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Friday, March 31, 2017

Croatia • Split for Zagreb

Written by  David Placher

Croatia is a hot spot for gay travelers: many European gay cruises stop in the cities of Dubrovnik and Split. Croatia is in southeastern Europe and its Adriatic Sea coast contains more than a thousand islands. Its rich history includes architectural wonders, stories of Roman and Greek times, and Ottoman Empire domination. Croatia has around four million people and it skews Roman Catholic. It’s a conservative country, so only a tiny number of cities will have residents that display rainbow flags or have gay-friendly bars. The capital, Zagreb, is home to Croatia’s largest LGBT celebration. Zagreb is also home to the first LGBT center in Croatia, and the “Queer Zagreb” organization, that among many other activities promotes equality through the Queer Zagreb festival. Croatia’s second LGBT center was opened in Split in May 2014, and there’s a third in Rijeka, opened in October 2014. When visiting Croatia, there are three very popular cities: Dubrovnik, Hvar, and Split.

Dubrovnik is an oddly placed city because it is separated from the rest of Croatia by Bosnia and Herzegovina’s 12 mile Adriatic Sea coastline. Dubrovnik’s coastline is sandy with small sharp rocks – wear beach shoes at all times to prevent cuts to the feet! Dubrovnik has a small population around 50,000, and it is known as a gay-tolerant city (tolerant, but not gay-friendly). Its temperatures can range depending on the area and month. In July and August daytime temperatures can reach 82 degrees, and at night drop to 73 degrees. The spring and fall temperatures are between 68 degrees and 82 degrees. Winters are the mildest of any Croatian city, with temperatures around 55 degrees. Snow in Dubrovnik is very rare.

Dubrovnik’s gay scene is limited to the Jazz Cafe Troubadour. It regularly offers live music and is a favorite meeting place for gays and locals. Many gays also visit the small island of Lokrum off Dubrovnik’s coast, where part of the island is a nudist beach. A popular tourist attraction are the walls of Dubrovnik. The walls stretch 1.2 miles, and are 13 to 20 feet thick, circling part of the city. The wall’s design includes a system of turrets and towers that were intended to protect the city. The walls have been a filming location for the popular HBO television series, “Game of Thrones.”

Hvar is an island in the Adriatic Sea, located off the Dalmatian coast. The island is known for its large fertile coastal plain and fresh water springs. Its hillsides are covered with rich agricultural areas that include pine forests, olive groves, fruit orchards, and lavender fields. The climate has mild winters and warm summers. This city is known as a place where rich people park their yachts and the famous make headlines – Prince Harry took a fully clothed dip in the pool at the famous Veneranda Nightclub and Beyoncé revealed her baby bump at the Hula-Hula Beach Club. There are no gay bars or clubs, but the town can be very active at night because of all the live music.

Split is the second-largest city in Croatia and one of the oldest cities in the area. Spread over a central peninsula and its surroundings, Split’s greater area includes neighboring seaside towns as well. It is also a place where “Game of Thrones” is also filmed. The Ghetto Bar is known to be gay friendly, but is not officially a gay bar. Split does have an active gay community that has seen both setbacks and accomplishments. The first LGBT pride in Split took place in June 2011 and ended in a disaster. The celebration was a magnet for several hundred anti-gay troublemakers; unfortunately security was not strong enough to prevent serious incidents. The LGBT attendees had to be led to safety. Several hundred anti-gay protesters were arrested, and the event was halted immediately. In 2012, there was another LGBT pride and this time, five politicians and other public figures participated. Security was enhanced and no major incidents occurred. In 2013, the celebration occurred without a single incident, and it was the first time in Croatia that the mayor of the city participated. There is yearly LGBT celebrations since.

The flight from Baltimore to Croatia is about 11 hours. Although there is no direct flight, switching planes in Europe could offer an opportunity for exploring another country. Croatia is a memorable country with beautiful structures and great people. If seafood and warm weather is something you are into, Croatia should be on your 2017 travel list.

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