Zadar: Where Ancient Meets Modern

The old town of Zadar has enough things to keep one engaged throughout the day. But despite the abundance of ancient and medieval structures, we found amiss with the town. It just did not have the charm of Istrian towns like Rovinj, Poreč, Grožnjan and Hum. These towns, with their narrow cobblestone streets and stone buildings, had the air of a medieval museum. This ambience was exactly what Zadar lacked. Often, right next to a medieval church there would be a modern bank or an ugly residential complex which diminished the beauty of the church. This mishmash of architecture can be attributed to the haphazard rebuild process carried out after large areas of the city were destroyed by heavy bombing during the World War II and the Croatian War of Independence. In all, Zadar is not the kind of city that would send one ‘back in time’ and definitely not one that we would want to visit again.

My musings about the sights we had seen in Zadar in the previous two hours and its lack of charm were interrupted by the arrival of our lunch. I don’t know what it was with Zadar but even the food we had in Restaurant Skoblar was probably the worst of our entire trip. Anyways, we finished the food and went back to sightseeing.

SOME MORE FORTIFICATIONS

The restaurant was located at the edge of Five Wells Square and that is where we headed to after lunch. This square, as the name suggests, contained five ornamental wellheads which, along with a large water cistern, were built in the 16th century to supply water to the city in case of a siege by the Ottomans. The square was dominated by the 26m high Captain’s Tower – the only tower left from the medieval fortress town.

Five Wells Square and Captain’s Tower
Captain’s Tower

A gate in the square led to Queen Jelena Madije Park. The park, built in 1829 on top of a large bastion, was the first public park in Dalmatia. Though the park itself was quite average, its main draw is the stunning view it provides of the iconic Land Gate and the Fosa Harbour. Land Gate, built in 1543, was the primary entrance to the old town from the mainland. With three entrances, various crests and other adornments, this was the grandest gate of Zadar. Fosa, which was the moat in the medieval period, is now a small harbour.

Queen Jelena Madije Park
Bastion on which the park is built
Land Gate and Fosa Harbour
Land Gate

By the time we returned to the Five Wells Square from the park, it was just past 3:30 p.m. We had seen most of the major sights and were quite tired since it was a hot day. We decided to go back to our apartment and take a short rest. On our way back, we bought couple of paintings of the town. Even though we are not very fond of the city, those paintings are amazing.   

A Street in Zadar
The Street leading to Bridge Gate
Monument to the Fallen Sailors in a park en-route to our apartment

AN EVENING IN ZADAR

At 6 in the evening, we left our apartment to witness the famous sunset of Zadar which was once described as the ‘best sunset in the world’ by acclaimed movie director Alfred Hitchcock. We crossed the bridge and took the stairs next to the Bridge Gate to have a look at the city from the top of the walls. As we made our way to the seafront, we came across a few more important landmarks of Zadar like the Museum of Ancient Glass and St. Dimitri’s Chapel which is a part of Zadar University.

View of the city from atop the walls
Museum of Ancient Glass
St. Dimitri’s Chapel

It is said that in the evenings, Zadar seafront is the place to be. As we walked from one end of the seafront to the other while enjoying the mesmeric view of the sea spread out in front of us, it was not hard to see why. Adding to the allure of the azure sea were two modern attractions – one based on sound and other on light – which gave a unique character to the seafront. These attractions, named Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun, were designed by Croatian architect Nikola Bašić to transform the seafront and make it more attractive.

Sea Organ consists of a series of pipes built under the stone steps on the seafront which produce musical notes by the action of the waves. Despite hundreds of people sitting on those steps, the sound produced by the Sea Organ was quite clear. Even though it was not quite the music that we were expecting, listening to that sound while watching the setting sun was undeniably a rare and wonderful experience. 

The Zadar Seafront

The other attraction – Greeting to the Sun – came into the act after the sunset. It is a large disc made up of many glass plates beneath which are thousands of solar panels which absorb sunlight during the day and light up in random colours during the night. When fully lit, it must be a sight to behold but unfortunately, that evening only parts of it were lighting up. We waited for a long time for it to light up completely but when that did not happen even by 8:30 p.m., we left. We picked up dinner from a fast food joint and left the old town by 9:15 p.m.  

Greeting to the Sun
Zadar at Night
Church of St. Donatus at Night
The Bridge at Night

 

8 thoughts on “Zadar: Where Ancient Meets Modern

  1. I guess I’m mistaken, I remember having seen some Roman ruins in the video but I couldn’t see any in your post. The gate is definitely impressive. The name Zadar is also not typical Croatian. I guess the wave sound on the seafront exists in other Croatian towns too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, you are absolutely not mistaken about the Roman ruins. We have actually written two blogs on Zadar and this is the second one. Roman ruins are mentioned in the first one which you can find here: https://traveltellers.blog/2020/08/02/zadar-the-beginning-of-the-dalmatian-coast/

      Regarding the sound, perhaps we didn’t explain it clearly. It wasn’t the sound of waves. They have actually installed underground pipes which produce sound due to the action of waves. You can listen to the sound here:

      Liked by 1 person

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