A good introductory read on Croatia is “Croatia: Travels in Undiscovered Country” (University of Alberta Press, 2003), an account of author Tony Fabijančić’s travels through the country in search of his father’s roots. The people he meets and the situations he encounters enlighten more than any travelogue ever could.
“Croatia: Aspects of Art, Architecture, and Cultural Heritage” (Frances Lincoln, 2009) puts Croatia’s art and architecture in the context of its history. It is a scholarly look at the monuments, grand houses, art collections, Roman influence, and Gothic leavings that embody the story of Croatia. Essays and anecdotes from American, English, and Croatian experts predominate.
Rebecca West’s “Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia” (Penguin Books, 1994) is a classic, graceful history/travel journal that portrays Croatia in a Balkan context. West, who was a journalist, novelist, and critic, undertook her research in the Balkans with the idea of writing a travel book, but the final seminal product turned out to illuminate the tangled history of the former Yugoslavia.
“Croatia: A Nation Forged in War” by Marcus Tanner (Yale University Press, 2001) is also a history of Croatia, but Tanner’s book goes from the beginning of Croatia’s history in a.d. 800 through the start of the millennium and includes the 1991–95 War for Independence.
Robin Harris’s “Dubrovnik: A History” (SAQI, 2003) is an excellent historical overview of the former Republic of Ragusa and helps shed light on how Dubrovnik came to be the “Pearl of the Adriatic.”
Listen to the CD “Songs of Croatia,” a collection of traditional Dalmatian songs by Klapa Cambi (www.cambi.hr), for an introduction to klapa. A form of harmony singing without instrumental accompaniment, klapa is unique to Dalmatia; the lyrics of its songs recount stories of unrequited love, the beauties and perils of the sea, and the drinking of copious amounts of wine; all timeless themes close to the heart of every Dalmatian.
“Harrison’s Flowers” is a 2001 film, available on DVD, set in Croatia during the War for Independence. It is the story of a woman searching for her photojournalist husband in Vukovar and elsewhere in the war zone in the middle of battle. While the plot is fictional, the setting is not, and the film gives some context to the situation in Croatia during the hostilities.
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