Is there anything to buy in Croatia?:
Croatia is not a shopping destination, however that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to buy here. There is a long tradition of handicraft here so one can buy original handmade craftwork such as lace, hand-painted ceramics or jewelry.
What to Buy?
Embroidery is a typical craft that is carried out throughout the peninsula. A characteristic design is red geometric patterns stitched onto a white background. You’ll see these designs on table clothes, pillowcases and blouses. Similar patterns and colours can be seen on hand-painted ceramics. Both the embroidery and hand-painted ceramic are very attractive and make good presents.
Pag Lace dates back to the Renaissance, but it was only in the early 20th century that this handiwork became famous.
It all started when a noblewoman gave a beautifully decorated blouse to Marie Josephine, the Archduchess of Austria. The Archduchess liked the blouse so much that she personally went to Pag to order more lace clothing. During that period, trends were set by the Austrian court and from then on Pag lace decorated the clothes of empresses and princesses throughout Europe.
This amazingly intricate lace is produced using an ordinary mending needle. It’s produced only on Pag Island where you can still see older women at work. There is also a Pag Museum on the island. Pag lace can be found in the more upmarket souvenir shops throughout Croatia.
The Cravat, a Croatian invention
Did you know that Croatia is the home of the cravat? During the bloody 30 Years’ War in Europe in the 17th century Croatian cavalrymen wore scarfs to distinguish themselves from other soldiers. The French referred to the Croatian scarf as “a la cravate”, meaning “in the Croatian way”, hence the commencement of the fashion.
This accessory was once the rage of Louis XIV’s court at Versailles. Unfortunately, the cravat wasn’t in vogue when we were in Croatia and only ties could be seen in the men’s clothing shops. However, fashions come and go and no doubt cravats will take their place in fashion again. If you happen to be in Croatia at that time you can claim to have bought your cravat from its country of origin.
Rakija or Croatian wine
With the ban on liquids on flights, wines are more difficult to transport home these days. However, if you’re arriving by ship or train, then you’re in luck. By far the most popular Croatian rakija is travarica which is made from grape brandy that has been allowed to infuse in an assortment of herbs. There could be up to 20 different types of herbs added to their flavour. Rosemary, chamomile, lavender, rose hips, matgrass, juniper, thyme, currants, mint or sage are some of the more common ingredients. There are also rakija made from plums, carob and even mistletoe.
So when a Croatian wine producer says that his wine has a “bouquet of mellon, smoke and vanilla notes that play up the jammy blackberry fruit, finished with hints of dried spices and coffee …..” he means it literally! I haven’t tasted these herb wines but would imagine they’d taste a little strange if you’re only used to straight bordeau, shiraz, cabernet, merlot, etc.
Travarica is produced commercially but the best and strongest is homemade. You can find the commercial variety in supermarkets and homemade travarica in many open air markets or carts like in this photo.
In Dubrovnik, there are lots of shops in the Old Town selling anything from gifts, handicraft, t-shirts, scarves, jewelry, etc. I managed to find myself a very nice ring and the price was very reasonable.
In Zagreb, the capital city, the shops are in the main street in town. This is where the shopping centres are.
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