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Visting your ancestral homeland....
Posted by: Robert Jerin (ID *****9128) Date: June 06, 2005 at 12:52:36
  of 705

For the past 12 years I researched my Croatian roots (genealogy) as well as helping hundreds of other Americans discover their Croatian roots. Whenever helping people find their ancestors, their villages and family documents I always end by telling them they must visit Croatia… Stari Kraj (old homeland). The beauty of Croatia and the friendliness of the people is always overwhelming. Only those who have been there know the feeling!

I would like to share the beauty and the joy with others and have planned a tour of Croatia for this Fall. This is a perfect time to visit Croatia, as the weather is pleasant and the large crowds are gone. The tour, which is based on areas where many seminar attendees’ families originated, will run from October 5 –16.

We have planned a tour that will allow us to see the variety that is Croatia, yet not spend all our time traveling by bus and transferring from hotel to hotel. The first 4 nights we will be in at a hotel in Opatija, 1 night we will stay at Plitivica, 2 nights in Split and 3 nights in Zagreb. This will give us a real opportunity to "get a feel for the places we visit." This is a very unique tour.

Our trip begins in Opatija, a resort town, which was a favorite of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchs. Opatija, known as the Pearl of the Adriatic, began to develop in the 1840s when the wealthy merchant Higinio von Scarpa built his Villa Angiolina. The Villa soon became a favorite of the Austro-Hungarian aristocrats, including Ban Josip Jelacic and Austrian Empress Maria Anna. Is it any wonder that Ellis Island list only 5 people coming from Opatija. Over the next few days we will visit the Istrian Peninsula, the region of Gorski Kotar and the Island of Krk.

Croatia has had migrations of people over the centuries. One such group are the Vlaci, who originated in old Wallachia to the east of Croatia. In a small area of Istria descendents speak Istro-Roumanian and many family names come from Vlaci roots.

Pula, situated on the Southwest coast of the Istrian Peninsula, and has been inhabited since ancient times. Greek mythology says Jason, of Golden Fleece Fame, founded the city. They called the city Polai, which means City of Refugees. The City has been under Roman, Venetian, Italian, French, Austro-Hungarian and Croatian rule. During the rule by Italy Croatians were forced to Italianize their surnames. Well-known American restaurateur and TV show host, Lidia Bastianic is from Pula

Then we move on to Rovinj, a place so enchanting that the science fiction writer, Jules Verne, chose as the setting in one of the chapters for his novel, 'Mathias Sandorf'. We will make a stop at the medieval town of Pazin, in the center of Istria. Then on to Motovun, which is perched high atop a mountain, stopping for dinner at a tourist farm. The American Race Car Driver, Mario Andretti, was born in Motovun.

The next day we will explore the beautiful Adriatic Island of Krk, home to the ancient Ilyrian tribes. The island is called the Golden Island and is known for its Olive Oil, Wine, Sand and Pebble Beaches and forested areas.

The third day we will travel to a region that saw many of its sons and daughters immigrate to America. That region called the Green Heart of Croatia, is Gorski Kotar. The region of Gorski Kotar, which translated means Hill District, saw migrations of Bohemians as was as people from Tyrol in former times. During our tour of Gorski Kotar we will visit the villages of Delnice and Moravice. This area was at one time the limit of the Roman Empire, as evidenced by the ruins of the ancient Roman wall (much like Hadrians wall in the UK). We will see the reason Gorski Kotar is called the Green Heart of Croatia when we visit Risnjak Park. The fact that this region was once part of Napoleon's Empire may be seen in some of the area surnames such as Gervais. Napoleon was responsible for creating an awareness of ethnicity among Croatians.

It is difficult to fully describe Plitvica Lakes National Park. Anyone who saw the recent PBS special about this amazing natural area will anticipate visiting there. We will stay overnight at Hotel Jezero in the heart of the Park.

After Plitvica we head south to Zadar, the oldest Croatian city on the coast, a city that features the architecture of the Roman Empire, Venetian Empire, Italy and Croatia. One feature of note is the church of Saint Donat. Descendants of Arbanasi, Christians originally from Albania who fled the invading Ottoman Turks. Next is Trogir, a town founded by the Greeks in IV-III century BC has maintained its old buildings and is a UNESCO World Heritage site... the entire town is considered a living museum

Our last stop in Dalmatia will be the City of Split a 1,700-year-old city, which the Italians called Spalato, which means palace, as the Roman Emporer Dioclecia built a summer palace there. At least 639 Croatians came to America through Ellis Island. Many of us are familiar with Tamburitza music, but Croatia has many more styles of music. One that is very popular is Klapa, unique to the Adriatic region. We will have the opportunity to listen to a harmonizing klapa group while in Split.

A unique part of our trip will include taking the new high speed Bombardier train from Split to Zagreb. This will allow us to view countryside not seen by the average tourist traveling by bus or car in Croatia.

Once in Zagreb we will have a tour of the old and the new Zagreb with dinner at the Hotel Dubrovnik. The evening will include seeing a folklore ensemble at Ljubekov Gaj (Ljubekov's woods). Friday we have the entire day in Zagreb. We have arranged for a visit to the Croatian National Archives, which holds many records of interest to family genealogists. Another highlight will be the ethnographic museum this is a must for those interested in the folk culture of our ancestors. A fun place is the Dolac Market just of Trg Jelacic, where fresh produce as well as some folk items are sold.

We will be seeing the sites of the green, hilly region of Zagorije, which translated means “the other side of mountain”. Zagorije is located on the other side of Medvednica Mountain north of Zagreb. We will visit the best preserved castle is Trakoscan, an ethno village of Kumrovec, the birthplace of the communist dictator Tito. The ethno village is a recreation of a village much like those where our ancestors may have lived. We will even enjoy a little sin while in Croatia when we have lunch at Gresna Gorica (Hill of Sin!) Vineyard. Alas all good things come to an end... as this will be the last day of our trip

For the many readers who have Internet access you may want to see photos and info about the places we will be touring. The links below will take you to those places.

The tour brochure can be found at Kollander World Travel, click on Custom Designed
Group Travel to view.


Istro Roumanian





Island of Krk

Gorski Kotar





Arbanasi of Zadar



Klapa music

High Speed train to Zagreb

National Archives

Ethnographic Museum Zagreb

Dolac Zagreb Market

Trkoscan Castle


Hill of Sin Vineyard

Space will be limited so if you are interested in joining us on this unique tour of Croatia

If you are interested in the tour or learning more about the tour you may access Kollander World Travel web page for a tour brochure and sign up info:

or you may contact me at: or by calling 216-225-6338

Robert Jerin

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