• Croatia (Hrvatska in Croatian) is a crescent-shaped country of 4.3 million people. Roughly 89 percent of the population are Croats, who speak a Slavic language akin to Serbian and Bosnian, and mostly practise the Catholic Christian faith. There is also a sizeable Serbian population (about 4.5 percent of the total), who largely belong to the Orthodox Church.

Politically, Croatia is a two-chamber parliamentary democracy with a directly elected – though nowadays largely ceremonial – president as head of state.

Opinion surveys conducted throughout the 2000s repeatedly revealed that locals consider Croatian-born, ethnic Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla (1856–1943) to be their greatest national figure of all time, closely followed by communist strongman Josip Broz Tito (1892–1980).

The average Croat consumes over 5kg of coffee a year (almost twice as much as the average Brit), and spends an estimated 183 hours a year drinking it.

• Croatia’s Janica Kostelić is the most successful female Olympic skier of all time, winning a total of four gold and two silver medals at the 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympics.

The total length of Croatia’s dramatic mainland coastline is 1777km. The highest mountain is Dinara (1831m) on the border with Bosnia-Hercegovina, and the longest river is the Sava, which rises in Slovenia and passes through Croatia for 562km before joining the Danube in the Serbian capital Belgrade.

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