*Zadar just won an impressive title of the Best European Destination for 2016. Below are some of the reason why, so keep reading 🙂
*The name Zadar means „for a gift“ (in Croatian: „za dar“). The legend, according to the first Croatian novel Planine (Mountains) by Petar Zoranić, says that the city was built by Jason and the Argonauts and that Neptun gave it to his daughter as a gift.
*The Lion of Saint Mark, representing the evangelist St. Mark, pictured in the form of a winged lion is the symbol of the Republic of Venice. You can see these mighty animals all round the Mediterranean, usually on top of a classical stone column. The lion is often presented with a book in his hands, holding St. Mark’s Gospel under a front paw saying “PAX TIBI MARCE EVANGELISTA” meaning Peace to you Mark the Evangelist. In some depictions the lion rests his front paws on the ground, often in cities with rivers or in ones close to water, indicating the Venetian balanced power on land and sea.
*The legend says if the book the lion is holding is open the city was joined to the Republic of Venice by peace, it surrendered under the Venice rule. If the book is closed the city was fighting for its freedom with the Republic of Venice and was conquered by the Venetians. One more type of lion existed in Venetians cities, a lion with an open mouth (bocca di leone). In his mouth people could anonymously share a secret, report lies, burglary or adultery. What interested the Venetians the most were tax evasions, smuggling and government opponents.
*Barkajol exists since the 14th century in Zadar and today is one of the symbols of the city. For more than 7 centuries barkajol rows a small boat from one side to the other side of the city’s port, saving people from walking along the bay for a symbolic fee. This tradition managed to survive all the challenges of modern times, passed for generations within several families. What gondoliers mean to Venice, Barkajol means to Zadar!
*The Sea Organ is an experimental instrument which plays music by the air created from the wind and the sea wave’s movement through tubes and 35 pipes located under the marble stairs. The Sea Organ was made by the architect Nikola Bašić as part of the project to redesign the new sea promenade (in Croatian it’s called riva and every place on the seaside has its own riva). The Sea Organ had its premiere on 15th April 2005 and already in 2006 was awarded with the European Prize for Urban Public Space.
The musician Ivica Stamać based the Sea Organ’s performance on 7 sound clusters from 2 major chords (G & C6) that alternate along the entire length of the scalinade. Tones and chords were chosen to match the matrix of traditional music performance by klapa (a group of 5 to 8 singers). If you want to hear the sound of The Sea Organ or find drafts, click here!
*The Sea Organ from Zadar is on the second place of the world’s strangest music instruments, according to the Guardian!
*The same architect, Nikola Bašić, takes credit for the Greeting to the Sun, situated next to the Sea Organ. The Greeting to the Sun consists of three hundred multilayer glass plates installed at the same level as the stone paving of the quay in the shape of a circle 22 meters in diameter below which are photovoltaic solar panels. The circle surrounded with all Solar System planets represents the Sun and in its frame are written names from Zadar’s saints. Together with the Sea Organ is achieved symbolic communication with the nature, through sound and light. The Greeting to the Sun uses solar power to create impressive light shows that activates after the sunset and displays through the night. This is the best place to catch a famous Zadar sunset, sitting on a piano like bench.
*One of Zadar’s best hidden secrets is the Sphinx. If you manage to find the sphinx by yourself, you will probably wonder about the connection of ancient Egypt and Zadar? There is none. The sphinx was built in 1918 by a local artist and historian Giovanni Smirich and dedicated to his beloved wife Attilia Spineda de Cataneis who passed away, and that is the truth about Zadar’s Sphinx. The Sphinx is located in Brodarica in the Bay of Maestral, in the garden of their villa Attilia. This is no ordinary sphinx, it’s built of concrete and has fingers instead of paws, made to protect a small goldfish pond that used to be between them. During World War II the garden was devastated and all Smirich paintings burnt, the Sphinx also suffered devastation but recently was cleaned and restored. Lots of stories and legends followed the Sphinx, such as the belief of a treasure buried beneath the Sphinx itself, a secret room underneath the Sphinx, that the Sphinx’s face is actually the face of Smirich’s wife or her grave. Some go so far to say his wife was so ugly that he built the Sphinx out of revenge, or even that it’s a monument to some woman that was eaten by a shark. The hieroglyphic inscription on the Sphinx is also something that no one has deciphered yet.
Today it’s considered that the Sphinx grants love wishes as it was built in memory of a beloved woman.
*It may be that the loveliest inscription of Zadar´s exceptional sunset was written by the famous Alfred Hitchcock. When he visited Zadar in May 1964, while observing the luxurious game played by the sun and the sea, Hitchcock said: „Zadar has the most beautiful sunset in the world, more beautiful than the one in Key West, in Florida, applauded at every evening.“ From room 204 of the former Hotel Zagreb, the great film master of suspense, enthusiastic and overcome by this notion, tried to catch the beauty of the sunset with his camera.
*It’s well known along the Croatian coast that every little place has its own celebration day (called fešta) dedicated to its patron saint and celebrated with a big party for the whole place on the day of that saint according to the catholic calendar.
*Due to intensity of multiple attacks on the city throughout history, Zadar has today its very own protection squad composed of four patron saints. Here’s the gang of four:
- St. Simeon (Sv. Šime) is said to have been present at the birth of Jesus, which is probably why women wishing to bear a son appeal to him. His body is kept in a golden casket from 1380 and every year on his day, October the 8th the casket is opened.
- St. Chrysogonus (Sv. Krševan) is the main patron saint of the city: The Zadar Day celebrations are always held on St Chrysogonus Day (November 24). You can see him riding a horse on the Zadar coat of arms and flag. He was persecuted and beheaded by the Roman Emperor Diocletian (who built the palace at Split). His relics are a part of the Permanent Exhibition of Religious Art.
- St. Anastasia (Sv. Stošija) was also martyred under Diocletian and was also said to have been present as a midwife at the birth of Christ. She cared for persecuted Christians and unfortunately met the same fate herself – she was tortured and beheaded. Her remains now lie in a marble reliquary in the Cathedral which is dedicated to her.
- St. Zoilo rescued St. Chrysogonus body when it was washed up on the shore, and buried him at his home in Venice. Although Chrysogonus was beheaded, his head was miraculously reunited with his body. For this and other kind acts, St. Zoilo’s relics were brought to Zadar after his death.
Enjoy these beautiful photos!