Zadar, Croatia

Trip Start Sep 01, 2014
Trip End Feb 01, 2015

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Friday, December 12, 2014

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Thursday, December 11, 2014
Zadar, Croatia

Rovinj was wonderful. But we had a bit of drama getting out of town. It's a long slog to get from Rovinj down to Zadar, our next stop. We bought tix for a 4:40 am bus to Rijeka, a large port city on the way where we'd transfer.  We were the first ones there and there were two buses waiting. We stood by them and waited for the driver to open the luggage compartment  underneath. Then, the first bus pulled away!  The driver never came out like ALL other drivers in all other countries.  Yep, that was our bus.

We had to wait until 7 am for the office to open and also the only other bus leaving in that direction was at 7.  We rested/fumed back at our apartment first. Luckily, the front door was hard to lock and was still unlocked and we had left the key under a mat by our door upstairs.

Long story short, we had to do some persuading to convince them we didn't just miss the bus. We finally found someone who spoke decent English and he luckily worked for AutoTrans, the bus company. He was going to Rijeka and took us under his wing and made sure we got on our transfers.  We'd get into Zadar at 5:20 instead of 1:30.

But in the meantime, our AirBnB hostess Ana and I had been emailing back and forth. We went to a coffee shop for wifi. She just so happened to be in Rijeka, her hometown, to visit her family and was driving back at noon.  She offered us a ride for free, and that would get us in at about 3:30.  We knew we missed that bus for a reason.

On the ride there, she filled us in on things to do, places to eat, gave us a quick history lesson.  And we took a more scenic route and went up over the mountains near the coast. The winds here are famous for being treacherous and she was still in Rijeka because the highways were closed due to winds for 2 days.  These are the winds that protected ancient pirates from the Venetian navy.  The outsiders never could battle the winds and storm their fort, so these guys knew when to sail out when the wind was on their side. We could see little tornadoes on the Adriatic as we drove along the coast.

The apartment is cozy and has new furnishings and its in the old town, on a small peninsula that was settled by the Romans. There's a forum, a bunch of ancient churches, a "pillar of shame" where people were tied and ridiculed for offenses to the state, and lots and lots of blue skies and water to match.  There are quite a few yachts and seemingly hundreds of cafes full of people taking hours to drink one or two coffees.  That's the national pastime here.  Sit. Drink coffee. Chill.

It's the winter, but it's sunny and relatively warm.  These Croatians are crazy about being outside. They'll eat and drink at outdoor cafes no matter how cold it is. We saw that in Zagreb too.  They just put a heater out and give blankets at restaurants and bars here. Nobody in Wisconsin would be caught dead eating or drinking outside when it's 35 F, but the Croatians will! 

The economy is not so good here and is increasingly dependent on tourism.  There's a lot of unemployment, an iffy future for those with college degrees, and it's the off-season. That might explain why we see so many people at the coffee shops all day and night.  Nobody will kick you out if you buy at least one cup.

Zadar is not a huge tourist destination since Dubrovnik is just south and there are countless islands nearby with beaches. But we're enjoying just walking around and doing the cafe culture thing. I'm blogging right now on the water at a cafe next to a bunch of yachts. My cappucino is $1.50 US. Espresso is a dollar.  Things cost twice as much the other day in Rovinj because they get so many more tourists.

We've had two amazing meals in a row. They do the set menus here but they do it for lunch and dinner also, which we've never seen before. It's much cheaper that way. You get 4 courses with meat or fresh seafood for $8 - 12.  We could hardly walk after last night's meal. The desserts were amazing and huge and would have cost $8 alone at a similar US restaurant.  Life is good and we're slowing down and skipping the museums. We may go to a glass history museum later though.  We've heard it's an interesting history of glass-making.

Probably the coolest things about Zadar is the "Sea Organ" and the Sun Salutation. This is an installation in a public park at the end of the peninsula on the sea. It's a 35 pipe organ that's under the pavement. When the water moves, it creates waves through pipes that "fuel" the organ.  It's a subtle sound and pretty cool as you walk along the sea. When a boat moves past, the organ gets louder and more notes are played.

The Sun Salutation is a solar powered display of LED lights at night that makes random patterns in a large 25 meter circle at the end of the sound organ.  We've got 2 more nights here and plan on enjoying some more fresh seafood like the fish we had at lunch today.  Next stop is Split, Croatia's 2nd largest city.  Ana said it's really only worth one day. We'll see. It is a jumping off point for some nearby islands.  The ferries from there run year round and we need to decide what we want to see next.
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