Welcome to Croatia! A land whose rich cultural heritage is not discovered only from within the walls of numerous museums, galleries and churches, many of which today, as zero category monuments, are included in a part of the UNESCO World Heritage List, but much more in that magical place on the Mediterranean, where even the shortest stroll becomes a journey down a staircase thousands of years old which takes one through a history that is at the same time turbulent, exciting and glorious. Whether walking the intricate grid of narrow white stone streets and alleys, or revelling in the teeming life of the port towns of Istria, Kvarner or Dalmatia, or climbing the green serpentines of Central Croatia to the fairy-like fortresses and castles, each step is an ever fresh experience, made special by the fact that on her territory as many as four cultural circles meet, intertwine and complement one another - west, east, Central European and the southern spirit of the Mediterranean. Croatia is a land of urban culture which numbers more cities than any other part of the Mediterranean.
If you are interested in the days of antiquity, you should start from the Roman amphitheatre in Pula, through Zadar and its forum - the largest excavated forum on the eastern shores of the Adriatic - and then to the magnificent palace of Emperor Diocletian in Split. Walk through time, from the pre-Romanesque Church of St. Domnius in Zadar dating from the 9th century, to the world of the Romanesque that is the magical monument city of Trogir, or the islands of Krk and Rab. Follow the Gothic period in Zagreb, Pazin, or, for instance, the town of Ston on the Pelješac peninsula. Discover the Renaissance in Osor on the island of Cres, Šibenik cathedral, the islands of Hvar and Korčula, and finally, the one and only Dubrovnik. The towns of Varaždin, Bjelovar and Vukovar glow with the splendour of the Baroque, while the heritage of the 19th century is at its best in Rijeka, Osijek and, of course, in downtown Zagreb.
MYTHS AND LEGENDS:
CRES - MYTH
In order to establish the origin of the name of the archipelago that include Cres, Lošinj and a number of smaller islands, it is necessary to look back to the mythical period of classical history and culture, to the 3rd century B.C., when Apollonius wrote the following:
"Fleeing before the Colchids, who wanted to take the Golden Fleece and return it to King Aeetes, the Argonauts, under the command of Jason, arrived in the Kvarner. Jason and the King's daughter Medea, who had fallen in love with him, set out for the northern Adriatic with the Golden Fleece. The King's son Absyrtus went chasing after the thieves of the Golden Fleece. Although the voyage took time, he succeeded in catching up with Jason and Medea. But, the deceitful Medea lured Absyrtus into a conversation and led him under the edge of Jason's sword. Jason killed Absyrtus, but Medea dismembered his body and cast the pieces into the sea. From the cut up limbs appeared the group of islands that were named for the hero - the Absyrtides, or the [Cres-Lošinj] islands."
Legend has it that during a stormy night, witches, wizards and fairies from around the world gather on Mt. Klek and their wheel dance and screams can be heard all the way to Ogulin.
In order to give tourists a special experience, today in Ogulin you can see the Klek witches in costume while travelling on the Karlek eco-tourism train. Or visit the Ogulin Fairy Tale Festival, as the people of Ogulin celebrate not only the fairy tale quality of their region but also stimulate artistic and cultural creativity intended for children, by encouraging all those interested to work on projects for children and youth. In addition to numerous plays and the promotion of local theatrical productions, the festival in Ogulin also includes guest performances by many puppet theatres, children and youth theatres, as well as entertainment for adults including plays, concerts and competitions. With the plays intended for both children and their parents, the festival encourages better quality communication between adults and children, while the various workshops and meetings between artists and experts supports the direct artistic process.
LEGEND OF MILJENKO AND DOBRILA
A legend from the second half of the 17th century tells of the tragic love of two young people from Kaštel Lukšić. A daughter, Dobrila, was born to the noble Vitturi family, and a son Miljenko to the Rušinić family. The two later fell in love, but their relationship was forbidden due to hostilities between their families. From the moment their parents learned of their love, Dobrila was under strict supervision, while Miljenko was sent to Venice by his parents. However, this was not the end of it. Dobrila's father arranged that she marry an older noble from Trogir. Miljenko learned about this and arrived at the very moment that the bride and groom were saying their vows, he appeared and stopped the wedding. In order to punish her for the shame that she had brought him, Dobrila's father sent her to a convent in Trogir and, to keep Miljenko from finding her, he ordered Miljenko's death.
However, Miljenko was clever (disguising himself as a friar) and the plan failed. In attempting to find Dobrila, Miljenko came into conflict with the law and was therefore sentenced to prison in Visovac. There he met a nurse and through her, sent messages to Dobrila and planned his escape. When the two ran off, Dobrila's parents were forced to give in, and they sent a message that the two return to Kaštel Lukšić so that they could be married. After the wedding was held in August 1690, Dobrila's father, unable to come to terms with the fact that his daughter had married Miljenko, killed his new son-in-law on the bridge before the castle. Dobrila lost her mind, fell in and died soon afterwards. Her final wish was to be buried together with Miljenko in the Chapel of St. John in Kaštel Lukšić opposite the castle. The inscription "Peace to the lovers" stands forever on their grave, while both castles, of the Vitturi and Rušinić families, still stand in Kaštel today.
The fate of the two young lovers has inspired: novels, an opera and a theatre play, while the children's home in Kaštel Lukšić, situated near their final resting site, bears the name Miljenko and Dobrila.
LEGEND OF ZVONCARI
When the eruption of Turks or Tartars reached Grobničko Polje, the shepheds at that time did not have anything with which to defend themselves. So, they wrapped themselves in sheep skins, strapped on bells, put on horrible masks, and in one hand they carried an axe, which even today bell-ringers call a balta (in Hungarian). In the other hand they carried a sack with ashes and they began to ring the bells and make noise. The Turks or Tartars became very frightened by these strange, terrible "beasts" and fled without looking back.
When the time for the Carnival drew near they would always ask, "When will that day come when the infidel went crazy?"
In honor of that custom bell-ringers go through the villages, wrapped in bells with terrible masks on their heads, carrying wooden swords or axes, but the bag of ashes - which also served to stimulate fertility - is no longer carried and the ashes are no longer sprinkled in female company.
LEGEND OF ANASTACIA OF ZADAR
During the rule of the Emperor Diocletian (3-4th century) and his cruel persecution of the Christians, a young girl from a respectable patrician's house was married to the Roman patrician Publius. Her fate would be no difference from the fate of other women who lived in arranged marriages without love, had she not meet and become delighted with the "new" idea of love and faith of a Roman knight - later the martyr St. Chrysogonus.
Due to her desire for virginity and accepting the "new pagan faith", she was long locked away in the house. After her husband's death, she joined St. Chrysogonus and went to Aquileia, where they visited the prisoners and tortured Christians, and there, unfortunately, she was present for his martyrdom. According to the legend, she died a martyr's death in her hometown of Sirmium, and her head was cut off and her body cast into the sea near the Italian island of Palmaria. Relics found in the 5th century were taken to Constantinople and in 804, the Frank Bishop Donat of Zadar received them from Emperor Nicifore I as a sign of reconciliation between Byzantium and Zadar.
LEGEND OF KAROLINA RIJECKA
The most well-known person in the history of Rijeka is a woman, Karolina of Rijeka, who during the time of the Napoleonic Wars, saved the city from destruction, and in negotiations with the British admiral John Leard, used her beauty and charm to advantage.
Karolina Belinić was a married mother of three children, who, according to historical documents, in 1813 convinced the commander of the British fleet to cease the shelling of the city. Historical documents about her ancestry and personal life state:
"Karolina Belinić, born Kranjec, was a married woman and the mother of three children, Alpina, Cattarina, and Rosa, who were all born before the attack of the British fleet on the city. Karolina was married to Andrija Belinić from Lovran, who in his capacity of commander of the Rijeka civil guard also participated in the city's resistance to the British fleet, and for which the city magistrate in 1829 conferred public recognition, thanks to a written confirmation by Commander Nugent."
A portrait of Karolina Belinić is kept in the Maritime and History Museum of the Croatian Primorje in Rijeka. Karolina's historical role began in 1813, because of the unenviable situation at the entrance to the port of Rijeka. In order to make the survival of Napoleon's army impossible, British ships bombarded Rijeka (as testimony to this event, on the outer wall of the Cathedral of St. Vitus there is a cannon ball stuck into the facade). Young Karolina, resolved to help her city, went to the ship of the British admiral and, using her feminine charms in the negotiations with the admiral, saved the city.