Top Facts on Croatia
CROATIA, what you need to know:
Geographic and basic info:
- Croatia is located on the Balkan Peninsula, next to the Adriatic Sea and it is the 20th country with the longest coastline. It is over 4,050 km long making it 31.479 km2 of coastal waters for sailing, swimming and diving. The coastal area consists of 1,246 islets and islands.
- The capital of Croatia is Zagreb, located in the north central part of the country and is the most populated city. There are roughly 1.2 million people that live there out of 4.5 million in total.
- Croatia has a population of over 4 million people. However, people believe that there are more people of Croatian descent living outside of the country – over half of them in the United States.
- The third largest Croatian island, Brač, offers a unique combination of beautiful pine forests and white sandy beaches. There are several resorts on the island as well as incredible hiking trails. The view from Vidova Gora is the highest spot on the island and is unforgettable.
- Zlatni Rat beach is very unique in way that it actually changes its shape and color, depending on the strength and direction of the wind.
- Galešnjak island (Lovers’ Island) is a private and uninhabited small island that contains only wild plants and trees and untouched beaches of the azure-blue Adriatic Sea, making it a great spot for couples in love. The island has become a major tourist destination after its perfect heart-shape was discovered on Google Earth in 2009. It is located in the Pašman channel, between the islands of Pašman and the town of Turanj. It is one of few naturally made heart-shaped objects in the world. The island has a surface area of 0.132 km2, with its beach measuring 1.55 km in length. The island features two peaks, the highest of which is 36 m high above sea level.
Facts about nature and animals:
- The beautiful spotted Dalmatian dog is famous for its relationship with firefighters. However over the years, Dalmatians have been faithful companions to humans in many ways – serving as war dogs, herders, hunters, entertainers, and coach dogs. The lineage of this intelligent and noble dog is steeped in mystery, but the Dalmatian breed can be solidly traced to the Dalmatia region of Croatia.
- If you want to observe the last of the Griffon Vultures, you must travel to the island of Cres, in Croatia. It is the last known colony of these Old World birds of prey.
- Croatia puts a premium on its rich natural beauty and protects it to the point that 10% of the entire country is part of either one of 2 nature reserves, one of 8 national parks (one of which has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site), or one of 11 nature parks.
- Among the many islands of Croatia, the Kornati National Park offers a one-of-a-kind experience as visitors sail around and between more than 80 islets scattered throughout the park. Although most of the islets are uninhabited, there are a few preserved stone cottages which serve as seasonal seafood restaurants. Visitors to the park can either charter a sailboat in Biograd-na-Moru or hop an excursion boat in Zadar or Šibenik.
- Plitvice National Park is one of the most visited sites of inland Croatia and most visited national park in the country. This beautifully preserved piece of nature includes 16 lakes, numerous waterfalls, easily-accessible footpaths and bridges, and an opportunity to see some spectacular wildlife such as eagles, bears, owls, and wolves. The price of admission includes boat rides to get you across the lakes.
- Blue Cave, Biševo - A small and sparsely populated island close to Vis, Biševo contains one of Croatia’s most striking and unusual natural wonders. In the summer, it attracts daily boat trips, particularly from the nearby resort of Komiža. Accessible only by sea, the Blue Cave of Biševo is a limestone grotto with an underwater opening that lets in the sun’s light as noon approaches. The effect lasts for two hours, with beams shooting through the water to bathe the cave in an azure light. Visitors plunge into the waters for the full experience. Tours usually involve a picnic lunch at a nearby beach.
Fun and interesting facts:
- Croatia is one of the filming locations for the popular HBO program “Game of Thrones”. Filming locations include the beautiful walled medieval city of Dubrovnik, the island of Lokrum, St. Jacob’s Cathedral in Šibenik, and the Krka National Park. Thanks to its historical beauty, cobbled roads, ancient buildings and welcoming locals, the city is now Hollywood’s newest filming location of choice. Dubrovnik also served as a location for filming Star Wars The Last Jedi and Robin Hood. While Vis served as location for Mamma Mia 2.
- Inhabited for over 8,000 years, the eastern Croatian city of Vinkovci is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe. The city was made famous in the Agatha Christie novel “Murder on the Orient Express” and is an important archaeological and historical site. This charming city is also home to the slow-moving Bosut River and over 35,000 people, making it the largest town in Vukovar-Srijem County.
- Dalmatia was the setting for the comedic play “Twelfth Night” by William Shakespeare.
- The largest and most extensive collection of remains from the Neanderthal people is located in Krapina, Croatia. The Krapina prehistoric man was first discovered in 1899, and since then, the collection has grown extensively. Visitors to the area can learn more about these amazing species at the Krapina Neanderthal Museum.
- Whether you love neckties – or find them stifling – you can thank Croatia for them. During the 30 year war with France, in the 17th century, the Croatian mercenaries hired by King Louis X111 wore a piece of cloth tied around their necks. These colourful pieces of cloth were how the top of their jacket was tied, but they were also very decorative. King Louis X111 was in awe by them. He named them “La Cravate” in honour of the Croatian soldiers, and made them a mandatory accessory for all Royal gatherings after that. In France, neckties are still referred to by that name.
- Because of their great pride in hand-made goods, Croatian lace-makers have created designs and patterns that are so unique that UNESCO has recognized them as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”.
- When it comes to carnivals, Croatians do it right! The Rijeka carnival is not only the biggest in the entire country, but it is also one of the most popular carnivals in Europe. A smaller but well attended carnival is the carnival in Samobor.
- The city of Zagreb has the most unique museums in the entire world. The Museum of Broken Relationships offers the lovelorn a place to deposit their tokens of lost loves. Despite how sad it sounds, the museum has actually helped many individuals to deal with their losses by reminding them that they are not alone in their heartbreak. This museum has been so successful that a second one has been opened in Los Angeles, California, USA.
People of Croatia - Famous people of Croatia and people with Croatian heritage:
I. Famous people from the past with their inventions
- Nikola Tesla was born in the village of Smiljan, in the Lika county, on June 28th 1856. The Tesla’s Birthplace Museum is located in Podostra, Croatia and includes renovated original buildings, a playground, and a multimedia centre with hands-on science exhibits. He was of Serbian descent and born in Croatia. The eccentric inventor made his name in America, where he lived in the hotels of New York. His work in electrical engineering, telephony, X-rays and radio had a significant effect on urban development in the 20th century, although it is only in recent years that his influence has been recognised.
- Michelangelo’s beautiful work in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome was saved from destruction by a Croatian scientist named Ruđer Bošković. He came up with a plan to use concentric metal bands to stabilize the dome and prevent its collapse. He was born and raised in Ragusa, today’s Dubrovnik. Ruđer Bošković was an influential physicist, astronomer and mathematician from the 18th century. It was Bošković, also known as Roger Boscovich, who discovered that the Moon had no atmosphere. A lunar crater has since been named after him. Bošković was made a professor of mathematics in Rome before his fame spread thanks to his studies of the transit of Mercury and the orbits of comets. Bošković was also a notable diplomat and was made a member of the Royal Society not long after Sir Isaac Newton became its president.
- For you crime-fighting fans, it was a Croatian, Ivan Vučetić, who invented the science of using fingerprints as a means of identification. It was called dactylography.
- Two of our moon’s geographic features are named for Croatian scientists; J.R. Bošković and A. Mohorovičić.
- The parachute, which was theorized by Leonardo da Vinci, was actually invented and publicly demonstrated in Venice by Croatian lexicographer Faust Vrančić. He also came up with the concept of the wind turbine. He was a leading figure of the Renaissance period. A citizen of the Venetian Republic. He was a writer, a scientist and an engineer, along with a compiler of a five-language dictionary. He is best known for his self-published masterwork Machinae Novae, in which he outlines solar energy, solutions to sea pollution and, above all, building and testing the first parachute. He is buried near Šibenik at a church on the island of Prvić, where he spent his childhood summers and where the Faust Vrančić Memorial Centre now stands.
- A staple of modern naval warfare, the torpedo was invented in the middle of the 18th century by Croatian Lupis (Ivan) Vukić, from Rijeka.
- Reachable by catamaran from either Split or Dubrovnik, the town of Korčula on the island of Korčula is full of incredible buildings constructed during the Venetian rule. Visitors can see the traditional sword dance or visit the Marco Polo House, among other historic sites.
- Marko Marulić, a Croatian writer is credited as the first to use the word “psychology”. His treatise, in Latin, on psychology is the first known written reference to this branch of science. He used it to define the science of the soul. He is considered the father of the Croatian Renaissance. This poet was born and died in Split, where a statue of him stands at the square Braće Radić. While most of his writings were in Latin, Marulić is also known for his epic poems in Croatian, which date back to the 1490s and early 1500s and grant him a revered status in the history of local literature.
- Slavoljub Penkala was the inventor of the mechanical pencil. A Pole born in modern-day Slovakia, Slavoljub Penkala created his inventions in his adopted city of Zagreb, where a factory in his name still exists. Though he is mostly associated with producing the world’s first propelling pencil, Penkala did many more things besides that, including patenting the first hot water bottle and creating the first aeroplane to fly within Croatia. Penkala is buried, along with Croatia’s great statesmen, writers and scientists, at the Mirogoj Cemetery in Zagreb.
II: with Croatian heritage
- Perhaps the most widely-used flashlight in the world, the “Maglite”, was designed by Anthony Maglica, of Croatia.
- John Malkovich - American actor and director John Malkovich has appeared in more than 70 films, receiving a number of Academy Award nominations. He appeared in films such as Empire of the Sun, The Killing Fields, Con Air, Of Mice and Men, Rounders, Ripley’s Game, Being John Malkovich, RED, Mulholland Falls, Dangerous Liaisons, and Warm Bodies. Malkovich was born in Christopher, Illinois. His paternal grandparents were Croatian, hailing from Ozalj just north of Karlovac.
- Eric Bana - Australian-born actor Eric Bana gained Hollywood’s attention for his roles in Black Hawk Down and Hulk. His father Ivan Banadinović emigrated to Australia from Croatia after World War II.
- Krist Novoselic - Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Krist Novoselic was the bassist and co-founder of the legendary grunge band Nirvana. Born in California to Croatian parents, Novoselic spent time in school in Zadar on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast in the 1980s. He met Kurt Cobain through his brother and the two discovered they had a similar taste in music and decided to form the band Nirvana. The rest is history.
- Lorde - Ella Yelich-O’Connor, better known as Lorde, burst onto the music scene as a teenager a few years ago thanks to her smash hit ‘Royals’. That hit spent nine weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart and won her two Grammy Awards. Lorde has Croatian roots on her mother’s side and lives in Auckland, New Zealand.
- Ivana & Tomo Miličević - Ivana is an American actress and model and is best known for playing Anastasia Rabitov/Carrie Hopewell on the Cinemax original series Banshee. Born to Croatian parents, Ivana moved to the United States at the age of 5 and was raised in Detroit, Michigan. Her brother is Tomo is a guitarist for the rock band Thirty Seconds to Mars, which features Jared Leto.
- James Joyce’s first job - The long European sojourn of Irish writer James Joyce began in Pula, where he spent the winter of 1904-05 teaching English to naval officers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His stay is now marked with a statue outside a café themed in his honour, Uliks (‘Ulysses’).
Aside from being a popular tourist destination, one of the main ways that many people know of Croatia is because of the country’s famous sportsmen and women. For such a small country, a remarkable number of top-class athletes have emerged. Whether you’re a fan of football, tennis, skiing or are an avid follower of the Olympics, you’re bound to have seen some Croatian sports stars participating…and winning!
- Ivica Kostelić is a World Cup alpine ski racer from Croatia. He specializes in slalom and combined, but is also one of the few alpine World Cup ski racers able to score points in all disciplines. After a considerable success in junior competitions, Kostelić's World Cup career has alternated between triumph and injury. His main accomplishments include a World Championship gold medal in slalom in 2003, Olympic silver medal in slalom in 2010, Olympic silver medals in combined in 2006, 2010 and 2014, as well as the overall World Cup title in 2011. Kostelić has scored a total of 26 World Cup race victories and a total of 59 World Cup podiums during his career. He won the slalom World Cup.
- Janica Kostelić claimed four Olympic golds and two silvers in 2002 and 2006—making her one of the most successful female skiers of all time. She is the first alpine skier, male or female, to win four medals at one Olympics and the first female alpine skier to win six Olympic medals.
- Goran Ivanišević is a retired Croatian professional tennis player. He is the only person to win the men's singles title at Wimbledon as a wildcard. He achieved this in 2001, having previously been runner-up at the championships in 1992, 1994 and 1998. Before the 2001 tournament, he was ranked 125th and after his victory he was 16th. His career-high singles ranking was World No. 2 in 1994.
- Croatian Football Team - On 11 July 2018, Croatia won their semi-final match against England, advancing the national team to their first FIFA World Cup final wherein they secured second place (some of the makers of this game were Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić, Domagoj Vida, Šime Vrsaljko and Mario Mandžukić) as runners-up against winners France. Supplanting their third place positioning in 1998 (at the time making the team players such as Robert Jarni, Goran Vlaović, Robert Prosinečki and Davor Šuke), this is the nation's best performance to date.
Architecture – must see experience:
- Zadar, Croatia is the home to plenty of architectural wonders, for instance the Zadar sea organ. This incredible structure is the world’s first pipe organ played by the movement of the ocean waves and the wind. Seventy meters long, this musical art project was created in 2005 by the architect named Nikola Basic, with the help of expert stone carvers. There are thirty-five organ pipes producing music that is both beautiful and haunting.
- Croatia’s ancient churches and cathedrals are some of the most impressive in Europe. The Old Town in Zadar offers a number of Romanesque and pre-Romanesque structures built between the 9th and 12th centuries.
- Visiting the ancient city of Dubrovnik is like taking a step back in time. This magical city is filled with medieval splendour. The walled-off Old City was one of the wealthiest cities in Europe and is still remarkably intact. It possess one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe, cobblestone streets, and a Gothic church that is about 800 years old, it is no wonder that Lord Byron coined Dubrovnik as the “Pearl of the Adriatic.” The fortified walls of Dubrovnik are one of the most preserved fortification systems in Europe (and most visited).
- The Diocletian Palace in Split features a genuine Egyptian sphinx. A total of twelve Sphinxes were brought to Split by Emperor Diocletian around the year 297. But the one at Diocletian Palace, made of black granite, is the only one of the twelve that survived. However, although this is the only Genuine Egyptian sphinx in Croatia, it is not the only sphinx in Croatia.
- In Zadar, there is another Sphinx that is not only larger than the one at Diocletian Palace, it is actually the largest Sphinx in Europe. Commissioned in 1918 by historian and artist Giovanni Smirich as a memorial to his wife, the concrete Sphinx sits in the gardens of Villa Attilia.
- The oldest Catholic cathedral in the world was built over 1700 years ago in the city of Split. The Cathedral of St. Duje was originally constructed as a mausoleum for the Roman emperor Diocletian.
- One of the last three preserved amphitheatres in the world is located in Pula, on the Istrian coast of Croatia. It is still used for various concerts and festivals.
- In the town of Omiš you’ll find the Mirabella Fortress. Erected in the 13th century, high above Omiš, this fortress served as an effective hideout for the infamous Omiš pirate forces. In 1537 the defenders of Omiš were fighting off an attack from Turks by creating loud noises with yelling and shooting. So loud was the noise that the Turks retreated, convinced that there were far more defenders than they had expected.
- After The Great Wall of China, the longest fortification system in the world is The Walls of Ston in Croatia. It is recognized as the longest fortress system in Europe.
- Castle Trakoscan in Trakoscan is Croatia’s most visited castle. Dating back to the 13th Century, the castle acquired its current neo-Gothic appearance in the mid-19th century. The castle is as breath-taking on the inside as it is out – with gorgeous wood-panelled rooms, period furnishings, and family portraits.
- Motovun/Montona is a medieval town that grew up on the site of an ancient city called Castellieri. It is situated on a hill 270 metres (886 feet) above sea level with houses scattered all over the hill. On the inner walls are several coats-of-arms of different Motovun/Montona ruling families and two gravestones of Roman inhabitants (dating from the 1st century). In the 10th and 11th centuries it belonged to the Bishop of Parenzo/Poreč. From 1278 it was taken over by Venice and surrounded by solid walls which are still intact today, and used as a walkway with unique views over the four corners of Istria. All three parts of the town are connected by a system of internal and external fortifications with towers and city gates containing elements of Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance styles, built between the 14th and 17th centuries. It is a typical example of Venetian colonial architecture.
Food and wine:
Croatian food is a result of its unique historical development. Traces of regional culinary influences can be seen (and tasted) in the modern Croatian kitchen, and they vary from region to region – for example, you’ll find significantly different food on the Croatian islands than in Slavonia.
- Italian Influence – Croatia and Italy are separated only by the Adriatic Sea, and it’s this proximity that has brought them into close contact many times through history. What had perhaps the most influence was the control of the Dalmatian region of Croatia for almost 400 years by the Republic of Venice. This, along with the proximity to Italy has created a robust tradition of Italian cuisine in Croatia.
- Hungarian inspired dishes are very common in Eastern Croatia, in the region of Slavonia. Goulash, paprikash, stuffed peppers, and spicy sausages such as kulen are all examples of dishes that originated from Hungarian food. Of course, most of them are done in a Croatian variety. Still, many spices that generally originate from Hungarian food –such as paprika, both hot and mild and onions – are widely used in the food in the eastern part of Croatia.
- Turkish minced meat dishes are the best Ottoman legacy - The Ottomans didn’t only leave Turkish coffee when they lost the battle of Vienna in the 17th century. Their long rule brought a lot of tasty dishes, most of them based on red minced meat, which are today adopted by Croatia as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina as their national dishes.
- The Austrian Schnitzel has taken over Croatian family lunches - the Vienna steak or Wiener Schnitzel is an absolute number one when comes to Sunday lunches in Croatia. It is made of boneless meat, usually pork or veal, coated with flour, beaten eggs and bread crumbs, and then fried. The Croatian capital has its own version of Wiener Schnitzel, called Zagreb steak, made with cheese and ham, similar to the French cordon bleu. Both Zagreb and Vienna steak are usually served with chips or potato salad.
- Anglo-American modern-day desserts are a new hit in Croatia - Although Croatia itself is very proud of a wide selection of tasty desserts such as rožata (a custard pudding) from the Dubrovnik region or kremšnita (a custard and vanilla cream cake with puff pastry on top) from the Zagreb region, something completely new arrived here not such a long time ago and became an absolute hit. Anglo-American desserts such as brownie cake, cheese cake, brownie with an ice cream on top, chocolate crunch cake and so on, are very popular in Croatia and are getting even more popular every day. Though much different than Croatian traditional sponge cakes, that usually contain nuts and a lot of cream, these new desserts are adored by many Croatians.
- Marenda - This is the equivalent of elevenses (brunch), often eaten between 10 and 11am. Since the workday, even in offices, starts at 7am, this provides an energy boost before lunch. Don't expect to get much done while it's marenda time - take a break yourself and look out for set menus which feature soup or dishes such as jota, a bean & sauerkraut stew with bacon, which is like goulash.
- Drink rakija - A distilled spirit made from fruit, rakija is a part of Croatian culture and a symbol of hospitality. It is customary to have a glass before and/or after your meal, and to look your fellow drinkers in the eye, clink glasses, and consume the entire shot at once. Traditional Croatian rakija varieties include travarica (herbal), šljivovica (plum), medica (honey), višnjevac (sour cherry), smokva (fig) and biska (mistletoe). Rakia or Rakija is the collective term for fruit brandy popular in Eastern Europe. The alcohol content of rakia is normally 40% ABV, but home-produced rakia can be stronger (typically 50% to 80%, even going as high as 90% at times).
- Wine is serious business in Croatia. There are 41,188 winemakers and vineyards covering 20,885 hectares of land in Croatia. And although Croatia is ranked at 130 on the list of largest countries by population, it is ranked 4th in the world for alcohol consumption (per capita).
Croatia has many indigenous grape varieties that are not very well-known internationally, partly due to their complicated names!
- Plavac Mali - Bold red wines with blackberry notes
- Pošip - Full-bodied white wines with subtle almond notes
- Malvazija Istarska- Refreshing white wines with a spice note
- Grk -Dry white wines with a peppery pear note
- Teran - Earthy, full-bodied robust red wines
- Graševina - Medium-bodied aromatic white wines
- Zlahtina is a tender and pleasant white wine
- Frankovka - the blend is known for its playful aromas, which bond juiciness with ease of consummation.
- Traminac - rich in smell and fertile in taste, the grapes usually become dry or exceptionally sweet wines.
- Rajnski Rizling - known for its citrus-like tastes, the aroma invokes acacia and peach in one’s mouth, reflecting the mineral tones along the way.
- Chardonnay - coming from Croatia’s mountainous counties has a fruitier aroma