The eastern European country with the longest coastline in Europe has a mellow history. Croatia declared independence from erstwhile Yugoslavia in 1990, sparking an ugly war. Today the bloodshed is history, and there’s a lot to explore and understand for the discerning traveller. There are ruined Roman palaces, Byzantine mosaics, Venetian bell towers, medieval walls, and more.
Dubrovnik is the “Pearl of the Adriatic”, with its old town encircled by a medieval wall. This is the city of the “Game of Thrones”, and the Shahrukh Khan starrer ‘Fan’ was shot here. Zagreb is the quirky capital city of Croatia with cosmopolitan bustle, generous parks, and in-love-with-life cafés.
There are some delightfully offbeat museums around here. The museum of Naïve Art showcases a uniquely Croatian art form: paintings by the untrained peasant artists. Just across the road is the equally endearing Museum of Broken Relationships, featuring true stories of failed couples from around the world.
Ban Jelacic Square has served as the city’s commercial heart since 1641 when it was declared a place where fairs could be held. The square was Zagreb’s main marketplace and carried the name “Harmica” (Hungarian for one-thirteenth) after the tax levied on the goods sold here. In 1848, the square was renamed to honour the Ban (Governor) Josip Jelacic. After World War II the name of the square was changed to “Republic Square”, only to return to its previous title in 1990.
There’s a legend connected with the name of Zagreb. The story goes like this: One sunny day an old Croatian war leader was returning from battle, tired and thirsty, and asked a beautiful girl Manda to scoop up some water for him from the nearby spring. The Croatian word for ‘Scoop up water’ is Zagrabiti, so the spring got its name Mandusevac after the girl, and the town got the name Zagreb after a scoop of water.
Today Croatia is worth your time and money, and three days should be good enough to look around.