wendylady1 (wendylady1) wrote,

Adventures in Croatia 4 : Zadar


Zadar 34A

Here we are with my fourth post regarding our little five-day break in Croatia - the final part of our week was Friday, which saw us travelling right up through the bottom part of Croatia, from Dubrovnik all the way up to Zadar, in order to catch our plane back to London...and as we arrived with three or four hours to spare, we decided to see the old centre of Zadar, where we understood some Roman remains still stood...

On Friday morning, we decided to take advantage of the 10 Euro breakfast deal, and had the best hotel breakfast in a long time. They even had a chef on hand, with his little mobile stove, to cook your eggs to order any way you liked... how utterly marvellous !!

We packed up our things and were ready to leave by about 11.30, and went to check out. We left and drove out from Dubrovnik by the same coast road we came in on, but about a quarter of the way up, we joined the new motorway, which was only opened back in 2009. As it was a toll road, we had to take a ticket before entering the road, but the cost is not that big really - you pay when you leave, for however much distance you have gone...
To us, this road was cheap and fast, but to the native Croatians, it is clearly the Devil's Work, as the road looked like this pretty much all the way :-

Motorway 01

Of course, there was the occasional other car to keep us company, but really not many at all !! As we were driving through mountains for much of the way, there were loads of tunnels and it tickled us immensely to see that there was clearly a problem with bears and wolves running amok on their new road !! In Britain, we have similar signs with the silhouette of a leaping deer on them, but who's ever seen one really ?!!


We arrived in the town of Zadar by around 4pm, and as we had about three or four hours until our flight was due to leave, we decided to go and see the ancient Roman ruins in the town centre...

Zadar 02

Here's the basic story of the Roman colonisation of Zadar in the 2nd Century AD - it was already an established Liburnian colony, which had become an important centre for trading activities with the Phoenicians, Etruscans and the Greeks and other Mediterranean peoples, since way back in the 7th Century BC.
From the early days of Roman rule, Zadar gained its Roman urban character and developed into one of the most flourishing centres on the eastern Adriatic coast, a state of affairs which lasted for several hundred years. The town was organised according to the typical Roman street system with a rectangular street plan, a forum, thermae, a sewage and water supply system that came from Lake Vrana by way of a 40 km long aqueduct.

The new religion of Christianity did not bypass the Roman province of Dalmatia, of course - already by the end of the 3rd century Zadar had its own bishop, and the founding of the Zadar Christian community took place. A new religious centre was built north of the forum, together with a basilica and a baptistery, as well as other ecclesiastical buildings. According to some estimates, in the 4th century the town of Zadar had probably around ten thousand citizens, including the population from the nearby islands and hinterland, and was a healthy mixture of the indigenous Liburnians and Roman colonists.

Here's a couple of good aerial views of the Roman ruins right in the middle of the Old Town, going down to the sea front:-

Zadar 01

As you can see, there has been a good bit of work in consolidating the ruins - including the original marble paving stones in the middle of the Forum area - preserving them for people to actually walk around and see them all, and even touch everything, without doing too much damage !!

Zadar 01a

Zadar 03

Right in the middle of it all is the Christian Basilica, the Church of St. Donatus, which was built in the 9th Century AD, using bits and bobs from the old Roman ruins around its base - as you can see there are loads of chunks of columns, and even a piece of an old altar incorporated into the foundations !! This is the first time I've seen this practice done so clearly, even though I know it went on all over the Roman world - the ruins are a great source of building materials when cash is tight, and the practice of recycling must be applauded, I suppose !!

Zadar 04

Zadar 06

Zadar 07     Zadar 08

Several remnants of columns still stand, even though they aren't complete, they are still beautiful ! Look at the marvellous grey and white shading in this marble column on the right...

Zadar 13     Zadar 14

Beyond the site of the Forum, there was the site of a rectangular building, that clearly had a colonnade at one time - you could see where the columns stood in a row, at regular intervals in the grass...

Zadar 09

Zadar 10

Things haven't changed in forty years - the photo on the right is a picture taken back in 1973, and you can see that it looks much the same, if a little greener...

Zadar 10a    Zadar 01b

These three large plinths which were standing in a row just next to this building, would have had statues standing on top once upon a time - nothing daunted, Russ demonstrates ...

Zadar 11     Zadar 12

Zadar 12a

IMG_2566     IMG_2565

The layout of the Roman Forum is still visible, but with stone paths amongst all the architectural bits and pieces, which were all laid out so that you could see them clearly...

Zadar 15

This is a chunk of archway ceiling, with the squared pattern clearly visible...and an altar to a Satyr-like god...

Zadar 15a     Zadar 16

Zadar 17     Zadar 23

Carvings abound, with all kinds of Roman lettering too - this inscription probably said 'Marcus Aurelius' at one time...

Zadar 18

Zadar 20     Zadar 21

Zadar 25

Zadar 26

There were lots of sarcophagi lying around - all empty of course, but all very interesting with carvings on all sides - some with the cracker-shaped inscription, with the details of who occupied it once ...

Zadar 28

Zadar 29

Here, a tumbled column lies still embedded in its base...

Zadar 30   Zadar 30a

Here I am doing my goddess statue impression for Adam and Russ too...well, you have to keep them amused, don't you ?!!

Zadar 32     Zadar 34

The remains of a well, still preserved in it's original position...

Zadar 33

This beautiful carving caught my eye - a floral swag, probably from a whole border of them, all along one side of a building perhaps...

Zadar 35

Close up details of a really beautiful carved border...

Zadar 36a

Another carved border - plenty of these just lying round on the ground, open to all weathers - but the truth is, they probably aren't that uncommon in the Roman collections of the world's museums, and therefore, if it gets a bit more weathered, that just adds to it charm...

Zadar 36b

There were many things we just didn't have time to do in this town - I wish we had longer here !! For instance, the huge modern building of the Archaeological Museum beckoned, but it had closed for the day about twenty minutes before we noticed it and realised what it was - just beside the Forum, it looks like a huge sandy-coloured box with a big glass door :-

Archaeological Museum of Zadar

Just in front of the Forum area, the water-front features an enormous Sea-organ, which is a series of wind-pipes built into the flight of steps leading down into the sea...I liked this marvellous photo, and I found a couple of peoples' blogs, where they describe it underneath...

Sea-organ 01

Located near Zadar’s waterfront, architect Nikola Basic’s permanent art installation 'Greeting to the Sun' transforms solar energy into a stunning light show, best enjoyed at twilight when its colours explode. Nearby, the Sea Organ, also designed by Basic, turns the movement of the sea into a surreal soundtrack. Rolling waves force air through 35 pipes of various lengths, creating simple and atmospheric melodies.

'Underneath the steps that you find at the northern end of Riva there are 35 tubes like in a church organ. The waves turn these into a very creative musical instrument. When sitting there you hear melodies, sounds, the wind and the waves, it's wonderful! Sometimes it sounds like whales singing, sometimes the sounds turn very loud and you know it's time to get up because there's a big wave coming! I could have sat there for ages just relaxing and listening...'

Doesn't that sound like an amazing way to spend your late afternoon, lazing in the setting sun, before going for a cocktail ?!!

There is also a Museum of Ancient Glass in Zadar, described thus :-

The museum is one of the city's newest attractions and rightfully so. It's housed in the 19th century Cosmacendi Palace and has some outstanding views that overlook the Jazine harbour. The museum contains one of the premium collections of Roman glassware outside Italy, with a cornucopia of goblets, jars and vials retrieved from archaeological sites across Dalmatia. Highlights include the delicate vessels used by Roman ladies to store perfumes, skin creams and essential oils. Also look out for glass cups used to celebrate Mass, and dainty flasks in which holy water was stored. Take the opportunity to see the replica Roman glassware on sale as you'll no doubt enter one of the classiest souvenir-stops in the city.and many other interesting sounding places to explore...

Now if that isn't a great reason to return, I don't know what is !!

Zadar 37     Zadar 38

Here I am waiting at Zadar's tiny airport terminal, with all our luggage, waiting for Adam and Russ to return the rental car, before going home...

A smashing little holiday - only five days, but it felt like two weeks...and we probably will return at some point in the future !

Tags: croatia, travelling in central europe
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