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Moving to Croatia?

If you are moving to Croatia, why not read our quick guide to all things Croatian?

Fifteen years ago it was best known to outsiders for the terrible war that followed the breaking up of socialist Yugoslavia; in the last five years it’s become one of the top stag destinations in Europe, with a notorious club scene. In fact Croatia’s main attractions stem from its incredible natural beauties and a rich history of cultural migration.

Originally colonised by the Greeks and then the Romans, modern Croatia began when the Croats migrated from Poland in the seventh century. They organized into the duchy of Pannonia in the north and the duchy of Littoral Croatia in the south, both overseen by the Byzantine Emperors who quickly Christianised them. The country became independent in the tenth century but when the ruling dynasty died out in 1091 it was annexed by Hungary. Five hundred years passed relatively peacefully, allowing a cultural flowering, until 1529 when the Ottomans swept in. The Hapsburgs maintained control but the wars of the ensuing two centuries would see great movement in and out of Croatia.

After the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of the First World War, Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina were assimilated into a new Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Croatians rebelled against this and were punished heavily; autonomy was granted in 1939 but only lasted until the German invasion of 1941. They created the Independent Nation of Croatia, a Nazi puppet-state that perpetrated horrific crimes on Serbs and other non-Croats. After the war, the Socialists reunited Yugoslavia under Josep Tito, adding several regions. The Republic broke up in 1991 – Croatia quickly declared its independence but it took four years of vicious war before it was able to start rebuilding a nation.

With a variety of climates ranging from the cool northern hills via the warm Mediterranean coast to the subtropical Palagruža archipelago, it’s difficult to pack light for a trip to Croatia. The natural diversity is stunning, offering plenty to nature lovers. Dalmatia has one of Europe's most dramatic shorelines, as the stark, grey wall of the coastal mountains sweeps down towards a lush seaboard ribbon dotted with palm trees and olive plantations. In the north of the region, Krka National Park holds a series of exquisite waterfalls; further south, the Pelješac Peninsula is exceptionally beautiful with stunning villages perched between its dramatic gorges. The crystal waters of the Adriatic Sea and the mad diversity of local marine life make for fantastic scuba diving. Inland, Plitvice Lakes National Parks is a string of sixteen lakes, hemmed in by densely forested hills, with water rushing down from the upper lakes via a sequence of waterfalls and cataracts.

Culture vultures should head first for Split, which grew out of the former palace of the Emperor Diocletian, who retired there in 305. as well as the palace itself, the old town houses the cathedral – possibly the only church in the world to have an Egyptian sphinx flanking it – which was built over Diocletian’s mausoleum, the City Museum and the magnificent Golden Gate. Dubrovnik is the other key destination: a city-state begun in the seventh century, rebuilt after a disastrous earthquake in 1667 and suspended in time ever since. The battlements are a perfect place to start getting to know the city. Dubrovnik Monastery has a superb collection of Renaissance art. Not far from the city, Trsteno gardens overlook the sea. Or to see it all from a different angle, try sea kayaking around the bay.

Croatia straddles two culinary cultures: the seafood-dominated cuisine of the Mediterranean and the filling schnitzel-and-strudel fare of central Europe. Hams, sausages and cheeses are all excellent, or try a pizza – Croatians think that they rival the Italians in this. Pastry is also very popular, whether the cheese stuffed main courses or the delectable creations on offer in patisseries.

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