Shutterstock/46039102/Fedor SelivanovA country of stunning natural beauty, Croatia remains relatively unspoilt by modern-day ‘progress’. Rugged limestone mountains, crystal-clear water and over a thousand islands await you on your journey. Think blues and greens: sea and islands, lakes and pine forests, rivers and meadows. Stone predominates, be it in the rugged slopes that back the Dalmatian coast, in the dry stonewalls that criss-cross the islands or in the local architecture. This is a land of fishermen, who still sail heavy wooden boats and read the weather in the cloud formations, and of wine producers, whose donkeys carry the grapes from the vineyards during harvest time. In summer, the air is scented with Mediterranean herbs and the stalls in the open-air markets are stacked with freshly picked tomatoes, peppers, apricots, peaches and watermelons. In winter, the air carries a bracing chill, the mountains are snow-capped and locals drink stiff home-made liquor to keep warm.

Croatia bears few signs of its traumatic past, with only the omnipresent red, white and blue flags bearing witness to the nationalist fervour that led to the break-up of former Yugoslavia. A country of natural sportspeople, today Croats display their colours with pride on the football pitch and tennis court, and, if you try to come up with names of well-known Croats, the majority of them will probably be from the world of sport.

Visitors will be struck by the apparent impenetrability of the Croatian language, with its mysterious Slavic sounds, abundance of consonants and charming ha³eks. Luckily for travellers, many Croats speak several foreign languages, including English, Italian and German. However, if you learn a few words while there, the locals will be all the more welcoming. ¹ivjeli!

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This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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