Croatia: Shop till you drop!
As we all know, shopping is a girl’s best friend. We get immense pleasure and a certain glint in our eyes when we enter a shop and feast upon the numerous things it has to offer us. We mentally make plans on how to make space for extra clothes in the already stuffed closet or to explain the 4th pair of shoes for the month or even how to make space in the suitcase to carry home the ‘must-have-or-I-will-regret-it-later’ souvenir. For a shopping addict like myself, I found Croatia an inexpensive destination and hence could take home a lot of their local flavour with me.
Here’s what a typical tourist shouldn’t miss shopping for in Croatia:
1. The neck tie: I am sure, you will wonder “why”? Wouldn’t you want to gift your special someone a tie from the land where it was invented? Yes, the humble necktie was founded by the Croats. During the war in the 17th century, small neckerchiefs were worn by the Croatian mercenaries. This would tie and hold their jackets on their backs. King Louis XIII took a fascination to this accessory and found it very decorative. He liked it so much that he made it a compulsory accessory at all his royal gatherings. And to honor Croatian soldiers, he gave it the name, “La Cravate”, which is what the necktie is called in France, even today.
2. Sea Salt: Known as ‘white gold’ of the Adriatic, Croatia has the highest and best quality of salt producing methods. This salt is available at shops for cooking purposes, bathing purposes etc. You must definitely not miss out the very delicious sea salt chocolates.
3. Wooden Toys: In and around Zagreb, a city skirted by Hrvatsko Zagorje, you will find many toy makers who personally hand carve each toy from locally grown wooden trees. Once the men finish the carving, the women will paint them in very bright colours. Commonly found toys include trains, planes and horses. To increase the popularity and get a lot more tourists to purchase these wooden toys, they have now started hand carving wooden dolls but instead of painting them, they make them wear local Croatian clothes. This gives it a very local flavour. Infact when I was speaking to the store owner and I told her about my little globe that travels with me and makes an appearance in all my pictures, she excitedly gave me a wooden doll as gratis and asked me to take a picture of the globe with the doll at my favourite spot in Croatia.
4. Croatian Cuturica: This is a wooden flask from the outside but has a glass bottle on the inside. Owning this is a family tradition and has been carried down generations. It is used at all Croatian weddings too. I hear this legend from a local Croat.
5. Lavender: Croatia is one of the largest producers of lavender in the world. The climate and soil here are ideal for this flowering plant. The main area for growing this is around the mountainous regions of Hvar which is said to have the best quality lavender. Blooming season is in June & July. Rest of the year you can see small kiosks selling lavender in its various forms – lavender bath salt, perfumes, shower gels, dried flowers, lavender oil or fragrance bags.
6. Truffles: If you are a big fan of the mushroom kind of truffle oil flavour, you sure are going to enjoy eating in Croatia. They add this flavour in everything – from your risotto, to your pasta or scrambled eggs and even the cheese in pizza – this item sure is a delicacy. There are truffle / mushroom hunting tours in the Istria. This black or white fungus is picked from the dark woods and sold at a fortune in Croatian markets. Bring home some cheese, oils and spreads packed with this flavour, to relive your memories of Croatia.
7. Goodies: Show your taste buds some Croatian culture by trying olives stuffed with nuts, chilli & cheese, fig cakes flavoured with lavender or orange zest and last but not the least chocolates.
If you are not too much into the food scenario or maybe have more countries to travel to from Croatia and can’t carry perishables, fear not, there are plenty more souvenirs for you to choose from. From the usual magnets, coffee mugs and shot glasses that are a must to bring back home, you also get colorful hand painted glasses . One of the best place for Croatian gifts is the Dalmac market of Zagreb. For all you Game of Throne fans, there are special souvenir shops in Dubrovnik Stari Grad.
Croatia has so much local shopping, that too at such reasonable prices, that you are sure to bring home some great memories. Just be sure to carry an extra foldable bag in your suitcase to lug around your stash ;-