Preparatory to going to Croatia for the LIDA conference & vacation, I’m reading a book on the history of Croatia, titled, cleverly, Croatia: A History. A bit dry, but really quite fascinating. I learned that the word “cravat” comes from Croatian soldiers’ dress in the Thirty Years War. The OED says:

cravat, n.

1. a. An article of dress worn round the neck, chiefly by men.

It came into vogue in France in the 17th c. in imitation of the linen scarf worn round their necks by the Croatian mercenaries. When first introduced it was of lace or linen, or of muslin edged with lace, and tied in a bow with long flowing ends, and much attention was bestowed upon it as an ornamental accessory. In this form it was originally also worn by women. More recently the name was given to a linen or silk handkerchief passed once (or twice) round the neck outside the shirt collar and tied with a bow in front; also to a long woollen ‘comforter’ wrapped round the neck to protect from cold out of doors.

For more detail on the history of the cravat, see Croatia: An Overview of History, Culture and Science. This is more interesting than you might expect. I’m really not kidding.

Apparently the pen was invented by an adoptive Croat, one Slavoljub Eduard Penkala. And Dubrovnik, where the conference is, contains the oldest arboretum in Europe, Trsteno. How cool is that?