Croatia in 35mm: Zadar

Having been an urban dweller all my life, I must say, Zagreb proved to be the perfect launching pad into what the rest of Croatia had to offer. Although the weather had been mostly cloudy and rainy, the city proved to be an absolute treat. Ripe with culture, history, architecture and a healthy dose of urban nightlife, Zagreb left me longing for more.

The next destination was Zadar (pronounced “Zaa - dar”). The drive from Zagreb to Zadar is nearly 350 Kms (approx. 220 miles) which we decided to break up by first pausing for lunch in a quaint little town called Rastoke, then following it up with a three hour hike in the stunning Plitvice Lakes National Park.

Rastoke is one of those quintessential Eastern European small towns. Babbling brooks, windmills and narrow winding roads lined with greenery. We ate lunch at a restaurant called “Petro”, one of those few places in the world that looks exactly like its photographs online. Feasting on fresh seafood and Ćevapi in the calm outdoors while watching fishes swim in the pond was just picture-perfect. In case you missed it, I describe Ćevapi briefly in my previous post, this turned out to be one of those things that I practically ate for every meal, everyday while I was in Croatia.

With full bellies and replenished energy, we were all set to explore our next destination, Plitvice Lakes National Park. Designated as a UNESCO world heritage site, Plitvice Lakes is not only the largest national park in Croatia but also the most popular one. Once I got there, it was easy to see why this place attracts thousands of visitors on a daily basis, exploring this vast national park is like walking through a postcard. Given the enormity of this place, I would definitely recommend giving yourself at least two-three hours to fully experience what this amazing park has to offer. On a side note, it was extremely challenging to stop and take photos here thanks to the narrow paths that see a lot of foot traffic. Stopping literally means holding up people around you and if someone turns out to be impatient, you could easily end up getting knocked into the water! The hike ended with a ferry ride that brought us back to the parking lot and from there it was a straight shot into Zadar.

The drive into Zadar was amazing, the highways in Croatia are some of the best roads that I’ve driven on. As we were approaching Zadar, the weather started to get bad and the rains got progressively heavier. By the time we reached the old city in Zadar, we were in the middle of a torrential downpour. Cars aren’t allowed into the old city, which made it worse as we struggled to coordinate with our Airbnb host for directions. After almost an hour of coordination followed by plenty of back & forth between our apartment and the car, we finally managed to get ourselves and our bags all settled in one piece. Needless to say, it was time for some beer, food and a good night’s rest.

Zadar was playing host to the “Wings Of Life” world run that weekend, the city was packed with visitors & participants and teeming with activity. I decided to postpone all exploration until later that day so that we could watch the race. In the evening we walked around the city and crossed the pedestrian bridge to explore the other side of Zadar. Unfortunately, outside the old city, there wasn’t much to see and explore on foot, so we grabbed a glass of wine and made our way back. Two of the main attractions in Zadar are the “Sea Organ” and the “Greeting to the Sun” located on the very edge of the Zadar peninsula . Created by architect Nikola Bašić, these artistic installations are extremely unique in that they work in harmony with each other. The “Sea Organ” is comprised of a very complex design of hollow marble steps that allow the water and air to go through the chambers to create chime-like notes that are musical and calming. The “Greeting to the Sun” is made of photovoltaic cells installed under multi-layered glass plates. This is basically a model of the solar system with the names of all the saints of the present and past churches engraved into the ring surrounding this installation. At sunset, the sound from the “Sea Organ” is transposed onto a spectacular light show from “Greeting to the Sun” as the solar cells release their stored up energy. This is easily one of the most unique art installations I’ve ever seen and recommend this as a “must-see”.

That night the rains came back and the city glistened as the crowds had disappeared and the empty streets allowed the light to bounce off the cobblestone streets beautifully. It was an absolute treat to walk around and take photos that night. The following morning, we woke up bright & early and were pleasantly surprised to see that the weather had cleared up, it was a beautiful, sunny day. It was perfect weather to hike to the top of the top of the tower of cathedral of St. Anastasia. The narrow spiral staircase going to the top makes this a difficult and challenging climb, but once you reach the top, you’re rewarded with the most stunning views imaginable of the entire city. After spending about an hour soaking in the views we descended downstairs and went to the church of St. Donatus which adjacent to the tower. The church has a very ethereal feel once you’re inside. The large interior is mostly hollow with a huge space in the middle which was apparently used for congregations back in the day.

Going into Zadar, the weather had been mostly cloudy, as a result I ended up shooting mostly on digital. Carrying high speed film while travelling is always a dilemma as I’m never sure how well the film will hold up to multiple trips through the X-ray machines at the airports.

Regardless, I do hope you enjoy the images! Thanks for reading.