The modern Republic of Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia in June 1991, a pivotal event in the subsequent history of the Balkans and one set in motion by the fall of the Berlin Wall two years earlier. Today Croatia is a member of NATO and is soon set to join the European Union; it has a prosperous modern economy that has been driven by revenues from tourism including cruises. The reasons for the latter are not hard to discern. Croatia has the highest number of UNESCO listed cultural sites of any European country, a host of national parks and nature reserves, a spectacular coastline of over one thousand islands and breathtaking limestone landscape that has given a Croatian name to the study of topography: karst scenery. Beautiful natural lakes, high waterfalls and deep cave systems await the traveller to the interior of this crescent-shaped country that borders Slovenia to the north, Hungary to the northeast, Serbia to the east, and Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina to the southeast. The latter breaks the line of Croatia’s Adriatic coast with an out-port at Neum. It is the Adriatic coastline of Croatia that acts as a magnet to visitors, however, its fjord- indented coastline best appreciated by small cruise ship.
The Croats arrived in this part of the world in the seventh century and their cultural orientation has been to west and north. Catholic rather than Orthodox, the Croatians use Latin script for their language as opposed to the Cyrillic script used by the Serbs. For much of their history, the population of Croatia resisted the Ottoman Turks to the south, being incorporated into the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the nineteenth century. It was Chancellor Kohl who led the diplomatic moves to recognize Croatian independence in the early 1990s. Croatia’s great Adriatic ports traded throughout the Mediterranean world; Dubrovnik, as Ragusa, was a maritime trading republic that rivalled Venice herself. Modern Croatia has emerged from a history of conflict, proud of its western European heritage and keen to share its natural marvels with the discerning traveller.
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