10 things you need to know about Croatia
Quickly emerging into a hotspot destination for travellers in search of rich culture and heady adventure, Croatia has more than a few surprises up its sun-drenched, coastal sleeve.
Here are a few interesting, lesser-known, and useless tip-offs about this land of dreamy island getaways, and shorelines strewn with medieval architecture.
1. Paradise beyond Dubrovnik
So Dubrovnik has nailed the idyllic Mediterranean aesthetic. If you hadn’t already tapped into this city’s charms, the world’s favourite HBO fantasy series may have awakened you to its fabled beauty. That’s not where it stops though – so continue to hug the Croatian shores for more unspoiled adventures: Pula, Rijeka, the islands, Zadar and the Makarska Riviera will all leave you wide-eyed, and we’ve already planned the route for you:
2. Croatia invented the tie
You might not consider this to be crucial piece of Croatia info, but they invented the necktie as we know it. Croatian mercenaries during the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century wore small, traditional neckerchiefs which attracted the attention of the relentlessly fashionable Parisians, who named the tie ‘cravate’, an adaptation of ‘Croat’. The child King Louis XIV set the trend for French nobility – and International Necktie Day is now celebrated annually on October 18th.
3. Croatia is home to director Alfred Hitchcock’s favourite sunset
He certainly had an eye for the cinematic, so if the sunset in Zadar is good enough for film director Alfred Hitchcock, it’s good enough for us. During a visit in 1964 Hitchcock filmed the sunset, and it probably hasn’t waned in its beauty much since then – so make sure you get some snaps for an up-to-date collection, and for an imprint on your memories.
Stay in Zadar.
4. Dalmatian dogs come from… the Dalmatian Coast
Funny that. The Croatian coastline has been named Dalmatia since imperial Roman times, and the dog breed derives its name and heritage from these shores. Though the breed gained popularity in England back in the 19th century, you can join the dots all the way back to the 17th century, where illustrations show Dalmatians as guard dogs and companions for Croatian tribes.
5. Croatia claims that legendary explorer Marco Polo was one of its own
The exact place and date of Marco Polo’s birth are unknown, but following most scholarly beliefs that the explorer was born in Venice, Italy, another theory emerged that he was actually born on the island of Korcula on the Adriatic coast, which today is Croatia. Fury ensued as a museum opened in Yangzhou, China, describing Marco Polo as a ‘world explorer, born in Croatia, who opened up China to Europe’. Italian newspapers described the claim as ‘ridiculous’ and a ‘provocation’, but we guess the truth will never be confirmed.
Just make sure you don’t bring up the sensitive topic whilst sharing a dorm with a Croatian and an Italian. What we do know, is that Marco Polo would definitely have embraced the real hostelling experience.
6. Try speak Croatian as a native English speaker, and you get bonus points for effort
Words without vowels are everywhere in the Croatian language – with consonant heavy letter combinations such as Krk, trn, vrt, prst and strm to pronounce, just give it a go and you’ll be met with true appreciation. Just to make things more difficult, the native name for Croatia is Hrvatska, so there’s another pronunciation exercise.
7. Croatia has over 1,000 islands
… That’s a lot of islands. If you’re looking for island paradise choices, you’re heading to the right place. We’ve got hostels on a few of them, including Losinj – the island of vitality and Hvar, along with a range of other hostels right on the peninsula or on the very edge of the coastline, well placed for visiting the more remote Dalmatian retreats.
8. Zinfandel wine grapes, mostly grown in California, come from Croatia
You might recognise the name of this variety of red-skinned grape from the famous Zinfandel semi-sweet rose wine, grown in California. Trace the DNA of the grape back, and in fact it comes from Croatia – a genetic equivalent of Croatian grapes, which make similarly delicious and underrated wines. Cheers, Croatia!
9. Be careful of exacting flower-giving traditions
Make sure there are an odd number of stems if you decide to buy flowers for somebody. Impressing a Croatian with a bouquet won’t get you very far with an even number, unless they happen to be dead – even numbers of flowers are only placed on graves.
10. Croatia was the first country to embrace nudism
First appearing in the 1930s, naturist holidays took off here with one of their early pioneers – Edward VIIIth – putting on a royal display of flesh as he holidayed with Mrs. Simpson, who wasn’t so keen on the nudity thing. The real naturist boom started in the 1960s, when more facilities started opening in Dalmatia. Their major sites are well-marked, so don’t worry about accidentally stumbling across bits of someone you don’t want to see, but if you fancy the feeling of sea breeze on bare skin – embrace the freedom!