Many visitors in Croatia often ask me about the type of souvenirs that they should buy, and that are unique to Croatia. The latter having a long history and rich cultural heritage, there is a variety items that you could take home to your loved ones, friends, or acquaintances. Many of them relate to historical significance, but also architecture, food, and art. Here are the most important ones:
Licitar heart is a heart-shaped colorful biscuit that has a tradition going back to 16th century. It is mostly associated with Zagreb and Central Croatia, and is made of a food material of a rougher kind, so not meant to be eaten nowadays. In the past, it is said that the Licitar hearts were used for many purposes, one of them being a romantic ones: the story has it that in the 16th century central Croatia, when a boy would want to make a girl know that he likes her, he would give her such a heart-shaped biscuit on which it would be written his name, and sometimes it would even have a small mirror attached to it, for the girl to know who is the ‘love of his life’. Nowadays this is a type of gift that can be given to anyone.
Naive Art Paintings
The Naïve art style of paintings is an interesting one that existed since the 18th century. It has a particular childlike style to it, done by artists uneducated in their profession, hence the term ‘naïve’ or ‘primitive’ type of art. In Croatia it started in the early 20th century in the Northeast of the country, a region known as Podravina. The Croatian branch of it is said to be the first one in this part of Europe, often time depicting hardships and joys of life in villages in the early 20th century. Many souvenir shops have miniature paintings of such kind that can be easily bough in frame or without one.
The glagolitic script is an old script that was used in Croatia until the arrival of the Latin alphabet. It is believed that it was composed by the Byzantine saint Cyril, when he and his brother Methodius were given a mission to spread Christianity in the Slavic countries, and for that purpose the common script was necessary. It is also mentioned that the Glagolitic script has similarity to ancient Armenian script, which opens up new questions about its origin. Whatever it may be, this type of script was used in Croatia for centuries, in some places of the Istria region even up until 19th century! Therefore, the script is strongly imbued in the consciousness of the Croatians and forms a part of their national heritage. There are many shops all over Croatia that sell souvenirs with such letters.
Istrian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Istrian peninsula is said to be the region of the best olive oil in the world, and if you ever visit Istria, you will be able to not only buy their olive oil, but also to participate in a tour of the making of it. Even if you don’t visit this region in the Western Croatia, you can still find this special extra virgin olive oil in other popular parts of Croatia, such as Zagreb or Dalmatian coast.
Pumpkin Seed Oil
Another culinary delight, the pumpkin seed oil production has a long tradition in Northern and Eastern part of Croatia, particularly in the counties of Medimurje, Zagorje, and Slavonia. Many tourists find such oil to be unusual, but are then mesmerized by its taste. This too can be found in many of food souvenir shops in Zagreb, Split, and many other cities in Croatia.
A white stone from the island of Brač has been used for construction purposes for millenias, the most famous of which is the palace of a Roman emperor Diocletian in Split (4th century AD), and the medieval cathedrals of Saint Lawrence in Trogir and Saint Jacob in Šibenik. Many famous sculptors, such as Ivan Meštrović, have used it for their artworks. The story has it that even the White House in Washington DC might have been repaired at one point in its history with the stone from island of Brač, but this remains unknown. What is certain though is that the stone is exquisite and you can buy many items made from it, which makes it for a great present when you arrive back home.