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DISCOVER ADRIATIC - Mediterranean as it once was
Olives, indigenous aromatic plants, brilliancy of white stone against the verdant vegetation and the towering mountain massif of Biokovo whose spurs reach all the way to the sea – yes, this is indeed an exceptional part of the country, and its beauty is made all the more enchanting by numerous historic events and monuments, and cultural manifestations. In short, this is an ever interesting region full of attractions which draws a great many visitors.
When, in the year 305, the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruled the entire world at that time, decided to build his leisure time abode - in which he intended to spend the rest of his life - he had no doubt as to exactly where build to it. In the very heart of Dalmatia, in the bay of Aspalathos (Split), well protected from the sea by the islands of the Split archipelago, and defended on its landward side by high mountains, Diocletian created a special point on the map of the Adriatic: the future city of Split.
Do you know that the unique centre of Split,which is on the UNESCO list of World Heritage, has risen on the foundation of the summer villa of the Emperor Diocletian in 305? Although 17 centuries of undisturbed life within the walls has resulted in many primal works such as the Emperor’s mausoleum which was later incorporated into the cathedral of Sv. Duje [St. Duje], Diocletian’s palace is today the true symbol of Split. If you go a little further on, you will discover one more jewel on the UNESCO cultural heritage list: the town of Trogir often called the town of museums.There are also the islands of the Split archipelago here: the island of Brac with its beautiful white stone and tradition of sculpture workshops, as well as sunny Hvar with the largest square on both sides of the Adriatic, the first communal theatre in Europe that was built in 1612, an arsenal and the celebrated Tvrdalj palace that belonged to the humanist, poet and philosopher Petar Hektorović.
In Split, try the famous “dalmatinska pašticada” [Dalmatian stew], a meat dish that takes two days to prepare. If you want some more simple tastes then there are the aromatic Viška, Forska and Komiška “pogaca”, savoury cakes which go wonderfully with a glass of wine from Vugava and Plančić from the island of Hvar. If you need extra invigoration then drink a glass of Brač or Hvar “smutice” – red wine that is mixed either with sheep or goats milk. In the regions of Cetina and Sinj, asides from the stew made out of river crabs, there are the famous “luganige” sausages as well as “arambašić” from Sinj – small cabbage rolls filled with mutton.
For an aperitif, try a glass of the famous Maraschino, a desert liqueur made from the autochthonous Maraska cherries. Follow this with some Pag cheese, which is the most highly prized cheese in Croatia made from the small sheep who eat the aromatic Mediterranean plants on the island of Pag. For the main dish, order “brodet” [stew] that is cooked in a thousand different ways and is made from a number of different types of fish mixed with crabs and sometimes shell fish or even fish on the grill salted with Pag and Nin salt. There is also the “Ninski šokol” made from a specially made dried part of the pork neck that is soaked in red Benkovac wine.
Zadar is a town that has antique origins with the most researched Roman forum on the eastern side of the Adriatic and late Roman church – the cathedral of St. Stošija [St. Anastasia], Sv. Krševan [St. Krsevan] and the famous Sv. Donat [St. Donatus]. With its valuable collections, libraries and archives, Zadar is proud of the fact that the foundations of the oldest Croatian university were laid here in 1396. Recently made even more famous for its Sea Organ, an architectural miracle on the Zadar riva (sea front). Alfred Hitchcock was so impressed with Zadar and its sunset that he said that from the Zadar riva 'one can enjoy the most beautiful sunset in the world. If you go to the nearby old town of Nin, you will find the smallest cathedral in the world - Crkva svetog Kriza (Church of the Holly Cross), that is only 36 paces long.
Set amid the wild beauty of white karstic rock and the azure sea, the Šibenik aquatorium is a yachting paradise, boasting as many as 240 isles and reefs, each of which holds an interesting feature or two. If you want to meet the best known coral hunters in the Adriatic, set sail for Zlarin. If you wish to see the centre of sea sponge harvesting, then Krapanj is your destination. On the other hand, if you seek an experience like no other, then venture into the open sea and discover the Kornati Archipelago.
Two national parks with only 50km between them could not be more different. The Kornati National Park is an archipelago of 89 islands, isles and reefs (numbering in total 152 units) of incomparable beauty which offers the boaters the pleasure of sailing, the formidable sheer cliffs filling them with delight and awe in the same breath. Enchanted with their striking beauty, the famous writer George Bernard Shaw wrote one of the best descriptions of the Kornati: “On the last Day of Creation God wished to crown his work and he created Kornati out of tears, stars and breath”. In contrast, the Krka National Park is full of travertine barriers, waterfalls and lakes the wondrousness of which take one’s breath away. Indeed, they are regarded as one of the favourite tourist picture postcards from Croatia.
Start with a morsel of cheese ripened in a lamb sack and Drniš prosciutto washed down with a glass of red wine from Primosten's Babić. For the main dish, asides from a rich fish menu that ranges from small sardines to slices of fresh tuna on the grill, you should not miss out on the so-called “Skradinski Kumbasice” [Skradin sausages] and the famous “Soparnjak”. Made from a simple pastry filled with a mixture of olives, figs and olive oil, the cooked and rolled Soparnik is served and eaten cold. For pudding asides from dry figs, jujube and cakes made from almonds, you can try some cake from Skradin.
Croatia is one of the ecologically best preserved parts of Europe. It is a land where the hues of the sunny and warm Mediterranean happily blend with the tranquillity and freshness of mountains and the gentle sway of the golden plains of Pannonia. A land of truly divine inspiration that has delighted many of the world’s prominent men of letters. A rare European landscape which boasts as many as eight national parks in so small an area!
With Risnjak, Paklenica, the Plitvice Lakes and Northern Velebit in the mountainous area, and with the Kornati Archipelago, the island of Mljet, the Brijuni Archipelago and the Krka waterfalls in the coastal area, Croatia is indeed a jewel of the primeval beauty of nature. Adding to that two arboretums, one in Trsteno, near Dubrovnik, and Opeka, near Vinica, numerous historical parks and protected nature parks, it is indeed a green land, with as many as 4300 plant and as many animal species.
Do not delay: sail the azure blue waters of the Adriatic and discover the island which is one of the last habitats of the griffon vulture in Europe. For dedicated nature lovers in Croatia you can put to sea with an adopted dolphin or, if you are particularly lucky, encounter the mysterious and rare Mediterranean monk seal. Whatever you decide to do, you will find that this is a place where the colours of nature are at their warmest and fullest.
The big blue of the small Adriatic sea is 783 km long, and if one includes the islands then the coastline is 7868 km, from which the Croatian part is 74% or 5385 km and truly epitomises the best qualities of the Mediterranean. If you want the precise figures: the clarity and transparency of the open sea reaches depths of 56 m whilst on the shore it is 5m deep. The depth of the sea in the north that runs along the Istrian coast is the shallowest at about 50m, whilst at Palagruža it reaches up to 250m and around the most distant island of Jabuka it reaches 1300m in depth. The average temperature of the sea surface in the summer months is between 22-27 oC, whilst it is at its lowest in winter at around 7 oC and in the spring it is a comfortable 18 degrees. Crowned with 66 islands, 652 islets, 389 rocks and 78 reefs, and with such cleanness and clearness, the Croatian Adriatic has every right to claim to be the top sailing destination in the world.