Flavours of Croatia – Zadar

Summer has ended rather abruptly this year in Europe. I have nearly forgotten that it ends at all, with golden autumn and amazing weather up until the second week of October. With holiday time passing I have realized I have not been blogging for a while and, let me tell you, there were more than 13 reasons why.

As I have mentioned in several of my previous posts (for example here), I have been incredibly fortunate to be offered free accommodation for a two-week trip to South Dalmatia, Croatia. And boy, that was an adventure! Upon my return I have already started planning next summer holidays, and as it is a rather daunting task, I wondered what could help me plan. I went through all the main points of planning a trip and realized that where you want to go sets a goal to work towards. And I couldn’t decide. I researched many travel blogs and looked for tips on which of all the amazing places to visit first and I got stuck. What broke the impasse? A book by John Grisham – no joke – about a football player moving to Parma (Italy). Why it wowed me so much? It showed a side of Italy I have never seen before, thriving, rich in flavour and full of lovely people, but from an entirely subjective point of view. Therefore, after spending two weeks in Dalmatia I decided to share with you my view on this region of Croatia, and maybe convince you it’s really an amazing place to visit.

After this rather long prefix, let’s just jump right into what I have learned about Southern Dalmatia.

ZADAR, the city that stole Hitchcock’s heart

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Zadar is the oldest still inhabited city in Croatia. With amazing Romanesque architecture and original Roman forum it reminded me of Rome, rather than a small town on the coast of Adriatic Sea. Both Floret and I loved every single corner of the city, but what really took my breath away was the sunset on the promenade – once described by Alfred Hitchcock himself as “the most beautiful sunset in the world”. I couldn’t agree more with Mr Hitchcock as I sat down with hundreds of people looking at the sun slowly hiding behind the horizon.

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Relaxing to the sound of waves playing calmly on the Sea Organs built into the promenade we waited for the night to set in and uncover the amazing solar-powered public dance floor – a “Monument to the Sun” created by Nikola Basic. I don’t think I have ever seen anything quite like this before in my life and I truly believe that Zadar’s Sunset should be on everyone’s bucket list.

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If you are not the greatest fan of crowds you should definitely pick Southern Dalmatia out of all the other cities in Croatia. We have spent several days with born-and-raised Croatians and they all said the same exect thing to us: “never visit Dubrovnik in the summer” and “Zadar is so much better in summer than all the other cities, as it is not that filled with tourists”. Also, what they didn’t say, but I definitely noticed, was the price difference.

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Promenade, Sea Organs and the sun-powered dance floor are not the only great things to visit in Zadar. We have roamed the city quite thoroughly and seen various interesting sites, tried the amazing food and delicious beverages – including Gresavina – famous white wine from the region. Pro tip I have heard from an amazing artist who also provided us with loads of wine – don’t ever buy Croatian wine that’s more expensive than 30 kunas (5 euro) per 1 liter. I have obeyed by this rule vigorously and have to say, Gresavina (especially served with cooled sparkling water Jamnica) is delicious!

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City of Zadar represents a rather interesting mixture of old and new architecture. Blending effortlessly ultra contemporary installations, such as Sea Organs and the Monument to the Sun, with Roman-era fragments and Romanesque churches results from serious bombing in World War II, which forced officials to fill holes in old architecture with modern touches. Every step you take brings you closer to city’s historical heritage, just like visiting a very old, Romanesque bell tower, which interior seems taken straight from Indiana Jones movies. Neighbouring an original Roman forum it’s an amazing place to see the clash of era’s.

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Getting to know the city is very easy with many informational boards hanging around every corner. I was very pleased to see many signs translated into various languages, sometimes even including my own – Polish. It’s always a nice feeling to see signs of your own country wherever you go.

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What I also loved about Zadar? Its nightlife. Floret and I stationed ten kilometers from the city, so we never truly had a chance to experience the nightlife in its entirety, but we had a taste, while enjoying Gresavina and Aperol Spritz on the promenade. I loved spending time among Croatians (in Dubrovnik meeting Croatians in summer is nearly impossible), simply chilling and enjoying the weather, just like I would where I live. I felt more like part of the community, not a stranger, as I usually do while observing others.

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In terms of food, visiting any Konoba (traditional restaurant) with Pleskavica, Cevapcici and various sea food is a pleasure. With amazing interiors, delicious dishes and cold sparkling water, it is a lovely place to relax and regain energy for even longer sightseeing under the merciless Croatian sun. I loved devouring pizza (very common in Croatia, I don’t think I have ever seen so many pizzerias in one city!), looking at the ships passing us by, observing the regular life of people living in the Old Town.

With three airports nearby (Dubrovnik, Split and Zadar), various accommodation opportunities and great transport (both bus, train and ships), it’s one of the most convenient, beautiful and interesting destinations to visit in Europe. So, if you’re looking for a place to visit next year – make sure to take Zadar, the city of the most beautiful sunset in the world, into account.

Have any of you ever visited Zadar? Did you enjoy it as much as Floret and I did? Let me know in the comments!

Dorota