Zadar & Split, Croatia
Another leg of endless driving. We arrived at the Croatian border not long after we left Piran and we were actually stopped on both the Slovenian and Croatian sides to have our passports checked. I almost drove straight through because I was not used to this process. The man at the Slovenian checkpoint just wanted to have a chat and ended up telling us about the demise of Bin Laden. We don't keep updated on current affairs much so this came as news to us. Quite glad we weren't travelling through that part of the world. He also asked why we were driving on this particular road. We explained we were just following Garmin, we didn't know any other way. The man informed us that this road was a "goat road" and was only used by locals. Explained why there weren't many cars around. Thanks Garmin.
Most of the drive down to Zadar was along the coast, which was truly amazing. The blue of the water was indescribable, a colour I had never witnessed before. My photos didn't do it justice but it was definitely one of the better coastlines we had seen. On the way we stopped to withdraw some kuna (local currency) and use wifi. We were told that we could get free wifi if we bought a drink. I was surprised to find a cider in the fridge and happily exchanged my kuna for the alcohol and the wifi. Cider is a thousand times better when it's cold (not sitting in the warm van).
Seven hours after leaving Piran we arrived In Zadar, parking surprisingly close to the old town. Zadar was located on a peninsula, surrounded by water and enclosed within city walls. Crammed inside the walls were laneways, churches, cafes and souvenir shops, plus the usual hordes of tourists. The laneways were mostly lined with dirty, off-white buildings, which I'm sure were older than any man-made structure you would find in Australia.
Along the water was a series of marble steps, punctured with different sized holes that let air in. The position of the holes resulted in the wind rushing through and making a variety of hollow sounds of different pitches (similar to the sound when blowing across the top of a bottle). The "notes" came together in a random order to form "music". It was really cool. We sat and listened for a while, amazed at how simple yet captivating it was.
After a Danny-made risotto dinner we walked back into town to see the Disc, a huge circle of solar panels laid in the concrete near the water. By day they soak up solar energy and by night they display random patterns of light. I think we watched it for about half an hour, mesmerised. This town was heaven for any sensory-seekers out there.
From Zadar we made our way to Split. For a change the roads were straightforward and we weren't turning corners every hundred metres (our Garmin usually liked to take the back roads). We parked about two kilometres out from Split and walked into the old town, which was enclosed inside a former palace (brilliant idea). Still standing were the walls, some pillars and a few old rooms of the ancient building but everything else had been converted into the usual churches, shops, cafes and apartments. Like Zadar, all the buildings were a grimy, ivory colour, which added to the charm.
Statues were popular. As soon as we walked in the gates we were met with a life-size sculpture of the Last Supper (Croatia is very Catholic, we discovered). Up the other end of town was the 8.5 metre Statue of Ninski, some important man in Croatian history who apparently brings luck to whoever rubs his gigantic big toe. It had been rubbed so often that it had turned bright gold, in contrast to the almost blackened colour of the rest of his body. We yielded to expectations and rubbed the toe, hoping that luck would find us wherever we happened to be on our travels.
After exploring the old town we walked into the new town and up to the Archaeological Museum, not to actually go into the museum but to see their recommended gardens. It was only a small garden but it was full (and I mean jam-packed) of old statues and artefacts. I wasn't that interested (I'm not sure Danny was either) but we did the obligatory walk around and left.
Back in the old town we stopped at an Irish bar because Danny wanted a coffee (because who doesn't order coffee from an Irish bar?). I ordered a cider. It appeared as though there was only one cider that existed in Croatia and it was ridiculously sweet, like drinking apple-flavoured candy. As much as I love cider, I'm going to have to find something else to drink while we're here. Nearby was a secondhand bookstore that sold mostly English books and, strangely enough, several Australian books. Some titles included "Australian yabbie farming", "Growing Australian trees and shrubs from seeds" and "Bradman to Border". We managed to resist buying anything. I'm pretty sure those books will still be there 20 years from now.