Croatia is full of interesting facts, hidden surprises and fascinating revelations. From developing the first ever quarantine, to inventing the parachute and the cravat, to being home to the shortest funicular and the world’s narrowest street, why not test yourself with these interesting facts about Croatia…
1. The first ever ‘quarantine’ was created in Croatia between the 14th and 18th centuries when plague and cholera epidemics were notorious across Europe and Asia. Dubrovački lazareti (‘the Lazzarettos of Dubrovnik’) was a group of interconnected buildings located 300m from the city walls of Dubrovnik that were once used as a quarantine station for the Republic of Ragusa, an active merchant city-state receiving people and goods from all over the world, to prevent the spread of disease.
2. Croatian scientist, Dr. Andrija Štampar, was one of the founders of the World Health Organisation. Stampar (1888-1958) was a Croatian scientist and professor at the University of Zagreb, he was a leading authority in the field of epidemiology and a pioneer in preventive medicine. As an expert of the League of Nations, he introduced public health care in China in the 1930s and later became one of the founders of the World Health Organisation. The First World Health Assembly was held in 1948 and Štampar was elected as the first President of the Assembly. In 1955 he was awarded the Leon Bernard Foundation Prize and Medal, the greatest international recognition of merit in the field of social medicine. Today, the School and Institute of Public Health in Zagreb is named after him.
3. Croatia is home to the narrowest street in the world called ‘Klančić’ which is located in Vrbnik on the Island of Krk. The narrowest part of the street is only 40cm wide! Those who are brave enough and small enough to squeeze through can reward themselves with a glass of Žlahtina, the famous wine from Vrbnik.
4. The first parachute was developed by Croatian inventor, Faust Vrančić. While Leonardo Da Vinci might have developed the concept of the parachute in his 15th-century sketches, it is believed that Vrančić was the first to develop and test the invention by jumping from a tower in Venice in 1617.
5. The first ‘vampire’ came from the village of Kringa in the Istrian peninsula, Croatia. Jure Grando Alilović (1579 – 1656) is believed to have been the first real person to be described as a vampire back in the 16th century according to historical records. He died in 1656 but according to legend, returned from the grave at night as a vampire (‘štrigon’) and terrorised his village. Visitors to Istria today can still visit the cemetery where he is buried.
6. Croatia was the home of an ancient civilisation called the Vučedol culture (‘Vučedolska kultura') which flourished between 3,000 and 2,200 BC in Syrmia and eastern Slavonia on the banks of the Danube river. One of the major places they occupied is present-day Vučedol ("Wolf's Valley"), located 6km downstream from the town of Vukovar, Croatia. It is estimated that the site had once been home to around 3,000 inhabitants, making it one of the largest and most important European centres of its time. The culture is famed for producing the first bronze and the first wagon on four wheels in the world.
7. The cravat (‘krəˈvæt’) originated from a style worn by members of the 17th century Croatian military unit known as the ‘Croats’. During the reign of Louis XIV of France, Croatian mercenaries were enlisted in 1660 wearing a necktie called a tour de cou. The traditional Croat military kit aroused curiosity about the unusual scarves distinctively knotted around the Croats' necks. On returning to England from exile in 1660, Charles II imported with him the latest new word in fashion, he wrote, "A cravatte is another kind of adornment for the neck being nothing else but a long towel put about the Collar, and so tyed before with a Bow Knott”. Today Croatia celebrates Cravat Day on 18th October each year.
8. You can ride the world’s shortest funicular in Croatia’s capital, Zagreb. The Funicular is Zagreb’s oldest public transport vehicle and a protected monument. It connects the Lower Town with the Upper with tracks measuring only 66m in length, making it the shortest funicular ride in the world. With an average speed of 1.5 metres per second, the ride takes just 64 seconds to reach its destination. The cabin can accommodate up to 28 adult passengers with 16 seated and 12 standing.
9. The world’s first ‘dumpling bells’ have been ringing in Croatia for over 330 years. The famous church bells in the city of Osijek have rung without fail at 11am every Friday. For the families of Osijek, it marks the start of preparation of one of Croatia’s most popular dishes – dumplings. But the churches didn’t really have that in mind when they started this peculiar tradition. Those wishing to discover the real reason can do so by trying some of the sweet dumplings at selected restaurants in Osijek which serve the traditional dish.
10. Croatia is home to a Museum of Angels in Varaždin, “the town where angels sleep”. This unique museum was curated by local artist, Željko Prstec as a place where art work inspired by angels is collected. The museum also includes a Garden of Eden which invites visitors to sit, reflect and contemplate.
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