In one of the earlier seasons of Game of Thrones, Khaleesi stands on a bottom of a steep mountain surrounded by her dragons. She is giving a speech to her army with a breathtaking view of a Mediterranean coast behind her back. How does this relate to the history of Croatia, you may ask.
I had to pause. I recognized my town in the background. The VE removed all the houses digitally, but it was the town I grew up in.
While tourist strategies from other European countries, such as Italy and Greece, lean on their rich history, Croatia is tapping into the history of Westeros.
An already stunning city of Dubrovnik has seen a growth of 10 per cent in arrivals since it became the filming location for Kings Landing.
The town started adjusting to the hype with Game of Thornes city tours, Kings landing tourist agencies, Khaleesee’s pharmacies, Cerceii’s coffee shop right next to the stairs where she finished her walk of shame.
I am making this up, but it is not far from the truth.
A similar phenomenon happened in other cities such as Split where the series took place.
One would say this country does not have the history of its own.
This IS far from the truth.
The Balkans made the very border of the West and East of the known world. Occupying it meant being the gatekeeper.
As a result, it was part of most of the significant events in the history of the continent. It didn’t play a huge rule, but it was always involved—kind of like Forrest Gump of European history.
But is Croatia taking advantage of its rich history? Not really.
HISTORY OF CROATIA FROM YOUR COUCH
A young Italian journalist saw this as an opportunity to give a new perspective to the visitors of Croatia and other countries of the region.
Giovanni Vale and his wife Ivana decided to write an original guide book about countries that no longer exist.
The first edition of Extinguished Countries will cover the Republic of Venice. A 1000 year Republic which shaped both coasts of the Adriatic area, spreading through the territories of today’s Italy, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece and Cyprus.
“We will travel through these seven states, visit lighthouses, castles, islands and sumptuous palaces and introduce you to some of the greatest figures of the time, such as Marco Polo, Galileo Galilei or Casanova. Modern craftsmen, historians and artists will lead our way in this journey.”
The guidebook will allow you to travel from your home, which is a big plus in the current situation or to discover the remnants of the old republic in person. Croatia has a tremendous epidemiological situation and has already opened its doors to tourists.
In both scenarios, it is a great way to learn more historical facts about Croatia.
Before you order the guidebook, let me tell you six historical facts about Croatia in the time of the Republic of Venice (697 AD – 1797 AD).
CROATIA LIKES TO PARTICIPATE
First historical facts about Croatia is that it always liked to be part of a group. A bit codependent.
The territories of Croatia belonged to: Illyria, Roman Empire, Byzant, Ottoman Empire, The Republic of Venice, First French Empire, Croatian-Hungarian Kingdom, Habsburg Empire, Kingdom of Croatians, Serbs and Slovenians, Yugoslavia and finally the European Union,
CROATIANS WERE SERIOUS PIRATES
They may have been under a myriad of different rulers, but they always kept, what it will be known as a Balkan spirit—resistance to rules and regulations.
Throughout the 12th and 13th century, the pirates from Omis and the valley or Neretva ruled the very south of today’s Croatia. Venetian and Vatican trade ships were often victims of swift attacks made by their small and fast boats.
They were such a nuisance to the traders that they both the pope and the Venetian republic started wars against them. Puttin the end to the pirate tradition once and for all.
Learn more in this episode of the Extinguished countries podcast
CROATIA SAVED EUROPE FROM THE TURKS
Croatian Hungarian alliance lasted a good 400 years before the Ottoman came into the picture and started taking bits and pieces of the Balkans on their way to conquer Vienna.
Croatia and Hungary couldn’t withhold further under the Ottoman pressure. They got absorbed by Habsburg dynasty and formed the Austro Hungarian empire. And it was the Croatian who stopped the Turkish army in the battle of Sisak in 1892 and saved Europe from an Ottoman invasion.
The story goes that the bloodthirsty Croatian mercenaries were fighting for France in the 30-year-old war Mercenary armies.
Much like Khaleeses army, were consisted of members of various nations. The practical Croatian women came to the idea to tie scarfs around their husband’s and sons necks so their dead bodies would be distinguishable within the international piles of corpses.
Upon meeting the ferocious but stylish Croatians, the 7-year-old French king Luis XIII fell in love with the accessory. As one would expect from a boy that age. The style was known as “A la Croate” which turned into “la cravatte” which became “tie” which is kind of sad and unimaginative.
DUBROVNIK WAS COOLER THAN KINGS LANDING
Dubrovnik or Ragusa at the time was a Republic, similar to the Venice. Except they were not bothered with conquering other territories, they just used their mad trading skills to stay away from all the drama and keep their stunning stretch of coast neutral and peaceful.
Ragusa was one of the first countries in the world to ban slavery, in the 15th century when slavery was very much en vogue.
Most of Croatia’s prominent writers, playwrights and poets at the time lived and created in Dubrovnik.
They managed to keep this neutral position until the arrival of Napoleon’s army in 1806 – the same army that brought an end to the Venice republic.
As a result of the citizens of the town still have a strong feeling of identity and belonging to Dubrovnik, and they refer to it as “The town”, and when they say it, everyone in Croatia knows what they are referring to.
MARCO POLO WAS BORN IN CROATIA
You know that guy whose name you shout in a pool. One of the most prominent travel bloggers – check out his blog “The book of Marvels“! .Marco Polo – one of the first explorers and traders who came to China – is said to come from Venice. However, his family has a house on the Croatian island of Korcula. The Croatians are very proud of this legend, Italians, on the other hand, do not want to hear of it.
The island was part of the Venice Republic, which might explain the mystery, but there are no written documents to prove one or the other. But I won’t spoil it of you, find out more in one of the Extinguished countries podcasts.
The history of the Balkans and the Adriatic is a turbulent one. It doesn’t have any dragons or Whitewalkers, but it has pirates, dictators, Emperors, thousands of bloody wars and battles for the throne.
Find out more about the shared historical facts about Croatia and the rest of the Adriatic and support Extinguished countries on their Indiegogo page.