TravelCroatia: the country of a thousand islands

Croatia: the country of a thousand islands


I took a boat in Ancona, a small Italian city on the Adriatic coast, to go to Croatia. Split, the second city of the country, was the destination of my trans-Mediterranean transport.

At seven in the morning the city was getting closer. The tower of the cathedral, located in the famous palace of Diocletian, was already in sight. The emperor, who was born in a city located a few kilometers from Split, Salona, ​​decided to build a sumptuous palace in his birthplace to rest before his death. The current city of Split grew within the palace with the population, precisely, of Salona, ​​who fled from the invasions of the Slavs.

I did not know that I was going to find one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. A must for lovers of civil and popular medieval architecture. In addition, the central courtyard of the emperor’s palace is preserved and is the main square of the old town. Nowhere else have I seen Roman ruins so integrated into the real life of a city. 

The Adriatic Islands

Without a doubt, Croatia is famous for its many beautiful islands. It has more than a thousand (the number can increase up to 1246, depending on whether it is considered an island), although only 48 of them are permanently inhabited. The islands are also the sunniest area of ​​the country, with more than 2,700 hours of sunshine per year for Hvar and Korcula.

The largest islands are Krk and Cres (this one is naturally bigger, but the Romans opened a channel to separate it from what is now Losinj), with 405 square km apox., and the smallest is Smokvica Vela, with only 1 Two of the islands, Jabuka and Brusnik, are of volcanic origin.

It is an area of ​​frequent earthquakes, although the vast majority of them are too light to feel. Even so, every several decades there is some considerable movement of land and some that can cause serious damage to infrastructure and housing every century.

Border and political division of Croatia

The form of Croatia can attract attention. They themselves say that it is a dragon, where Istria would be the head, Dalmatia the chest and, the part that goes into the continent, the wings.

The truth is that Croatia borders Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro. It is divided into 20 counties plus the municipality of Zagreb, the capital, which in practice is a county per se.

Counties are usually named after their capital, although some have an additional name, usually a name of some traditional region. For example, the county whose capital is Split is called Split-Dalmatia. Others, few, have a county name.

The entire country is a NUT1 region, according to the statistical nomenclature of the European Union, it is divided into three regions (which in Spain would be the autonomous communities) for the NUT2: north-west, central-east and adriatic. Finally, the NUTS3 are the counties (which in Spain would be equivalent to the provinces).

Climate and relief of Croatia

The entire coast, from Istria in the north to Dubrovnik in the south, enjoys a Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mild winters. The Dinaric Alps separate the coast, whose line they follow from north to south, from the interior, and act as a border between the Mediterranean and continental climates.

It is even possible to find localities that approach the temperatures of the high mountains. Inland, the climate is continental, with cold and rainy winters and mild summers.

Relief of Croatia, with the Dinaric Alps separating the coast, with a Mediterranean climate, from the interior, with a continental climate

The lowest temperature ever recorded was -35º in Cakovec, while the highest was 42.4º in Karlovac. The amount of rain varies greatly depending on the area. Where it rains the least is on the coast, more specifically on the islands. The area with the highest rainfall is the mountainous chain of the Dinaric Alps and, within this, the part of the Dinara mountain, near the border with Bosnia.

The winds, for their part, as is often the case, are stronger on the coast. The bora comes from the north or northeast and is cold and dry. Another, less common, is the sirocco, which comes from the Sahara and is usually warm.

Demography of Croatia

The total population of the country is estimated at about 4.3 million. The highest population density is found in the capital and other northern points and in some coastal counties, such as Zadar and Split-Dalmatie.

However, Croatia’s birth rate is one of the lowest in the world: 1.5 children per woman. Therefore, it is estimated that by 2051, if this trend continues, the country will have 3.1 million inhabitants. The arrival of immigrants, which seems an urgent need, is low: about 7,000 per year before the refugee crisis.

A characteristic of the Croatian population has been the massive emigration, by way of exodus, to which it has been forced at different moments in history. The most recent is the one that took place between 1991–1995, during the Croatian war of independence, which came to displace more than 400,000 people.

Ethnic minorities in Croatia

90% of the country’s population is Croatian, although there are also important minorities of Serbs, Bosniaks, Hungarians, Italians and Slovenes. Specifically, the largest minority is Serbs, which is slightly over 180,000 people, according to the 2011 census. However, their number is far below the more than 500,000 Serbs who populated the country in the 1950s. century.

Spoken languages ​​in Croatia

Language policy in Croatia is municipal. If there is a linguistic community in a town that exceeds 33.3% of the total, its language becomes official in the municipality. In addition to Croatian, other languages ​​are official.

This is the case of Italian, especially on the western coast of the Istrian peninsula and on the island of Cres. Serbian is official in the southern, central and eastern border areas. Hungarian is also official in the west. Czech is official in the center of the country. Russin (a language very close to Ukrainian) in the west and Slovak, also in the west. There are others, such as Romani, Yiddish or Istro-Romanian, who do not reach the minimum required for official status.

A country with many attractions

For me it was a real pleasure to spend a few days in Split, a city that captivates the history lover. It was wonderful to see from a bus how the landscape was gradually changing from the Mediterranean coast, sunny, rocky, with stone buildings and Gothic palaces, to Zagreb. Crossing the Dinaric mountain range and reaching a lusher, wetter landscape, with much more Austrian or Hungarian architecture, Central European after all.

I returned to the Mediterranean by bus, this time to Istria, where more than the change in the landscape, the same as the previous trip, it was a delight to see how close we were to Italy. Split’s architecture mixed with the typical colors and facades of the neighboring peninsula, as well as the gastronomy and, apart from many Italians, the occasional Italian-speaking Croatian.

Croatia is a country that enjoys the wild beauty of youth in a mixture of Mediterranean insouciance and Austrian seriousness, and that has an infinity of attractions to offer to those who come close to it.

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