Stunning modernist architecture, picturesque road trips and a complex history make Croatia more than just a summer festival destination.
Croatian photographer Vedran Kolac has studied his surroundings and documented numerous places around the country. As a child, he was encouraged to take photos by his father, a photography and video enthusiast who ran an independent cinema. Kolac captures rich colours, austere urban geometry and abandoned palaces. Here he talks us through his favourite locations in Croatia.
The capital: Zagreb
“I’ve lived in Zagreb for 18 years now. I came to study and stayed. Zagreb is the biggest city in Croatia and the business and cultural centre of the region. I live in Trešnjevka district near the city centre and have my studio there. We call it Zagreb’s Kreuzberg! If you compare it with Vienna, Milan or Berlin, which are the places where most of the people gravitate, it’s quite slow and very safe.”
The rural escape: Međimurje
“I was born in the north of Croatia in small place in Međimurje district, on a border with Slovenia and Hungary. Međimurje is mainly lowland, but there are some places with interesting configurations. It’s between the Mura and Drava rivers: Mura is on the north and is pretty wild, whilst Drava on the south is much slower and has dams and artificial lakes where people spend their weekends in cottages and camper vans.”
The road trip: Jadranska Magistrala
“I spent this summer doing research for a new project related to the Jadranska Magistrala road, which is at its most beautiful from Zadar to Rijeka. It’s a road that goes from the border with Italy on the north to the border with Albania, on the south of Balkan Peninsula. Last year I did a road trip from Split to Rijeka and I keep wanting to come back.”
The Mediterranean Modernist treasure: Split 3
“For last few summers, I’ve spend a month in Split. I like big cities on the coast. Split has great cultural heritage, nice beaches and a big park that is just 15 minutes away from the city centre. The mix of Modernist architecture and the Mediterranean attracted me. There’s a building complex called Split 3, which looks different from the traditional Mediterranean idea, but then there’s the Diocletian’s Palace that was built in 4th Century – a megastructure of its kind – and Split 3 has streets that resemble the traditional ideas from the Palace.”
The emerging urban destinations: Rijeka & Šibenik
“Rijeka is the third largest city in Croatia after Zagreb and Split and it’s going to be a European Capital of Culture in 2020. Šibenik relied on heavy industry in Yugoslavia and it’s now attracting more people and taking care of its culture, so it will be interesting to see what will happen there. In the former Yugoslavia, all those places were powerful industry centres that failed to advance and are now transforming into popular destinations. Jadrija beach in Šibenik dates from the beginning of last century and has great architecture and atmosphere.”