I had seen Ryanair flights advertised to Zadar in Croatia for almost a year but in all of that time it was impossible to find available seats but then suddenly there they were and only £20 return which seemed like an absolute bargain that was not to be missed.
It cannot possibly be financially sustainable to offer flights at even less than the current UK taxation levels so I have reached the conclusion that this period of unavailability must have been a time when the airline collected data on numbers of potential passengers and then used this to negotiate subsidies with the Croatian authorities to bring a guaranteed number of tourists into the country?
Unusually for Ryanair there was a delay of about an hour for which no explanation was offered but at least it prevented them from playing the ‘landed on time’ fanfare on arrival at Zadar.
It was dark but the drive to the nearby village of Šukosan just outside the city was easy with a nice straight road and with just a little difficulty in the dark finding the location of the Apartmani Vilma, which was tucked away behind the main road on a quiet residential street. This was a curious place, not really a hotel at all but more like somebody’s house with some rented rooms attached. The owner had been waiting for us to arrive and showed us immediately to a clean and adequate room. Her English was quite poor but she managed to provide directions to a restaurant and because it was getting late we rushed back into the village to find it.
Luckily we got lost and missed it but eventually chanced upon an alternative establishment, the Kod Gusta, that had old pictures around the walls and was full of local people all enjoying substantial plates of food, mostly of fish. It was located on the side of the harbour and was catering for working people who were consuming large amounts of alcohol and smoking heavily. Being used to smoke free restaurants these days this seemed unusual and after an hour or so inside it needed a brisk walk along the waters edge to try and remove the smell of stale tobacco that was clinging on to our clothes before returning to the room.
Breakfast was a really bizarre experience that was served in the owner’s own living accommodation under the attentive eye of her man mountain son and various other members of the family who kept popping by to watch us drink cold tea and eat an uninspiring continental breakfast. This was a very self-conscious experience and feeling like a specimen under a microscope we finished quickly, returned to the room, packed, checked out and set off for the city of Zadar.
After the usual bit of uncertainty about driving into a strange city and understanding fundamental differences like red lights that although generally meaning stop in the conventional way that we understand in the United Kingdom sometimes seemed to mean go, with local drivers getting impatient when this caused me some confusion and indecision. Eventually I negotiated the way to a convenient car park and left the car and headed into the walled city, which is the fifth largest in Croatia and had spent two years under siege by the Serbian army from 1991 to 1993 during the secessionist war.
Zadar was a nice city but the weather was poor and a couple of hours were just enough to see all of the things that needed to be seen. In the centre were the ruins of the old Roman Forum and just as in Pula the previous year old bits of Roman buildings, columns and artefacts were strewn about the main square and the adjacent streets and there was an area of what looked like important excavation work that was completely accessible to the public. There were a couple of interesting churches built from the honey coloured Dalmatian stone from the dismantled buildings of the Forum and a busy market with people selling home grown produce and bunches of wild asparagus.
One of the best parts was down at the waters edge where some money had recently been spent improving the place and there was an interesting sea organ where pipes under the paving slabs caught the wind off of the sea and played music through vents that opened up through the surface. It was especially musical today on account of it being rather windy.
The sea was very choppy and waves were frequently breaking over the top of the harbour wall and over a fascinating depiction of the solar system that looked as though it was mostly interesting at night because of the obvious light show that was the principle feature. Being midday it wasn’t especially spectacular right now so returning to the city centre we stopped for drinks in the main square and then passed through and back to the car to begin the drive south.