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Croatia, the land of warriors, protectors of the West

It is a good thing that Croatia always was the land of warriors. A single event in 1389. threatened to change the face of Western Europe. You, along with generations of Europeans, would never be born. Our continent, its people and culture, history and folklore, would look entirely different today.
Wars on Croatian Land During the Years
Wars on Croatian Land During the Years

None of it would exist if it wasn’t for the small land of warriors in the very heart of Europe and its tens of thousands of determined people who, through six generations, continuously and viciously fought to repel and ultimately break one of the most fearsome empires, Ottomans.

Centuries of such a brutal history created a unique European nation unlike any other on the old continent and beyond. The nation of brave and determined. The nation of patriots forged through a history of wars and hard life. The nation of proud but cheerful and friendly hosts who welcome everyone into their little piece of heaven. The piece they paid in blood.

Land of warriors: The ominous King Zvonimir’s Curse

“I pray to God that you never again have a king of your own blood!”

Coronation of King Zvonimira
Coronation of King Zvonimira

According to the legend, these were the last words of one of the greatest Croatian kings, king Demetrius Zvonimir of Croatia, whose reign was glorified but who died by the treacherous hands of his own people.

The event took place on an unspecified day, in the year 1089 A.D. and marked the end of Croatian kingdom and independence; centuries after the warrior tribe came from far north and settled on the territory of today’s Croatia.

Soon after that dreadful day, Hungarians assumed the ruling over the Croats until, just a few decades later, fearsome Ottomans conquered the good portion of the land and threatened to breach further to the west. At two different occasions, they were actually knocking on the walls of Vienna.

But then, the ancient warrior tribe decided that they had enough of it.

Slowly but surely, they organized themselves and it didn’t take long before Turks and their allies got pushed out from Croatia to the territories of today’s Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia where they will remain until the beginning of the 20th century.

Land of warriros: One crazy friar, a chicken fight, and the new Leonidas

Today, you can witness the remnants of the Ottoman architecture and even explore the historical records of the culture and life under their ruling in the parts of Croatia they conquered and placed under their governing.

For example, you can participate in a reenactment of the legendary Ottoman’s siege of the fortress of Đurđevac (Podravina region, northern Croatia).

Croatian War Museum
Croatian War Museum

This traditional annual event that depicts the so-called, Legend of Picoki (picok – local slang for rooster), is a remarkable audio-visual experience that lasts for three days.

According to the records, after a long siege, the food supplies inside the fortress were exhausted. All that was left was one small rooster that couldn’t possibly feed all those people. One of the older women came up with an idea to fire the poor animal from the canon on Turks.

So they did just that.

Seeing that defenders are so loaded with food and other supplies that they are shooting the roosters, Ulama-beg, the Ottoman who led the siege, gave up on everything and retrieved with his army.

But before he left for good, Ulama delivered one final “curse.”

“And you there, feathered heroes, that fight battles with roosters, shall always carry the name roosters! Your children shall call you roosters, and your grandchildren will stay roosters!” They heard him yelling before turning his horse to the south and riding away.

And lo and behold, to this very day, we call people of Đurđevac Picoki. 

Not so far from there, only a hundred years later, one determined friar decided that he had enough of the Ottomans.

So he gathered the people on March 12, 1689 A.D. on the Sokolovac hill above Požega (Golden Valley, Slavonija region, northern Croatia) and demolished the Turks once and for all. From that day forward, the brave friar was known as the Hawk, the nickname given to him by the emperor Leopold.
On the wings of Friar Hawk’s and his warriors’ (local citizens who were continuously training since the moment they could pick up a knife or pull the string on the bow) victory, Ottomans were pushed out of Slavonia for good only two years later. Today, you can see weapons, uniforms and other artifacts and records from those times in the town’s museum.

Remember when Gerard Butler yells, “THIS IS SPARTAAAA!” and kicks that tall envoy down the well?

He’s impersonating legendary Leonidas, or the Son of the Lion, a warrior-king of the Greek city-state Sparta, famous for his bravery and ultimate sacrifice in the battle against Persians.

Well, Croatia has its own “Leonidas.” That’s the nickname given to Nikola Zrinski by the European leaders for the series of heroic deeds even before he, along with about 300 of his loyal warriors, died in a single, heroic, and suicidal charge on thousands of Ottoman soldiers as the final act of warrior courage and code.

This heroic act took place during the Battle of Szigeth that successfully prevented Ottomans from breaching further west and conquering entire Hungary and Austria.

Croatian People
Croatian People

French Cardinal Richelieu reportedly described it as “the battle that saved civilization.”
Zrinski earned respect in far Japan where they still perform an aria from the opera, “Nikola Šubić Zrinski,” to honor his “samurai death.”

Like in the King’s curse, it will take almost a thousand of years for Croats to finally win the ultimate war, the war of independence, and make possible for you to enjoy a quiet dinner with your loved one while the waves of the mighty Adriatic are gently washing the rocky shore just a few feet from you.

All of this and much much more can be seen and experienced in hundreds of museums and sites across Croatia. Such a visit, perfectly planned and timed, of course, will make your holiday a much richer experience.

So, how about you give us a call? Let’s organize a bit different holiday, shall we?

Your CTC Team, I.K.

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