CROATIA - Small country full of gems

Croatia is rightfully considered to be one of the most beautiful countries in the world and it is definitely worth visiting because it has so much to offer, far beyond the general perception of just beautiful beaches. This small country has breathtaking nature, very friendly people, rich culture with strong traditional roots, some of the best food in Europe and many interesting historical facts that will probably blow your mind. So, dive in with us and check out why Croatia should be on everyone's bucket list.

CROATIA - What to expect

By now Croatia is no dark horse anymore, most people have heard that this fairly little country stands out with its natural beauty and should be on everyone's bucket list. Mainly known for its beautiful coast and crystal clear water, but this is by far not all Croatia has to offer. Tourism has a very long tradition in Croatia, it was back in 1889 when Emperor Franz Ferdinand During times when Croatia was still part of Yugoslavia, it was a popular destination for its Eastern European neighbours but with the tourist offer maturing over the past 30 years since the independence of the country, especially the most popular destinations like Dubrovnik or Rovinj are today attracting more high level tourists from all over the world, interested in culture, history and excellent culinary offers. In other words, Croatia is not a cheap destination anymore where you go just for the beach, sun and some cevapcici. So, what is Croatia all about then you might wonder? Croatia has some amazing historical sites, Dubrovnik with its well preserved stone fortress walls certainly being the most known. In Pula you can find the only fully intact Colloseum that was built in XXXX by the Romans and old meditranian cities like Zadar, Sibenik, Split, Opatija, Rovinj are just some of destinations worth a visit. Croatia has over 1000 islands, many of them small and only approachable by boat makes Croatia a hit destination for sailors. National parks like the Plitvice lakes are fascinating displays of nature. Tha historical event is te Alka in Sinj, a traditional horsemen completion that has been upheld for over 380 years. Beside natural beauty, food is a very important element of the Croatian tourism. Croatias national cousine is an interesting mix due to various influences over centuries from different empires. Whilst on the seaside fish and seafood prevail, with some highlights being grilled Octopus, local fish called Brancin or black octopus risotto in the continental part meat dishes are very popular. From lamb and pork roast, to various grilled meats often served as mixed grilled platters offering a variation of local ...

Where is Croatia?

Location - Croatia is a EU member state, located in central Europe, in an area which is also considered to be part of the Balkan region. It's borders are to the west facing Italy accross the Adriatic sea and the coast line from Montenegro just below of Dubrovnik all the way up to the Piran ??? where it borders Slovenia is almost 1000km long. In the North bordering Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia and Bosnia and Hercegovina and Montenegro to the south.

Politically - The Republic of Croatia is a democracy and a full EU member state since 2013. In newer history Croatia has been part of the federal union of former Yugoslavia formed after WW2, from which it declared it's independence in 1991, followed by a war.

Getting there - Croatia is a popular destination for many western Europeans who mostly travel there by car. The highway infrastructure is among the most modern in all of Europe, connecting the mainland with the coast. Highways have tolls that are being paid on toll collection points, causing delays at high peak tourist season. As Croatia has just entered the Schengen zone, there are no more border controls within its borders Slovenia and Hungary. Depending on your final destination some Islands are connected with fairies only. Mentioning Ferries, it is also possible to reach the Croatian mainland as well as some of the islands such as Cres, Hvar, Rab and the island of Pag from Italy with a ferry. The biggest airport is in the capital Zagreb which will usually be your hub if travelling by major airlines, it is well connected to Vienna, London, Frankfurt. There are a few smaller airports that also offer mainly seasonal international connections offered by budget airlines like Wizzair and Ryanair located in Zadar, Dubrovnik, Split, Pula, Rijeka, Osijek. International train connections are not very popular, the travel time is long and due to crossing several countries there are long waiting times, stop overs, etc. The national train network is also outdated and due to long travel times not very attractive. There are however very good bus connections, both from international hubs like Vienna, Munich, but also in country you can get almost to any destination by bus from Zagreb Central Bus station.
Renting a car is fairly easy with well known international chains like Avis, Budget, EuropCar being present with convenient pick up locations at the airport.

Suggested daily budget – 50-60 EUR / 52-62 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out a little, cooking most of your meals, and using local transportation. Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. However, if you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, expect this to be higher!)

TIps for first visit

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2. Get city passes – Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit sed. Eiusmod tempor. incididu nt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim. ad minim veniam, uis nostrud.

3. Check where the locals eat – Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit sed. Eiusmod tempor. incididu nt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim. ad minim veniam, uis.

Interesting facts about Croatia

Whilst some of this you might know already or have heard about, compiled in such a list it clearly shows why Croatia is so interesting as a destination.

1. Croatia is the land of the tie – You will love this story! Being a small nation Croats have been mostly been ruled by bigger empires and as such have participated in wars. They were praised by many rulers such as Karl Ferdinand 1st as warriors for their extraordinary bravery. Croatians have also been fighting under Napoleon in his 30-year war and a local tradition was for the women to tie a red band around their beloveds neck for good luck when they went into battle. Napoleon was so impressed by the Croatian soldiers, he actually said that if he would have 100.000 Croats fighting for him, he would rule the world. That, of course, did not happen, but out of his affection and respect for the Croatian warriors it became a popular fashion in Paris, for men to tie a colourful band around the neck, and this is how the Cravat was born, with the word also directly referring to Croat.

2. Marko Polo’s origins – Who has not heard of Marco Polo, the famous adventurous Venetian trader who travelled the Silk Road from Europe, across most of Asia and all the way to China and brought back amazing stories from the then-unknown countries in the east, along with various riches, spices, and pasta… It is widely accepted that Marco Polo was a Venetian, but some claim that his family’s origins were on the island of Korčula, which was at that time ruled by Venice. Such a claim might be hard to prove with proper evidence from those times, but why would the people of this little island make such claims if there was no connection? Maybe something worth discovering for those interested in history and a great story…

3. Amazing Sports results – Well to be honest, amazing is clearly an understatement, I believe it is worth proper scientific research why Croats are so good at sports! Just kidding, we have resolved that mystery already. If you look at those earlier mentioned historical examples, it might explain the big successes of Croatian sportsmanship. You see, in sports, it is not all about talent, it is also about how badly you want it! Take for example our football national team which is consistently among the best teams in the world, despite the fact that we only have a population below 4 million! The secret is not their individual talent, there are clearly more talented players, but they play with such a heart, refusing to give up and accept defeat, that they manage to defeat opponents that are obviously much better than them. Croatians are proud people and this kind of stubbornness, which we call “dišpet” is embedded in our genetics it appears. There is of course more proof of that idea, Handball , Waterpolo, Basketball, Tennis, Kick-Boxing and MMA, even Alpine Skiing with now retired Janica Kostelić being one of the most successful women in the history of Alpine Skiing, whilst Croatia doesn’t even have one skiing resort.

How is life in Croatia?

First off, I have to be honest here, I am clearly biased as I am Croatian myself! However, I have traveled a lot and seen many other places around the world and I believe my conclusions are quite realistic, maybe even too much so for someone's taste.

If you have read anything about us, you will know that we are ex-pats and don’t live in Croatia for currently almost 15 years now. We left the country because of the many things that are not perfect there and quite sometime later, not much has changed, except that many other have left meanwhile as well. Depending on where you come from, for some westerners it might be a bit harder to comprehend the concept of leaving your home country to find a better life somewhere else, but a big part of the world especially the Balkans area has a long tradition of immigration. Croatia is one of those countries that have more Croats living abroad than in the motherland.

Croatia is not a cheap country as some might assume. With high tax rates, VAT is at 25% almost everything in stores is more expensive than for example in Germany. That direct comparison can be easily made as many German /Austrian companies have opened their businesses in Croatia, especially with so many people living abroad they can easily compare the prices and are often somewhat shocked. You find a lot of regular products on shelves of Lidl, Aldi, and Kaufland Supermarkets and you discover that they cost not a little more, but sometimes even 2, 3, or 4 times the price. This pricing model applies to almost everything including services like banking, interest rates, etc. Why is that you might wonder? Well, I guess the simplest answer is because they can. The government has sold everything off to foreign companies and made sure to build legislation that supports their success and interests, so they can. So, the conclusion here is that everything is more expensive than in more developed countries whilst the average income in Croatia, is only around 800 EUR. for example, a cashier in the earlier mentioned supermarket chain earns only around 500 EUR/month. I guess you get the overall picture.

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