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The tie (cravat), today an essential fashion accessory for men and women, was named after an item in the uniform of Croatian soldiers during the Thirty Years War. As part of their uniform, they tied an eye-catching length of fabric around their necks. The Parisians noted this Croatian custom and adopted it as their own fashion detail, wearing neck ties 'à la croate', now forming the root of the French noun 'la cravate'. Croatia is still proud of this historical gem, and the Croatian Sabor has declared 18 October Cravat Day.
The Dalmatian dog, also known as the Dalmatinac or Dalmatiner, is the most famous indigenous Croatian canine breed, named after the Croatian historical province of Dalmatia, where it was bred in the past.
There are three strictly protected large beasts in Croatia: the wolf, the brown bear and the lynx.
The olm (Proteus anguinus) is endemic to the Dinaric karst region and is the largest predator in the underground caves, although it can survive ten years without feeding! It is about a foot long and it spends its whole life in the dark, its eyes being covered with a layer of skin. Interestingly, it has both external gills and lungs.
The Croatian kuna is the national currency. The fur of the marten (kuna in Croatian) was a form of currency in the Middle Ages, and in the 13th century the image of a marten began to be seen on coins. Today the kuna is a stable, convertible currency (ISO code – HRK).
With 13 entries on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, Croatia is, with Spain, the European country with the highest number of entries.
Almost 10% of the country is protected within 11 nature parks, 8 national parks and two strict nature reserves.
According to one theory, the ethnic name Croats has Iranian (Sarmatian) origins. The theory is based on the etymology of the name Horoathos and ancient writings, of which the oldest are two second-century tablets found at the mouth of the River Don (Tanais).
According to legend, the founder of San Marino in the early 4th century was a stonemason, Marin, from the island of Rab.
Marco Polo, a 13th century Venetian explorer of the Far East, was born on the island of Korčula, according to one claim. There is no direct evidence for the claim, but research has shown that a Venetian trading family, the Polos, did in fact come from Korčula.
Croatia was for the first time acknowledged in history on 7 June 879, when Pope John VIII granted Duke Branimir the title dux Croatorum.
The Dubrovnik Republic forbade trading in slaves, according to regulations dated 1413 and 1416, while a law was passed in 1466 'against those who sell people'.
The Dubrovnik Republic was divided politically between two aristocratic camps, the Sorbonezi (older noble families) and Salamankezi (newer noble families). The names, however, have nothing to do with where the Dubrovnik patriarchs sent their sons to study, though they allude to the famous universities of Salamanca and the Sorbonne. Most of the Dubrovnik nobles studied in Padua, and the names are pure word-play, derived from Italian, but twisted to make them terms of mockery: Salamankezi means 'lacking salt' (i.e. wits), while Sorbonezi means 'dry as a sorb tree'.
The surname Horvát or Horváth, which literally means 'Croat', is one of the most common surnames in Hungary and among the Hungarian minority in Slovakia. Of course, not all Hungarians with the surname are of Croatian origin, but the fact that the name is so widespread is an indication of the hundreds of years of connections between Croatia and Hungary and the migration of populations in the past.
Among the most prominent people at the court of the Ottoman Sultans there were several Islamised Croats. Several of their names included the epithet Hırvat (Croat), such as Mahmoud Pasha Hırvat, Pyale Pasha Hırvat, Siyavuş Pasha Hırvat, and others. The most famous was Rustem Pasha Hırvat, a Grand Vizier during the time of Suleiman the Magnificent, whose daughter he married.
The oldest preserved records of Sabor sessions date back to 1273, although the beginnings of the Sabor are much earlier. Alongside the Icelandic Althing, formed in 930, and the Parliament of Sicily, established in 1130, the Sabor is therefore one of the oldest Diets in Europe. Until the 16th century, the Slavonian and Croatian Sabors sat separately, and from 1681, the Sabor of the Kingdom of Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia held sessions. The official language was Latin, but this was replaced by Croatian in 1847.
The Croats put the Glagolitic script into print in the very earliest period of European printing, in the 15th century, and five incunabula were printed in Glagolitic. The incunabulum Glagolitic Missal was published on 22 February 1483, in Croatian Church Slavonic, only 28 years after Gutenberg’s Bible. It is the first ever missal in Europe to have been printed in a non-Latin script.
The Reims Gospel, mostly written in Glagolitic script (1395), is also known as Texte du Sacre, referring to the fact that the kings of France took their coronation oaths on the book.
The Croatian polymath and humanist, Pavao Skalić, used the word 'encyclopaedia' in its modern meaning as long ago as 1559, in the title of one his works.
The Croatian writer Marko Marulić is credited with the first ever use of the word 'psychology' (in the title of his work Psichiologia de ratione animae humanae), to mean the science of the soul.
Dante Alighieri, in The Divine Comedy (Paradiso, cantata XXXI), mentions a Croat. A Croatian pilgrim is described as being deeply moved by the imprint of the face of Christ on Veronica’s veil. It is thought that Dante made reference here to a personal friend, Bishop Anton Kažotić. An interesting off-spin is that Dante’s great-grandson Niccolo ran an apothecary’s shop in Zagreb in 1399.
A portrait of the Croatian miniaturist Julije Klović, dated 1570, is the earliest surviving portrait by the great Spanish painter and sculptor of Greek origin, El Greco. It was painted as a token of thanks for the help and recommendations Klović gave the then young, unknown painter.
The Irish writer James Joyce, while searching for work in Europe, found a job in Pula in the autumn of 1904. He went there with his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle. They stayed for four months, during which time Joyce taught English at the Berlitz School for Austro-Hungarian Officers.
The French writer Jules Verne placed his novel Mathias Sandorf, published in 1885, in Istria. He was attracted by the picturesque gorge of the River Pazinčica, with Kaštel above it. He was not the only one – this scene has often inspired the imagination.
The Vienna Natural History Museum houses a meteorite which fell to Earth in 1751 in Hraščina, north of Zagreb. The meteor’s fall was witnessed by a large number of spectators, and an expert report was wiritten about it. The meteor was nicknamed the 'Zagreb Iron'.
The Italian travel writer Alberto Fortis, compiling Viaggio in Dalmazia (1774), included the Croatian folk ballad Hasanaginica, which Goethe later recast in verse. Johann Gottfried Herder put it in his Volkslieder, and it was translated by Charles Nodier, Prosper Mérimée, Gérard de Nerval, Walter Scott and Niccolò Tommaseo, Alexander Puškin and others, having a direct impact on European literature (e.g. the novel Corinne, by Madame de Staël).
The Croatian mariner, Ivan Visin, was the sixth mariner after Magellan to sail around the world. Captain Visin, with a crew of nine, set sail from Antwerp in 1852 on the Splendido, sailing under the Habsburg flag, on a voyage around the world. He reached Trieste in 1859.
Two Croatian artists were praised for their excellence by the authors of the works they appeared in. The Italian composer Giacomo Puccini said of the Croatian singer Milka Trnina that 'no other Tosca can compare with her'. The American playwright Tennessee Williams thought that the Croatian ballerina Mia Čorak-Slavenska was the 'greatest Blanche Dubois' in the ballet A Streetcar Named Desire.
Mt. Velebit is included in the world network of biosphere reserves (UNESCO’s scientific programme Man and the Biosphere), while five areas in Croatia are on the list of wetlands of international importance, particularly as ornithological habitats: Kopački Rit, Lonjsko Polje, the Neretva Delta, Crna Mlaka and Lake Vransko.
Miners from Labin in Istria, supported by the local population, revolted in 1921 and took over the mine, declaring the Republic of Labin. The revolt was caused primarily by the difficult position and working conditions of the miners, but was sparked by a violent raid by Italian Fascists on the Chamber of Labour in Trieste. Although the Fascists only came to power in Italy in 1922, the Istrian miners’ revolt is considered to be the first anti-Fascist rising ever.
Among the 1,052 volunteer soldiers from Yugoslavia who fought in the International Brigades on the side of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, 528 were Croats.
One of the three battalions formed on the island of Rab on 11 September 1943 by survivors of the Italian concentration camp in Kampor, one was composed entirely of Jews, the first Jewish unit in occupied Europe.
Over one hundred Croats have received a medal and been declared Righteous among the Nations by the state of Israel, for saving Jews during the Holocaust.
In 2009 Croatia became a member of NATO, the largest military alliance in the world, only 11 years after the withdrawal of UN peacekeeping troops from the country. Since 1999, Croatia has participated in around twenty UN, NATO and EU peacekeeping operations and missions throughout the world.
Hum in Istria is the smallest town in the world. This fortress town, partly enclosed by defence walls, and partly by conjoined house walls, and which is entered by a town gate, has 30 residents according to the 2011 census.
The largest truffle in the world, weighing 1.3 kg, was found in 1999 near the village of Livada in Istria, and in 2000 was entered in the Guinness Book of Records.
According to the quantity of water resources per capita, Croatia is the third country in Europe, behind Iceland and Norway.
There is an organ in Zadar powered by sea waves. It was built in 2005 by the architect Nikola Bašić, assisted by Ivica Stamać (sound) and Vladimir Andročec (hydraulics), while the calculations for articulating the sound were provided by the Heferer organ-making studio. Bašić’s installation Greeting the Sun is close by.
Apart from its unspoiled nature, Brijuni National Park is also a place steeped in history, since the corner-stone of the Non-Aligned Movement was established there in 1956, during the Cold War.
The hydroelectric plant Jaruga on the Krka River is the oldest hydroelectric plant in Europe and the second oldest in the world. Indeed, it is primarily thanks to the famous Croatian-born American inventor Nikola Tesla that it was put into service on 28 August 1895, just three days after the first hydroelectric plant in the world on the Niagara Falls was put into service according to his patents.
Andrija Mohorovičić (1857–1936), a geophysicist, discovered the Mohorovičić discontinuity (Moho) in the Earth’s core, which leads to acceleration in the spread of shock waves. His discovery enabled the epicentres of earthquakes to be located precisely.
The criminalist Ivan Vučetić (1858–1925), a native of Hvar, emigrated to Argentina in 1884 where he entered the Central Police Department of the Province of Buenos Aires in the city of La Plata. In 1891 he developed dactyloscopy, a system for the classification of fingerprints for identification purposes. In 1892 he was the first to implement it successfully in solving a criminal case.
Ivan Bjelovučić (1889–1949), aviation pioneer and the first pilot to fly on the South American continent (in Lima on 14 January 1911), is also the first pilot to have successfully crossed the Alps, from Switzerland to Italy on 25 January 1913. In September 1910, Geo Chavez had almost succeeded, but crashed soon after crossing the Alpine barrier.
There is a crater in the middle of the visible side of the Moon named after the Croatian scientist Ruđer Bošković (1711–87). Around the Boscovich Crater are seven satellite craters, also named after him. The first heavenly body to be given a Croatian name was the asteroid Croatia, discovered in 1906 by the observatory in Heidelberg and named to mark the foundation of the observatory in Zagreb.
The MP3 player, which has enhanced the lives of many music lovers, was based on an invention by the Croatian programmer Tomislav Uzelac. In 1997 he developed AMP software for listening to music files, which American students then adapted for Windows and called WinAmp.
According to the World Tourism Organization, with nearly 9.9 million foreign tourists in 2011, Croatia was the 6th Mediterranean tourist destination after France, Spain, Italy, Turkey and Greece.
The Pula Film Festival, held every summer in the Pula Arena, was launched in 1954 and is one of the oldest film festivals in the world.
Branko Lustig (1932), the eminent Croatian producer, who has worked in Hollywood since the late 1980s, co-produced two films which won Oscars (Schindler’s List and Gladiator).
The pianist Ivo Pogorelić is the first artist named UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador (1988).
Croatian pop group Riva from Zadar won the Eurovision Song Contest in Lausanne in 1989 with the song Rock me.
The railway line between the Croatian towns of Slavonski Brod and Vinkovci was the setting for the murder in Agatha Christie’s classic Murder on the Orient Express, a train that travelled between Paris and Istanbul.
Janica Kostelić, the Croatian skier who won four gold and two silver Olympic medals, is the best Alpine woman skier in the history of the Winter Olympic Games.
In 2005, Croatia became the 12th nation to win the Davis Cup. Croatian tennis players have had individual successes as well: Iva Majoli won the women’s singles final at Roland Garros in 1997, while Goran Ivanišević won Wimbledon in 2001.
Blanka Vlašić, high jump world champion in 2007 and 2009, and winner of the silver medal at the 2008 Olympic Games, was voted the best athlete in Europe in 2010.
Football player Davor Šuker was the top scorer in the FIFA World Cup in 1998, when the Croatian national team won third place. Since 2007, Croatia has consistently been among the top 10 teams in the world in the FIFA rankings. In June 2013, the Croatian football team ranked 4th in the world, behind Spain, Germany and Argentina.
Some of the most recent archaeological finds, which date back to approximately 6300 BC, indicate that Vinkovci (Slavonia) is the oldest European town, with an urban continuity of over 8,000 years.
The amphitheatre in Pula, known as the Arena, built in the first century, the sixth largest in the Roman Empire, could host 25,000 spectators. Today it is used for large cultural and sporting events.
Holy Cross Church in Nin (9th c.) is considered to be the smallest cathedral in the world.
Trsteno Arboretum, near Dubrovnik, was founded in 1498 and is the oldest arboretum in the world.
The 5.5 kilometre-long fortifications in Ston in southern Croatia built in the 15th century, with 40 towers and 5 fortresses, are the second longest defensive fortifications in Europe and they represented the second line of defence for the former Republic of Dubrovnik.
Suleiman’s Bridge in Osijek was the most famous Ottoman construction in Croatia. It was built in 1566 according to the designs of Koca Mimar Sinan and was nicknamed 'the eighth wonder of the world'. It was burned down by the Croatian ban Nikola VII Zrinski in a conflict with the Ottomans.
Grassalkovich Palace in Bratislava, today the residence of the president of Slovakia, was built in 1760 for Count Antal Grassalkovich, a Croatian noble serving as the head of the Hungarian Chamber. This palace is the largest and most important Baroque building in Slovakia.