[ IMAGE: a boat ] Introduction (...continued)

This is the story of the country of a thousand islands. As it unfolds you will discover it's not just a story. It's saga of seduction to which few have proved resistant.

The sea is life here. And always has been. It gives plenty but also takes a lot. It's been battlefield, harvest field and graveyard. Farewells are said at its edge as ships slip their moorings and carry fishermen and sailors beyond the horizon. Hence the melancholic island songs and the thoughtful look of black-draped island women. Hence the joy of every return. And the delight of each new arrival. Hence the tables full of fish, figs and home-made wine.

The rich, celebrated and honourable Croatian maritime tradition is more than a thousand years old. Croatian seafarers and shipbuilders spread their skills and knowledge throughout all the seas and ports of the world. And when they returned there were long stories about the far reaches of the globe, of its treasures and different ways of life.

So it is that new meets old here. The island lives at its usual rhythm, but will take over whatever modern civilization has to offer to make life easier. Legends live on in church pageants and only their own patron-saints can save the people from storms and sickness. As do the statues, black scarves and prayers. Prayers for sailors, fishermen and all men of good will.

The old fisherman, even today, knows no retirement and little rest. The sea is a drug, too powerful to resist. It cannot be cured, especially by foreign lands. As it takes away, so it ever returns. Sail out with a Croatian island fisherman and you will understand why the sea is both menacing and enchanting. The other part of your life seems irrelevant and distant.

[ Croatia - the country of a thousand islands ]