Continued from Zagreb & Plitvice Lakes
We reached Zadar in just over a couple of hours. Our stay in Zadar was to be at the Boutique Hostel Forum, and they had told us not to pay more than 6 euros from the bus station to the city gates. We ended up paying slightly more, and despite some reasonably good directions, lost our way a bit before a ‘duh’ moment of realisation that Google Maps could help even when offline. The hostel is right next to the forum, and its only drawback is that there is no elevator. But even given that we were on the third floor, that was only a one time problem at check in. This, I must say, was a completely cool outfit – superb branding – especially the booklet that comes with the key, the most optimal use of space I have seen, and very helpful staff. Most importantly, we got the view we had requested – sea facing. The beds were on a raised platform, and you could have a fantastic view lying down!
We rested a bit before walking to the Sea Organ to catch the sunset that Alfred Hitchcock described as the most beautiful one in the world. The Sea Organ itself is quite a contraption – it exists below the steps you can sit on to watch the sunset, and plays ‘keys’ according to the rise and fall of waves. Surreal experience. The sun played a bit of hide and seek before quickly appearing in full glory just before its set. Have I seen better? Probably – Boracay and Oia immediately come to mind, but the overall experience thanks to the unique Sea Organ is something you shouldn’t miss. Right next to it, there’s also something called Greetings to the Sun, but that required more darkness to fall, and we were too hungry to wait!
Restaurant Bruschetta, a 5 minute walk away, was our original choice for dinner, but they needed reservations, since it was a weekend. So we turned to Bistro Orgulije right next door. The drinks weren’t bad, and I quite liked the local drink Maraschino. Strong, but had flavour. We tried the famous Pag Cheese as well. But we didn’t really fancy the main course we had, I wouldn’t recommend the place. On the way back, we saw another version of the genie trick we saw in Prague. An angel! D was quite excited, probably the effects of the Maraschino! 😉 We had ice cream at Slastičarnica Donat, billed as the best ice cream in Zadar. I liked it, but the one in Zagreb was still the gold standard. The walk to the hotel was just over a minute!
Since everything in Zadar is a short walk away, we woke up only just in time to catch breakfast. A less elaborate buffet than traditional hotels, but more than enough for our requirements. Our first stop was the St. Donatus Church. We decided not to go in, but later changed our mind. Unnecessarily so. Nothing much inside, unless you want to climb the tower right next to it. The Archaeological Museum next door is worth a visit though. Across three floors, there is a chronological arrangement of the region’s history – from the Stone Age to Roman to medieval. D then visited the Gold & Silver Museum, run by nuns, while I sat outside watching the crowds.
The Museum of Illusions was a slightly longer walk away, and I was quite eager, but just next to it was the Ancient Glass Museum that D was interested in. But she came out quite soon, or maybe it seemed so because I sat watching the other side of town. Looked like the residential, non touristy side. The Museum of Illusions was a lot of fun – mental puzzles, illusions and so on. Totally worth a stop. 5 wells Square was another short walk away, named after the wells that actually supplied water until the 1800s.
Our lunch spot was right next to it – Pet Bunara. Manages to be pretty and classy at the same time. Also had the best service we experienced during our vacation. The lady who took our order patiently explained to us everything we needed to know. D asked for a fig brandy – not on the menu, but had popped up in her research. That was superb stuff, we even bought a little bottle later from a shop on the way back. The Pelinkovac I had was as herbal as the internet described it, and bitter as the menu did. The Caesar Mussels we had first was fantastic – perfectly baked puff pastry with mussels filling in a creamy, delicious, black truffle based sauce. Also had some excellent cheese and Veal Cheeks w/ Sinjorina Smokva, (authentic Zadar, though the ending makes it sound like something out of Bihar) for the mains. They were thoughtful enough to serve the latter in two plates when we said we were sharing.
Zadar’s hot summer afternoons are no time to be out and about, we walked back to the hostel to take a nap. The first agenda in the evening was shopping, and there was a nice shop next door which suited us perfectly. We then visited the St. Chrysogonous church and the Cathedral of St Anastasia before walking a bit to the People’s Square, and then the City Wall. We walked along the City Walls and then after some debate, decided to advance our visit to The Garden Lounge, our dinner spot.
A perfect lounge place with a good view of the port, this one housed a microbrewery. It seemed nothing could go wrong, but alas. They served only vegetarian fare. We quickly tried the beer and rose wine before a hasty retreat. We later learned that it was owned by an ex-hippie. Made perfect sense. The hostel had highly recommended a restaurant named 2 Ribara so we asked them to help with a reservation. Once that had been arranged, we walked to catch the sunset, this time from the pier. I liked this sunset more than the previous day’s.
2 Ribara was already busy when we walked in. The staff seemed fairly skeptical of us, until we said we had a reservation. After we were seated, the service was top notch. We began with a delicious beef soup with noodles and followed up with Turkey medallions in Gorgonzola sauce with Dalmatian prosciutto (bacon) and the best Gnocchi we’ve had. All washed down with Carob and Blueberry brandy. The former was excellent. On the way back to the hotel, we had some ice cream which didn’t really compare well with the previous experiences.
Zadar is a wonderful little town. Everything that is of consequence is a walk away. The promenade is not too busy, the eateries are excellent, it’s only slightly costlier than Zagreb, and once again, we were quite jealous of the quality of life in this part of the world. Definitely a place you should visit.