Hello! This post will focus on the next adventure of our Europe trip, and will introduce a new country- Croatia! Croatia is a beautiful country that rests geographically along the Adriatic Sea between Central and Southeast Europe. While we were in Croatia, we were able to visit two major cities: Zadar and Šibenik. We spent most of the time in Zadar where we had nothing concrete scheduled but our Airbnb!
You’ve already read a bit about our time in Zadar when you read the post about visiting Telašćica Nature Park during National Park Week. After having a wonderful time with our friends throughout Germany and the Netherlands, we took a short (cheap!) flight on Ryanair and took a short bus ride into the main city center, where we navigated through the bustling streets until we reached our Airbnb. Like most of our trip, we elected to not book a room directly in the city center, mainly so we could get a bit of the local feel. Traveling in the off-season helped with this, too. We had already reached out to our Airbnb host, who met us at a small cafe right next door to our room. I must say – it was spectacular. Our room was like a mini hotel. Our Airbnb experience so far has always been booking a room in a shared home. The owner was always there. This time, it was apparent that the host owned a few properties and uses them exclusively as a hotel through Airbnb. He gave us a map of the city and tons of wonderful recommendations. Later, he’d help us with our adventurous trip to Telašćica Nature Park. We had arrived in the mid-morning, so we were well rested and ready to drop off our backpacks and walk around the city. First stop – the sea! Steps from our room was the beautiful Dalmatian Coast overlooking the Adriatic Sea. Breathtaking view though they were, it was only the beginning!
Zadar is the oldest continuously inhabited Croatian city, and like most important cities that lie on a major trade route, Zadar has been ruled over by many different countries. It can trace its history back to the 9th century BC when it was founded as a settlement of the Liburnians. In 59 BC, it became a Roman municipal and in 48 BC, a roman colony. Evident throughout the current city center is the Roman characteristics, including the network of roads and the public square. In the 400s, after the Roman Empire fell, Zadar became the capital of Dalmatia under the Byzantine. Between 1202 and 1797 with the fall of Venice, Zadar was conquered by the Republic of Venice and the Turks. This ensured continuous trade in the Adriatic though the important cultural and administrative center that characterized Zadar. This influence can be seen today with the obvious architecture styles, cultural themed center, and the food. Croatian writers became famous as the city, and the nation, began to fashion an identity uniquely “Croatian.” It would not be until the 19th century that Zadar would be the center of the growing cultural and national Croatian movement. After World War I, Zadar was under the control of Italy with the Treaty of Rapallo. When the Germans took over the area in late World War II, many ethnic Italians left and the Allies heavy bombed the area. It was ceded back to Croatia after it was liberated in November, 1944.
Zadar is a small city but has lots of character. There is a gorgeous waterfront area that includes a set of steps leading down to the water. These steps are actually the Sea Organ – a complex set of pipes of various length and height that play 7 chords of 5 tones, all depending on the tides. You can sit on the steps of the organ and enjoy a lovely sunset on the Adriatic while listening to the tunes of the tide. Speaking of sunsets, we enjoyed a few of them during our short stay in Croatia. Zadar was cloudy for a lot of our stay, but we were able to see a sunset in various places along the long waterfront promenade. Right next to the Sea Organ is another neat piece of art – Greeting to the Sun. This solar light illuminates at night and memorizes viewers with colors and patters through its energy span. Both of these were created by Nikola Bašić.
Food is important when experiencing a new culture and Zadar does not disappoint! We had excellent recommendations for various restaurants around the city and were able to try a few of them while walking around. There were a few nice cafes that dotted the streets, and with such impressive architecture no matter where you sat it was nice to take extra time and have a coffee, hot chocolate, or a beer and just look around. Seafood, naturally, is highly recommended. While there I had shrimp, sea bass, swordfish, tuna, and white fish. It. Was. Delicious! One of the best places to go was Bruschetta Restaurant and Proto. We had great service, excellent food, and they are both in different locations around the city so you can easily experience different levels of people watching.
Zadar is a gem of Croatia, with its rich history and scrumptious food choices, the many recreational activities that are available, and its fantastic cultural references seen through the city. We were happy to go to a city off the beaten path. The proximity to other great cities is also great, as from here we left to visit Krka National Park before heading to Šibenik for one night. See you back here for more about Croatia!