Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Croatia 3: Zadar

Day One:

Zadar was the last stop of my trip. I really only had one goal in Zadar: to see the lakes that had convinced me to come to Croatia in the first place. So I decided that besides my day trip to Plitvice, I was going to take it easy. Which was good because by this point I was getting really tired.

Zadar was even smaller than Split, and I saw the touristy part within a couple hours. It felt clean and safe and...mature. The kind of quiet place the attracts middle-aged tourists and their kids. There are two main attractions: the sea organs and the Sun Salutation, which are conveniently right next to each other near the main port. The sea organ is basically a kind of musical instrument installed under marble steps, and its 35 musically tuned tubes are "played" by the waves, creating a random, kind of eerie melody. The Sun Salutation is a big circle in the ground that collects solar energy during the day and releases it after dark in a really interesting light show. That part of the city was really spectacular during sunset. This video shows them both:

At one point I was sitting next to the sea organs and I got kind of emotional, realizing it was almost over. Not only this trip, but this whole year abroad. Traveling. At least for now. I could never say I've had my fill of traveling (I've already started thinking about where I want to go next), but I think it's going to be a little while before I pack my bags and brave the jet lag again. I have a lot of life stuff I need to figure out, and going to France for a year was a great way to distract myself from that. But you can only do that for so long.

I ended my day by running into what was marked as a "night club" on my map. It turned out to be an outdoor bar full of people in their 40's and a young DJ playing club music having the time of his life. He looked slightly out of place. I sat outside and listened for a while. It was really nice.

Day Two:

My second day, well... my room was full of snorers and I was already getting my second coffee by noon, so I'll let you deduce my energy level from that. I basically wandered around, found a park with a lot of dead guys' busts, went back to the sea organs, and walked around the port. I don't actually remember that day too well, but I think there was pizza. Yeah, there was definitely pizza. Pizza in Zadar was really good and really cheap.

Day Three:

I finally went to see the lakes! The weather wasn't really cooperating with me though. It was supposed to rain both on my third and fourth days in Zadar, so I took a gamble on day three, hoping going earlier would be a better bet despite the light rain. Spoiler: the next day there wasn't a drop of precipitation and it was beautiful outside. I was slightly bitter.

The drive there alternated between postcard-worthy valleys and postcard-worthy mountains, dotted with small towns that took us 30 seconds to drive through. I was a little nervous to be too nice to our driver given what had happened with the one in Dubrovnik, but he ended up being a really chill guy who played guitar in a band with his sister. He talked about 80's rock in Yugoslavia, how it represented freedom, and how the good musicians had managed to smuggle in American instruments, which was a big deal (you know...communism and such). The economy. Stuff like that.

And then we got there! Even in the rain, the lakes were breathtaking and fully lived up to my expectations. I ended up walking around with an Australian I met in the car. I don't remember her name and I'll probably never see her again, but she was great. Thanks to the advice from our driver we were able to avoid the crowds for most of the day, but by early afternoon the crowds became almost unbearable. Despite the rain. Despite it still being May. You walk through most of the park on these man-made narrow wooden walkways which lead you over the lakes and around the waterfalls. At one point some German guy got really fed up with waiting in line and pushed through the crowds, almost knocking me off the walkway into the lake. When we were waiting in the line/mosh pit to get onto the little ferry boat that takes you across the lake, I thought the grannies behind me were going to crush me and leave me for dead. It was Lord of the Flies out there. I'm all for respecting the elderly, but they get mean when they're in a crowd. The girl I was with and I kept saying how we couldn't imagine being here during high season, it must be a nightmare. But it was totally worth it, just scroll down and take a look at the photos, I think you'll agree. 

Day Four:

On my last day I had no plans. I was very tired, and in my bewildered, dazed state, I was considering finding a place to get a haircut (granted, I desperately needed it, but still...who goes all the way to Croatia for a haircut?) On my way, I stopped for a moment in front of a sign advertising a trip to one of the islands, and the lady manning in asked if I was interested. I said no, that I was only there for one more day. She thought for a minute... "you should go to Nin, it's only 20 minutes by bus."

So I thanked her, shrugged to myself, and went to Nin, not really giving it a second thought. Or any thought, for that matter. I literally just changed my course, went to the bus station, and asked for a ticket to Nin. It turned out to be great. The small little walled town wasn't too impressive (surprise surprise), but there was this really great beach with a nice view of the city to one side and the mountains to the other with a huge sand hill at the very end. If I hadn't been so...phlegmatic about the whole day I might have done a little research and brought my swimsuit. But even so, it was nice to sit out on the beach for a while.

And then I went back and packed my bags for my flight the next day. And with that my trip to Croatia ended. I mean...the next day there was a shuttle bus and a plane and another shuttle bus and a train and then a tram and all in all it took me a full day to get home and by the end I was ready to crawl in a hole and die, but... for all intents and purposes, that was the end of my trip.

So. Croatia. I think it was as good as it could have been given my mentality and the weather. I'd love to go back and see more of the islands, go see Mostar, do some hiking, etc., and I'd love to do it with a better mindset. But I don't regret going. I met some great people, had some great experiences, saw some beautiful things. Yes I was sort of...blah half the time, but I'm really glad I went. :)


Church of St. Donat

Zadar gate

Sea Organs
Salute to the Sun

Some old Roman ruins
Salute to the Sun, again
Sea Organs...again

The Sun Salute thing at night when it lights up. YouTube it. 

Trips to Plitvice Lakes

Suddenly it went from almost no one to a million people waiting to pass through. Some angry German guy almost pushed me into the water. Jerk. 
On our way back our driver took us to Korana, a tiny little town close to the Lakes.
Some random little horse in Korana


I really want to know who is translating this stuff. English is really good in Croatia, and I guess technically this is correct, but the translation is just a bit awkward, too flowery, made me chuckle. I mean...a town that restores self-confidence? That's a pretty bold claim. 

Nin beach

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