We walk through time again today, in the beautiful city of Zadar. Whilst it’s a thriving and sprawling metropolis now, Zadar’s historic centre is set upon a narrow peninsula, sea on three sides. It too, like so many of its neighbours has a rich cultural tapestry, each conquering nation leaving their own mark.
Its bones however, are decidedly Roman. Upon this peninsula, once upon a time, stood a grand Roman Forum.
Its ruins are here still but incredibly, most of the Forum’s columns and stones were used as building materials in series of buildings, a thousand years on. I can’t quite imagine the thinking, plundering what was even then, a 1,000 year history.
Our approach is along the massive city walls,
moated by sea, through the very impressive Land Gate.
The Venetian winged lion of St Mark stands guard over thousands of tiny fish using the marina as a nursery.
Just inside the gate are five wells, the city’s original water supply,
and the medieval tower, Bablja Kula.
Inside the walls, Zadar has a Roman grid street layout, making navigation a breeze. White stone rules, with a slight honey tinge here. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at my travertine paving at home without conjuring the memory of the Dalmatian Coast’s beautiful white stone towns.
We make our way to the People’s Square featuring the Renaissance Loggia (built in 1565)
and the much more modern Town Hall (1934) which still looks perfectly at home.
The prize of Zager’s architecture though, goes to the Church of St Donat, considered the finest example of Byzantine architecture in Dalmatia.
Using paving stones and columns from the Roman Forum, it was built in the 9th century in a circular, two level ground plan, with a further three circular aspes.
The top floor was the Women’s Gallery. Presumably, the women folk were banished to this level. Let’s assume, in the interest of peace between the sexes, that it was because the views were better…
St Donat’s has not been used as a church since 1797 – it is used however, as a concert venue as the acoustics are excellent.
Church bells sound outside during our tour – they reverberate exquisitely.
It’s here, in St Donat’s, that the use of Forum materials is most visible, from sections of columns in its footings to internal column features.
The stones that made up the floor of the Forum are embedded in its walls.
We also visit the Cathedral of St Anastasia, also sat upon the old Forum.
It’s another build with a Byzantine, 9th century history, but also with rebuilds in the Romanesque style in the 12th and 13th centuries – particularly its facade. Inside it’s an explosion of Baroque excess: gold, cherubs and marble for days,
offset by the very sober sarcophagus containing the remains of St Anastasia from the 9th century.
There are also beautifully carved ebony pews,
and I’m particularly fond of this burial carving that appears to depict a successful negotiation out of hell, into heaven above.
In search of a more modern pace, we find the Sea Organ, a set of underground pipes under white stone steps into the ocean. The movement of the waves generates musical chords as the water pushes through. It’s very peaceful, like whale song, until a boat passes causing a large, very loud wave, drenching a few bystanders.
Nearby is another modern piece “Greeting to the Sun” consisting of 300 glass plates designed to catch the sun to make light patterns (under repair when we visited).
Back in the historic centre we find the Sea Gate
then settle in for a late lunch. Burger Boy, well you know what he has,
and seeing as I’ve been having chevapchichi withdrawals, I have those.
Both are very good, the chevapi served with kajmak, which is a favourite.
There is a section of Zadar that unfortunately, we won’t get to explore – its 300+ island archipelago, only a few of which are inhabited. Incredibly, these islands are actually the tips of an ancient mountain range, now submerged. Diving here would be sublime.
After lunch we revisit a few favourite spots, including the ruins of the Forum, discovering a series of sarcophagus,
and the remnants of one of the porticos.
The People’s Square is now clear of crowds, a photography bonus.
There’s just time to walk across the top of the city walls to the park
for a last look at the Land Gate
to make friends with a few kitties
and admire the extraordinary skills of the lace workers before we make our way back to the motor home to start our journey inland toward the Plitvice Lakes National Park.
We end the day near the Paklencia National Park, in Starigrad. It’s another gorgeous seaside setting, perfect for watching the sun set, sadly on my own. If my husband has a romantic bone in his body, I’m yet to spot it.*Sigh*.