Experience the Croatian culture
I’ve been living in Split, Croatia for the five months now. The first time I visited was last year and I quickly fell in love with the city, the culture and the people. Therefore, I’d like to first give you a quick introduction and tell you a little about this beautiful country.
The Republic of Croatia is located in southeast Europe and it has a population of 4.3 million people. Its four largest cities are Zagreb, the capital, followed by Split, Rijeka and Osijek.
Croatia shares borders with five countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia and Montenegro.
The official currency is the Croatian Kuna (HRK). No worries, your own currency can be changed locally and of course you can use your debit/credit card to withdrawal money. To give you an idea, 1 Croatian Kuna is about 0.13 euro, 0.12 pounds and 0.15 US dollars.
If you need to call a Croatian number, the prefix is +385 and the time zone is UTC+1.
A little insight on the language
Although a lot of Croats know how to speak English, German and also Italian, the official language is Croatian. Curious about the language? Check out the expressions below:
Hi, bye Bok
Good morning Dobro jutro
Good day Dobar dan
Good evening Dobra večer
Thank you Hvala
You’re welcome Nema na čemu
Excuse me/I’m sorry Oprostite
One interesting thing I came to learn about Croatian is that people throughout the country speak the language differently. This is quite common, to have accents and specific expressions depending on the region of the country, but with Croatian it’s a different story. Since I was planning on staying for some months, I decided it was my obligation to at least know the basics of the language. I now have A1 level in Croatian language and I’ll say that I still don’t understand most of what these Dalmatians say (sad face). The Croatian you learn in school is the so-called “proper” one. I’m living in Split and so I’ll give you an idea of what I’m facing:
English Proper Croatian “Dalmatian”
Where are you going? Gdje ideš? Di ideš?
Split is beautiful. Split je lijep. Split je lip.
I need to buy milk. Trebam kupiti mlijeko. Triban kupiti mliko.
The ball is white. Lopta je bijela. Balun je bil.
Well, well… what do you think? I must say that seeing them side by side makes them look not that different. But 1) these are only some of the ones I know and 2) when a local is talking to you, speaking fast and expecting an answer, the pressure is on and so it’s not that easy. But let’s not lose faith, at least I didn’t! In any case, you can always say “da” and smile or just say “I’m actually not Croatian. I just want a coffee with milk please”.
I’m from Portugal and as you may imagine Croatian and Portuguese are not similar – I was caught by surprise with the “č”, “š”, “ž”, “đ”, pronouncing “k” as I would pronounce “c” and “s” as “c”. It has been quite a journey learning this language, one that I wouldn’t mind continuing. I’ve come to realize how complex Croatian is – it’s challenging and hard, but this only made me want to learn more.
Popular tourist destination
Croatia has become a very popular destination – everyone wants to see the waterfalls, visit the islands, sail in the Adriatic Sea and go to Dubrovnik (yes, I’m talking to you Game of Thrones fans!). Dubrovnik, also known as “the pearl of the Adriatic Sea”, is a very famous place to visit in Croatia, as well as the Makarska region located in central Dalmatia. Also, Split, a city that is known for the Diocletian palace, the beautiful Marjan forest and the Ultra Europe Festival that happens every July. The north of Croatia is equally charming and attractive; it comprises the capital Zagreb, the agricultural fields of Slavonia (eastern part of the country) and the beautiful Istria region (the largest peninsula in the Adriatic, where the cities of Pula and Rovinj are located).
In 2016, Croatia was visited by more than 16 million tourists, a number that will certainly grow in 2017. The beauty of Croatia in unquestionable and so far this country didn’t disappoint me. Just check some pictures online and you’ll be amazed by the monuments, buildings, national parks, you name it!
The easiest way to arrive in Croatia is by plane as there are airports in Zagreb, Osijek, Rijeka, Pula, Lošinj, Zadar, Split, Brač and Dubrovnik. Nonetheless, and depending on where you’re coming from, you can also get in and out of the country by train, boat and car/bus.
As for when’s the best time to visit, most tourists come during in July and August. In this period, you can expect high temperatures and busy beaches. It’s the music festival time and many cultural events are organized in the bigger cities. If you still want to enjoy the beaches and sightseeing but with less crowd, then the months of May, June, September and even October can be ideal and very relaxing for you. If you don’t mind a little cold weather, then you should visit from November to April. It’s a great time to explore national parks and, with the approach of the winter, you’ll probably find snow in continental Croatia.
Living like a true Dalmatian
When in Croatia, do as Croatians do! Here, drinking coffee is a ritual – “kava s mlijekom”, coffee with milk, is a very popular drink, at least here in Split. Coffee time is used to socialize and unwind, and therefore it can take a couple of hours. When I first arrived, because I was so used to those espressos in Portugal, I’d drink my coffee in a blink of an eye. As time went by, I started to get the “pomalo” spirit and (wait for it) giving smaller sips!
Speaking of “pomalo”, this is one of the reasons why I’ve been enjoying my time here so much. It’s a Dalmatian expression, more like a state of mind, which means “take it easy” – don’t worry, you have time, so chill and relax. Back in Lisbon, I was waking up at 6 am to go to university and arriving home late at night. Arriving to Split and being able to walk to work and look at the sea almost every day, that’s a quality a life I wasn’t used to and I’m very grateful to have.
So, have I made you want to visit Croatia already? Whether you’re looking for a relaxing holiday, an exciting festival, a cultural visit or an adventurous trip, Croatia has a huge number of beautiful sites to visit. Hop up on that plane and discover it for yourself.