Down to the Dalmatian Coast: Zadar

With the heat wave upon us in Zagreb, we were excited to leave the middle of Croatia and head to the coast for time in the sea, basking on the beach, and exploring a part of Europe we were all unfamiliar with. Before leaving Hungary weeks ago, I asked Kornel and Attila what nations or cultures had the largest impact on Croatia.  They informed me that it was a Slavic nation, with a language very similar to Czech.  However, the country , being so close to Italy, had a very large Italian influence and more specifically the Roman and Venetian Empires.  We were all very excited to see what this unique country had to offer.

We took a quick three and a half hour bus ride through hills, mountains and arrived on the Dalmatian Coast (we have yet to see 101 dalmatians, but have see around, oh, probably 10).  It was well over 100 degrees when we arrived and the short 15 minute walk to our Air B&B had me sweating through my clothes.  We found a pizzeria about 25 minutes away and had some supper before heading back to our place to rest up for our week in Zadar.  The previous night in Zagreb we only slept for about five hours after hanging out at a pub too long, like we always seem to do before departing to another city.

Emily and Abby have, what I call, an irrational fear of sharks.  Their questions were endless about the body of water we would be on, and I’m sure their Google searching was just as intense.  We left our apartment and took the 20 minute walk to Kolvare Beach, where we spent several hours.  And the girls…did great!! Although it took a few drinks to work up the courage, they were swimming out into the Adriatic Sea where their feet couldn’t touch.  They both reassured me, though, that being able to see their feet in the crystal clear water helped.  After sunbathing, swimming, drinking, and lots of fun we were ready to head home to get ready for our first night downtown.

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We walked to the old town of Zadar and were immediately fascinated with the old ruins scattered about.  We wandered through the maze of small alley ways and twisting roads.  We did our research and found that a very unique piece of art lay at the end of the peninsula: the Sea Organ.  Nikola Basic created this architectural masterpiece that allows the sea to literally play music.  As the waves come in, the varying concrete-covered organ pipes under your feet play at different pitches to create a sound I can’t even describe.  It was fascinating, and we sat there and admired the sound of the waves and music of the organ for quite some time.  A few steps away from the Sea Organ, is another awesome piece of work by Basic: the Sun Salutation.  This set of lights is solar and wave powered and produces a unique light show that is meant to replicate the solar system.  It also (if this spot can get any more awesome) powers the entire lighting system of the docks, pier and walkway leading to the Sea Organ and Sun Salutation.

After some fun photos and hanging out for a while at this awesome spot, we made our way back to the heart of the old town to find a spot for drinks to celebrate Abby’s birthday which would strike at midnight.  We found a fun, outdoor club-like area and sat down for drinks and birthday shots.  Zadar is known for its maraschino cherry shots, a sweet and strong type of schnapps-like liquor.  It burns a bit going down, like hot cinnamon, but the burn is followed by a tingle of maraschino cherry sweetness.  I enjoyed them, and ended up buying a couple rounds for the birthday girl :).  We started her birthday off right and looked forward to continuing the fun the following day.

We woke up a bit late and set out to celebrate Abby’s birthday on the beach.  We bought a bottle of vodka and some mixers and went to a beach lined with boulders and small cliffs called Punta Bajlo.  We relaxed, jumped off the rocks and cliffs into the deep Adriatic (it is amazing what the girls can do with a little liquid courage), and celebrated easy. Hungry after a long day at the beach, we did some restaurant hunting online and found one with great prices and great reviews, and it did not disappoint.  We sat down at Proto for some seafood dishes.  We began with a seafood platter appetizer that held an assortment of foods with all types of local fish.  Abby ordered a tuna steak in black gnocchi while I had black risotto with cuttlefish.  It was a seafood lover’s dream and a fantastic place for very reasonable prices.  After paying the tab, we began our night of drinks and bar hopping around Zadar to cap off Abby’s birthday celebration.

Since we were out late and woke up late the next morning (afternoon), we decided to take it easy and check out another part of the city to do some shopping.  After a few hours of wandering the mall with no luck, we made our way back to our apartment to find a restaurant on the way to hit up for supper.  We came across Riva, a restaurant with a full smoker with whole lamb, pig, and chickens roasting over the spit.  Emily and I had pork and Abby had chicken.  It was a very good meal and definitely satisfied our hunger after a long day of failed shopping.  We stopped by a supermarket to pick up groceries and necessities and retired back to our apartment for the evening.

Thursday came and we were rested and ready to hit the beach once again.  We kicked back and soaked up the sun for a few hours before heading back to our place.  We made some pasta at home for supper and got ready to head down to check out an event that everyone said you couldn’t miss: the sunset.  We walked downtown and found a spot near the Sea Organ to watch the sun slowly sink over the mountains on the islands and disappear with a light glow over the sea.

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After two relatively easy days without much activity, we set out down our now very familiar path to explore some other parts of the old town.  The weather seemed to be cooling off a bit, around 85 degrees, but it was great nonetheless.  We wandered around without much to do, sat by the Sea Organ, had some ice cream, and spent the day without a care in the world.  Dinner time came around and we found a place to sit down for some food before heading back to the apartment.  Abby had her first sea bass, Emily ordered a tuna steak, and I ordered an assortment of fried seafood including sardines, shrimp and calamari.  You can never get enough seafood when staying on the coast!

Our final full day in Zadar arrived and we were going to try not and go out into the wee hours like we always seem to do.  We went to a pizzeria near our place for lunch and had a great pizza and a couple beers.  Much to our surprise, on a day we want to take it easy, the bartender came by with complimentary blueberry schnapps shots (surprise, surprise!).  We shot them down and hoped the day wouldn’t end like it normally did in those situations.  Lucky for us, we prevailed!  We went to a market nearby and picked up groceries for supper and snacks for our bus ride the following day.  We used the evening to make supper, blog, and catch up with friends and family.  We didn’t know what to expect on our trip down the Dalmatian Coast, but Zadar treated us well and we were excited for stop number two: Split.


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