This is a blog featuring my personal stories of food, gardening, yachting, photography, travel and life.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Getting Warmer! Zadar, Croatia

The Church of Saint Donat
A warm, sunny day welcomed us on our second day in Zadar. After a very nice hotel breakfast the bus took us to the old city center about 10 minutes away. A city guide walked us around the important historical points, Roman, medieval and various changes due to this conqueror or that. Many old structures had to be partially reconstructed as a result of the Allied bombing in WW II and the more recent Homeland War, as it is called.

Modern, odd, unfortunate architectural choices stood next to Roman ruins or 9th century churches. Despite this strange hodge podge, the old city is beautiful. Delightful restaurants, coffee bars and gelato shops share the space with the archeology museum, a must see museum of reliquaries run by an order of nuns, the remnants of the Roman Forum, pillars and
The choir singing in Saint Donat
foundation stones outlining ancient temples.

We were allowed into the 9th century Romanesque Church of Saint Donat to look around and to sing. It is a round building as was the style at the time. No longer a church, the acoustics were nevertheless, amazing. The choir stood in a circle in the center of the room and sang two medieval pieces perfect for the room. It was a stunning sound.

The reliquary museum was lovely.
Later we enjoyed a tour through a convent's museum of reliquaries and icons. Stunning! I left before about half the choir entertained the sisters with an impromptu concert in their chapel. These nuns are not able to leave their convent and so were unable to attend the concert scheduled for later in the day. So, the choir sang for them in their chapel much to the nun's delight. Leslie said she considered it the high point of the tour for her.

We walked from one end of the old city to the other seeing the sights including The Five Wells, The Land Gate, St. Anastasia Cathedral and The Loggia,, where the choir would sing their concert that evening.

Along the beautiful sea wall we sat for over an hour listening to the haunting sound of the sea organ. This work of art/natural musical instrument was fascinating. The ocean's ebb and flow fill pipes under water which curve up to the surface along the sea wall walkway. I am sure it is more complicated than that but the sound it creates is eerily beautiful. When a large boat comes by the volume increases and the chordal structure of the sound gets wilder and wilder.

Our polar bear club.
While we were enjoying the sea organ's concert, a half dozen students from the choir decided to jump into the Adriatic. They'd gone back to the hotel and changed. They all jumped in together and it didn't take long for most to come right back out. It was cold but a few made repeated leaps and even swam about before dragging themselves out, drying off and dressing warmly.

Our favorite gelato place in Zadar.
We sampled a couple of different gelatos in town. Our favorite was in a little shop along the central walk way near the cathedral. I loved the ice cold tartness of the lemon gelato.

About 2:00 I decided I'd had enough and walked back to the hotel where I took a lovely nap. Leslie stayed wandering the streets more, eventually heading back herself stopping at a coffee bar along the sea wall for a cuppa and the view.

One of the real five wells.
At 6:00 the choir boarded the bus to go into the city again for their concert at The Loggia. This old building was built by the Venicians who once occupied much of Croatia centuries ago. This building, like the famous Loggia in Venice, was the place where judges worked.

Today the Loggia building has been remodeled inside with a contemporary look. The main room is not more than 30 feet square, with a vaulted ceiling, hardly big enough to hold the choirs and the crowd. With the hall empty, the acoustics were nice. With the 60 or 70 that were in the room for the concert, it was nearly dead acoustically.

A Klappa group suddenly broke into song.
It was another great concert by the WWU choir, receiving that traditional rhythmic applause Europeans give a performer they really appreciate. An encore was demanded and when the choir broke into a familiar Croatian folksong, the audience went wild. The local choir oddly chose to sing all American pop music. Gifts were exchanged as is the tradition, lots of double cheek kisses and then folks started heading for the door. But in a back corner of the room a group of seven Croatian men began singing what we had hoped we would here before we left Croatia. Full-throated, lusty Klappa singing!

My dinner at The Five Wells
This was one of those moments I have written about in my blog over the years. A serendipitous moment when you are present and part of something very special and, as usual, I teared up. The choir stood with their mouths hanging open, amazed at what they heard. I walked passed several students who were obviously overcome by what they were seeing and hearing and said, "This is why we travel!"  They slowly nodded, still slack jawed. As if they suddenly and profoundly understood and they would be forever changed.

Leslie and I went out to dinner at the Five Wells Restaurant she had eaten in the night before. I had an octopus and chickpea salad and lamb goulash that was drop dead delicious. Octopus is a specialty here and I had it several times in a variety of preparations.
Moonlight over Croatia.

We walked the 15 minutes home, stopping along the way to take some night photos and enjoy the full moon. We slept so soundly!