Neckties, White Wine, And A Remarkably Long Coastline–Why Croatia Is One Of The World’s Top Havens
Neckties and wine. Croatia may be better known for its long coast along the sparkling green Adriatic and its tumultuous, 1,000-year-long history, but, when I think of Croatia, I think of neckties and wine. This gorgeous, complicated country is the birthplace of both the necktie and the Zinfandel grape, and these two facts reveal a lot about Croatia. First, it has great weather. The Zinfandel grape requires a climate not too hot and not too cold. Croatia’s mild winters and sunny summers make for perfect Zinfandel grape-growing.
Second, Croats are the trendsetters credited with introducing today’s tie to the fashion world. The Croat contingency of the French service wore their traditional knotted handkerchiefs during the Thirty Year’s War (1618 to 1648). The Parisians took a fancy to them and called them “cravat“–a cross between the Croatian and French words for Croat (Hrvati and Croates). So began a cravat fashion frenzy. In the 17th century, these kerchiefs became so intricate that they were tied in place by strings and arranged in a bow that took forever to arrange.
Croatia is tucked into southeastern Europe, bordering the Adriatic Sea, between Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Slovenia. It’s near the coast, Vienna, Venice, Budapest, skiing in Austria, and golf in Slovenia. It’s been more than 20 years since the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was dissolved. Its six republics–Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia–are all very much their own countries today. Croatia is wearing its new skin comfortably, as it should. The Kingdom of Croatia was, in fact, its own entity starting in 925AD. It joined Hungary in 1102 but maintained a Croat culture with hopes for independence. Although it was titled a free royal town in 1242, it took about 800 years before Croatia was independent again, this time from Austria-Hungary in 1918. That freedom, too, was short-lived, however. Croatia became a member of Yugoslavia after World War II and didn’t stand on its own again until 1992.
A Croatian friend told me a story about his family once. “My father lived to be more than 100 years old,” Lovorko explained. “He lived his whole life in Croatia, here in Istria. Not only in the same town where he’d been born but in the same house. And, in his lifetime, he lived in nine different countries.”
You have two strong lifestyle options in Croatia, the coast and the Istrian peninsula. The Adriatic waters offshore from Croatia are a sailor’s paradise. Inland, in Istria, is a wonderland of another kind, with vineyards and olive groves. If you’ve any romance in your soul, I defy you not to fall in love with this country. The ancient Romans called it Terra Magica, the Magic Land. Perhaps the best part is that, unlike Tuscany, the region of Italy Istria is most often compared with (with good reason, as the geography and the history of these two regions have much in common), the average person can afford Istria, where you can buy a small, renovated cottage with lookouts over a valley and vineyards, perfect for regular visits, for rental, and for retirement, for as little as US$100,000.
Retiring to Croatia, you’d be in good company. Diocletian, the only Roman emperor to abdicate his position (that is, to retire) was also the first person to retire overseas. Diocletian built a palace on the Dalmatian coast (his birthplace was Dalmatia), the location of current-day Split, and it is here, with the glorious Adriatic Sea spread out before him, that he chose to live out his days.
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