Imotski, the place to dive into Croatian life

 

Usually when you hear the name 'Croatia', you think about a small European country next to the Adriatic Sea, with beautiful beaches and famous tourist destinations. But Croatia is much more than that; with its beautiful nature and history, and above all, its diversity. Besides the very popular tourist places and towns, Croatia has many interesting, small places that have their own unique customs and stories and one of those places is Imotski.

Imotski is a small town, just under 100 km from both the sea and Croatia's second largest city, Split. It's a town up on a hill, as the locals call it, and from the town there's a beautiful view over Imotski and the Biokovo mountain. Although Imotski is very close to the shore, life and the people there are very different from those that live by the sea.

TV show about the people of Imotski

The people of Imotski are said to be very witty, sly, and ingenious. There's also a TV show based on a book that all Croatians love, which talks about how people from this area used to live and how they managed to make a living despite having nothing but their ingenuity. The main characters in the story are Kikaš and his grandson, Matan, who used to say that they weren't beggars because of need, but beggars because of craft. Later Matan became a very successful smuggler, and people from Imotski started calling other sly people ‘Matans’. Matan also had a place of his own, that he called a castle, near the Blue Lake.

The Blue and the Red Lakes

Left red crater of the red lake, right the crater of the blue lake

The Blue Lake and the Red Lake are the main reasons why people visit this beautiful town. They are natural lakes that got their names from the colour of the stones that surround them. Scientists believe that the lakes were made by earthquakes, but there are more interesting stories about this.

The legend of Gavan

One of them is the legend of Gavan, which has many variations, but the core of the story goes like this: Once upon a time, in a place not so far from the sea, between the Biokovo and Zavelim mountains, there lived a wealthy man called Gavan and his wife, Gavanica. He was so rich that he had two castles and owned many places across Imotski, unlike the other settlers. He gained his wealth by foul means and had many servants. People were afraid of him. One day, a poor man went to the eastern castle, and asked Gavanica for a small piece of bread to give to his hungry children. She refused to give him the bread, but he begged, so in the end she gave him some, just to get rid of him. She took a piece, she put it on her foot and then kicked it into the mud in front of the man. The man took it thankfully and said, ''It's a gift from God.'' And Gavanica replied, ''It's not from God, but from my man, Gavan.'' And then God got mad as he saw how cruel and ungrateful the people had become, and he decided to put an end to them, so he sent a storm, unlike one they’d ever seen before, to give them a warning. But they didn't hear the warning, because Gavanica was too mean, and Gavan was too busy counting his gold in the western castle. Then God sent an earthquake, and as the whole land shook, both Gavan in the western castle, and Gavanica in the eastern castle fell deep into the ground in a huge hole that was made by the earthquake, along with all of their wealth, and they were covered with water. Now, in the west there stands the Red Lake, with astonishing red coloured stones surrounding it, and the Blue Lake in the east, with blue and vivid rocks around it. 

If you ever visit Imotski, both lakes are a must see. There is a nice path between the lakes where you can take a nice long walk, as they are not that far from each other. Many people enjoy this route, and you can even take a walk through the forest around both lakes. Many local people walk every day from the town or places near to the lake. They say that people of Imotski talk about water in the lake as much as the British talk about the weather. They discuss not only the level of water that varies during the year, but also the colour that sometimes changes. The Red Lake is very hard to access because very steep rocks surround it, so only experienced hikers or divers with special equipment dare to go down to the water. But the Blue Lake is different story. There is a nice path from the entrance all the way to the water and a small shore, so a lot of people like to swim and sunbathe there during summer. 

Swimming in the River Vrljika

Although The Adriatic Sea is just half an hour car ride from Imotski, local people like to swim not only in Blue Lake, but also in a small river that flows through the place. It's about 3 km from the town and it's called Vrljika. It's a place where many people go to kayak, swim, ride bikes, walk their dogs, or barbecue during the nice weather. The water in the river is very clear and pure, so if you get thirsty you can even drink some of it. But I have to warn you, Vrljika is not as warm as the sea. In fact, it's very cold, so for some people it's good for cooling their beer but not really for swimming, despite many swimmers during the summer.  

Coffee

Summer is definitely the most beautiful season there, and there are many more people there then than during winter. There are also a lot of nice small music festivals and happenings in the summer, but I think that what people of Imotski like to do most is drink coffee. 

Drinking coffee in Imotski is an old custom that will probably never come to an end. If you are a local and you decide to go for a coffee, you usually have to have a few free hours to drink your coffee (or two) in peace on the sunny terraces in town with your company and discuss all the new events that have been happening in the town, no matter how few there are!. There are a lot, and I mean really a lot, of coffee shops in the town, given how big the town is, so there's a place for everyone: older people, students, rock music lovers, folk music lovers, and so on. Some of them have a few parking spots, but that's the bad thing about Imotski; a lack of parking spaces. 

The most Mercedes’ per person in the world

When you drive the roads through the town, there are cars parked everywhere along the road, and most of the streets in the town are one-way. And that is a thing you are sure to notice in Imotski: there are a lot of cars there. A lot. Actually, a lot of specific cars: Mercedes Benz. Imotski is world famous for having the most Mercedes’ per people in the world, and even the official page of Mercedes wrote a long report about this small Croatian town.

The Queen of Cakes: Imotski cake

pic thanks to Leonard Topic

The people of Imotski really love and enjoy their food and there are many traditional dishes that people there make. Besides traditional Croatian food, I would like to mention the Imotski cake, which is often called The Queen of the Cakes, and is made from traditional ingredients such as almonds, citrus fruits, rum, and cinnamon. 

There is also another popular pastry, called ''rafijole''. There are many versions of this pastry in Dalmatia (southern Croatia) and every place has its own. The ones from Imotski are made from almonds and walnuts, and they're shaped like shells.

It would be impossible to omit the grilled lamb on skewers when talking about traditional food, and also frogs, that can be made in a few different ways. 

I mustn't forget the meal, ''kapurali'', that is chopped beef and pork rolled into cabbage leaves and cooked with bacon and white wine. 

So, as you can see, life in Imotski is somewhat similar to life in other Dalmatian towns but there are many things that are specific, special, and unique to Imotski, with its very proud and witty people.