Croatia is located in South-eastern Europe between Bosnia & Herzegovina and Slovenia, and borders the Adriatic Sea. Its shape resembles that of a crescent or a horseshoe, which flanks its neighbors Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro. To the north lie Slovenia and Hungary; Italy lies across the Adriatic Sea. Its mainland territory is split in two non-contiguous parts by the short coastline of Bosnia & Herzegovina around Neum. Croatia’s 2001 census recorded a total population of 4,437,460. This is estimated to have risen to 4,489,409 by 2009.
Croatia has a high-income market economy. International Monetary Fund data shows that Croatian nominal GDP stood at $69.357 billion, or $15,633 per capita, at the same time in 2008 purchasing power parity GDP was $82.407 billion or $18,575 per capita. According to Eurostat data, Croatian PPS GDP per capita stood at 63.2 percent of the EU average in 2008. Real GDP growth in 2007 was 6.0 per cent, and at the same time average gross salary of a Croatian worker during the first nine months of 2008 was 7,161 kuna (US$ 1,530) per month.
Excerpt from Wikipedia
As long as I’ve been in Zagreb for my medical education and hopefully my career, I am amazed by the warmness and kindness of people that made Zagreb earn its motto of a “City with a million hearts!” However, this motto shouldn’t just stay in Zagreb, because the more people that I met throughout my stay, the more I realized that warm welcome extends to the rest of Croatia from the eastern continental Slavonija to the southern tip of the Dalmatian coast.
Croatia, a country of a little above four million, is a small C-shaped country on the north eastern tip of the Adriatic coast. Its coastal line extends south and shares borders with Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro and Slovenia. Being part of former Yugoslavia, Croatians share a similar Slavic language, which is understood by most of the region. By my experience however, I can’t understand some of the dialects spoken in Croatia as they differ from county to county!
Through a tourist viewpoint, Croatia offers diverse natural beauty, many different climates and an array of food that differs as you travel through this small country. Being a country that is as wide in latitude as it is long in longitude, the country has a striking coast, beautiful high mountains and scenic plains that house people as diverse as its environment. In addition, Croatia has an inverted triangular shaped peninsula, Istria, which has a mixture of culture, dialect and food as the rest of Croatia.
The Croatian coastline is the main attraction of many tourists in the summer; offering over a thousand islands and miles of coast lined with small and beautiful towns and villages, each with its own history. From the more popular places to go are Dubrovnik, Split, the islands of Hvar and Brac, Zadar, Rijeka, Pula and the national park, Brijuni. Although these places are tourist-filled during peak season (June to August), they can be enjoyed a couple of months before and after peak seasons, as the weather stays warm and stable. There are also thousands of other little towns that are less tourist-filled, some being on the smaller islands, in between larger coastal towns and a few kilometers inland from the main coast.
The food and culture also differs as you increase degrees in latitude! Although the hedonistic mindset (especially in the summer) of locals stays the same, there is a slight difference in lifestyle that can be seen as you travel north towards the shipping port of Rijeka. Granted I can talk about the slight differences, it would be better to experience the culture for yourself; sitting and enjoying a seafood & fish lunch, coffee, ice-cream, lunch, beer or wine in local bars being a great start!
In the continental part of Croatia, the best way to merge all the different parts of Croatia is in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. Food and cultural habits from all parts of Croatia found in this central region, as many people migrate into the capital and its surrounding towns for university or work opportunities. Although I have only met a few truly native Zagrebians, many non-natives claim that they are from Zagreb, despite having coastal or other continental backgrounds. Through this mixture, Zagreb has become a really small metropolitan state and people are respectively more “rushed” than other parts of Croatia.
However, this doesn’t stop them from taking their time to smell the roses and to talk to strangers about life. The coffee-shop culture still maintains and people enjoy spending hours in their local bars and wandering the main streets (Tkalciceva and Bogoviceva) to find a place to nest and fulfill their social needs. Myself, I enjoy the quiet cafés in which jazz, an upcoming pop culture, has sprouted from; mainly Bacchus Jazz Bar on Tomislav Square. This bar is one of a few places where locals can merge with tourists and strangers to create an atmosphere of warmness, reflecting on Zagreb’s motto, “A city with a million hearts!”
Zagreb, being like other capital countries, has great schooling facilities and is the home to the University of Zagreb. This university is a city-wide university with its faculties spread all over the city. Thus, it is not an uncommon site to see students bustling through the city and studying at one of many thousands of cafés near to their faculty buildings. Although most classes are taught in Croatian, there are English programs in Medicine, which I attended, and also in the Business school. The University of Zagreb is planning on incorporating more English programs to be recognized as an international university in the future, bringing more foreigners to enjoy this country.
Although there are only a few larger businesses to internationally trade with, Croatia has many opportunities to start smaller businesses, as many products and services are still lacking. Click here for more information! One popular business in the tourist industry that is currently blooming is the accommodation business. Many foreigners and locals are opening part-time summer businesses in hostels, hotels and even partnering in bars and restaurants on the coast and in major towns in continental Croatia.
The tourist industry, although concentrated on the coast, is also growing in Zagreb as many more tourists are staying longer periods of time to enjoy the capital city. There are many sights to see, as Zagreb has a rich history, and Zagreb is the hub for most travel to other parts of Croatia and the neighboring countries. It is well integrated with railways, buses and also flights to other regions. Being a smart traveler, there are opportunities for budget tickets and off-season travels in which a tourist can enjoy this country with little disturbance from other tourists!
Although I haven’t really had many opportunities to visit the Istrian peninsula, I have been to Brijuni, Pula and Motovun; three great places to see the differences in lifestyles of this small area. Istria is diverse in its own sense and different in comparison to the other parts of Croatia. This region is my favorite place to drink rakija, eat lamb and enjoy strongly-flavored homemade cheese, which you cannot get internationally. This region is also famous for its truffles and many dishes (and even some drinks!) are incorporated with these expensive fungi. However if you get to know some locals and are invited into their warm & loving homes, you can be sure to enjoy a locally-made meal and rakija made with time and care.
All areas of Croatia have great wines, especially in Zagorija, Slavonija and in Pelješac. Only a few are produced in quantities that can be exported, but most of them have won international and local awards and are available at a reasonable price. There are only a few high-production beers made in Croatia, with a few other local beers growing to that status. One of my favorites is Velebitsko, made with spring water from the mountain ranges of Velebit; although not readily available in every café. Other popular favorites include Ožujsko and Karlovacko. Some international beers are also made in Croatia and are available for a cheap price.
There are many ways to travel to Croatia and to fly in to Zagreb through connections. Malaysia Airlines have stopped their direct flight, but does fly to Vienna, Austria. From there, there are many options to get to Zagreb by plane, bus or train. I usually take the bus, as it is the cheapest and sometimes the quicker option; it would be a great choice for students and budget travelers. The cheapest flight to Vienna is still with Egypt Air. However, there is a long transfer in Cairo which could be extended through your travel agent. That way, you can spend a few days in Cairo and enjoy one of the oldest remaining civilizations in the world. Another smart option is to take an Air Asia flight to London and from London Luton, there is an Easy Jetflight direct to Zagreb.
I hope that this short quip on Croatia has gotten your attention and although I can write much more, the experience that you will make for yourselves will be more precious than my own stories and experiences. If you happen to want to travel to Zagreb and the rest of Croatia, need advice on accommodations or want to meet friendly locals that have a million stories to tell, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.