27 May 2009

Central Dalmatia - Zadar

Zadar may not be as well known as a tourist destination as its Dalmatian cousins Dubrovnik and Split, nor even Rovinj, but that may just be part of its charm. That, and two of the most interesting pieces of public art in Croatia – the Sea Organ, which won the 2006 European Prize for Urban Public Space, is composed of some 35 pipes under the stone Riva which play an ever changing (and unending) music generated by the waves. A few steps further, another unique piece of permanent art is the “Greeting to the Sun” composed of photovoltaic cells inlaid into a huge circle on the Riva. Impossible to appreciate without seeing the joy on the faces of kids and adults in the summer evenings, it is certainly one of the most interesting pieces to be installed anywhere on the coast. Add that to other architectural treasures like the Church of St. Donat (pictured), day trips to the Kornati islands, the local cherry liqueur Maraska, and last but certainly not least the very excellent day & night spot The Garden and you may find central Dalmatia to be your new favorite spot.

Hotel Bastion
Bedemi zadarskih pobuna 13
+385 (23) 494 950
With 28 rooms and located just across from The Garden and next to the Arsenal, you couldn’t ask for a better location – well, unless it was on the water. Anyhow, Bastion certainly helps with the dearth of hotels in the vicinity of the old town (and particularly those of us not looking to stay in one of the package tour hotels in the Borik neighborhood).

The Garden
Bedemi zadarskih pobuna b.b.
+385 (23) 250-631
Started by the former drummer of UB40 in 2004, The Garden is one of the best lounges on the coast. Located on top of the old Venetian city walls, it’s a great spot to grab a coffee in the morning, a post-beach drink on one of the many beds stacked with pillows, or enjoy the evening lounge scene. What could be better than a post-beach nap overlooking the sea from a Venetian fortress with drinks, good music, and a bed? And The Garden just keeps growing, with the return of The Garden Festival (July this year) and The Garden Petrcane (north of Zadar on the beach). Your view? Just see the pic above - taken whilst too lazy and comfortable to even move from the day lounge.

Trg tri bunara
+385 (23) 253 820
This converted Venetian arsenal makes the ancient storage of weapons seem a bit more relevant to your pleasure - with a lounge bar, restaurant, chocolaterie, wine shop, and event space. A good stop for a salad or drink after contemplating the Gift to the Sun on a summer evening (brilliant? mad? ludicrous? cool?), particularly given the Arsenal's location near both Hotel Bastion and The Garden. Definitely rounds out the neighborhood.

Maya Pub
Liburnska obala 6
+385 (23) 251 716
On the harbour just below the Garden, the Maya Pub is not all that great, and is more of a cruddy disco than a pub, but if you are looking to continue when The Garden closes its the nearest spot.

Kornati National Park
This national park consists of a stunning combination of 89 islands, islets and reefs located off the coast between Šibenik and Zadar (Murter seems to be the HQ of the park itself). For those less adventurous, day trips are organized from both of the aforementioned cities, as well as Vodice, Murter, and other spots, but to really see it a sailboat is the way to go. Check out the official park website, and then do a quick google search. Taking a day trip from Zadar is mega-easy - just meander down to the Obala outside the Venetian walls and you'll see various offers. They are all pretty similar, so compare prices. Book the day before, and remember not to stay out too late that night - most of the tours depart around 8 a.m. Do go for a swim in the dead sea on Dugi Otok (Long Island - no relation), a stop that is included on almost all the tours, as is a "fish picnic".

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