The Church of Saint Mary
You’ve got to love Ryanair for cheap flights to the most random destinations around Europe. I regularly like to look through their latest deals (which are never ending!) to see if there is anywhere I would like to go. A couple of years ago I saw a return flight from Dublin to Zadar for €40, which included all the hidden charges that Ryanair like to snag European travellers on. To be honest, with my four years of study in Geography, I did not have any idea where Zadar was! I looked it up and found it was a small town on the central coast of Croatia. A quick visit to a Mediterranean country during an awful winter in Ireland was hard to resist. I booked the flights to Zadar for two nights on impulse and a few days later I was on board Ireland’s no-frills airline.
I have a love-hate relationship with Ryanair but when I fly with them I like to indulge by staying at a decent hotel. I feel it is not much to ask after being treated like shite on board Michael O’Leary’s Ruinair enterprise for over two hours, being subjected to constant sales pitches by the cabin crew, and having to listen to the celebratory trumpet tune for ‘another on time Ryanair flight’. After the ‘pleasant’ flight, I was soon checked in to Hotel Bastion. This is a grand four star hotel located on the small peninsula of Zadar, which is the central area for tourists. Rooms can be found from €100 up to €400. The hotel has a spa and a beautiful balcony-terraced restaurant and bar. The hotel is so nice that you almost wouldn’t want to leave! I struggled against the treats on offer and I was soon out walking in the town of Zadar.
The ‘Salute to the Sun’
There is not much to see and do in Zadar, a common trait to many of Ryanair’s destinations, however the ambiance on the streets and the beating of the sun instantly wins you over. The streets on the peninsula town of Zadar are laid out as a grid iron. It is enjoyable taking a stroll down the straight streets of old simple buildings with terracotta roof tiles. Walking two minutes in any direction you will reach the coast. An unmissable architectural and engineering masterpiece, found on the western side of the peninsula, is the sea-organ and the ‘salute to the sun’. The sea-organ is along the harbour boardwalk and plays a deep trumpet-like sound as the waves push air into different sized musical tubes under the promenade. The ‘salute to the sun’ is a large circular light platform that illuminations in response to the different sounds of the sea organ. It is soothing to listen to the musical sounds with your feet in the water while watching the boats sail by in the distance.
The Sea Organ
A site worth visiting is the 9th century St. Donatus’ Church located in the centre of the peninsula. It is an impressive pre-Romanesque church. Outside the church are notable Roman ruins with crumbling marble pillars dotted along the pathways. For a small place, there are numerous other churches to see, such as St. Anastasia’s Cathedral and St. Mary’s church.
St. Donatus’ Church
There are two beaches outside of Zadar at coastal areas called Bibinji and Diklo where you can enjoy the sand and take part in water-sports. You can rent speed boats and jet-skis at Diklo to take along the coastal areas of the Adriatic Sea. Tourists can also take organised boat tours that start from Zadar Harbour.
There are numerous places to eat and drink in Zadar. My top two places would be Lotus Café Bar and The Garden. I particularly liked Lotus Café Bar as it seemed to always be full of backpackers and played classic rock music and modern classics. It was a perfect place for me to enjoy an ice-cold pint.
When I was in Lotus Café Bar, I met a group of students from University of Sheffield. I decided to talk with one of them because I was intrigued by seeing many people wearing t-shirts with ‘Bummit’ written across the chest. I couldn’t help but ask the person ‘What is Bummit?’ I am delighted I asked because it made the night very entertaining from all the chats I had with different students. Bummit is an annual charity event by University of Sheffield students who hitch-hike from England to a chosen city or town in Europe. The students are required to reach the destination on a miniscule budget within a week. The different stories people told me were incredible. I asked how they managed to make it across long distances by hitch-hiking. I was told the number one tip – hang around big service-stations and talk with drivers, as these places cater for people taking a long journey. I may build up my courage to do something like the ‘bummits’ someday as they reached a place hundreds of miles away for less money than my Ryanair ticket!
Zadar is a town you would only stay a couple of days in to unwind. When I arrived, I wished I had done more research, because another day in the town would have been good to visit Plitvice National Park, which is relatively close-by. It looks absolutely stunning. I will just have to wait for the next Ryanair deal to come along!