On the morning we left Zagreb by bus bound for Zadar we were shrouded in fog. The four hour journey was very pleasant, especially when the fog lifted. The last hour or so of the journey has some pretty spectacular mountain and ocean views as the bus descends to Zadar. The bus cost 113 Kunas (AUD$23) each for the one way trip.
We again stayed in a lovely apartment and, as we have experienced before, the apartment block looks run down and has seen better days. The apartment was a two minute walk to the footbridge leading into Old Town. We stayed in Zadar five nights and four full days.
Zadar is a beautiful coastal town with many islands surrounding it. We were in easy walking distance, less than a kilometre, to Old Town and our entire first day and evening were spent exploring it and the surrounding area. We walked over the footbridge which gives great views of the marina and out to the harbour.
The harbour is full of pleasure craft large, small, extremely bloody large and filthy rich ginormous!
You can also get ferries to the islands from the harbour and the tourist boats for the tours to the islands are also there. This area is where most of the tour companies have stalls.
Once over the footbridge you walk through the gate and back into time. Zadar is one of the oldest cities in Croatia and was established as Ladera by the Romans back in 59 BC. During World War Two Zadar was occupied by the Italians and, as a result, was heavily bombed by the allies causing immense damage to the town infrastructure.
The Old Town has many squares, churches, restaurants, lovely narrow streets, fort walls, bell towers and is a wonderful walking experience.
There are two main areas though that you must visit. The first is the Roman Forum. The Roman Forum was built in the 3rd century by Roman Emperor Augustus. In the Roman Forum is the Church of St. Donatus, this is a round shaped building from the 9th century.
Next to St. Donatus is the Cathedral of St. Anastasia (Zadar Cathedral) which is the largest church building in Dalmatia. In this part of the world you must love seeing churches, if you don’t you will go crazy, as they are everywhere. What I like though is that each church is different and often comes from a different era, or a different conqueror, hence they all look so differently. This cathedral is from the 12th century and is Catholic.
The Cathedral of St Anastasia allows you to climb up into the bell tower where you will get the most outstanding 360 degree views of Zadar and the islands in the distance. The cost is a mere 15 Kunas or AUD$3 each and it is worth it.
On the climb up to the bell tower there are just over 200 steps. The walls of the staircase do get rather narrow in places, all right it gets very narrow, and several times I wished I started my diet a bit earlier. I did manage though to slip through the narrow bits and make it to the top.
The views were stunning.
We were lucky on the day we went up to the bell tower; firstly it was a beautiful sunny day with no wind. Secondly, there was no one else up there but us.
Surrounding the Forum area are many churches, small palaces and museums, but one particular monument caught my eye – the Pillar of Shame!!! The Pillar of Shame was used in the Middle Ages to punish the townspeople who were wrongdoers. If you did something wrong you could be chained to the pillar for a few hours, shaming you. For more extreme crimes the penalty was a longer stay at the Pillar or even a whipping – I trod carefully around it!!!!
From the Forum we ventured on to the Paseo Maritime which is the promenade that runs along the length of Old Town next to the ocean. This is the swimming area next to Old Town and there are ladders into the sea – no one of course was swimming on this October day. The water is crystal clear and it is pretty good just sitting and watching the boats sail on by or even the fish swim on by, the water is that clear.
To the right of where you exit the Forum on the Paseo Maritime is the Morske Orgulje (Sea Organ). The more I travel the more I look for things that make me go ‘WOW’ and this was a wow moment. A part of the promenade has many marble holes along the top step and these are connected to tubes that emerge on the promenade. When a sea wave comes in, the water and air movement create a musical sound – a sea organ. This sea organ was built in 2005. The waves interact with the organ to create random harmonic sounds and the promenade becomes a large musical instrument. It is here you should sit and listen to the ‘music’, watch the ocean and simply enjoy being alive.
The Sea Organ is a place you need to visit a few times at different times. We returned to the Sea Organ at 5.45pm and waited with many others for the sun to set over the outlying islands. There is a party like atmosphere as the sun sets in the distance.
On the evening we watched the sun set, we saw a wedding proposal on the marble steps – for you romantics the answer was in the affirmative, which brought about cheers from the watching crowd.
We also saw a cruise ship depart from the wharf nearby and reverse (do ships reverse?) right in front of the line of sight between the sea organ and the setting sun – the marriage proposal cheers soon turned to cruise ship boos, until the cruise ship was out of the way of the setting sun and the subsequent cheers brought back the festive mood. What was the Captain of the ship thinking photo bombing all those happy photo snappers with his large ship! He would have been smirking I bet!
It was here whilst I sat and watched the sun setting that I did a bit of reflection on my travels. We had been ‘on the road’, for twenty months and I knew, even though I knew before, I had made the right choice to forego the five year contract my work offered me and to set off in search of experiences rather than obtain more money.
Once the sun sets a rather bizarre thing happens. You see the man who created the ‘sound art’ of the sea organ also created The Greeting to the Sun. The Greeting to the Sun is right next to the sea organ and is a large 22 metre diameter circle consisting of 300 multi-layered glass plates with solar modules underneath. Once the sun goes down a lighting element switches on and uses the solar modules to create a light show.
What happens when the sun sets is all rather comical. Everyone who watched the sun set suddenly went to the glass circle and stood around it ……waiting! We all, yes the Meandering Wanderers joined the circle, looked like some desperate school kids waiting to be asked to dance at a school dance.
We waited. And waited! Eventually, a Michael Jackson or John Travolta in the crowd had to step forward and do a lame dance sequence to entertain the patient people waiting!!!!
Since I have been on this trip I have been amazed at the travellers who are half our age and are more than willing to friend us. It was whist we patiently waited we started chatting to a lovely couple from Colorado in the United States, Chelsey and Jordan. Chelsey and Jordan have been travelling in Europe for three months and were heading to Asia for the next part of their twelve month adventure. Of course from here on we were in our element and we chatted to these two for an hour or so. Whilst we chatted the masses gathered around the ‘light show’ had wandered away disappointed as nothing was happening. You see after sunset there is a twilight period when it is not dark enough for the light show to take effect. Once it becomes fully dark the light show miraculously starts – when it started though most of the people had gone, patience is a virtue they say. Chelsey, Jordan, Di and I and a few others were the only ones left to see the light show!!!!!
It was lovely to meet Chelsey and Jordan and I am sure we will bump into each other again one day – see it is all about the experience.
Okay, so you need to experience the Sea Organs and the Monument to the Sun over three different time periods, daytime, sunset and night time to get the full experience it has to offer.
During the day, once we had seen the Sea Organ the first time, we walked back down the entire length of the Promenade.
At the other end of the promenade is the best University building location EVER!!! Outside the University is a charming chap who loves to chat.
Once you get to the promenades’ end turn left and follow the small harbour below the city walls to the Zadar City Gate and re-enter Old Town.
As we said previously there are just so many churches and squares throughout Old Town, but one place does deserve a mention and that is Five Wells Square. Five Wells Square is named Five Wells Square, do I have to say it!!!!! Yep, because it is a square with five wells in it!!!!!
Overlooking the Five Wells Square is the Captains Tower and next to the square is a lovely little park next to the city wall that offers some good views.
The park is the oldest park in Zadar and is called Queen Jelena Madijevka. The Five Wells were built during the 16th century and supplied water to help the city survive the Turkish sieges – they are no longer in use.
Di and I then headed around the headland to the beach. Now, being an Australian, I have a clearly defined understanding of what a beach is and that definition of beach MUST contain the word sand. Well, Kolovare Beach is about a kilometre walk from the Five Wells Square and it appears to be lacking in one key ingredient of a beach – that is sand!!!!
Kolovare Beach is a beach of peddles – no, a beach of friggen boulders!!!! There is not a grain of sand in sight at this ‘beach’. We were very surprised to see people laying on the beach and even swimming. Well some people lay on a bed of nails, so a bed of boulders is not so bad! I guess, many people in Australia swim throughout the winter period and our winter temperature in the Eastern States can get to 20 odd degrees Celsius on winter days, just like it was on this autumn Mediterranean day. I must admit the clear blue water was very enticing. That was a very full day and evening exploring Old Town complete.
Di and I made a day trip out to one of the nearby Islands by catching a ferry. You can catch a car ferry from the ferry terminal four kilometres from Old Town or catch a passenger only ferry from the marina next to Old Town. The nearest island to Zadar is called Ugljan Island. The fare is 15 kunas each way for each person (AUD$3), thus a round trip for the both of us was AUD$12. The ferry takes about 20 minutes.
The problem with the passenger ferry from Old Town is that it is not frequent and if you miss one you have a long wait. Di and I also wanted to see how long it would take us to walk to the bus terminal where our bus to Split was departing from, so we caught the car ferry over and the passenger ferry back. On Ugljan Island there is not a lot to do really. The view back to Zadar is good and of course a ferry trip is always fun. We sat in the port of Preko for a while and had morning tea and coffee. It was here we attacked google looking for something to do on the island and discovered there was a secluded beach on the far tip near the town of Muline. The bus to Muline leaves every hour and costs 35 kunas return each (AUD$7). The bus trip was okay, nothing exciting. Di and I were the last two people left on the bus and we were literally dropped off at the end of the road – not much to the town of Muline, let me tell you.
We then had a ten minute walk to Juzna Luka or South Harbor which is the beach.
Well, this beach did not disappoint and it too had not a drop of sand, but was a collection of rocks. There were only four people there and that was just as well because Juzna Luka, though a beautiful spot, is a tiny little bay. The water was crystal clear and very, very enticing (no swimming trunks though and too shy to skinny dip – halleluah you all scream!). The place was pretty and did make for a great photo, especially as a sailing boat was moored just off shore. We stayed about 30 minutes and then went to catch the bus back to Preko.
This time we caught the passenger ferry back to the Old Town marina. It was good to sail past the Sea Organ and Old Town from the ocean side.
In October many of the ferries and boat excursions to the outlying islands close down or run at the off-season time tables. Sadly, this is one of the disadvantages of being here at this time of year. Di and I may make another visit to Croatia next year and try to sample more of the island experience then.
We had one more adventure in Zadar and that was a grand adventure indeed – we went to Plitvice Lakes. Plitvice Lakes was something special and deserves its own episode in the blog, so you will have to wait until next time for that little ditty.
The Zadar adventure will continue…………………….