This post is part of a series of stories from my October 2021 travels in Croatia.
Click here for all posts.

When people ask me about storytelling and travel, I often offer a combination of advice. I believe in a balance of two principles. First, don’t resist a story when a story is happening to you. You may not see them coming and you may not be ‘ready’, but some of the best moments and stories in your life will be those that just – unfolded. Let them. And the second principle, nearly the opposite, is that stories don’t always fall in your lap. Sometimes a good adventure story will require planes, trains, and (sketchy, rented) automobiles to faraway places to see faraway things. True adventure-seekers are willing to work for the stories they want in their lives.

So, invite in the stories that come to you, but don’t hesitate to chase down the ones that make you work for it.

Zadar, Croatia felt like the perfect blend of this brand of adventure.

We arrived in Zadar for the afternoon after spending the morning exploring Krka National Park. Initially, Zadar was just a natural place to stop on our road trip – between Krka and a planned day in Plitvice. But once we started looking into it, Zadar got quirkier and we got excited about spending the day exploring it.

It didn’t hurt that we arrived to the most gorgeous, modern Airbnb we’d seen all week. We would barely be there — only to sleep, like most places — but immediately kinda wished we could live there. High-rise downtown condo, sparkling white interior, balcony overlooking the inlet between us and Old Town Zadar.

Photo c/o Jenni Dinger

We dropped our stuff, snagged a few recommendations from our Airbnb host, and set off across the foot bridge to Old Town.

In some ways, Old Town Zadar felt familiar. After exploring walled, Old Town alleyways in a handful of Croatian cities that week, there was a thread of consistency in the architecture, the style. But Zadar – like previous stops that week – had its own vibe.

Old Town Zadar was pretty quiet, honestly. A little sleepy. And by this point in the week, we needed it. In the photo above, you can see a modern restaurant blended into the ruins and centuries-old structures of the town. The large, domed building is the Church of St. Donatus, built in the 9th century and has such incredible acoustics it now hosts international medieval renaissance music festivals. The bell tower serves as a North Star, of sorts, as you navigate the Old Town.

We found a shady spot across the courtyard from the church — and people-watched.

In one corner, a pair of teenagers were filming each other doing backflips off pieces of centuries-old stone wall. In another corner, a newlywed couple (and entourage) moved from place to place, dressed to the nines in full wedding attire, taking post-ceremony photos. Crisscrossing the whole area a pair of toddlers on scooters terrorized the pigeons and cackled with laughter.

Yes, the characters of Zadar were exactly what we needed.

Eventually, we moved along – ready to find our next perspective on this new, quirky place.

The Sea Organ and The Monument to the Sun

On any list of must-sees in Zadar, you will undoubtedly find two things: The Sea Organ and The Monument to the Sun. Both are within steps of each other at the tip of Old Town Zadar. And I can confirm – it’s MUST SEE.

The Sea Organ is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen, and I’m not sure what’s stopping every coastal city in the world from stealing this idea for themselves. It is public art meets innovation. The Sea Organ is a series of tubes submerged in the water beneath a giant set of marble steps — and music is created by the waves and movement in the ocean. As the sun started to set, a crowd was gathering on the steps – just sitting. (Well, mostly sitting. All except the pair of American college kids taking turns filming each other doing “EPIC” jumps into the freezing cold ocean. Their EPIC jumps were little more than feet-first, toothpicks – but they were high-fiving each other each time like it was all sponsored by Red Bull.)

We sat. On the edge of Zadar. And listened to the sea while we waited for the sun to set.

Every few minutes a boat would come close, stirring up the water and turning up the volume on The Sea Organ. A few times a child or couple would misjudge the bottom few steps and get soaked feet from the waves.

Photo c/o Jenni Dinger

But what about The Monument to the Sun? Could it possibly make this Top Ten Sunset more beautiful?

YES.

Stretched across the tip of the peninsula, at the top of the marble Sea Organ steps — is The Monument to the Sun, another public art installation that comes alive as the sun sets over the water. It’s a giant set of light panels that reflect the sunset, and puts on a light show.

Top Ten Sunset just got upgraded to the Top Five.

Photo c/o Jenni Dinger

After all that eye candy, we ducked into the first restaurant we saw with a friendly-looking patio, ordered some local wine, and politely kept saying yes when our adorable waiter kept bringing samples of brandy, grappa, and wine for us to try.

Ok, quirky, quiet Zadar. You won us over.

This post is part of a series of stories from my October 2021 travels in Croatia.
Click here for all posts.

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