Counting down, these items make my list of the ten best things I discovered about Croatia.
10. Fresh fruits and vegetables
Everything grows fresh in Croatia. We were fortunate to be living in Croatia during harvest season. There were melons, pomegranates, figs, plums, grapes and apples. And there was citrus. Almost the entire Neretva River Delta is planted with citrus – mandarins, lemons and several varieties of oranges and they are quite affordable. Other fruits like bananas and tropical fruits are imported. The variety seems endless and prices are quite good.
Every place we have visited has a coffee bar (or two or three) on every block, or so it seems. I am not saying that the coffee is as good as what we could purchase at every market in Panama or Costa Rica where it was grown and picked and roasted within walking distance of our house. But every café, bar and coffee shop in Croatia has an espresso machine, and it is a custom in Croatia to ‘take coffee’ for almost any occasion.
8. Olive oil and wine
I think everyone in Croatia either has their own olive trees or is related to someone who does. The same goes for vineyards. They make a lot of olive oil in Croatia, and they also make a lot of wine. Production numbers seem small compared to wine growing regions in other parts of the world, but Croatia’s population is only about 4.5 million, and they consume most of what they produce. However, wine lovers who get a taste of the finer Croatian wines will likely wish to add some bottles to their collections.
I confess I love cheese. And I have come to learn that not every country has great cheeses. Croatia got it right! There is probably as much cheese-making tradition in Croatia as there is making olive oil and wine. Lucky for me!
6. Bakery breads and other goodies
You should not expect to find a bread aisle in the supermarket. All breads, cakes, cookies, and other baked goods are made fresh daily in a bakery. There are in-store bakeries and independent bakery shops on nearly every block in the commercial areas. Many Croatians still bake their own items if they have time.
5. Natural beauty
Where do I begin? The Dalmatian Coast, Plitvice Lakes National Park, Skradinski Falls in Krka National Park, the Neretva River Delta, Lake Vrana, the mountains, the forests, the islands, the natural springs. Croatia is so diverse that the list of scenic spots seems never ending.
4. Clean air
To me there are two key items that define ‘quality of life.’ Being able to breathe clean air is one of those things, and it is not a given everywhere. It is in Croatia, especially on the Dalmatian Coast with its steady breezes.
3. Clean water
This is the second key ‘quality of life’ item, and Croatia has abundant resources of clear, clean water. Many of their rivers are spring-fed at their sources. You can dip your cup or water bottle into most streams and expect to get pure water better than the bottled water for sale at the market. Wherever I travel I compare the water with what I experienced in my youth hiking past creeks and streams in the Cascade and Olympic Mountains. Clean water is not a given everywhere. It is in Croatia.
2. History and Culture
Croatia may have finally appeared as a country on geography maps in the last twenty years. However, as a region with a distinct culture, Croatia has a history of its own dating back over 1,500 years. Many of the traditional foods, dress, music and dances are still common today. They have their own language, their own art, their great legends and their heroes. All of these traditions are woven into the fabric of everyday life. One of the great things about traveling in Croatia is the people are eager to tell their stories and share their culture.
1. The people
I have said this before and it bears repeating. The people of Croatia have been among the most welcoming, most hospitable and most caring of any we have met in any country we have visited. They care how you feel about their country and about them. They want you to appreciate the beauty, the history and culture, the food, the wine, and their hospitality. And I do!
One more thing, the women in Croatia are quite style-conscious. In the cities and towns women seldom go out in public without putting on makeup and nice clothes. At first I thought there was simply a high percentage of striking-looking women. Then I realized that women of all ages take great care to look their best in public. The men, not so much. They may be ruggedly handsome, but they do not dress up unless they are hoping to impress the women. That however, is a whole new story.