11 July 2011

Zadar: On Dry Land

The Mediterranean is quite a seductress. Even in a city like Zadar, it's easy to just spend all your time on or by the water. It takes a lot to pull yourself away and move inland. Zadar's Old Town is filled with Renaissance and Romanesque buildings, white stones walkways and orange roofs for as far as the eye can see. There's a reason that it feels a lot like Italy, as it was part of the Roman Empire, then the Republic of Venice and then, briefly, part of Italy proper (after its foray as Austrian). We could have/should have done more sightseeing, but were content to just walk around on dry land for a while.
On Zadar's peninsula, if a building isn't old or white (or old and white) it's a pizza shop. The pies are more reminiscent of New York than Italy, floppy and cut diagonally and sold by the "piece" aka slice. Outside of the Old Town, most people pick up a Croatian savory pastry called burek for a bite on the go. There are bakeries absolutely everywhere in Zadar. Near the sights, though, it's all pizza all the time. And gelato.
Lace-makers line a number of streets, setting their chairs up close to the walls to get whatever bit of shade a roof above can offer. A few have doilies set out for sale, but most are just content to sit quietly amongst friends and make lace. So close to the island, I assume they are making Pag lace or "white gold," as it is referred to. I don't know enough about it to be able to tell.
Zadar has been populated since prehistoric times, making this church from the 9th century seem almost modern. Almost. It is St. Donatus Church and is the most important preserved structure in all of Dalmatia. We climbed the bell tower next door, from which we hear a tune from our apartment miles away each morning, and were able to see the rotunda's orange roof, shingled in a spiral of bright terracotta. Beyond it was the sea, the perfect, complimentary blue sea, and we were lured to the wet side once more. Moving inland again hours later, on our way home.
Outside the center, Zadar seems a lot more familiar, more local and less touristy. Like in any other town in any other country, a carnival was set up - it's not a summer night without people spinning around in the air and bouncing off of one another in bumper cars. It took so long for the sun to set that by the time the neon lights had their proper black backdrop, most of the drowsy children were draped over their parents' shoulders. A few teenage girls waited for their dates in more-date-than-carnival-ride-friendly attire.
At a bar on the corner, on significantly less 'dry' land, a bucket of sardines ("70 pounds," we were told) were lined up on a grill, one next to the other like, well, sardines. As a row finished, they were piled onto a plastic plate, topped with a nub of crusty bread and placed on a table as a complimentary snack. Definitely beats a bowl full of beer nuts. At about 10pm, most of the nibbling bar goers were just starting their evening. Zadar's Garden Festival was taking place, a series of concerts and after-show boat parties that draws crowds every year. I heard a few thumps of music when I got up for a drink of water in the night, hours later, and then happily snuggled right back into bed.

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