Are you looking for something to take back from Croatia? Something cheap, original, authentic, and truly Croatian? Here’s a list of DIY Croatian souvenirs:
- make your own Adriatic Sea salt
- find coloured glass pebbles
- search for small driftwood sculptures
- pick pieces of Croatian limestone
This list is by no means exhaustive. Take it only as an inspiration. However, it’s worth giving it a try.
PS. Some souvenirs sold in Croatia are not really made in Croatia. Sorry.
Make Your Own Adriatic Sea Salt
I believe that a souvenir must be “soaked” with your OWN memories and experiences. It needs to come with a story, something close to your heart.
Salt, sea salt, and Adriatic sea salt in particular, can be viewed as “memory concentrate”, capturing many folders and files. Like a memory stick.
It will remind you of the beach, the sun, the scents, the warmth, the idleness…
Salt is a traditional, truly Croatian product. Historically, many Croatian cities owed their riches to the production and distribution of sea salt.
For example, Dubrovnik made sure to protect its precious “white gold” mine in Ston by surrounding the salt works with a 5-mile-long stone wall!
If the authorities in ancient Dubrovnik had read this post, its author would probably have been arrested and walled-up. Alive! Making salt was strictly controlled by the state.
Why was the salt so precious? Well, there were no refrigerators. And salt was almost the only preservative for curing meat.
How To Make Your Sea Salt?
Actually, the process is quite simple.
Just remember what your skin tastes like when you come out of the sea and spend some time in the sun. It tastes salty, right?
Now, the same concept is used to make salt. You have to lose water from the sea to get salt. As simple as that.
Of course, you can try scraping the salt off your skin. But that would take too much time. You will get a sensational souvenir, though… Just kidding.
There are a number websites that explain how to do this right. In short, you simply have to boil seawater for hours until it becomes like wet sand. Next, this “wet sand” should be dried in the oven or in the sun for days, making sure you don’t scourge it or burn it.
I know that this sounds way too much time and work. So, instead, try this (especially if you don’t need tons of salt): Take a plate (preferably dark) with you to the beach, and keep adding a tiny amount of seawater every once in a while. As you bask in the sun, your souvenir will be getting ready. There won’t be too much of it, though, but you will love it! BTW, my wife’s grandparents used to produce salt in a similar way.
Now, packaging the salt you thus produced may require some creativity. Only keep in mind that “white powder in a plastic bag” might appear somewhat suspicious!
Or you can simply go to a supermarket and get some packaged Croatian salt! It’s inexpensive, authentic and genuinely Croatian.
Find Coloured Glass Pebbles
In fact, any interesting pebble would do. Even plain white. (As far as I know, there are no laws in Croatia prohibiting collection of single pebbles from the beach. The laws may change, though. And the laws in you country may be different. This is why I suggest collecting GLASS PEBBLES. They are MAN-MADE and shaped by nature.)
Beaches in Croatia are, to your detriment, usually made of pebbles. Walking on them barefoot may be excruciatingly difficult until you get used to it.
Basically, the SEA WAVES give the stones their shape and polish their surface.
Even man-made materials get shaped into pebbles by the waves. Bricks, tiles, concrete… (speaking about orange coloured roof tiles that ended up in the sea, they also make a great memento of Dalmatian cities).
But my favourite man-made/natural item are COLOURED GLASS PEBBLES. They are the produced as the sea polished the bits of broken bottles and vases.
Again, use your imagination to put these “pebbles” to practical use. For example, you can glue them around a mirror, or a picture frame. Or just use it as it is. Even better, join it to other pebbles and make pebble columns. With each pebble carrying its own memories.
Search For Small Driftwood Sculptures
Pieces of driftwood are often found among the dreaded pebbles and between washed-up seaweed.
It can just be a bleached piece of an old plank.
However, it will certainly have more character and authenticity than most store-bought souvenirs.
It might be harder to find what you’re looking for in summer, when the beaches are regularly maintained. Moving away from a designated beach and walking on the rocks at seaside might take you to hidden treasure. (Please be careful, though).
Pick Pieces Of Croatian Limestone
Apart from the air, sun and the Adriatic Sea, THE STONE is the most obvious feature of many parts of Croatia, especially its coastline.
Ancient roofs, medieval cities, impressive ramparts, terraced gardens, dry walls, fascinating works of art – they’re all made of the ubiquitous limestone.
Although found everywhere, the limestone was nevertheless a precious commodity. For example, in order to fortify the city walls in the time of the Ottoman conquests, the Dubrovnik Republic required a special tax IN STONE of every visitor:
“Die X Martii 1462. Captum fuit de dando libertatem officialibus murorum quod possint angarizare homines venientes in civitatem per portam Plociarum ad portandum de petris pro fabrica murorum prout melius ipsis officialibus videbitur non distruendno macerias nec aliter faciendo damnum.”
“On March 10, 1462 it was decreed to allow the wall officials to require of every person entering the city (of Dubrovnik) at Ploče gate to bring a stone that is to be used for the construction of the city walls, making sure that they do not destroy dry walls or make other damage”.Dubrovnik City Archives
Where To Get It
When you engage in a search for an authentic piece of Croatian limestone, by all means keep in mind the old Dubrovnik decree: “Do not destroy dry wall or make any other damage”.
Choosing an attractive pebble from the beach is an obvious option. Only make sure that you don’t break any law (for example, in some parts of Italy it is illegal to collect beach sand).
Again, I don’t know of similar laws in Croatia (except in national parks). Quite the contrary, local people freely use those pebbles to decorate their walls, gardens and pathways.
Being careful not to cause any damage, look for bits of stone that are naturally chipped off .
Cliff sides are especially a generous source of authentic souvenirs.
Remember, it is YOU who will infuse an inanimate object with memories and emotions, thereby making it into a valuable souvenir.
Locating an abandoned quarry is a jackpot if you’re looking for precious Croatian limestone.
These quarries are more common than you think.
For example, the small island of Vrnik just outside of Korčula was packed with quarries.
You can visit the Kava beach on the island of Čiovo, close to Split, or go to the Kamen Mali beach in Cavtat (shown here on the photo), in the Dubrovnik region.