic, Germanic, and the native Illyric peoples. The Illyrics were not unlike the American Indians. Each tribe had its customs and specializations, such as hunting, building, sea navigation, crafts, etc.
They were here before the Greeks and Romans arrived. The Emperor Diocletian was one of these people, and is known for being the only Roman Emperor to have survived his reign. He died a natural death in the palace at age 68 after a legendary 20 year tenure with a four man team of rulers, including the father of Constantine the Great who was also named Constantine. This type of delegative government was known as the tetrarchy.
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