History, Romance and a Local’s View of Croatia
The best way to discover a country is to determine what the locals love,
Those individuals with roots in the history of the destination.
So, when I ask Croatian Steelheart founder Miljenko Matijevic what he loves most about Croatia (he has unearthed a few of his country’s landmarks to film his much-loved music videos) he immediately took me down a path that highlighted the past and the present throughout the country’s regions.
“It’s a romance that begins the moment you step foot in the country,” Matijevic said. “I am proud of my roots that lie in Zagreb, but that is just the beginning of the story. There is a strong cultural heritage, breathtaking coastline, and the natural beauty that extends from enjoying a coastal sailboat cruise, to an inland adventure like truffle hunting in Istria to understanding the significance of the 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And for those looking to fall in love, quaint cities like Rovinj are my recommendation. But really, the country is a postcard offering delightful hidden jewels to all.”
Taking Matijevic’s cues, consider a visit in the Autumn when the flood of tourists has gone home, and the real Croatia comes alive.
Stretching along the Adriatic Coast and an easy jaunt from central Europe, Croatia is known for history with a
The old city of Dubrovnik, a cultural masterpiece, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For the adventurer who loves water try island-hopping around the Split archipelago, or how about ducking into Zagreb’s streets and hidden passages for an afternoon.
Sailing is big in the autumn in Croatia and there is a true history that comes with it. Homer’s hero Odysseus enjoyed these waters, and it is said St. Paul when shipwrecked spent time on the Croatian island of Mljet in Southern Dalmatia. Of course, there is also Marco Polo’s journey said to have begun from Korčula.
The winds are good for sailing off the coast of Croatia and there are over 1,200 islands to discover. In fact, there have been 265 cruising boat regattas held in the country just in the past six years, for example the Mrduja, Fiumanka and the South Dalmatian regatta, to name a few.
A few sailing stops if you opt for this adventure are spotted with romantic coves and sandy beaches, but don’t pass up the National Parks either. The favorites are in Mljet, Krka, Paklenica, Kornati and Brijuni.
For a historical sail there is the 3,000-year-old statue of Apoxyomenos on Lošinj to be discovered and on the island of Brač see the stone used in the White House.
Sailing post-summer also means more charters are available and, in many places, there are no mooring fees in the fall so you can park your boat free and explore all the islands have to offer.
The tastes of Croatia
Of course, for foodies, Croatia has taken top spot too. Gastronomy is a big deal in this country, and it is said you could eat a different regional specialty or drink a different wine every day of the year.
There are 11 Michelin guide restaurants in Croatia, the most recent addition the farm-to-table restaurant Korak located in a winery in the Jastrebarsko region.
So, whether you have a taste for simple and delicious or unique to the culture, these top dishes are not to be missed.
Komiza flat bread is said to be the “focaccia of Croatia” found on the island of Vis and made of yeast dough filled with onions, fresh tomatoes or whole peeled tomatoes, saltwater fish like anchovies, pilchard as well as capers. It is a meal all its own served with the local wine.
Soparnik is a must in the Republic of Poljica, east of the city of Split. It is a thin dough-based pie and is such a tradition it is included in the register of items with a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). Often used as fasting meal, it demonstrates the rustic beauty of Croatian’s culinary culture and is served on Good Friday.
A dessert called Štrukli is a specialty in the Hrvatsko Zagorje region made from dough filled with cow cheese and covered with cream. Most of the time it is either eaten alone or with a soup.
Rolls of cabbage or sour cabbage leaves called Sinjski Arambašići are served with wine and stuffed with a mix of baby beef and pork. This dish is from Sinj in Dalmatia, and it is on the list of a protected intangible cultural heritage in Croatia.
And of course, after food comes romance. Matijevic’s Rovinj suggestion is a stop you will not regret. A fishing port on the west coast of the Istrian peninsula, the old town is draw offering a tangled web of cobblestone streets to get lost in on the way to the top where you will find the church of St. Euphemia. There is also a lovely little pebble beach south of town, and the area is quieter in the autumn even being the second most visited town in Croatia after Dubrovnik.
Less known for romance, but equally charming is the town of Motovun in the Istria region. Located on a medieval hilltop down below are where the vineyards abound and it is here you will find your truffle hunting experience in the nearby forests. The town has roots to ancient Greece and the architecture tells the story. Ancient walls surround Motovun, yet it is only a one-hour drive from Rovinj.
Do venture off the beaten path after visiting any of the more popular haunts; Rovinj, Dubrovnik, Split, Zagreb.
The Plitvice Lakes National Park is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Croatia’s mountainous region. There are over a dozen terraced lakes interconnected by waterfalls alongside wooden pathways that lead to water made brilliant in colors of blues and greens due to the many minerals and organisms.
Another special surprise is the Pijana Pruga railway line that is perfect for hiking and biking. Translated as “Drunken Railroad” the trails lead you through old tunnels, and offers amazing views of a tranquil Croatian countryside that is the splendor of this diverse country. https://croatia.hr