The greatest film director of all time had a good eye for a photo and we hear he was rather keen on the sunset over the sea horizon at Zadar.. we have no reason to disagree with him!
Not sure if he ever saw the amazing sunset behind the mountains at Celje castle.. (the tower here has a Hitchcock Pyscho look to it now we come to think about it)! Or did he ever see the sun set over the sea at Piran or even the sun setting behind our own Mt Nanos here at the Lodge!
We were excited to go visit what we generically knew as "Dalmatia", being told by many a Slovene friend that this was the best bit of Croatia.. many other Slovenes would also tell you that Slovenian Istria is the best bit of course!
We really didnt know what to expect.. on visiting Thailand, we were very hopeful of seeing lots of Siamese cats everwhere in old Siam.. we saw one.. so we were not expecting to see 101 Dalmations scampering around here.. but we were thinking of islands, great food and stoney beaches.
Zadar is one of the very few Secret Places to Visit that is NOT a daytrip destination from Lipizzaner Lodge, but we have included it as a Secret Place cos we do get guests who travel to us from Zadar in one day or vice versa. We deliberately went in early October to avoid crowds and made 2 nights of it so we could fit in the Plitvice lakes on the way home and see what all the fuss was about.
It is a 4 hour direct drive from the Lodge to Zadar and of course most of this is through Croatia.. there are some motorways, but the best plan is to drop down to Rijeka (Istria) and then follow the coast. You can read more about the "wiggly bit between Istria and Dalmatia" in a seperate article and so we will concentrate on Zadar for this one!
The final stretch into Zadar is always a long one as the town sprawls away from the coast in a peninsular kinda way. It has a "city by the sea" feel to it, but is half the size of Rijeka, but bigger than Pula if this is any help to you.. or "quite big" if it isn't!.. But the reason you are coming here is the bit by the sea and the old town protected by a massive wall.
We had booked somewhere a bit too far to walk to the old town so drove down to the sea and even in October we spent about the same time as driving looking for a parking space. So there is no way we would want to be here in the summer months.. just not our cup of tea to be so busy. So for us the best time to come would be outside the main season and don't forget the Mediterranean weather is still very pleasant!
We made a beeline to the main sea promenade and with an hour to sunset, started looking for a mysterious "sea organ". There were legions of people sitting on the prom steps right next to the water, so we found a space and pretty soon realised that the organ was a series of pipes and holes fitted under the concrete boardwalk and transmitting different sounds of the sea.
Unless you are a British child of the 70's who knows what "the Clangers" were OR an Aboriginal musician, then you will not have heard this amazing sound before!
You soon forget the crowds of people and tune into the sound of the sea, swilling and crashing in and out of this amazing musical instrument.. it is very peaceful and very clever indeed.. if you are here then you must come and listen!
We stepped away from the hustle and bustle to a quieter corner to see the sun fall into the mountains behind the sea and it was very special.. a long long horizon of dark mountains in the distance with the sea forming a still lake-like line along the prom. People walked and biked in front of our eyes along the prom like Charlie Chaplain characters.. we loved it and stayed a long time to soak it up.
After that it was into the old town for a wander around and find something to eat. Zadar old town is a lovely lively place to be, with nice old buildings, plentz of shops and a sprinkling of restaurants, many of which we ignored as we wanted to get a good look around and then of course, we ended up with a not so nice restauranr at the end, so our meal was just ok.. but that was our own fault that we wnted to explore so much!
The old town is surrounded by a very high citadel wall with plenty of arched gateways.. far more than we imagined after we agreed to meet the car at the "main gate" and spent half an hour playing charades on the phone, before both the car and the passengers got the right arch!
The next morning we took a bit of a tour along the Zadar coast and it was beautiful, especially the colour of the sea. We needed to head off on the next stage of our Croatian adventure to the Plitvice lakes and actually, a day here in Zadar, out of season, would be enough for us. We really liked Zadar, but were ready to move on to new adventures.
There is a long line of black mountains dominating the skyline behind Zadar and lining the upper Dalmation coast and they were calling us. We drove over a stunning red bridge towards these mountains and along a very, very quiet coastline with tiny little rocky, sleepy villages by the sea and this is where we think a motorcyclist would be very happy and where you could spend a little more time relaxing on the rocky beach..