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Discovering Zadar, Croatia

Leaving Zagreb for Zadar

I arrive at Zagreb’s bus station early to grab breakfast.  The choices are the same as they’ve been since I arrived in Croatia: bread, cheese or meat.  Bakeries are plentiful and provide the usual sweet items, but also common snacks of pizza, sausages wrapped in pastry, and greasy layered-pastry filled with potatoes, meat and/or cheese.  After such a splendid month of fresh eating in Thailand, I’m in a veritable desert of freshness in wintry Croatia and I feel it.  My attempt to remedy the situation results in explosive failure as you will read below.

 

Croatian Flag

Croatian Flag

 

It’s a three-hour bus ride from Zagreb to Zadar, on the way passing an unremarkable landscape of brown and gray low hills, bare trees and evergreens, all sprinkled with light snow like the dusting on a sugar cookie.

 

About Zadar, Croatia

Besides having an awesome name that sounds intergalactic, Zadar is remarkable for its history which runs as deep as the Marianas Trench.  It’s Croatia’s oldest continuously inhabited city and has been occupied since the Stone Age.  Since then, it’s been conquered by many, but the Romans and Venetians left perhaps the biggest mark.  In the old city, Roman and Venetian walls still stand and the original Roman road still bisects the city as straight as an arrow.  At one time, Zadar was the jewel in the crown of the Venetian Empire being its largest fortified city.

 

Venetian-built "Land Gate"

Venetian-built “Land Gate”

 

Just in the last century, Zadar was ruled by the Austrians, Italians, and Croatians, 60% destroyed by WW II, and defended in the 1990’s during the Croatian War of Independence.  Turmoil is Zadar’s middle name.

 

Inside the walls of the old city, the streets are made of white marble and I don’t recall ever seeing streets so gleaming and gorgeous anywhere.  If you, like me, enjoy wandering back streets and alleys, the old city is a treat for strolling and reminds me of the ancient back streets of Palma de Mallorca, Spain and Chania, Greece, no doubt because of some shared cultural influences.

 

Zadar, Croatia

Zadar, Croatia

 

A walk to the edge of town reveals a delightful surprise: The Sea Organ (see video below).  Located within earshot of the groaning Sea Organ is an art installation called the “Salute to the Sun” which captures the sun’s rays during the day and turns the energy into a solar-powered light show at night.  Unfortunately, I am so bitterly cold I can’t stay until true darkness to enjoy the light show.  Though I did stay until sunset because Alfred Hitchcock described Zadar’s sunsets to be “the most beautiful in the world”.  I’m gonna have to call Alfred out on this one.  It was beautiful, but those I’ve witnessed in Namibia, Crete, and Gavdos Island were superior.  Sorry Zadar.

 

 

During the winter, Zadar is nearly devoid of tourists and it’s pretty chilly.  Many shops and restaurants remain closed until tourist season begins in late spring.  For some misanthropic travelers, this is ideal, while others may not enjoy the cold weather and lack of options when it comes to recreation, dining, and shopping.  I can’t testify to the food because the overblown tourist prices at restaurants had me eating Croatian-cheese sandwiches for the entirety of my stay.

 

Zadar, Croatia

 

Marble Street of Zadar

 

On my last day, desperate for some juice, and unable to find fresh anywhere, I located the darkest (thinking healthiest) juice I could find in the grocery store: Aronia Berry (chokeberry), and drank the tart 500 ml bottle as fast as I could.  Little did I know that this juice provides the power of a thousand enemas in a bottle.  Only after experiencing, ahem, an extremely painful and undesirable effect, similar to having food poisoning, did I consult the internet to discover that this juice should be administered in a shot glass, 30 ml per day.  Thanks, berries!  Thanks a lot.  I got to know a Zadarian bathroom really well, but that wasn’t on my bucket list.  

 

Whatever time of year, if you’re a culture and history lover, ancient and beautiful Zadar is well worth a visit.  Just skip the Aronia juice.

 

Photos of Zadar, Croatia:

4 Comments

  1. Dearest Lady,

    Your description of the white marble was delicious. When visiting in June, the streets shine like mirrors in the sunlight! I’m sorry Zadar was a bit desolate, but I look forward to hearing about Dubrovnik.

  2. The Sea Organ was on my list last year! Thanks for the video-it was great! Maybe I’ll get to Croatia next Spring. Hope to see you later in the year…

    • Zadar is a cool city. Dubrovnik was even better (next post). That would be so fun to reunite. 🙂

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