Hello and welcome back to more Croatia! This country is just full of non-stop beauty!!
Sunday, May 24 – Saturday, May 30:
We arrived by bus to a small village outside of Zadar and our next home for a week, in a nice ‘balcony with a view’ apartment.
We weren’t actually in Zadar, but a 20 minute cab ride from the city centre. The apartment was cheap and so in this instance, ‘central location’ was sacrificed for ‘quiet seaside’. There were a couple of restaurants a good 2km walk away, and a perfect road through the town for our morning run. We got our exercise at this spot for sure and ate healthy breakfasts and lunches in. The manager of the apartment drove us to the grocery store twice, so it worked out well and we enjoyed the ‘calm before the storm’ of multiple pending trips.
Farm fresh eggs – free feathers!
Zadar too, is on the Adriatic Sea, in Croatia’s vast Dalmatian region with a population of about 80,000. During the Yugoslav wars in the early 1990s, Zadar (and the rest of Croatia), suffered greatly economically, not just because of the war but because of the controversial privatization process, which caused most of its prosperous companies to go under. A taxi driver in Split told us Zadar received a lot of funding after the war. We made a couple of day trips from our village into Zadar, and his statement seemed accurate. The promenade was huge and showy, many newer looking buildings. Very cool place; lots of young families, a few cruise ships – we liked the vibe.
Great fish dinner:
Some historic churches:
The Land Gate:
The two most incredible and unique things about Zadar for us were:
1. The Sea Organ.
This ‘organ’ was created by local architect Nikola Bašić in 2005. Set within marble steps leading into the Adriatic Sea, are 35 pipes and whistles of various length and height that play 7 chords of 5 tones, depending on the tides. As waves and wind push air through the channels, it creates music that pours through the organ pipes and out onto the steps above. The sounds produced vary on the wave energy and the volume increases when a boat passes by. Original music is created continuously and it’s quite haunting……big WOW factor!
I tried to to capture the sounds in this short YouTube:
2. The Sun Salutation
Next to the Sea Organ is another creation by Nikola Bašić, the Sun Salutation. This 22m-wide circle in the pavement is set with 300 multilayered glass plates. All day, the plates collect the suns energy. Then at sunset, together with the wave energy that makes the Sea Organ’s sound, it generates a spectacular light show from sunset to sunrise. Apparently it also collects enough energy to power the entire harbour-front lighting system!
The area was packed with people every night, especially at sunset when the sea views, illuminated pavement and the sounds of the organ, made for a truly unique experience. We loved it!
Many references are made in Zadar to an Alfred Hitchcock quote from his visit to Zadar in 1964: ‘The sunset of Zadar is the world’s most beautiful and incomparably better than in Key West, Florida, applauded at every evening’. (The quote varies, but the essence is the same). We agree Mr. Hitchcock! The sunsets here were the best we had seen in a long time.
One day we hopped on a local bus to the nearby small town of Nin for another day trip. The heart of Nin is its’ historical center which is on an islet only 500 meters in diameter. While the Old Town was small, we found it to be less commercialized than other Old Towns. There were homemade crafts, local restaurants and a few interesting sites:
Nin itself is situated in a lagoon linked to the mainland by two, 16th century stone bridges.
It is surrounded by natural sandy beaches – sand is very, very rare in Croatia! It was windy on the water during our visit and the beaches were loaded with kite and wind surfers.
Nin has a long tourist season with its’ many sunny days and high sea temperatures. It has the biggest find of medicinal mud Peloid in Croatia, an important archeological site and is surrounded by salt mines. A lot going on in this small town!
Monument of bishop Grgur Ninski (Gregory of Nin) by Ivan Mestrovic:
This tall black monument is very similar to a likeness in Split.
The small church of the Holy Cross from the 9th century is the most important pre-Romanesque preserved monument of the old Croatian architecture.
Saturday, May 30 – Friday, June 5
After seven days in the Zadar area, it was time to move on. We continued up the Adriatic coast to our next destination of Opatija, a five hour bus ride away. We boarded the bus with loaded iPads and books, ready to make the best of a long ride.
But we never took our eyes off the scenery.
It was incredible, ever changing and around every corner was a picture perfect scene. And these are bus window pictures – we wish we had island toured here!
But not so long ago, during the Croatia War in the 1990′s, Serbian separatists sealed roads near in this area and effectively blocked Dalmatia from the rest of Croatia for over a year. The only link between the north and south of the country was via the Island of Pag. Along with other Croatian towns in the area, Zadar was attacked for several years, resulting in damage to buildings, homes and UNESCO protected sites. A siege of the city lasted from 1991 and attacks continued until the end of the war in 1995. Some of the countryside is still sectioned off due to land mines. Looking out the window that day, none of that seemed remotely possible.
The long skinny island of Pag sprawls along the shore; the two limestone mountain ridges against the brilliant blue sea were breathtaking. We enjoyed every minute on that bus.
We arrived in Opatija and it was a very pleasant surprise. Our hotel was an older, villa accommodation. A little more expensive than we normally pay, but so worth it. From our balcony:
Sunsets were not the best part of the city:
Opatija is a popular summer and winter resort, with average temperatures of 10 °C in winter, and 25 °C in summer. Opatija was once the most fashionable seaside resort for the Viennese elite during the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Many of these villas remain and are gorgeous! Here are just a few:
Spruced up again after losing some of its shine during the Yugoslav period, Opatija is a popular spot and once again attracts a mainly mature crowd. There are many spa / wellness centres in the area; they seemed to be a major draw. Some excellent restaurants are scattered along the promenade. The visitors seemed to be primarily from Germany with people in the tourist sector speaking also German and English.
The whole sea-coast to the north and south of Opatija is rocky and picturesque, and is dotted with several smaller winter resorts. The beaches are mainly sheltered bays (no sand), the water is warm (Joe braved a dip, my feet found it freezing) and the swimming is excellent.
Seashells by the seashore:
Always things to see:
The entire waterfront is connected by a 12km promenade making it a walkers paradise; so we were able to explore a lot on foot.
We made it our goal to walk the promenade (24km there and back) and did so over two days, and then half way again another day. We have a Fitbit now (thanks Jordan and Amy!) so we can finally tell how far we are walking. Check out our stats for week 1 – the Fitbit is a good motivator.
And of course we had some delicious meals that played havoc on the ‘Total Cals Burned’:
Had this seafood salad a few times. Beef soup/broth looks just like chicken soup in Croatia; not sure why.
This beer had my name on it, so had to drink it:
We went on a four hour cruise to see the cliffs and shores of the area – spectacular!
John Lock from Lost was part of the crew:
Can you see the mountain climbers on this cliff? Their packs are at the bottom:
Really enjoyed it in Opatija! Certainly makes our top favorite list.
Friday we are travelling the Zagreb, the capital of Croatia and the first time in a long time, we will be away from the sea.
We posted this message on Facebook yesterday about our 9 month anniversary. If you saw it, no need to continue!
Hello family and friends!
Tomorrow we celebrate completing nine months of our travel adventure! What fun it has been! We have been to 16 countries, visited 77 cities and slept in 86 beds. We have maintained our good health. Enjoyed fantastic local cusines and wines. Visited remarkable places. Met fascinating people. Learned complicated history. Spent a lot of money. Loved every minute of it!
We do our best to stay in shape. Our runners are showing wear and tear; that is a good indication we stay moving. We are challenged to stay on budget; the Canadian Dollar is not on our side. Our suitcases are sewn AND duct taped on the inside. We have learned to love instant coffee. I have an unwanted, but well earned degree in foreign washing machine operation. Joe, in wringing hand washables. We have shed layers of clothing. We are finally seeing flowers and green grass and blue skies and the most incredible colours of the sea imaginable. We are so fortunate.
We had precious time with our children; that warmed our hearts and lifted our spirits. We have become better company and learned a lot about ourselves, each other. We encourage you to follow a dream or start a blog or travel somewhere new or do something you were afraid of. We did it and so can you. You are so worth it!
The balance of our travel arrangements have been made. The last three months will be exciting! More Croatia, Greece; a river cruise through Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic, and six weeks in Italy before heading back to Canada. 90 days is still a very long time. It is too soon to be thinking about the end. Things will fall into place, they always do.
So, thank you for being there and cheering us on. We love to hear from you. You are our motivation, comfort, support, ego strokers and ass kickers. Thanks for following along with us!
Talk to you soon!!
Paula and Joe