3 Reasons to Love Croatia

3 Reasons to Love Croatia

MIR’s Helen Holter fell in love with Croatia back in college, after a Russian language program in Moscow was canceled at the last minute and she instead flew to Zagreb to study Russian and Serbo-Croatian. Here are a few of  Helen’s favorite places. 

It’s a hard heart that doesn’t fall in love with Croatia at first sight. I lived here as a college student, instantly bewitched by this country. Here are just three reasons  so many more – why the world crows over Croatia:

1.  Dazzling DubrovnikThis is what most people think of when they imagine Croatia: A walled, red-tiled town perched on the Dalmatian Coast.

Dubbed "Pearl of the Adriatic," Dubrovnik has been a Dalmatian Coast darling for centuries Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Dubbed “Pearl of the Adriatic,” Dubrovnik has been a Dalmatian Coast darling for centuries
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Walk along its narrow, cobblestoned streets or hike atop its wide, mile-long massive walls surrounding the old town. What I so love is that wherever I wander, there’s history, from Assumption Cathedral to the 15th century clock keeping watch for years. Beaches, seafood, museums, and boatloads of sunshine make you forget the Serbs shelled this city in the 1990’s Yugoslav war. Dubrovnik’s seamlessly pieced back together again – and a UNESCO-listed site as well.

The ancient walls of Dubrovnik average five feet thick and 72 feet tall Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

The ancient walls of Dubrovnik average five feet thick and 72 feet tall
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

An Adriatic seaport town, Dubrovnik has been a tourist destination for centuries Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

An Adriatic seaport town, Dubrovnik has been a tourist destination for centuries
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Where Dubrovnik meets the Adriatic Sea Photo credit: Lisa Peterson

Where Dubrovnik meets the Adriatic Sea
Photo credit: Lisa Peterson

2.  Plitvice National ParkIf you’re good at descriptions, you’ll be challenged to name all the colors of Plitvice’s 16 lakes. Turquoise, azure, green-blue or blue-green, emerald, gray: they change by the day or even the moment, depending on light and what minerals and mosses are in the water.

This place is big: 73,000 acres nestled between the mountains of Mala Kapela and Lička Plješevica. It’s another UNESCO Heritage site in Croatia, and for good reason. It’s also the oldest national park in southeastern Europe, and Croatia’s largest.

Plitvice National Park is a series of 16 stunning intertlinked lakes and forests in Croatia Photo credit: Lisa Peterson

Plitvice National Park is a series of 16 stunning interconnected lakes and forests in Croatia
Photo credit: Lisa Peterson

Visitors hike along wooden paths for up-close views of Plitvice's turquoise-hued lakes and cascading waterfalls Photo credit: Peter Guttman

Visitors hike along wooden paths for up-close views of Plitvice’s turquoise-hued lakes and cascading waterfalls
Photo credit: Peter Guttman

I visited in September when colors were changing and autumn was beginning. It wasn’t true, but I felt I had the entire park to myself, alone with my thoughts on my solitary hike, the sound of deafening waterfalls bringing a soothing silence to my soul.

By the way, if you don’t know Croatian, take on the challenge of pronouncing names of lakes like Prošćansko, Kaluđerovac, or Novakovića Brod Jezero. Waterfalls drown out conversation, so it doesn’t matter if you say them wrong!

Plitvice National Park was one of the first UNESCO World Heritage sites, added in 1979 Photo credit: Lisa Peterson

Plitvice National Park was one of the first UNESCO World Heritage sites, added in 1979
Photo credit: Lisa Peterson

3. Zagreb’s Old TownHere are my college student haunts, walking these streets of Croatia’s capital in the heart of its Old Town: the famous tiled-roof St. Mark’s Church over there, that 13th century Stone Gate here, before me an ancient entrance of the twin-spired Zagreb Cathedral, a can’t-miss location to meet up with friends.
Zagreb's coat of arms adorns St. Mark's Cathedral, a 13th-century Catholic church in the Old Town Photo credit: Paul Schwartz

Zagreb’s coat of arms adorns St. Mark’s Cathedral, a 13th-century Catholic church in the Old Town
Photo credit: Paul Schwartz

Zagreb Cathedral, with its spires often under repair, is Croatia's tallest building, completed in 1217 <br>Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

111-year-old Zagreb Cathedral, with its spires often under repair, is Croatia’s tallest building 
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

My Croatian passion? It’s what used to be called Yugoslav naïve art” and now simply naïve art” or “primitive art.” Some of the world’s best is on display at the  in Zagreb. My favorite artists are Ivan Lacković and Ivan Generalić, capturing on canvas and glass their imaginary landscapes of nature, twilight, and rural life in this land I love, Croatia.

My copy of Ivan Generalic's <i>"The Deer Wedding" </i> has hung in every place I've lived since college <br>Photo credit: Helen Holter

My copy of Ivan Generalic’s “The Deer Wedding” has hung in every place I’ve lived since college
Photo credit: Helen Holter

Travel To Croatia with MIRLearn more about MIR tours that travel to Croatia, exploring the historic treasures of this country, from Dubronvik and Dalmatia to Plitvice and peasant art. You can also book a custom, private journey.

Colorful costumes and traditional dancing are highlights at this Croatian festival Photo credit: Peter Guttman

Colorful costumes and traditional dancing are highlights at this Croatian festival
Photo credit: Peter Guttman

(Top photo credit: Peter Guttman – A Croatian woman displays her handworked embroidery)

PUBLISHED: December 31, 2014

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