The tourism industry has grown quickly in the last three decades. The number of tourists visiting other countries has tripled. As the industry grows, its economic importance increases in many countries.
Tourism has a unique relationship with regional development because unlike most industries, consumers travel to the product, leading to greater awareness and interaction, and tourists can, if well managed, become both business partners, investors and residents.
Although tourism can not be the main industrial sector to develop prosperity, everyone interacting with a place is a visitor to start with. Tourists can have negative impacts on the environments and cultures they visit, but well managed tourism can contribute to poverty alleviation and economic development, and not the least engage potential investors and business partners, and maybe even attract new residents.
However in todays hyper competitive global markets for tourists, new visitors in large numbers can only be attracted by unique attractions.
Last week I visited one such unique attraction that I think is not yet well known. I visited Krapina, a Croatian town of about 4.500 people which is 60 kilometers from Zagreb on the border to Slovenia. There a museum has been built to show a unique historic asset.
Krapina was the site of a Neanderthal settlement which is unique in the world for its number of archaeological findings. Now it has a dedicated state-of-the-art Neanderthal museum.
Neanderthals are the magical and mystical ancestors of the European people, since long time extinct. They were closely related to modern humans,differing in DNA by only 0.3%, just twice the variability across contemporary humans. Remains left by Neanderthals include bones and stone tools, which are found from western Europe to central Asia.
The species is named after Neandertal (“Neander Valley”), the location in Germany where it was first discovered. The exact date of their extinction is disputed. Fossils found in Croatia have been dated to between 33,000 and 32,000 years old.
The Museum of Krapina Neanderthals with its interactive exhibits is an exceptional experience to visit. It covers a surface area of around 1,200 m² and is one of the most modern museums in Croatia and central Europe, and it will keep you and your children busy for a full day of discovery.
Inside the museum’s main entrance the experience begins with a specially filmed re-enactment of daily life of a Neanderthal family. Then follows an extensive segment on evolution, from the creation of earth to modern man, making it one of the most interesting evolutionary museums in Europe. It is surrounded by a mountainous park with many statues of Neanderthals and their game, including a bear, a moose and a beaver set in the actual locations.
No family visiting Zagreb should miss doing a day trip to this unique attraction. Also, if you are traveling from Graz to the Adriatic, you can leave the highway at Krapina for a nice break. Below is a video about the museum.