Bottom of the Alphabet…Zadar Should be Top of Your List

Amazing to see how insignificant Earth is to the sun
Greeting the Sun public art

Zadar, with 800,000 inhabitants, is the fifth largest city in the small country of Croatia. Located on the beautiful, dark blue, sparkling clean Aegean Sea, it can get very hot during the summer high season, but never snows in the winter. Nevertheless, the city nearly shuts down during wintertime due to a lack of tourism, the principal economic driver. During other seasons, cruise ships make port here. The dock is adjacent to an old city that dates back 3,000 years.

Zadar was largely destroyed by the ravages of World War II. The more recent conflicts were between Croatia and its neighbors and the only known earthquake to hit Zadar occurred in 1667. Most of the city and many of its destroyed churches have been rebuilt in the last several hundred years.

In the port, you can observe the locals taking a swim in the crystal clear, but cold, Aegean Sea, or simply taking in the sun along the lengthy promenade that runs the length of the peninsula on which the old city is strategically situated.

Close to where the cruise ships dock are two of the highlights of Zadar. These are not old, but rather two of the best examples of modern public art. They are amazing and unique sculptures by Croatian artist Nikola Bašic. In the first, called “Greeting the Sun,” the artist uses solar panels in the shape of circles to collect energy during the day that is projected out after dark. There are eight such circles of solar panels, each proportional in size and distance to the planets of the solar system with a “main” circle representing the sun. It’s an astounding visual representation of just how minuscule Earth is in the big scheme of the universe, and, conversely, how large the universe is.

The other, equally provocative art piece is next to the “Greeting to the Sun” and is called “Sea Organ.” Here, the artist lets the waves of the Aegean Sea make music on an underground water organ that opens on the sidewalk in small holes and slats. The holes are where the organ pipes end and the slats provide the music. Adjacent to this underground organ, the artist has painted a representation of a piano. All day long, music is naturally generated by the seashore waves randomly created by swimmers, passing boats, and docking cruise liners. These two works alone are reason enough to visit Zadar.

The partial remaining walls of the old city of Zadar and its main gate recently obtained UNESCO protection as fine examples of medieval city fortresses. Inside the walls are one-of-a-kind examples of Romanesque and Byzantine architecture. Wander the old city’s main street, Broad Street, to observe its many old churches and plazas intermixed with modern retail and offices.

The city’s archaeological museum contains many significant Catholic relics, pieces of bones or hair from famous people in the bible, as well as recovered, salvaged and restored church iconology. If you are a student of Catholicism, art or history, this museum a must-see stop. The local cathedral is also a highlight.

Around town, many monuments and works of art are dedicated to Saint Simon, the patron saint of the city. Just inside the wall five wells in the appropriately-named “Square of Five Wells,” now occupy the place where a moat once protected Zadar from intruders. Don’t miss Zadar’s two beautiful city parks next door to this square, Vladimir Nazor Park and the adjacent Jarula Park.

On a sunny day, the red tile roofs of Zadar glisten in the bright Mediterranean sun. Although similar scenes of the Mediterranean have been beautifully depicted in innumerable canvases and photographs, experiencing it in person is so much more enchanting.

Mediterranean beauty
Red roofs of Zadar