What ’s the first thought that comes into your mind if you hear the word Croatia. Some decades ago, it might have been Ex-Yugoslavia or Balkans war, but nowadays it revolves around beautiful mediterran impressions, like the sea, small harbour villages at the Adriatic, thousands of small islands or maybe seafood.
What used to be the most open-minded communist state under General Tito quickly became Europe’s problem child after the split-up of the countries that was poised to unite all South Slavic peoples under the beging reign of a communist party with a seemingly friendlier face than Stalin’s stronghold behind the iron curtain.
Yugoslavs where allowed to travel and mostly Germans, Austrians and a lot of Dutch spent their summer holiday at the Cevapcici-side of the Adriatic sea, as opposed to the Pasta-side (Italy).
When you are from Austria, there’s a lot you have in common with Croats, as it was once part of the Hungarian part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. There are a lot of Croats roaming Vienna’s streets and of course Croatian food was always popular in Austria.
Austria and Germany were quick to acknowledge the sovereignty of the country and both are the top investors in Croatias economy, as in most of the Balkan countries. In 2007, Croatia finally joined the European Union.
There’s a lot to do and see in Croatia and the landscape is very diverse. In Zagreb you can definitively see the Austro-Hungarian influence in architecture, as well as in Pula, the former naval port of the empire.
Istria is a very special region. It was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire with Triest as its capital. The peninsula has always had a unique melange of peoples who lived together peacefully. Italians, Slovenes and Croats and to some extent Austrians and Hungarians all took part in the shaping of the culture. Today, Istria belongs to three countries. A small part around Triest belongs to Italy, another small strip with Koper as its main agglomeration is part of Slovenia and the biggest part belongs to Croatia with Pula as Capital and Pazin right in the mountainous center as seat of the autonomous regional assembly. Town signs are written in Italian, Slovenian and Croatian and when you ask the Istrians respective countrymen, they all speak a strange gibberish mainly based on Italian but with strong Slovenian and Croatian influences.
When you go further South, you will find the Dalmatien Coast with gems like Rijeka - or Fiume in the Karner Region, Zadar wich has been voted most interesting destination by notable travel magazines in recent years and of course Dubrovnik, the pearl of the Southern Adriatic where Game of Thrones has filmed most of the scenes that took place in King’s Landing.
And then there are several hundred islands, all quite unique and not too far away from the coast.