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Intrigued by the Eastern European country of Croatia? While its claim to fame is the sun and surf along its long coastline on the Adriatic Sea, Croatia has a rich cultural heritage that is very much alive and accessible today! Here's BCD's big picture, which is followed by a growing collection of pieces that give insight into Croatia's culture--where to go and who to meet!
Croatia has long been a cultural crossroads, given its location at the junction of Western, Central and Southeastern Europe. Because of a geographic position that encompasses important sea channels north and south, and river routes between the east and west, Croatia represents a blend of four different cultural spheres. It was an intersection of influences from the Western Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire—as well as a meeting point of the Middle European and Mediterranean cultures.
With more than a thousand islands off its shores, Croatia has a well-deserved reputation as a sailor's paradise. But the country has many fascinating regions other than the Dalmatian coast, like Istria, Međimurje, Lika, Zagorje and Slavonia—and they each have their own cultural tradition and identity, because different areas were settled by people who came from different places. Croatians cherish their rich cultural heritage; many of the folk customs were kept alive as "acts of defiance" during the Croatian War of Independence, during which the country was the target of ethnic cleansing.
These cultural traditions are easily accessible and powerful to witness and appreciate. Thrill to the high energy "Batman meets ballet" performance of the Moreska Sword Dance on the island of Korcula, a tradition that dates to the 16th century. Immerse yourself in the Brodsko kolo, Croatia's largest and oldest traditional dance and song festival, where men and women carry on ancient folkloric traditions in lavish costumes, performing songs and dances that tell stories about love, hard-working village life, and rituals of the seasons. Climb the "Great Wall of Ston," a five-kilometer defensive fortification constructed in 1358. In Vid, take a leisurely cruise on the Neretva River on a Ladja boat, sample the local gastronomy of frog and eel stew, and visit the world class Narona Archaeology Museum, which is built on the site of a Roman Temple. In the small village of Cilipi, about a half-hour from Dubrovnik, learn about the historic silk production and the incredible artistry and "language" of the Konavle Valley textile traditions.