Trogir, Croatia. Photo by Sergii Gulenok, Unsplash

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Croatia is full of interesting facts that many people know nothing about. Even after living here for the last five years, I still find discovering new fun facts about Croatian people, culture, and the country fascinating.

Being a small European country, you would not expect so much cultural and landscape diversity within its borders. Still, only Croats know how different living in Zagreb is from living in Dalmatia, Istria, or Slavonia. From music to food, and language, it changes with every kilometer, and if you are not watching closely, you might miss these fantastic cues.

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Here are the fun facts and things you didn’t know about Croatia that will motivate you even more to visit this beautiful Mediterranean country:

Plitvice, Croatia. Photo by Mike Swigunski
Plitvice, Croatia. Photo by Mike Swigunski, Unsplash

1. Dubrovnik Was Famous Before the HBO Hit Show Game of Thrones

To many Europeans, it is a fun fact that the rest of the world discovered Dubrovnik after it became the filming location for King’s Landing in Game of Thrones because, to us, Dubrovnik has been known as the Pearl of the Adriatic long before that. This nickname for the city of Dubrovnik was created by no other than Lord Byron.

Dubrovnik is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in the world, with a long history dating back to the 11th century when the city was founded. The old town was built between the 11th and 17th centuries, so the cobbled streets we are walking down today have been there for centuries.

Before Dubrovnik we know today which is UNESCO World Heritage Site, there was a city named Ragusa in its place founded by refugees from the Byzantine Empire. The city belonged to the Republic of Venice until the 14th century when it gained independence, until it became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the 19th century. Dubrovnik was well known for its culture, diplomacy, trade, and literature.

2. Hum Is the Smallest Town in the World

The Croatian town of Hum is the world’s smallest town and has only 17 inhabitants, and it is listed in Guinness World Records. This town was first mentioned in official documents in 1102. The bell on the watch tower is dating back to 1552, and the local church was built in 1802. While exploring Istria, this is a great quick stop to make.

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3. 10% of the Country Is Reserved for National Parks, Nature Parks, and Nature Reserves

Dalmatian Coast, Croatia. Photo by Alexey Savchenko, Unsplash
Dalmatian Coast, Croatia. Photo by Alexey Savchenko, Unsplash

Croatia has a fascinating number of eight national parks, eleven nature parks, and two nature reserves. The government and the locals are putting a lot of effort into preserving nature and keeping the country green.

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This is part of the Croatian culture and even in bigger cities like Zagreb, you will see a lot of green areas and trees. Some of the parks you should not miss in Croatia are Plitvice Lakes National Park, Krka National Park, and Brijuni National Park.

4. Nikola Tesla Was Born in the Village of Smiljan in Croatia

As we all know, one of the most significant inventors of all time was Nikola Tesla. But did you know that he was born in Croatia, which at that time was Austro-Hungarian Empire? You can now visit a memorial center in his hometown, but even more interesting is an exhibit dedicated to his inventions in the Technical Museum Nikola Tesla in Zagreb.

5. First Mechanical Pencil Was Invented in Croatia

Eduard Slavoljub Penkala was a scientist and inventor who created over 80 inventions in the early 1900s while he was living in Zagreb. He created the first mechanical pen and with another entrepreneur, he started a company that was the biggest in the world at the time, Penkala-Moster Company. He also built the first Croatian plane, the Penkala 1910 Biplane.

6. Vinkovci Is the Oldest Town in Europe

Old town and harbor of Dubrovnik, Croatia. Photo by Siegfried Schnepf, Unsplash
Old town and harbor of Dubrovnik, Croatia. Photo by Siegfried Schnepf, Unsplash

The area where today you will find the city of Vinkovci in the Slavonia region in Croatia has been inhabited since the Neolithic period. Today we know of several archeological sites in Vinkovci, which include Sopot culture (5480–3790 BC), Vučedol culture (3000–2500 BC), Bijelo Brdo culture (middle ages), and more. This is a perfect city to visit for any history buff.

7. You Can Listen to Music Played by the Sea in Zadar

Zadar has a unique musical instrument, the first-ever sea organ that creates sounds when waves are crashing into it. The architect Nikola Bašić created this masterpiece in 2005, and since then it has attracted tourists from everywhere.

8. Krapina, a City in Northern Croatia, Has a Neanderthal Archaeological Site You Can Visit

In the beautiful Hrvatsko Zagorje region at the end of the 19th century, Croatian archeologist Dragutin Gorjanović-Kramberger discovered a collapsed cave that was home to a family of Neanderthals. Today you can visit the archaeological site but also the Neanderthal Museum right next to it, where you will discover the earliest history of European people.

9. Croatia Has 1244 Islands

Croatia has a nickname “Country of 1000 islands”, but in reality, there are a lot more than 1000 islands in this beautiful country. There are 78 islands in the Croatian part of the Adriatic Sea, 524 islets, and 642 rocks and reefs. However, the continuously inhabited are only 52 islands.

If you want to see the islands of the Dalmatian coast you can sign up for island hopping tours or take a ferry from Split. Some of the most popular islands to visit in Croatia are the island of Hvar, the island of Brač, the island of Korčula, the island of Susak, and more.

10. Cravat Was Invented in Croatia

The Croatian Island of Korcula. Photo by Unsplash
The Croatian Island of Korcula. Photo by Unsplash

A famous necktie that is part of everyday fashion for so many people around the world was first worn by Croatian soldiers who were deployed to aid France. King Louis XIV was drawn to the red scarves that Croatian soldiers were wearing and he was so enamored with the uniforms of the troops that he made them fashionable at the French court, which started the life of the cravat.

11. The Pula Arena Is a Roman Amphitheater

The Colosseum in Rome is not the only amphitheater where Roman emperors had gladiator games, Pula is one of the few cities in the world that has an arena from this period. It is so well preserved that not only you can visit it today, but you can also attend concerts and live events throughout the year.

12. The Croatian Island of Korčula Was Possibly a Real Home to Marco Polo

Venetian merchant and writer who traveled to the Far East in the 13th century and showed Europeans wonders of Persia, China, Japan, and India was possibly born on Korčula island off the Dalmatian coast. Some historians claim that he was born in Venice, while others claim his hometown is Korčula, but you can decide for yourself when you visit the Marco Polo Museum in Korčula’s old town.

13. Diocletian’s Palace Was Home to the Roman Emperor

Dubrovnik, Croatia. Photo by Lucian Petronel Potlog, Unsplash
Dubrovnik, Croatia. Photo by Lucian Petronel Potlog, Unsplash

if you want to see a well-preserved piece of Roman architecture in Croatia, you have to go to the city of Split. Diocletian’s palace is situated in the heart of the old town. How this city is inhabited since Roman times there are still people living in the palace today, about 3000 locals have homes within the palace grounds.

14. Split Has a 3000-Year-Old Egyptian Sphinx

While wandering the Diocletian’s palace you may also notice a unique artifact just below the Cathedral of St. Domnius, an Egyptian sphinx. This marvelous piece of art dates back to Pharaoh Thutmose III’s time and it is probably the oldest object in the entire city. The sphinx was brought to split by emperor Diocletian who loved Egyptian culture.

15. Istria Is One of the Few Places on the Planet Where You Can Find Truffles in the Forest

One kilogram of Istrian truffles is worth around 3000 euros, which is why many locals have found their vocation to be searching for truffles in the Motovun forest. Aside from Italy, France, and Slovenia, Croatia is also known for these tasty mushrooms and if you love exploring local gastronomies you will find many dishes on the menu in the Istria region that include truffles.

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Katarina Marjanović

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