On Friday morning, my mother and Majda dropped me off at the bus station. My plan was to spend the month of August inching my way down the Balkan Peninsula, heading back north and ending up in Bulgaria by the end of the month. My reasoning? Not only have I not visited most of these countries, but I needed to get out of the Schengen area. As a US citizen, I am only eligible to spend 90 out of every 180 days within the countries of the Schengen zone without getting a visa. I had entered France on May 9, which meant that I needed to be outta there by August 9. (Not sure what the consequences are for overstaying your welcome, but I wasn’t about to find out for myself!) While Slovenia is a Schengen country, Croatia is not, so I decided to head there first, making up an itinerary as I went along.
I had not originally planned to spend much time at all in Croatia, since I have visited several times before and really wanted to focus this month on seeing new places. (Also, Croatia seems to be The Place To Go now. Not to sound all “been there, done that,” but since my family is Slovenian, Croatia had often been a natural extension of many trips we took back there. I was first in Croatia in 1994. A typical reaction to mention of any Croatian travel plans back then went something like, “Oh! Wow. Where is that? Wasn’t that in the news lately?” Now when you mention a trip to southeastern Europe, you hear, “Make sure you go to Dubrovnik! Have you heard of Dubrovnik?” So I just think the whole thing is really funny). My plans to bypass Croatia pretty much went up in smoke, however, when I perused a map: it is a really broadcountry. Unless I wanted to fly -which I didn’t- Croatia would be a necessary stop on my way southeast. This Zakelj had to decide between going via Zagreb or Zadar. (So many Z’s! I feel so at home!) I opted then to stick to cities along the coast that I have never seen before. Zadar would be my first stop.
My bus from Ljubljana to Zadar went without any problems. Once over the border, we stopped at a rest area. Upon leaving the bus and walking toward the building, I noticed a mother pulling her young son’s shorts down and allowing him to urinate on the treelawn. Um, ma’am, there is a toilet facility 100 feet behind you. Am I missing something? I bought some peaches from an older woman with a fruit stand, ate my lunch, and reboarded the bus. Soon, we were passing fantastic peaks like this:
We arrived in Zadar, and I was picked up at the bus station by the owner of my rental apartment. She was incredibly sweet and offered me a glass of juice when we reached the place. Since there would be no other tenants that weekend, she allowed me to pick which bedroom I wanted. It was great: I had an entire place to myself! I took a short walk and bought some groceries. One thing I was looking forward to was cooking a bit for myself. Sometimes when I travel alone, I just crave a bowl of cereal for breakfast. That first evening, I was so tired that I ended up staying in: it was fun just to cook dinner and watch music videos in the apartment.
The next two days, I got to explore the town a bit (which included getting lost on my run while trying to find the bus station). Zadar does not have quite the same level of tourism as say, Split, so it was pleasantly busy without being too crowded with people. The Old Town’s major attractions -other than the city walls and the old town itself – are the Sea Organ and the Sun Salutation. The Sea Organ is built beneath the steps of the waterside promenade: as the waves wash under the steps, the movement of the water plays the organ and creates a calm, whistling melody. (No video right now as I am still having WordPress video issues. I apologize!) The accompanying Sun Salutation is a large circular set of photovoltaic cells embedded in the cement of the promenade. Using the solar energy harvested during the day, the cells turn on series of colored LED lights whose patterns are determined again by the underlying waves. The combination of the two makes for fun people-watching during the evenings.
I really enjoyed Zadar. In addition to the sights of the laid-back Stari Grad (Old Town), they also had several free performances while I was there. I was on a walk in the evening when I heard folk music playing. I made my way through the crowd to see folk dancers and a Dalmatian band on a large outdoor stage. Back in the day, I used to do Slovenian folk dancing in Cleveland, so watching this made me really happy (and a tad wistful that I no longer dance!)
I had a good experience booking my apartment in Zadar. Little did I know what a fiasco would occur when I arrived at my next destination, Trogir.