Difference between revisions of "Croatia"
Revision as of 21:40, 7 June 2007
Croatia  (Croatian: Hrvatska) is a country in Southern Europe on the east side of the Adriatic Sea, to the east of Italy. It is surrounded by Slovenia  to the northwest, Hungary to the north, Bosnia and Herzegovina to the east, Serbia in the northeast and Montenegro in the south east.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has included the following Croatian sites on its World Heritage List:
Northern Croatia has a temperate continental climate whereas central, semi-mountainous and mountainous regions have a mountainous climate. The entire Adriatic coast has a pleasant Mediterranean climate. Spring and autumn are mild along the coast, while winter is cold and snowy in central and northern regions. The average temperature in the inland in January ranges from 0 to 2°C, August 19 to 23°C. The average temperature at the seaside is higher: January 6 to 11°C, August 21 to 27°C.
Geographically diverse; flat plains along Hungarian border, low mountains and highlands near Adriatic coastline and islands. There are 1,185 islands; the largest ones are Krk and Cres. The highest point is Dinara, at 1,830 m.
Croatian lands were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the latter's dissolution at the end of World War I. In 1918, the Croats, Serbs, and Slovenes formed a kingdom known after 1929 as Yugoslavia. Following World War II, Yugoslavia became an independent communist state under the strong hand of Marshal Tito. Although Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, it took four years of sporadic, but often bitter, fighting before occupying Serb armies were mostly cleared from Croatian lands. Under UN supervision the last Serb-held enclave in eastern Slavonia was returned to Croatia in 1998.
Visitors now to Croatia's more popular towns would see little physical evidence of this violence. Croatia's coastal areas are especially stunning, and have the hybrid charm of Eastern European and the Mediterranean.
North American and many other nationals can enter Croatia with a valid passport and without a visa. The citizens of EU member countries and Bosnia and Herzegovina can even enter the country with a valid identity card. The document of identity must be valid at least three months longer than you plan to stay in Croatia.
The rail network connects all major Croatian cities, except Dubrovnik. There are direct lines from Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece. There are indirect lines from almost all other European countries.
Tourists coming from or going to neighbouring countries should note the following EuroCity and InterCity railway lines:
To enter Croatia, a driver's licence, an automobile registration card and vehicle insurance documents (including Green Card) are required. If you need road assistance, you should dial 987. The following speeds are permitted:
When driving in the rain, you should adjust speed to conditions on wet roads. Driving with headlights is obligatory during both day and night. Use of mobile phones while driving is not permitted. Maximum permitted amount of alcohol in blood: 0.0 per ml! Use of seat belts is obligatory.
Hrvatski Auto Klub is the Croatian Automobile Club dedicated to promoting greater traffic security. Its site offers minute-by-minute updates, status of national traffic, weather, numerous maps and webcams located all over Croatia. Content is available in Croatian, English, German and Italian.
Very good network of buses once in the country - cheap and regular.
If you are coming from Italy there are two buses daily from Venice leaving at 11am and 1:45pm going to Istria, with a final stop in Pula. There are opperated by two different bus companies, but you can by tickets for both buses at the A.T.V.O bus office at the Venice bus station. The office is in the bus station, but located outside on the ground level across form where all the buses park. Both buses pick up at spot b15. It is roughtly a 5 hour bus ride, with spots in Treiste and Rovinj. You can also pick up the bus at the bus station in Mestre, fifteen minutes after the scheduled bus leaves Venice.
Coming in from Trieste, Italy is popular among Europeans, for Trieste is a RyanAir destination. One crosses the Italian-Slovenian border first, and then the Slovenian-Croatian border, but they are very close to one another. Border security is low, officers will board the bus to see passports, but you do not have to exit the bus.
Ferries are cheap and go regularly between various places by the coast. Although they are not fast they are probably the best way to see the beautiful Croatian islands of the Adriatic Sea.
Jadrolinija is the main Croatian passenger shipping line that maintains the largest number of regular international and domestic ferry and shipping lines. The following international lines are serviced by car ferries:
Blue Line International also covers the international line:
National airline company Croatia Airlines  connects major cities in Croatia to each other and foreign destinations. Due to the comparatively short distances and relatively high hassle of air travel - especially when you travel with luggage - domestic air travel is used mostly for getting to end points - e.g., Zagreb to Dubrovnik (see map) and vice-versa.
Rail is still the cheapest connection beetween inland and coast. As of 2004 you can ride on the new 160kph "tilting trains" that connect Zagreb with Split and other major cities in Croatia such as Rijeka and Osijek. If you make a reservation early enough you can get a substantial discount.
Hrvatske željeznice - Croatian Railways  site in Croatian, German and English has timetable and prices.
Tickets are not usually sold on-board, except if you happen to get on the train on one of the few stations/stops without ticket sales. However, only local trains stop on such stations. In all other cases, the ticket you will buy from the conductor will cost considerably more than the one bought outside the train.
A very comprehensive coach network connects all parts of the country. Bus service between major cities (intercity lines) is quite frequent, as well as regional services. The most frequent bus terminal in Croatia is Bus Terminal Zagreb (in Croatian "Autobusni kolodvor Zagreb").
The only way to get to the islands of Croatia is by ferry or catamaran. If your plan on using either you should check these web sites because they have a regular ferry and catamaran lines.
Hitchhiking is generally good. If you can get to a highway toll stop simply ask people to take you with them as they open their windows to pay the toll. The toll collectors usually won't mind. The tricky part, of course, is to get to the toll stop. If you are in Zagreb and you are, like most people, heading south, take the bus 111 from the Savski most station in Zagreb and ask the bus driver where to get off to get to the toll stop. Next best place to ask people to pick you up are tank stations. Unlike in the US tank stations are safe places in Croatia. And finally, just using the good old thumb will work too if everything else fails.
Many Croatians speak English as their second language, but Italian and German are very popular too(largely because of the large annual influx of Italian and German tourists). People in the tourist industry most often speak quite good English, as does the younger generation, especially in the tourist areas of Istria, along the coast down to Dubrovnik, and in the capital, Zagreb. Elder people will rarely speak English, but you shouldn't have any problems if you switch to German or, in some cases, Russian.
Croatian is not an easy language to learn, but the people like when foreign travellers use it for basic things such as greeting and thanking.
The Croatian language is not identical with Serbian, Bosnian or Bosniak, but is similar. They are mutual intelligible but people in Croatia will usually frown upon attempts to pass words and expressions used in surrounding countries off as Croatian.
ATMs (in Croatian bankomat) are readily available throughout Croatia. They will accept various European bank cards, credit cards (Diners Club, Eurocard/Mastercard, Visa, American Express etc.) and Croatian debit cards (Cirrus, Maestro, Visa electron etc.). Read the labels/notices on the machine before using.
If you buy goods worth more than 500 kuna you are entitled to a PDV (VAT) tax return when leaving the country. Note that this applies to all goods except petroleum products. At point of purchase ask the sales person for a PDV-P form. Fill it out and have it stamped on the spot. On leaving Croatia the receipt will be verified by the Croatian Customs service. A PDV refund in Kunas can be obtained within six months, either at the same shop where you bought the goods (in that case the tax will be refunded to you immediately), or by posting the verified receipt back to the shop, together with the account number into which the refund should be paid. In this case the refund is dealt with within 15 days of receipt of the claim. There is another, much easier way to receive the refund. Buy your goods in shops with a "CROATIA TAX-FREE SHOPPING" label. This label is displayed on the shop's entrance, usually next to the labels of credit and debit cards this particular shop accepts. Using an international coupon, refund is possible in all countries-members of the TAX-FREE international chain. In this case the service charge is deducted from the tax refund amount.
Croatian cuisine is quite diverse so it is hard to say which meal would be "typically Croatian". In the eastern continental regions (Slavonija and Baranja) spicy sausages kulen and kulenova seka is a must-try. Čobanac ('shepherd's stew') is a mixture of several different kinds of meat with a lot of red spicy paprika. In Hrvatsko Zagorje and Central Croatia pasta filled with cheese called štrukli is a famous delicacy (it is said that the best štrukli in Croatia are served in the Esplanade Hotel restaurant in Zagreb), as is purica s mlincima (baked turkey with a special kind of pastry). Sir i vrhnje (sour cream with cottage cheese) can be bought fresh on the Zagreb main market Dolac. Croats love a bit of oil and you will find plenty of it in piroška. In mountainous regions of Lika and Gorski kotar meals made of mushrooms, wild berries and wild meat are very popular. One of typical dishes in Lika is police (oven-baked potatoes covered with bacon) and several kinds of cheese (smoked cheese and škripavac). Coastal region is well known for truffle delicacies and soup maneštra od bobić (Istria), Dalmatian pršut and paški sir (Pag-island cheese). Dishes made of fresh fish and other products of the sea (calamari, octopus, crabs, scampi) shouldn't be given a miss!
Croatian cuisine has yet to come up with a Croatian fast food representative. The market is dominated by globally ubiquitous hamburgers and pizzas but you will also find "burek" and "ćevapčići" imported from the medieval Ottoman empire which stretched from Turkey to neighbouring Bosnia. The latter two dishes are widely popular in the entire South and Eastern Europe. Burek is a type of cheese-pastry whereas ćevapčići are seasoned minced meat shaped in finger-size portions served in bread and often covered with onions. Although definitely not a fast meal (takes several hours to prepare) also foreign in origin is the so-called sarma or sauerkraut rolls filled with minced meat and rice.
Desserts: What it lacks in the fast food department Croatia makes up with a myriad of desserts. Probably the most famous is its delicious creamy cake called kremšnite but different kinds of gibanica, štrudla and pita (similar to strudel and pie) such as orehnjača (walnut), makovnjača (poppy) or bučnica (pumpkin and cheese) are also highly recommended. Dubrovačka torta od skorupa is delicious but hard to find. Paprenjaci (pepper cookies) are said to reflect the Croatian tumultuous history because they combine the harshness of the war periods (pepper) with the natural beauties (honey). They can be bought in most souvenir shops though fresh-made are always a better choice. Rapska torta (The Rab island cake) is made with almonds and locally famous cherry liker Maraschino. It should be noted that this is hardly an exhaustive list and even a casual glimpse in any Croatian cookbook is likely to be worth the effort. Chocolate candy "Bajadera" is available throughout shops in the country and along with "Griotte" is one of the most famous products of the Croatian chocolate industry.
Unavoidable ingredient in many meals prepared in Croatia is "Vegeta". It is a spice produced by "Podravka".
Alcoholic: Try many different kinds of wines. Also worth trying is rakija,a trype of brandy which can be made of plum (šljivovica), grapes (loza), figs (smokovača) and many other types of fruit and aromatic herbs. Pelinkovac is a bitter herbal liquor popular in Central Croatia, but is said to resemble in flavour to cough-medicine. Non-alcoholic: Sometimes although very rarely you may find "sok od bazge" (elder-berry juice) in the continental region. Worth trying!
On a more general note, Croatia produces a broad palette of high quality wines (up to 700 wines with protected geographic origin) and brandies, fruit juices, beers and mineral water. On the coast people usualy serve "bevanda" with meals. Bevanda is heavy, richly flavored red wine mixed with plain water. Its counter-part in northern parts of Croatia is "gemisht". This term designates dry, flavored wines mixed with mineral water.
Two most popular beers are "Karlovačko" and "Ožujsko", but "Velebitsko pivo" has recieved a semi-cult status in the recent years. It is served only in some places in Zagreb and Croatia.
Private accommodation is the right choice for independent traveler or holiday maker. Apartment-style accommodation offers a flexible alternative to hotels while private rooms are great option for shorter stays.
You can find ads for apartments and holiday homes online. These are often more expensive than those you could get directly, but they are generally much nicer and more comfortable than what you will usually get on the spot from the people at the ferry or bus terminal when you arrive. Use local agencies or check the property before you accept the deal. In High Season reservation is highly recommended.
In Croatia there are 3 major types of Hotel Accommodation:
Yacht charter Croatia - is a good way to see the coastal islands and networks of small archipeligos. Most charters leave from Split or the surrounding area on the North or the South circuit, each offering its own pros and cons. A good way is to book a package with a company at home, but many Croatian companies also offer both bareboat and crewed charters:
You can also have a look on the "Web's favourite Charter" on the address http://www.SailingEurope.com. The team is helpfull and they have LiveChat and good contact center (pretty girls in contact center too :).
A number of organisations run activity holidays in Croatia:
Croatia was the first country in Europe to start with the concept of commercial naturist resorts. According to some estimates about 15% of all tourists that visit the country are naturists or nudists (more than one million each year). There are more than 20 official naturist resorts as well as a very large number of the so-called free beaches which are unofficial naturist beaches, sometimes controlled and maintained by local tourist authorities. In fact, you are likely to find nudists on any beach outside of town centres. Naturist beaches in Croatia are marked as "FKK". Most popular nudist destinations are Pula, Hvar and island Rab.
Increasingly Croatia is becoming a popular place for health tourism. A number of dental surgeries have experience in treating short term visitors to Croatia.
There are still many landmine fields left throughout the country. If one sticks to well-trodden trails in the west and also urban areas there is no need to worry, but poking around in the brush is strongly discouraged.
During summer make sure you use adequate SPF to protect yourself from sunburn. There are no ozone holes over Croatia but it's fairly easy to burn in the sun. If this happens make sure you get out of the sun, drink plenty of fluids and rehydrate your skin. The locals will often advise covering the burnt spot with cold yoghurt bought from the supermarket.
In case of an emergency you can dial 112 - responsible for dispatching all emergency services such as fire departments, police, emergency medical assistance and mountain rescue.
There are no vaccination required to enter Croatia.
If you're going camping or hiking in continental Croatia during summer, you should be aware of ticks and tick-carrying diseases such as encephalitis and lyme-disease. Approximately 3 ticks in 1000 carry the virus.
Remember Croatia used to be at war scene in the 1990s. One should not start debates about the war or politics, unless you are certain that the Croats are interested. But if one asks politely about the history of the country, the Croats will gladly respond. Socially, displays of affection among the younger generation are the same as Western European standards, but the older generation (over 65) still are quite conservative.