Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of starships looking for new worlds and new civilizations…not. Unfortunately for many lovers of space operas, star faring is still not offered in Croatia. But that doesn’t mean you can’t see stars the old-fashioned way.
A night sky filled with bright stars is one of the most romantic sites in nature, universally seen as beautiful by all cultures of the world. The number of people interested in researching it is growing rapidly, as amateur astronomers passionately observe the sky learning about constellations, clusters and findings of the Hubble telescope.
Such people don’t have to leave their hobby during their stay in Croatia. As a matter of fact, a vacation in the country can be beneficial for lovers of astronomy. The country has given several important names to the aforementioned science, including Korado Korlevic and Mario Juric. The first modern observatory was founded in Pula as early as 1871. The tradition of stargazing is quite strong in the country.
In Zagreb, a century-old observatory is situated in what is known as Popov Toranj (“the priest’s tower”) in the Upper Town. Since the day if was founded, this place of science has continually been contributing to human understanding of the sky via research and lectures to the public. And because of its long existence and numerous historical sites surrounding it (such as Kamenita Vrata), the observatory is a landmark of its own kind. The Zagreb observatory is located on Opaticka 22.
Another spot for lovers of astronomy in the capital is the Zagreb Technical Museum, which features a fully functional planetarium. Inside its dome, a projection of the starry sky is displayed over the sphere-like ceiling as instructors give lessons on the positions of stars and other astronomical facts.
Another observatory exists in Vocarska 106 and is used by Zagreb students of the Archdiocesan Classical Gymnasium. Two private observatories are also in the city’s close proximity- the one of Zeljko Andreic can be found in Zapresic, while Andelko Gljivar’s can be found in Donja Stubica.
North of Zagreb lays the beautiful city of Varazdin, known for its baroque architecture and Spancirfest festival. That said, it is also known to be home to another Croatian observatory, which can be contacted for information by telephone at +385 99 197 2230. So once you get tired of walking through the town’s historical core, you can take a journey to the stars and enjoy a different kind of beauty. The neighboring city of Croatian nobles, Cakovec, has a small observatory known as Savska Ves operated by the Astronomical Community Vega.
Additional observatories can be found in Podravski Novigrad (Zeljko Andreic +385 1 553 5920), Pitomaca (Vila, +385 33 782 222) and Kutina (property of Ivan Stefek Astronomical Community). Their peers in Korenica , in addition of having their own observatory, offer workshops on building amateur telescopes and provide free accommodation and food to students interested in the topic.
Astronomy is also developed in coastal areas of Croatia, as the clear sky and lack of industry make stars exceptionally visible. Visnjan in Istria is one of the most efficient observatory stations in the world. Since its construction, it has found more than 1400 minor planets in our solar system, as its specialty is small cosmic bodies. In Visnjan’s close proximity is Tican, an observatory which became quite known to tourists thanks to outdoor stargazing workshops in English.
Rijeka is not only known for its rich alternative culture, but also for the serious research done in its observatory, led by city’s Academic Astronomers at Sveti Kriz 33. This highly scientific community also publishes the influential magazine Polaris. The island of Losinj, in addition to giving you a chance to adopt a dolphin, can also teach you a lot about stars thanks to its Velo observatory at Kunsil 42.
Further south one can easily find more islands with stargazing capacities. Hvar is famous tourist destination, but few of its visitors are aware of its large observatory which can be contacted by calling +385 21 549 246. On Brac the remote settlement of Blaca was a home to hermits whose contribution to astronomy is so high that certain asteroids were named after them.
In the vicinity of Split you can find a place where science intermingles with culture and the arts, as Zvjezdano selo Mosor (Mosor Star Village) hosts lectures, festivities and astro-parties for all who love the depths of the universe. A similar sentiment can be found in Makarska, another Dalmatian town with an observatory searching for stars.
But one of the most interesting places for astronomers visiting Croatia is the island of Lastovo. It has no observatory, but due to its remote location, it has the darkest night sky in all of Europe. Hundreds of stars are visible by the naked eye, while simple binoculars turned upwards can serve as quite useable telescopes.
As one can easily see, there is a lot to be seen for the dedicated astronomer visiting Croatia. More sites and events are to be expected, especially after star ships enter general use.