Culture: Croatia Baby! – Part I – Zadar

I can’t resist a bargain. A flight out to Zadar in Croatia for £27.99 is definitely what I call a good’n… even if it was with Ryanair; I risked not making it there alive. I was meeting my friend Dani there the day after I arrived which meant a whole 24 hours with myself as company and more importantly, no one to nag/remind me to wear sun cream… After a slow walk down to Zadar’s Old Town, past the beautiful harbour and lunch in the 28 degree sunshine, apparently it didn’t occur to me to put any on… Big mistake. Huge. The tan lines were epic.

The scenery was worth it though. Schools of fish shimmered near the turquoise shore, mountains dotted the horizon and so many boats – the sheer size of the cruise liners and the majestic beauty of the yacht’s intimidating the lesser vessels that pootled along.

11865343_10153042936060924_1466860093_oThe rest of the day was spent relaxing on the beach, although it’s not what you’d picture as paradise. Instead of sand, the ‘beaches’ were concrete and stone and it felt similar to where teenagers hang out at parking lots. Don’t let that put you off though – the sea was clear, refreshing and well worth a cheeky dip.

Before arriving at the apartments, the owners agreed to pick us up at the destinations we required for a fairly decent price. Dani told me the port she was getting in to and the time, which I emailed across to them.

Twenty minutes after she had arrived in Zadar, I get a call from her saying “I may have told them the wrong port…” and so the poor owner was waiting at the wrong location. Standard Dani… She also somehow managed to check us both in, but submitted her passport details as mine. I repeat, standard Dani.

Our first morning together was beautiful. We visited the local supermarket and purchased fresh bread, nectarines and a jar of jam… We had no cutlery to eat these items, but hey, challenge accepted. We dipped the bread into the jam pot like the top classy survivors we are… Bear Grylls eat your heart out.

On our way in, it was impossible to cross the road because of the Vespa World Day 2015 which was thousands of Vespas leaving the city – it was pretty cool to see.

TMF_Zadar_2We explored the city of Zadar, seeing the cathedral and making sure to visit TripAdvisor’s top attractions – Number one being the Sea Organ where wave action pushes air through a series of underwater pipes and up through spaces cut in to the steps, producing mellow tones. A close second was The Greeting to the Sun – a circle of lights which are powered by solar power and light up all pretty and whatnot at night time.

I’m not gonna lie… We weren’t really sure why these were ranked the top two attractions to see – however, The Greeting to the Sun is vastly improved by a bottle of local Medica (pronounced Me-deets-za). Top traveller tip right there.

Make sure to visit the gardens in Zadar as they are beautiful and you’ll be sure to see different kinds of lizards and birds. Oh and statues that you have to take inappropriate photos with!

I have to warn you, the men are creeps in Croatia. They stare at you and honk their horns as they drive past. We even had an occasion where we were sat on a park bench eating ice cream and a man took a picture of us!

Our trip was made even more awesome by the two New Zealanders that we met whilst we were there. Dani had met one of them on her earlier expedition and so we were all introduced in Zadar. Kiwis are fun!

Gnocchi and Beef in a Red Wine Sauce

Gnocchi and Beef in a Red Wine Sauce

The four of us decided to do a kayaking trip which was about an hour drive away from Zadar. The trip started from Kastel Zegarski and was about a three hour ride down the river. No experience is necessary, but be warned, they don’t exactly show you how to do it; it’s absolutely beautiful padding down the river, but one sign in the middle of a tree telling you to keep left because of a waterfall is a bit scary! Also, the safety talk they gave at the beginning was all in German – we definitely made it up as we went along. Well worth a trip though and I think it only cost us about £30 in the end.

Here are a few of my top tips whilst you’re eating in Zadar: Like most places, if you’re happy to go down a side street and not eat right on the seafront, then you can find some beautiful restaurants and generally at half the price. Try the Croatian favourites such as gnocchi and beef cooked in a red wine sauce (see pictured) – very tasty! Being so close to Italy has its perks too as they do pizza and ice-cream everywhere; grab a huge slice for just £2 or grab one of the many flavours of ice cream for just 80p… or two scoops, because it’s so cheap, it’d be rude not to. Try the nectarines too – they taste like sunshine and don’t compare to the ones back home!

Zadar was truly beautiful and had some fun quirks about it. I highly recommend and three or four days is a good amount to explore the quaint little city. We then travelled onto Split, but I’ll save you all those juicy details for my next post!