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ABOUT CROATIA

The Republic of Croatia is an European country situated along the Adriatic Sea and its hinterland. It stretches from the slopes of the Alps and deep into the Pannonian Valley to the banks of the Danube and Drava rivers.
Thus according to its natural characteristics, as well as its cultural and historical development, Croatia can be divided into three geographically distinct zones:
- the Coastal region
- the Mountain region
- the Pannonian region
Like many countries in Western Europe, Croatia was founded on the ruins of the Roman Empire. When they arrived in the territory of present-day Croatia, the Croats were politicaly organized in principalities. In 925, Croatian King Tomislav united the principalities, establishing the first Croatian state. Later, Croatia retained its legal status and autonomy within the framework of the Hungarian empire, and the Habsburg Monarchy.

FACTS

Croatia extends from the foothills of the Julian Alps in the north-west and the Pannonian Plain in the east, over the Dinara mountain range in its central region, to the Adriatic coast in the south.
Area: 56,542 km2, with an additional 31,067 km2 of territorial waters.
Population: 4.437.460
Capital: Zagreb (779.145 inhabitants - the administrative, cultural, academic and communication centre of the country).
Length of coast: 5,835 km - including 4,058 km of island, islet and reef coastline.
Number of islands, islets and reefs: 1,185. The largest islands are those of Krk and Cres. There are 67 inhabited islands.
Climate: Northern Croatia has a continental climate; Central Croatia has a semi-highland and highland climate, while the Croatian coast has a Mediterranean climate. Winter temperatures range from -1 to 30°C in the continental region, -5 to 0°C in the mountain region and 5 to 10°C in the coastal region. Summer temperatures range from 22 to 26°C in the continental region, 15 to 20°C in the mountain region and 26 to 30°C in the coastal region.
Population: The majority of the population are Croats. National minorities include Serbs, Moslems, Slovenes, Italians, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, and others.
Official language and alphabet: Croatian language and Latin alphabet.
Religions: The majority of the population are Roman Catholics, and in addition there are a number of those of Orthodox faith, as well as Muslims, and Christians of other denominations.


CULTURE - HISTORY

Croatia is indeed unique, not only for its crystal clear, clean blue sea, but also for a thousand years of different cultures that have replaced each other and sometimes assimilated in these areas. The Adriatic Sea is not only a deep gulf in the Mediterranean cut into the Continent of Europe thereby creating most economical trade route between Europe and the East, it is also the cradle of ancient civilizations.

There is much material evidence about that which is finally beginning to come to light, from the depths of Adriatic caves and from the deep blue sea. The east coast of the Adriatic Sea was inhabited as early as the beginning of the early Stone Age, and there is proof that most of the accessible islands were also inhabited (archaeological findings in caves near the islands of Hvar and Palagruza, etc.).
Thanks to the favourable geographical characteristics of our coast, with its numerous bays, inlets and coves, the coastal belt has ever been a significant mercantile and nautical route.

Archaeological findings prove that in the 6th century BC the ancient Greeks had commerce with the Illyrians by means of the sea, and that they founded their colonies there (for example Pharos, today's Starigrad, on the islands of Hvar and Issa – or Vis).

Romans

Later on, the Romans arrived, and they not only built palaces and summer residences but they also spent a considerable amount of time on the sea, and there are many underwater findings located between Pula and Cavtat which show this to be true. Such findings are mainly amphorae, which were at the time commonly used for storing everything from wine to wheat, oils and perfumes. Wherever you choose to go diving, you will find the remains of Antique ships and their cargoes. One of the most precious findings from that time are remains of pythos or dolias, large pottery vessels which were built into ships and used to transport bulk cargo (wheat, etc). One such site is near Cavtat, while another is near Murter.

Arrival of slavs

A new era dawned with the arrival of the Slavs, a period characterized by constant struggle for supremacy and by defence against diverse enemies. Dubrovnik, eminent in its position as a republic, played a leading role in culture and trade. A 17th-century shipwreck bears witness to those times - a galley which sailed from Venice carrying muran glass, window glass, and other valuable objects, and was fitted with cannons. But during a storm it sank near the island of Olipe, off the coast of Dubrovnik.

Austrian monarchy

In the 18th century, Napoleon ruled for a short period of time, after which he was replaced by the Austrian monarchy. During the next hundred years, Italy and Austria fought each other for supremacy of the east coast, culminating in the battle of Vis in 1866. The Austrian fleet, led by Admiral Tegetthoff, who commanded the battleship Erzherzog Ferdinand Max, was opposed by Admiral Persano, commander of the Italian fleet. In the battle, Persano, on his flag ship the battleship Re d'Italia, was roundly trounced by Tegetthoff, and the Italian fleet withdrew in defeat.

Testimony to those glorious times can be found not only on the mainland, but also under the sea in the shape of shipwrecks and remains of the detritus of great ships. The period of Austro- Hungarian rule commenced thereafter. Ports were built and fortified, trade and shipbuilding flourished. During the two World Wars, the Adriatic was one of the more important areas of battle, and there are many shipwrecks dating from those periods. Near Pula, for example, which at the time was a strategically vital naval harbour, twenty shipwrecks have been located, including a number of submarines, destroyers, and torpedo-boats The Adriatic Sea has always been an important maritime route between East and West, which can still be seen today because of the numerous relics, which remind us that the past should never be forgotten, but rather used as a lesson for the future.

CUISINE

Croatian cuisine

Croatian cuisine is heterogeneous, and is therefore known as "the cuisine of regions" . Its modern roots date back to Proto-Slavic and ancient periods and the differences in the selection of foodstuffs and forms of cooking are most notable between those on the mainland and those in coastal regions. Mainland cuisine is more characterized by the earlier Proto-Slavic and the more recent contacts with the more famous gastronomic orders of today - Hungarian, Viennese and Turkish - while the coastal region bears the influences of the Greek, Roman and Illyrian, as well as of the later Mediterranean cuisine - Italian and French.


Food and traditional festivities

Many Croatian traditional festivities are distinctly linked with food independently of whether they are related to strenuous labour (crop harvesting or threshing, the grape harvest and Christening of wine, the completion of a house), religion (mostly Catholic - Christmas, Easter, pilgrimages, local saints days), or to memorable moments in an individual's life (baptism, wedding, birthday, name-day, funeral wakes, etc.) Some festivities are typically of a public character, such as the Dionysian St. Martin s Day, celebrated in private farmhouses, wine cellars and restaurants; others are almost exclusively family reunions (weddings, baptism, Christmas Day, New Year's Day, Easter, etc.)

Every holiday has its typical dish. Pork and potato stew is eaten on pilgrimages and at fairs; cod is prepared for Christmas Eve and Good Friday; pork is eaten on New Year s Day; doughnuts are an inseparable part of carnival festivities, and in the south they prepare a similar fried sweet dish known as hrostule. Ham and boiled eggs with green vegetables are served at Easter, while desserts comprise traditional cakes (e.g. pinca). Kulen (hot-pepper flavoured sausage) at harvest time, goose for St. Martin s Day, turkey and other fowl, as well as sarma (meat-stuffed cabbage leaves), are served on Christmas Day. At weddings, a variety of dishes with dozens of cakes and biscuits are served, including breskvice, shortbread bear paws, gingerbread biscuits, fritule - plain fritters, etc. The favourite meals of very many people on all occasions include spit-roasted lamb and suckling pig, grilled fish , calamari cooked in various ways, barbecue dishes - raznjici, cevapcici and mixed grill - prosciutto and sheep's cheese, or smoked ham and cottage cheese with sour cream, fish stew, venison…

Croatian Wines

Croatia is justifiably proud of its broad palette of high quality wines (up to 700 wines with protected geographic origin) and brandies, fruit juices, beers and mineral water. In the south, people drink bevanda with their food (heavy, richly flavoured red wine mixed with plain water), and in north-western regions, "gemisht" (dry, flavoured wines mixed with mineral water).

Information provided by:
Leksikografski zavod "Miroslav Krleža"
Masmedia d.o.o.

 

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