by Byron Dean
A brief travel report after visiting Croatia.
|Little over a decade ago it was but a war-torn state in the crossroads of Europe yet to recover from its brutal war of independence with Yugoslavia; today, the ex- socialist state is a thriving tourist destination renowned for its cheap food and dazzling natural beauty.
I could have chosen to write an article about the hoards of young Britons who have discovered its stunning beaches and thriving party-scene, but instead let me tell of a country whose story runs far more deeply, and which offers the more perceptive tourist—fuelled by a thirst for cultural indulgence rather than alcohol—the sensory exhilaration of a trip through a land of untold natural wonder where the poignant history of the natives lingers mysteriously in the warm summer air.
On seeing for the first time the rugged cliffs which tower above the Adriatic coast of Croatia like impenetrable gates to another world, one can easily find themselves swept by the currents of fascination and awe to the dark, enigmatic days of the secretive socialist state of which it was once a part. The sense of seclusion which must have been created by the combination of the oppressive regime which governed this narrow stretch of coastline and the cliffs which separate it from the rest of the country and the world is striking, and to have known that the same regime existed even far beyond those cliffs must have been a truly miserable concept.
Yet today no such bleakness plagues the land: those same cliffs form nothing more than the backdrop to what is surely one of Europe’s most breathtaking coastlines, complete with picturesque harbours, idyllic beaches and charming local markets.
From Makarska—a peaceful little city located on the Makarska Riviera—boat excursions take tourists to the nearby islands of Brac, Hvar and Korcula, where they can explore the bustling marketplaces and try out the local food (Croation cuisine is heavily seafood based). Time is also set aside for beachgoers, who will have the opportunity to visit the world-famous Zlatni Rat on Brac, where they can take part in a variety of exhilarating water-sports or simply relax in the sun.
Journeying south to Dubrovnik is a necessity for those travellers interested in history. One of the Mediterranean’s top tourist destinations, Dubrovnik is a walled city with an enchanting history dating back for centuries. The battle-wounds of the war of independence with Yugoslavia are still prominent, with bullet holes scarring the faces of the buildings throughout the city. Walking around the city walls offers a unique view of Dubrovnik, and it is from here that you can get some of the most striking views of the harbour.
As a member of the European Union, Croatia is a safe destination with much to offer. Whilst it is becoming increasingly popular with young Britons looking for drinking holidays, much of the country maintains a pleasant balance between tranquillity and excitement, and offers a unique holiday opportunity for history-enthusiasts, thrill-seekers and families alike.