Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013
The sun glowed red as it set behind the Adriatic Sea in the distance. We had just spent the last two and a half hours weaving through the mountainous terrain of inland Croatia and the landscape was just starting to flatten as we approached the port town of Zadar.
Our bus arrived at the main bus station at about 4:30 p.m. The sun had already set and although it was dark we decided to save money and walk 20 minutes to our hostel in the center of Old Town.
Zadar is an ancient Roman port town. The old walled part of the town is built on a small peninsula that runs from north to south. A marina sits between the peninsula and the mainland filled with boats and ferries, both large and small.
Upon our arrival in Old Town Zadar we checked into our accommodation, Boutique Hostel Forum. The hostel is big and modern, but too many beds have been crammed into too small a space and the need to coordinate movements with your roommates negates any of the slick, modern amenities that have been added to the rooms.
In addition, the stark, simplistic look brings attention to the presence of dust and dirt on the walls and floors. In fact, the color of the floors highlight every stray hair and piece of grime left from previous residents. This unfortunate design flaw led Tarynne to nickname the hostel “The Pubic Palace.” And yes, that nickname made it into the Trip Advisor review along with a critique of the utterly incompetent and unenthusiastic man “working” at reception.
Determined to not let our lack-luster accommodation ruin our time in Zadar, we set out for an evening stroll. The Old Town area is made up of a network of pedestrian only cobblestone streets and we spent most of the night lost, walking in circles and stumbling upon the same familiar landmarks from different directions.
There are two main squares in the middle of Old Town, one was decorated with a massive Christmas tree, which to my pleasant surprise was actually a real tree. The other is the Roman forum and is littered with Roman ruins and artifacts.
After walking around and exploring for a couple of hours, we started looking for a place to eat dinner. Unfortunately it turns out people in Zadar don’t eat, they just drink beer, wine, cocktails and coffee.
In other words, the only (and I mean ONLY) place we could find to eat was a small street food style pizzeria with a couple of tables and chairs set out in a cobblestone alleyway.
Obviously food made primarily of bread and cheese is not exactly ideal sustenance for Tarynne, so she resigned to eating two bags of nuts for dinner.
Tired from our long trek in Plitvice National Park the day before, we called it a night after finishing our pizza, nuts and a few glasses of wine.
Monday, Dec. 23, 2013
Monday offered our first chance to see Zadar in the daylight, so we set out early for a cup of coffee before walking to the daily outdoor market.
As you already know, Tarynne loves markets so we spent some time walking the aisles and perusing the various stalls. Eventually we stopped at a stall worthy of our business and purchased some critical Christmas supplies – satsumas, almonds, mixed nuts and dried figs. Of course the market wasn’t selling the most important Christmas ingredient, alcohol, so we had to swing by the modern-day grocery store to stock up on cheap wine for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Before continuing to explore Zadar we took our Christmas supplies back to the hostel and stored them for safe keeping.
From the hostel we set out on a walk around the perimeter of Old Town along the promenade, past the Organ Steps, up along the top of the Roman wall and back down into a small marina on the southern tip of the Old Town peninsula.
After our walk we stopped in the Roman Forum to just hang out and snap some photos.
By this time the sun was already starting to set, so we walked back to the grocery store to buy sunset picnic supplies – bread, cheese, salsa, chips, red peppers, green peppers, zucchini, wine and beer.
With our supplies in hand we headed back to the promenade and found a perfect spot to sit and watch the sunset on the end of small concrete pier. Of course just as the sun started to light up the evening sky, three people approached us and asked if we could move for “three minutes” while they took a “quick photograph.”
Since they said it was only going to take three minutes, we obliged and moved out of the way. Of course it didn’t take three minutes. They weren’t just snapping a quick photo of the dramatic sunset. Instead, one of the three, a women dressed in all black spandex started attempting headstands and handstands on the end of the pier in front of the setting sun.
The photo shoot may very well have taken only three minutes if the subject could actually do a headstand, but she couldn’t. Not even close.
So after about 15 minutes of watching this moron try unsuccessfully to stand on her head, we decided to pack up our picnic and change location for the sunset’s grand finale.
We ended up finding a nice spot on the Organ Steps and listened to the organ sounds played by the waves hitting the steps as the sun set in the distance.
With the sun down, we were then treated to a light show built into the concrete ground a few feet away.
Having enjoyed the light show we walked back to the main forum for a cup of hot wine, nuts and another two slices of pizza.
Seeing that it was the day before Christmas Eve, Tarynne was determined to find a set of Christmas lights to decorate our hotel room with when we arrived in Split the following day.
While Tarynne went searching for the Christmas lights, I stopped off at a barber shop so I could get my hair cut and look my Sunday best for our looming Christmas Skype call with the parents back home.
With my hair freshly cut, I returned to the hostel to find a delighted Tarynne.
Thankfully her mission was successful and she had found a set of groovy Christmas lights so we could properly get into he Christmas spirit upon our arrival in Spilt the next day.
Somehow in all the sunset, headstand, light show, hot wine, hair cut and Christmas light excitement, time had gotten away from us and it was already pretty late in the evening.
Since we were already back in our room, we decided to call it a night because we had to be up early and at the bus station by 7 a.m. the next morning.
Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013
We woke up at 6 a.m., quickly packed our bags, checked out of the hostel and caught the city bus to the main Zadar bus terminal.
It was Christmas Eve and we were headed to Spilt to spend two nights in an actual hotel to celebrate Christmas and treat ourselves to a couple of relaxing days doing absolutely nothing.
Our Christmas Eve 2013 started at the Tin Cafe in the Zadar bus station. The Tin Cafe is dive bar with neon lights that flicker dimly and customers who look like they haven’t left and seen the light of day in about three weeks.
We chose to sit outside at a table in front of the cafe on the bus station platform. Christmas lights were draped over head and a glowing 2014 sign hung from the ceiling at one end of the station.
We ordered two cups of coffee each and sat back and relaxed while we waited for our bus to arrive.