Packing a fabulous meal or a bit of the turquoise sea into your bag probably won’t fly. You can though bring home something from your Croatian vacation that will remind you of the warmth of the people and the country. Many of these souvenirs are place-dependent, so if something catches your eye, your heart, or your tastebuds while traveling, pick it up – you might not see it again.
Croatian soldiers introduced the necktie to the world (it was actually a scarf that was part of their uniform). During the Thirty Years War, Croatian mercenaries charmed the French with their traditional, small, knotted neckties. Pick up a souvenir cravat from a Kravata Croata store, which can be found across the country.
2. Fountain pens
For something light to pack and useful too, pick up a couple fountain pens (penkala) in Zagreb. A pioneering early expat, the half-Polish, half-Dutch engineer was born in the town of Liptovsky Mikulas in present day Slovakia as Eduard Penkala. After studying in Dresden and Vienna he emigrated to Zagreb with his wife and family where he became a naturalized Croatian and to mark his devotion to his new homeland took the Croatian name Slavoljub. He subsequently patented and started producing the first mechanical pencil in the world in 1906 and in 1907 the first fountain pen.
Croatia is one of the world’s largest growers of lavender and the island of Hvar is the best place to buy products infused with fragrance. Lavender blooms in June and July, so if you visit Hvar in these months be prepared for sight and smell overload. Sachets of dried lavender flowers and lavender oil for your bath are the most common forms.
Lace is another easy to bring home gift and it seems nearly every Croatian region has its own style. The finery from Lepoglav, north of Zagreb and that produced on the island of Pag (also renowned for its sheep cheese) are two of the more famous.
5. Baska tablets
The Baska tablet is the oldest written example of the Croatian Glagolitic script dating back to around 1100. It came from St. Lucy’s church in Jurandvor near Baska on the island Krk. Imitations can be bought to take home, or see the real thing in the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences in Zagreb.
6. Vucedol doves
History buffs should also be on the lookout for replica Vucedol doves. The dove is a strange shaped ceramic dish on three feet. It’s the model of a ritual vessel believed to have been made between 2800 and 2500 BC, and found during a 1938 archaeological excavation in Vucedol. The dove is also pictured on the back of the 20 kuna Croatian banknote.
7. Miniature Kazun
If you travel around Istria, you won’t miss the unusual stone huts called Kazuns. These are small structures built with local flat stones. They were built to store food as well as give olive grove and vineyard workers a place to relax out of the elements. They are national monuments and a miniature one is a cute reminder of the gorgeous Istrian countryside.
8. Foodie treats
If you prefer to bring back a taste of Croatia, pear brandy, cherry liqueur from Zadar, Bermet wine (really any wine from just about anywhere), dried figs, Bajadera chocolate and olive oil, which is produced throughout the country (though Chiavalon, from Vodjnan close to Rovinj in Istria is rumored to be the best) are all delicious choices. If you’re looking for the ultimate in personal foodie gifts though, what better than a truffle you took part in ‘hunting’?Photos: Cravat courtesy of Kravata Croata, Fountain pen courtesy of the Zagreb Tourist Board, Lavender in Hvar courtesy of Patrice_Muc8 @Flickr, Lace from Pag courtesy of the Croatian National Tourism Board, Baska tablet courtesy of the Croatian National Tourism Board, Vucedol dove courtesy of the Republic of Croatia, Kazun hut courtesy of behind Milna @Flickr, Olive oil courtesy of the Croatian National Tourism Board