Home>>Our Playground – Little bit of Croatia
Croatia is an embarrassment of riches and a land of extremes. Many places make the claim of being “where East meets West,” but only Croatia can truly claim the title culturally, historically, and geographically. Centuries later, it acted as the last line of defense between Europe and the Ottoman Empire. It’s coastal forests built Venice’s fleet. It’s olive oil and wine kept Habsburg royalty satiated.
What does this mean for the modern visitor? It means your vacation here gives you an all-access ticket to centuries of cross-cultural influences on the site of Europe’s original borderland. And as one of the continent’s safest countries, you are doing it at exactly the right time. Croatia has more than 1,200 islands. It has eight national parks & eleven nature parks. Roman ruins are scattered across its cities and along its seaside. And its food and wine culture is starting to become internationally known.
For adventure, island-hopping, or just finding a private spot in the sun to lounge, Croatia’s coastline rivals any on the planet. The Adriatic offers such a wide array of vacation possibilities that if you return every year you’d never run out of new discoveries. Many people opt for Dalmatia during their first foray to Croatia. It’s easy to see why. The sun-splashed southern coast is a hub for sports, food, and nightlife. But the northern islands have their own flavor, gourmet styles, and history.
Not to be so serious all the time, we have come across a very entertaining blog with 10 fun facts about Croatia and Croats you should definitely read.
TRADITIONS AND CUSTOMS
One only needs to look at Croatia’s location within Central Europe to get an idea of how diverse its culture, heritage, and traditions can be. Known as the place where the East meets the West, Croatia sits on the crossroads between what once was the dividing line between Europe and the Ottoman Empire. As such, it also sits on many traditional trade routes and ancient roads. If one includes the fact that the country’s entire Western edge sits on the Adriatic Sea — further opening it to trade and culture — you get a sense of just what a borderland this is. You can find an interesting summary of Culture of Croatia on everyculture.com.
This, of course, is great news for visitors. Within one vacation in Croatia you can feel like you’ve been to multiple countries.
In the far eastern part of the country, known as Slavonija, you get a real sense of the Balkan culture which extends further east into what was once the Byzantine Empire. Here, where the Pannonian Plain stretches across the horizon, you’ll see that farming is still a key way of life just as it has been for centuries. This means a lot of great traditional homemade food. You will be hard-pressed to find better wine than you’ll taste here. White Graševina is the most traditional variety. Music is still traditional here with the use of special “Tamburica“ instrument. Cities here include Osijek, Slavonski Brod, and Vukovar.
For more details on customs in Slavonia please take a look at The Laws and Customs of Medieval Croatia and Slavonia (University college London; Studies in Russia and Eastern Europe).
Moving west to the northern, continental part of Croatia, it is easy to pick up on the influences of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Dinaric Alps — an offshoot of the larger Alps Range — begin to roll slowly from the farms and over rivers and then pick up speed as you reach and cross the Istrian Peninsula to Slovenia, Croatia’s neighbor to the north. As with Slavonia, food tends to be heavier — though fresh and healthy — and superb wine is plentiful.
Also, like Slavonia, large pockets of this region can be pastoral and unpopulated. Cities in this region include Zagreb, the capital and the largest city in Croatia with some 700,000 people living in it; Karlovac, and Varaždin, a charming little town which hosts famous Baroque music festival every year. Along the coast — near and on the Istrian Peninsula — the cities include Rijeka, Pula with it’s perfectly preserved roman arena, a place where croatian most renowned summer film festival is held, and UNESCO protected town of Rovinj.
Moving south and to the coast, the remains of the Venetian Empire are evident from architecture, language, and cuisine. From the band of interior, karst-pocked, mountainous hinterlands to the Adriatic, the weather and attitudes turn Mediterranean. Grapes, and thus wine (both red and white), are key crops here. Centuries of Croats have also made their living as sailors and fishermen. Those traditions still hold true. Today, tourism and — like other areas of the country — food have become the main revenue generator from the Kvarner region in the north all the way to the southern tip of Dalmatia bordering Montenegro in the south.
FOOD AND WINE
Like it’s regions, Croatia’s gastronomic diversity tends to follow geographic lines based on centuries of cultural history formed by the empires that swept across this borderland between East and West. Translation: when you are in Croatia, you will not just eat well you will eat gourmet well.
Adding to this cultural-geographic element is the fact that Croatia benefits from a physical geography that’s both vertical and horizontal … the country’s famous boomerang shape. This allows a fairly small country to sit within multiple growing zones. And, of course, there’s the sea. Having such a long coastline gives Croatia an upper hand in any regional gastronomic discussion, and not just because of seafood. Grapes, olives, cheeses, herbs of every variety, and a host of wind-cured meats benefit from proximity to the Adriatic.
And this is to say nothing of the wine. Croatian wine has taken the world by storm. That is great but also a bit odd. Croatia has been growing quality grapes and making internationally recognized wine since at least the time of the Greeks. What’s more, the traditional “white wine in the north” and “red wine in the south” philosophy no longer applies. Today, you can find red and white, Decanter-award-winning varieties all over Croatia. Trust us when we say that if you love wine you owe it to yourself to take time to plot out a route and visit some wineries during your holiday here.
The Pannonian Plain craddles this region that runs from west to east, sits above Bosnia, and borders Serbia. Slavonia has been the breadbasket of every empire it has been part of. This is no accident. It straddles the famed 45th parallel (a perfect global latitude for farming) and thus is a perfect place to grow nearly anything. Slavonian’s are famous for their sausage (kulen), cheeses, and stellar white and red wine.
ISTRIA AND KVARNER
From the Istrian Peninsula extending south to Croatia’s northern coast known as Kvarner, you’ll find a region that has become absolutely synonymous with gourmet living in recent years. That’s because it, like Slavonia, also sits both on or near the 45th parallel but also on the Adriatic. These conditions are perfect for an assortment of high-end specialties which people from other parts of the world call gourmet. Croats just call it eating. Foods here include white and black truffles, oysters, tuna, first-class white fish, white and red wine, delicious cheeses, prosciutto,wild asparagus, lamb, and absolutely heavenly olive oil.
As you move further down the coast, things become more seafood based. Naturally. Dalmatians have made a life of understanding how things grow in and around the sea. Expect excellent white fish, tuna, some of the best oysters on the continent, as well as delicious octopus and squid. Besides gems from the sea though, Dalmatia produces some of the world’s best salty sheep cheese and Adriatic-wind-cured prosciutto (called pršut). Fro many, the region is perhaps best known for its wine. Plavac mali is the red varietal that has helped to make this region famous. Our suggestion: explore the vineyards of the Pelješac Peninsula … ask us to help … you won’t be sorry.
Most of Croatia has a moderately warm and rainy continental climate. Mean monthly temperatures range between −3 °C (27 °F) (in January) and 18 °C (64 °F) (in July). The coldest parts of the country are Lika and Gorski Kotar where a snowy forested climate is found at elevations above 1,200 metres (3,900 ft). The warmest areas of Croatia are at the Adriatic coast and especially in its immediate hinterland, which are characterized by a Mediterranean climate since temperatures are moderated by the sea.
Consequently, temperature peaks are more pronounced in the continental areas: the lowest temperature of −35.5 °C (−31.9 °F) was recorded on 3 February 1919 in Čakovec, and the highest temperature of 42.4 °C (108.3 °F) was recorded on 5 July 1950 in Karlovac.
TALK TO US
If you would like to call us instead, you can reach us on any of the following telephone numbers:
May 1st - October 31st:+385 (0)20 418 282;
November 1st - April 30th: +385 (0)91 182 8772 or +385 (0)98 919 8968
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