Favorite thing: Wonderful as the water is in Croatia, some of the beaches are little more than concrete platforms over the water and others are very narrow. For someone coming, as I do, from a place where the beaches are wide stretches of pure white sand, these places hardly qualify as beaches at all. However, lots of them have what I would love to see here at home ... cafes right on the beach. Simple, a few tables and chairs under an awning or shady trees, somewhere you can get a beer or a coffee, where parents can watch their children playing just a few feet away from them, where you can sit in a chair (good for creaky joints) and relax by the water, stay for dinner if you like. We have have beautiful cafes at our beaches with balconies and terraces but none of them are actually down on the shore - and it's just not quite the same
The Adriatic sea was important trade route for thousands of years, due to it's location and specific attributes of coastline and numerous islands. Archaeological finds in the sea are rich and great source of information for archaeologists and historians. Unfortunately, many locations were robbed and destroyed by tourists and fishermen's nets.
Issa (today island Vis) was the largest Greek settlement in Croatia, mentioned for the first time in 4th century B.C. It was very important trade center, and they were famous for their wines that were appreciated by rulers of ancient Greece and later of Roman Empire.
Archaeological Museum Vis
Croatia is a central European Mediterranean country, which borders with Slovenia in the west, Hungary in the north, Serbia & Montenegro in the east, Bosnia & Hercegovina in the south & Italy in the west (maritime border).
Croatia has a strange shape [of a croissant, let's say], like no other country in the world, which comes as a result of five centuries of expansion by the Ottoman empire towards Central Europe - although Croatia was never conquered by the Turks - we stopped them near the city of Sisak! :)
Croatia has been independent since Jun 25th 1991 (from Yugoslavia), which is also its National holiday. Croatia is not yet a member of the European Union (the EU border is Slovenia), but is an official candidate since Jun 2004.
Croatia has about 4,5 million inhabitants (2001 est.) & the capital Zagreb has around a million [although it sometimes feels like ten ;)]. Croatia is orientated towards tourism & that's mainly, and I repeat, mainly because we have a beautiful coast!
There are many other things, of course, but Croatia is characteristic for its huge diversity, considering the rather small geographical area. There are big differences between the southern & the northern; coastal & continental regions, which include culture, geography, customs & even language! When you drive from Zagreb to Rijeka (it takes about 80 minutes by car by the new highway) you start in a valley, then go up to 2000 m high mountains & enjoy the view overlooking the coastal part. If you drive a bit more (e.g. Istria) you'll pass the heart of the peninsula filled with tiny cities situated on hills (absolutely fabulous!) where you'll see all the signs in Italian (since Italian is the second official language - besides Croatian).
Croatia has eight national parks: Brijuni islands, Risnjak mountain, Paklenica canyon, Kornati islands, Plitvice lakes (Plitvicka jezera), the island of Mljet, Krka waterfalls & Northern Velebit (added recently).
Ask anyone in Australia what is the archetypal Aussie cake - the answer is bound to be a lamington. A square of sponge cake, rolled in chocolate sauce and coconut, you find them all over the country. I never expected to find them in Croatia!
Years of immigration have seen the introduction of a wonderful variety to food in Australia - what we eat and the way we cook it. I guess this is just a little reciprocation. I'd love to know who it was who turned the tables and took this little bit of Oz back to the old country. There they were though, in bakers everywhere, as Aussie as vegemite, lamingtons! I'm not so sure that it's been a fair trade.
- Croatia controls most land routes from Western Europe to the Aegean Sea & Turkish Straits, so the roads are quite OK [new highways also being built...]
- although the literacy in Croatia, considering total population, is 98.5% (2003 est.), unfortunately not so many people speak English
- the conventional long name form is Republic of Croatia, the conventional short form is Croatia; the local long form is Republika Hrvatska & the local short form is Hrvatska
- the age limit is 18
- the currency is kuna (HRK)
- telephones: main lines in use: 1.825 million (2002); mobile cellular: 2.34 million (2002) [tending to grow because of the three new providers, two of them fixed & one mobile]
- Internet country code: .hr
- Internet hosts: 29,644 (2002); Internet users: 789,000 (2002)
- railways: total: 2,296 km [983 km electrified] (2002)
- highways: total: 28,123 km, paved: 23,792 km [including 410 km of expressways]
- ports & harbors: Rijeka, Dubrovnik, Dugi Rat, Omisalj, Ploce, Pula, Sibenik, Split, Vukovar (inland waterway port on Danube), Zadar aso.
- airports: 68 (2003 est.); the biggest one is Pleso, Zagreb [17 km from the city center; daily busses by Croatia Airlines]
- visas: Citizens of Australia, Canada, Ireland, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, the UK, the USA & most continental European countries can enter Croatia for stays of up to 90 days without a visa; however visitors must hold a return / onward ticket, all documents required for next destination & sufficient funds
- time zone: GMT / UTC +1 [Central European Time (Rome, Stockholm, Berlin, Paris etc.)]
- dialing code: 385
- electricity: 220-240V, 50Hz
- weights & measures: metric
The Adriatic coast or Jadran, as we call it in Croatian, is one of the warmest, saltiest & the most rugged coast in the world. The stretches on for 5835 km (4057 km of which belongs to islands, cliffs & reefs), including 1185 islands - therefore also called the country of a thousand islands - most of them too small to be inhabited, but when combined together (like NP Kornati), they make a wonderful combination! The biggest islands are Krk, Cres, Brac, Hvar, Pag, Korcula, Dugi Otok, Mljet, Rab, Vis & Kornati.
The forest & mountain region of Gorski Kotar is the perfect destination for nature lovers. The whole northern part of Velebit mountain is UNESCO heritage & a wildlife resort. You're passing it on your way to the sea-side, so take your time & take a look.
There are many more natural locations that are protected (around 300), some of them close to urban areas (like the mountain Medvednica north of Zagreb - you can't really miss it...) & some close to transport routes definitely worth seeing!
The central part of Croatia has its main interest in sacred objects, museums & castles: Trakoscan castle, Veliki Tabor, Varazdin, Kumrovec, the Upper City in Zagreb, the cathedrals in Zagreb, Osijek, Djakovo a.s.o. The rural Zagorje is filled with charming villages where wild life seems to outnumber human beings & the hills are crowned with romantic castles surrounded by vineyards, amazing panoramic views & endless possibilities for rambling.
"The Inland region of Croatia is dotted by small wooded hills with churches, romantic castles, crystal clear streams & lush vineyards. After the Loire Valley, this region has the highest concentration of castles in Europe. The Croatian inland offers peace, unmatched scenery, tasty local specialties & great wines of the region."
The origin of every American grapes but one has long ago been established. All have all their roots in Europe. Californian legendary Zinfandel was for many years a mystery grape. Some considered it might be the only native grape to America as it is not found elsewhere than in California. A few years ago (1995), Dr. Carole Meredith, a professor and geneticist at the University of California at Davis showed that Zinfandel was close to the Croatian Plavac mali (that gives various wines : Dingac, Postup, Zlatan Plavac, Viski Plavac) and to the Italian Primitivo, cultivated in the Puglia for less than 150 years.
More recently, an extensive survey, using DNA profiling, has been performed on a several year program aimed at the identification and preservation of the genetic patrimony of Croatian vines by Dr. Carole Meredith with 2 researchers at the University of Zagreb, Ivan Pejic and Edi Maletic. They worked on several hundreds of Croatian vines.
In 2003, they have definitely established that Crljenak Kastelanski, another Croatian grape spotted in Kastela, was the same than Zinfandel and Primitivo and that Plavac mali was a "son of Crljenak Kastelanski/Zinfandel/Primitivo", a cross between Crljenak and Dobricic, another rare Dalmatian grape. Neither Crljenak Kastelanski nor Dobricic are cultivated on a large scale.
Mike Grgich, one of California's best-known winemakers, immigrated from Croatia in the 1950s, had always believed Zinfandel was the same as Plavac mali. The first time I tasted Zinfandel in California, that immediatly reminded me of the Dingac I had tasted a few month earlier in Croatia, but as I knew that the origin of Zinfandel had remained a mystery for more than a century, though the greatest specialists had worked on it, I thought "they taste alike because of the sun and that's all!" I was really amazed when, later, I learned that they were actually so closely related. I strongly recommand to those who have the opportunity, to taste Zinfandel vs Dingac
Wine was produced in Croatia even before the Roman times. The four main wine regions produce 620 kinds of wine from 54 grape types. These regions are Dalmatia, Istria, Slavonia and Zagorje, inland Croatia. The first three, on the Adriatic coast, produce primarily red wines and a few whites. Inland Croatia produces primarily white wines.
The islands of Hvar and Korcula in the Adriatic are well-known for their wine production. Korcula produces Croatia’s most famous white wine, the Prosip. The Peljesac peninsula produces Croatia's most famous red wine; the Dingac.
I will mention only the most important wines. Among whites : Pinot bijeli, Pocip, Malvazija, Vodnjan, Grasevina, Rizling. Among reds : Teran, Postup, Plavac, Dingac The name of the wine will often be followed by the name of the region where the grapes were grown : Zlatan Plavac, Viski Plavac, etc… All these wines are very tasty and worth trying. The whites are always rather sweet, even those labeled as dry (plenty of sun !). If you like sweet white wine, it's for you. If you prefer real dry whites, switch to the reds. The reds are wonderful, with great bodies and they are very colorful. Dingac is definitely the best and a must taste. It is extremely distinct, with an harmonious flavor and a sumptuous bouquet, tinged with the fine aroma. Caution, expensive and strong in alcohol ! Avoid driving after drinking Dingac !
Favorite thing: While in Zabreb, I was warmly welcomed by VTers Boris (croisbeauty) and Niksa (diocletianvs). They were not only knowledgeable and extremely helpful with logistical things, they were also enthusiastic about telling me all about their country. Another VTer, Zdenka (Nykaenen) is also a great guide, but unfortunately for me she was showing two Finnish friends around town and was unable to hang out with us. I did, however, meet her briefly as we ran into them on the street one afternoon.
I had too many words... so I had to put another tip for Korcula...
Fondest memory: Korcula
Since we are driving, Korcula island is not big. In October, the main sights on Korcula will be Korcula town. It looks like a typical Dalmatian town. We spent 8 hours on the island and it got a bit bored. The shops and cafes seems to close in the afternoon and open again in the late evening. Hence, we drove to a sandy beach and park there and sleep in the car. :-)
We had our dinner at a restuarant recommended in Lonely Planet. Not a fantastic meal though. The fish soup is like putting some fish stock and add hot water and served in a small bowl. It is the most expensive and not worth the money.
After dinner, we parked our car in the queue for the ferry. Finally, the long-awaited ferry arrived and I had a nerve-wrecking drive up the ferry (more in my transportation tip). We had to find some where to sleep in the deck as all the cabins were fully booked. We did not have much luck in getting a seat since there are many backpackers putting their bags on the seat to book the seats. We had better luck when the ferry arrived at Hvar where many people alight. :-)
Day 8: Korcula - Rijeka
We had some rest on the comfy sofa in the deck and woke up just in time for the sun rise. Sun rise was beautiful.
We arrived at Rijeka at about 1.30pm. We drove out of Rijeka city towards Slovenia.
We went to Postogna Jama and were very impressed by the massive structures in the huge cave. I love Slovenia and will go there again.
I have not got enough space, hence I gotta add another tip for Sibenik.
Fondest memory: Sibenik
I like Sibenik. When we arrived there, it is in the late afternoon. It is a beautiful town by the Adriatic coast. The town is beautifully lit up at night and the streets get quite crowded. Sunset at Sibenik is beautiful and romantic, especially along the coast.
After the sun has set, we started to drive down South. We found a zimmer and stayed in a small town before Trogir for Eur22 for an apartment with a kitchen plus a fantastic view of the adriatic sea. We took a lot of pictures the next morning during the beautiful sun rise.
Day 1: Trieste - Opatija
I met my sister travelling from Munich at Trieste airport. We got the rented car, dumped all our luggages, and head down to Opatija. I have read that accommodation in Rijeka are relatively expensive, hence we decided to spend the night at Opatija. There are many "sobe", "zimmer" around. It was easy to find accommodation and we stayed in one that is near the town center for Euro22 for the two of us. We found a restaurant with sea view for dinner. Opatija has a few casinos. It feels like a town with passing by tourists because there are not many people on the streets when we arrived at about 6pm. When we were enjoying our dinner, we saw many coaches arriving, perhaps after a day trip somewhere and the town started to get more lively by 8pm. Perhaps because of the abundance of accommodation here, Opatija was only a base for tourists that make trips to the surrounding places.
Day 2: Opatija - Krk Island - Otocac
We walked around the town center of Opatija, where the interesting and crowded morning market is. The market seems like a meeting place for many locals too.
After the shopping and photo taking at the colourful market, we went to Krk Island and visited Krk town first.
Krk town is a touristy town with lots of coaches. It is a small beautiful town though.
After reading the Lonely Planet, we decided to get to Vrbnik for lunch in Restaurant Nada. It is recommended in Lonely Planet that the seafood there is great. We had grilled calamarie, fish soup, seafood pasta, and a glass of wine. The meal was excellent. On the island, we visited Baska briefly.
Then we started to head towards Plitvice National Park. Along the way, we passed by many abandoned or half built houses. It is quite sad to see the numerous holes on the walls which I think are from gun shots. We did not manage to reach Plitvice National Park for the night. Hence, we stopped at Otocac, and found a "zimmer" for Eur20 for both of us.
The town seems to be very badly attacked during the war as there are many buildings, including hotels that have holes from gun shots on the wall. It is not a busy town, but there are lots of "zimmer".
Day 3: Plitvice National Park - Zadar
We started our journey early in the morning at 7am to the national park and parked our car at the second entrance. For a morning fix of coffee, we enjoyed a cuppa espresso at the cafe at the entrance to the park.
Fondest memory: The tourist routes and plan for seeing the national park is very well organised. I am impressed and have enjoyed my visit there very much. It is a national park full of beauty of lakes and waterfalls. We spent 7 hours in the park following the recommended routes with many stops for photo taking, and we took lots of pictures. The walk was easy as most walking route were on wooden planks. I hope they are not having deforestation at the park for those planks. The routes were well sign posted. We followed the red route - the longest route to tour around the National Park. This is the first National Park that I have seen that still maintain the beautiful natural landscape and very well organised for tourists to explore.
Oh yes, we found the place where many people took the most beautiful pictures of the National Park showing the 7 lakes. That was the picture that has drawn my attention to Plitvice National Park. Due to space constraint, I did not upload the picture here. You can have a look at bkoon's travelogue in her Croatia page for the beautiful landscape of Plitvice National Park (Click here). To get to the position for the most beautiful view, I find it quite a dangerous spot, not for those scared of height though. At the spot, if not careful, one might fall right down the cliff. I just sat there and took some pictures, enjoy the scenery and amazed that nature can be so beautiful.
Memories of the beautiful colours of the autumm, waterfall with rainbows, colourful lakes...
We didn't stay here but we entered several times. We had a couple of drinks in the lobby as we were...more
We stayed here from 30 Dec 2011 to 1 January 2012. This is truly an excellent hotel. Staff and...more
The guide told us it was situated so close to the center that we could walk back there, but the bus...more
More Regions in Croatia