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Croatia: Can you keep a secret?


It may not seem much but along its 1778km coastline, Croatia boasts a glistening sea winds around rocky coves, lapping at pine-fringed beaches. Istrian ports bustle with fishermen while children dive into the sparkling water. Dalmatian cites throb with nightlife set amid ancient Roman ruins. Then there?s the magical walled city of Dubrovnik, adorned with fine Renaissance carving and marble-paved streets.
Croatia?s 1185 islands make it a yachtie?s paradise. There?s one for every taste ? from stark, empty outposts baking in the Adriatic sun, to lushly wooded Shangri-las, replete with mountains, lakes, vineyards and olive trees.
Croatia?s interior landscape is no less beguiling. Soak in a thermal spa in the rolling hills of northern Croatia. Hike through pristine forests watered by mountain streams in western Croatia. Let the waterfalls of Plitvice moisten your face.

Yet Croatia is more than just pretty scenery. The country that endured Roman, Venetian, Italian and Austro-Hungarian rule has a complex and unique cultural identity. You?ll find a strong central European flavour in the baroque architecture of Zagreb and other northern cities. Italian devotion to the good life percolates up from the coast, permeating Croatian food and style. During holidays and festivals the essentially Slavic soul of Croatia emerges, as colourfully costumed dancers whirl about to traditional folk melodies.
It all adds up to a relaxed, easy-going country that offers an unparalleled wealth of holiday opportunities. But, please, try to keep it a secret.

Naked on the beach…
Naturism in Croatia enjoys a long and venerable history, beginning on Rab Island around the turn of the 20th century. Its reputation as a health centre in the Austro-Hungarian empire coincided with the rise of the German physical culture (k?rperkultur) movement which held that frolicking naked in the outdoors was a sign of physical and mental health. Hotels that were treating Europeans for heart and respiratory ailments soon began setting aside beds for naturists.

Austrian Richard Ehrmann opened the first naturist camp on Paradise Beach, near Lopar, in 1934 but the real founders of Adriatic naturism were Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, who were allowed to skinny dip in Kandalora Bay in 1934. Near the Suha Punta resort complex, the bay is now nicknamed ?English Bay?.

The naturist business in Croatia took off in the 1960s with the transformation of Koversada, near Vrsar, into a totally nude islet in 1961. The naturist colony spread to the nearby coast and soon nude resorts began opening up all along the coast. There are now 20 officially naturist camping grounds that also offer some 5300 beds in apartments or on-site hotels. In addition to the sprawling naturist camps (marked ?FKK?), there are innumerable coves and inlets given over to clusters of naturists. Partly because of the influence of the Catholic Church, Croats make up only a minuscule percentage of nude bathers but they remain remarkably tolerant of the naked guests. Still, there are a few rules you should respect :
? Nudism is generally frowned upon when within view of a town or village
? Some naturist swimming areas are ?clothing optional?; others do not encourage clothing at all
? Families are accepted at all naturist centres but single men are usually required to show the International Naturist Federation members card.
For more details, see www.cronatur.com.

From Lonely Planet?s new guide to Croatia
Croatia
3rd edition
ISBN 1 74059 487 8
Jeanne Oliver – www.croatiatraveller.com
304 pages, 16 pages colour, 68 maps
A$32.90