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Croatia

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Continent:Europe National flag
National flag: Croatia
Capital city:Zagreb
Area:56,538 km2 ( 123. )
Population:4,495,904 Person ( 115. )
People density:80 Person / km2
GDP per capita:4,400 $ / Person ( 49. )
GDP:19,781,977,600 $
Official language:serbocroatian

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With nearly 2000km of rocky, indented shore and more than 1000 islands, many blanketed in luxuriant Mediterranean vegetation, Croatia boasts one of the most dramatic stretches of coastline that Europe has to offer. Despite the region’s popularity as a package destination for over four decades, exploitation of the coastal settlements has been kept in check, and there are still enough off-the-beaten-track islands, quiet coves and stone-built fishing villages to make you feel as if you’re visiting one of southern Europe’s most unspoilt areas. As a bonus, many of Croatia’s coastal towns and cities are living museums of Mediterranean culture, generously sprinkled with historical remains from Roman times onwards. The rest of the country isn’t devoid of interest either: inland, a varied profusion of mountains, lakes and bird-inhabited wetlands provide plenty of interest for the nature lover.

The country has come a long way since the early 1990s, when within the space of half a decade – almost uniquely in contemporary Europe – it experienced the collapse of communism, a war of national survival and the securing of independence. Croatia is now once again an optimistic, welcoming and safe destination, and visitors will be struck by the tangible sense of pride that independent statehood has brought, and the feeling of togetherness and unity that the experience of war has engendered. National culture is a far from one-dimensional affair, however, and much of Croatia’s individuality is due to its geographical position straddling the point at which the sober central European virtues of hard work and order collide with the spontaneity, vivacity and taste for the good things in life that characterizes the countries of southern Europe – a cultural blend of Mitteleuropa and Mediterranean which gives Croatia its particular flavour.

Not only that, but the country also stands on one of the great faultlines of European civilization, the point at which the Catholicism of Central Europe meets the Islam and Orthodox Christianity of the East. Though Croats traditionally see themselves as a Western people, distinct from the other South Slavs who made up the former state of Yugoslavia, many of the hallmarks of Balkan culture – patriarchal families, hospitality towards strangers, and a fondness for grilled food – are as common in Croatia as in any other part of southeastern Europe, suggesting that the country’s relationship with its neighbours is more complex than many Croats will admit.

National sensitivity about such matters has its roots in Croatia’s troubled relationship with the Serbs, who arrived in southeastern Europe at around the same time, some fifteen hundred years ago, and whose language is almost identical to Croatian. Historical circumstances later drove the two groups psychologically and culturally apart, even though they often continued to live together – the fact that so many areas of Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina were ethnically mixed is one reason why the break-up of Yugoslavia was such a tragically messy affair. Despite the events of recent years, however, the destinies of Croats and Serbs look set to remain intertwined: there’s still a sizeable Serb minority within Croatia, and Serbs who fled the country in the wake of the Croatian army’s campaigns in 1995 are (officially, at least) being encouraged to return.

Bringing life back to war-damaged areas and resettling both Croatian and Serbian refugees is just one of the problems faced by a country which continues to suffer many of the ills experienced by post-communist societies in general: the collapse of outdated industries, high unemployment, low wages for the majority, and the rise of a new entrepreneurial class which is often flamboyantly corrupt. Tourism was always Croatia’s biggest source of income before the war, and the return of holiday-makers to the Adriatic coast has been eagerly welcomed by the Croats. Unlike many of her Eastern European neighbours, however, Croatia was initially slow to receive aid and investment from the West, until elections in January 2000 removed a nationalist, anti-Western government from office. Since then, the country has applied for EU membership, and its international standing has improved immeasurably.

[ Buy on Amazon: Rough Guide to Croatia ]

International codes

Map of country Croatia

Map of country  Croatia

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