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Croatia is a Central European and Mediterranean country with a long maritime border with Italy in the Adriatic Sea. The country has been shaped by five centuries of expansion by the Ottoman (Turkish) empire towards Central Europe, although Croatia was never conquered by the Turks. Over 90% of the population is Croat (the majority of whom are Roman Catholics), but there are also Serbian, Bosnian, Hungarian and Italian minorities. The main population centers are Zagreb, the capital (with a population of just under 800,000), Osijek in the northwest, and the ports of Rijeka, and Split in the south. The official language is Croatian, which is written in the Latin script. The climate is Mediterranean along the Adriatic coast, meaning warm dry summers and mild winters, with 2,600 hours of sunlight on average yearly – it is one of the sunniest coastlines in Europe! In the interior of the country, the climate is continental with hot summers and cold, snowy winters. Archaeological findings prove that in the 6th century BC the ancient Greeks had commerce with the Illyrians by means of the sea, and that they founded their colonies there. Later on, the Romans arrived, and they not only built palaces and summer residences but they also spent a considerable amount of time on the sea, and there are many underwater findings located between Pula and Cavtat which show this to be true. A new era dawned with the arrival of the Slavs, a period characterized by constant struggle for supremacy and by defense against diverse enemies. Dubrovnik, eminent in its position as a republic, played a leading role in culture and trade. In the 18th century, Napoleon ruled for a short period of time, after which he was replaced by the Austrian monarchy. During the next hundred years, Italy and Austria fought each other for supremacy of the east coast, culminating in the battle of Vis in 1866. Testimony to those glorious times can be found not only on the mainland, but also under the sea in the shape of shipwrecks and remains of the detritus of great ships. During the two World Wars, the Adriatic was one of the more important areas of battle. The Adriatic Sea has always been an important maritime route between East and West, which can still be seen today because of the numerous relics, which remind us that the past should never be forgotten, but rather used as a lesson for the future.

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