Croatia lies between the Julian Alps in the north-west, the Pannonian Plain in the east, and the Adriatic coast in the south. The Dinara mountain range covers its central region, with heights up to 1,830m asl. The country has nearly 56,000 square kilometers and a population of 4.5 Million people. The Capital is Zagreb with 800,000 inhabitants. The official language is Croatian, locally called Hrvatski. The local name of the country is Republika Hrvatska or just Hrvatska.
The country was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until World War I. In 1918, the Croats, Serbs, and Slovenes formed a kingdom known after 1929 as Yugoslavia. After World War II Croatia became a part of the communist Yugoslavia of Tito. The country declared its independence in 1991, but it was occupied by Serb armies, and it took severeal years of war and the intervention of the UN to clear the country from this armies. Today the country is more or less save and especially the coastal areas are again popular travel destination. Its also possible to visit the rest of the country, but because of remaining land mines it is important to stay on the road.
The caves and karst features in Croatia are so much a part of the landscape and integrated in the life of the locals for many thausand years. The first records on caves in Croatia date back to 1096. In 1536 Petar Zoranić wrote about the Velebit and Dinara caves. In 1584 Nikola Gučetić wrote the first scientific paper on speleology. 1775 Ivan Lovriæ described Gospodska Špilja near Sinj. He is said to be the first cave explorer of Croatia. 1922 the geologist Josip Poljak received the first doctor's degree in speleology.
At the moment there are 11,500 known caves in Croatia, but several areas were never systematiucally searched for caves, so the amount must be much higher. Many caves do not have natural entrances, about 1,000 caves were discovered through road works.
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