In college, I was always the one to start working on my essays the night before. When it comes to traveling, mum is the spitting image of my college self: almost all travel plans are made in crunch time. However, I do not criticize this approach. In fact, I praise it because it led to some major discounts and lucky luxury, fuel to the hopeless wanderer’s fire.
So it was no surprise when Mum secured our rental car the day before we planned to embark for Croatia, one of the few countries she had never seen. I spent some time in Split a few years ago and have gushed about it ever since. As a result, the majority of Mum’s annual visit to Slovakia was spent in this magical place.
Squeezing into place
Our rental car proves to be a trusty companion, fit with English navigation (that brings us down some one-ways in the wrong direction a few times…). Most importantly, it keeps us on the road, which in Croatia, is no easy task.
We entrust it with our haphazard lives as we cross into Austria, Slovenia (for about five seconds, give or take) and finally Croatia.
Our journey to Zadar is fairly uneventful compared to what will follow. However, props to Mum for parallel parking on the busiest street in Old Town in the evening. And major props to Paula, the owner of our short-term apartment, for redoing the parking job for us in one swift motion.
Croatia is becoming an increasingly popular destination as more tourists become entranced by the ever-evolving country tickling the Adriatic coast. However, it was not long ago that this coastal paradise was plunged into darkness during several grizzly wars.
Zadar was devastated by World War II, its architecture torn to shreds. The city’s seafront was a bleak place, wrought and broken, even after a plain concrete wall was put into place.
This changed in April 2005 when architect Nikola Bašić constructed the Sea Organ, composed of a series of polyethylene tubes that interact with the waves to produce haunting sounds. Every intermittent sound bite is the result of carefully-crafted chance.
Bašić has reminded me of something I’ll recall often on this trip: creativity has healing capabilities.
When we reach the Sea Organ following a delicious meal of almond pesto pasta and rose, Mum is soon sent into a peaceful trance.To her, the sea organ is a bearer of marine lullabies; to me, it’s akin to the music played in that scene in Signs just before the icky aliens arrive. Nevertheless, what a cool concept!
Just ahead, the sea is hosting a disco, neon lights flashing in direct opposition to the organ. Yet, this odd coupling is quintessential Zadar, a match we celebrate as we tap our feet against the city’s Greeting to the Sun. The edge of the promenade is amassed in a flickering rainbow, the gorgeous end-product of a large solar panel and strong coastal sun.
Zadar, a place that has never been on my radar before, is cleary the bee’s knees. Mum, sea-obsessed like her viking ancestors, completely agrees.
We walk, an enthralled duo, back to our cozy apartment. What a great introduction to/reunion with Croatia!
Spick and span and Split-bound
Breakfast, the meal I romanticize and adore, is spent in a cobbled alleyway. The egyptian marble that coats all of Old Town Zadar is polished to a remarkable shine. Did somebody wax every inch of this place while we slept? I’m amazed by this and Mum’s ability to make the whole place echo as she sneezes. She keeps me alert 🙂
I’m espresso-ed up and insulated with fresh focaccia, ready for the next destination.
After some sightseeing and soap shopping (the lavender bars are truly divine), we load our hefty suitcase back into the car and head for Split, which is where things start to get interesting.
*cue creepy yet remarkable Sea Organ music*