Before the Second World War, Zadar was one of the most beautiful towns on the Adriatic coast. Since in that war the town was German stronghold, it has suffered of 94 bombardings, during which most of the town's buildings were pulled down.
This are remains of the curch called Stomorica or the Church of St. Mary "de Pusterla" from the 11th century. It has fascinating ground plan, five semicircular apses and the semicircular portal. Until now only the foundations were preserved of this pre-Romanesque church which had a cupola and on the place of one apse e retangular extension with a bell tower. It is believed that its ground plan, which is in the shape of key, symbolizes the keys of Sanit Peter.
For a many centuries Zadar was rival of Venice and the Republic wanted to put it under own controll and rule but have never succeeded. When the Fourth Crusade started it was led by the Pope Innocent III who made agreement with the Republic of Venice to transport the crusaders to Jerusalem by their ships. Since the crusaders couldn't afford to pay the whole negotiated amount of money the Republic of Venice made the separate agreement with the military leaders of the Crusade. The Venetians indicated that they would accept the invasion of Zadar and Trieste as compensation for the transporting. It was the first attack against a catholic city by catholic crusaders. The Fourth Crusade sacked the town of Zadar despite letters from Pope Innocent III forbidding such an action. The city of Zadar fell in 1202 and remined under the Venetian rule for many centuries.
This palace, called Nassis and Petrizio, is late-Medieval structure with Gothic windows and arched inner yard with the font in it central position.
Foša is small and very pitoresque port situated beneath the city walls and next to the Lion's Gate. In the 16th and 17th century Foša was a ditch but later on partly choked up while the other part filled with the sea-water and transformed into port for the small boats. It is part of the city walking paths along the seaside and connected with the New Riva.
Nikola Bašić's Greeting to the sun feels like most vibrant public 'playground' on the entire Adriatic coast: it won't get only kids to play with mulitple shades of light, but also people of any other generation will eventuelly get equally impressed. Finished in 2008 it's the result of latest technology using solar power - during the day sun rays are absorbed in 300 solar cells froming large circle (diameter is 22 meters), and are activated upon sunset, creating different patterns in changing colors and intervals.
Trully amazing place... kids are running, colors are changing, people lay down or sit on the circle, watch sunset, everybody seems to be having good time there. Some are having discussion about the technology, about society, about philosophy, stars... others will be taking endless photos as lights are changing both on the sky, in the reflection of the sea and on the ground, from second to second another color.
The project that succeeded to bring people of all walks of life together.
It is no surprise the project has won many international awards for creative solution for public urban space and that Zadar people feel proud with it. It is that much positive feedback it gives!
At the other edge of Riva (the promenade) on the rock above Foša your eyes catch view of a massive neoclassicist building of the Lyceum, which was at first Institute of Saint Dimitrij and now it's University of Zadar. It's a dominating cube with impressive entry, built in earliest years of 20ieth century by plans of Austrian architect Karl Susan. It can be viewed as yet another imprint of the A-H era with creature foreign to the Mediterranean milieu ... or nevertheless, a contribute to its multicultural face at the other hand.
History of high education in Zadar takes centuries long with foundation of the earliest Universtiy back in 1396 which lasted until 1806. University was re-established in 2002 when it settles into this fine building of an ex-institute and lyceum. One can notice numbers of ancient details inscribed to facade, but the most distinghuising feature of the building would be St. Dimitrij chapel with dome.
See the building from outside but try your luck to enter; unfortunatelly it never was when we were there. We rose to the park behind the building - and here you've got some splendid views over Foša deep below and through dome of the chapel and was recently renewed. A park is unfortunately a filthy place, full of smashed bottles and trash, you have to watch your step.
Since this is a first park (perivoj) of Zadar, one has to drop an eye at it and walk its paths at least a little to feel the context in which is placed - within city walls, when men after dark weren't allowed to wander out during that times few centuries ago.
From here, some of Zadar most interesting views will open: you're seeing the squares, church towers and rooftops from a different perspective now, sheltered with lush and friendly vegetation, which is now predominantly Mediterranean, and you're breathing wonderful air. A view of small gulf Foša and towards the Land gates is the best from the walls above. Take some paths a little further to see other side of Zadar, newer one. Note the romantic features and a path ascening until you'll reach the top... and while your thoughts are taking you from this world, you're then crushed into reality by local youngsters boozing and smoking pot, and leaving a lot of broken glass behind.
On a street directly between Land gates and Forum, one of the buildings differs from other in neighbourhood by its size and fashion - and like it is common for those of the kind, they're powerful expression of order: the building of County and Municipal court which dates from early 20ieth century, built in only two years.
Dominating small square, it's a building that suggest foreign influence at that time - it was designed and built by Austrian ingeneer of Graz and a Viennesse company during 1902 - 04 when region was dominated by Austro Hungary. Frontal facade decorated with intricate details, symbolizing justice and wisdom through sculpture of Athena and slightly higher, there are floral patterns above the windows in a wall section above main doors and console of balcony. Notable are its doors with Secession-style inspired metal works; a style sweeping the surface of Central Europe at that time, stretching tendrils even further their autochonus domain, to environments as different from continental ones, like Mediterran and Bosnia.
It's secluded small boat dock east of monumental Land gates (Kopnena vrata), whose origins come from Renaissance moat which has been then partly filled in 19th century and its remain is what you can well see today and is known as Foša (if the page cannot spell letter 'Sv', which reads as 'sh', perhaps would be better to write 'fosha', but that is so foreign to Slavonic unique letters): calm and dark water, a shelter for small boats, between grand measures of the fortification wall at its western bank and some of the picturesque Mediterranean houses (now famous fish restaurant) at its eastern bank. A step further east, Forte (another fortification) was build in late 16th/early 17th century and has served for defence puropses (and at that time there was a channel, a moat dividing the city with Forte); nowsadays, in former military barrack, there is a high school (gimnazija) and park (perivoj) Valdimira Nazora in the Forte area.
At Fošas end towards the open sea, there are newer (ware)houses where men relax - sometimes with fishing rod trying to catch a fish, other times with a glass of beer in shade. Very nice area to stroll.
Now, you maybe ask... what's that? The answer is straight: it's a living fossil whom hasn't been changed in 100 million years, and it comes in form of a small tree donated by Australian government and now housed - caged - in one of the perivojs, the city parks. The tree can grow up to 40 meters high in their natural environment (that is Australila where is known as Wollemi pine) and it's extremely rare plant (one of the most rare in the world). Without doubt this is a treasure of significant importance to city, one of a few growing in Europe, though mostly overlooked simply because most people who visit Zadar have little interest in botany. So, if you're looking for something special, rare, something that doesn't find way to postcards often, go to the park - Perivoj Vladimira Nazora which takes only a few minutes walk from the city walls, from the main gates.
It grows there since 2006. The cage protects her from stealing and damage. One cannot help but to admire this little gem, though it may not appear anything special to most. But knowing its rarity and uniqueness, her endargement before extinction, its ages measured in millions, that makes a journey to see the plant... a pilgrim.
UPDATE june 2011: passed the cage with wollemia just to find it almost dead. From what seemed promising at first, there are now only a tiny branch or two left. Did she say 'bye' to environs of Croatian Mediterran?
Once there were Romans and they left traces ... or rather, traces of Roman times were at times entierly destroyed... then other times 'successfully' integrated into other buildings as handy and durable construction material (see the churches). But sometimes there were kept as ruins somewhere forgotten or they were simply looked after by the societies that succeded them with more or less success.
Since the area in question is rich with Roman history, this is what Zadar has (among other Roman things) from the ancient time: the remains of the Forum, the public place and main square of the Roman settlement. Its measures (90 X 45 meters) make it for one of the largest forums by the Adriatic coast built during Roman period from 1st BC till 3rd AD.
For what is now series of conserved (or copied?) items: walls, pavement, pillar of shame (on 2nd photo), individual carved blocks, foundations and remains of columns - they have become integral part of the large public square and park in modern Zadar, adapted throughout the history and the result of what you see today is its recent try of keeping the forum - and the Roman remains in general - in a shape of open public area that educates (and remind) both local and visitor about its Roman period. Of which is sadly, so little left - and in fragmented way.
A square of friendly, pleasant scale in heart of Zadar is enclosed by historic architecture: from Renaissance loggia that grew on the ruins of 13th century church and was reconstructed in 1565 (and damaged during WWII, then reconstructed again in its full format) - it's most notable building in the square; through enclosed ruins of the ancient, pre-Romanesque church of St. Lovre (accessed through a cafe named by saint, you're welcomed to take a look inside) not seen immediately, then through buildings of administrative office of town's hall - Gradska vijecnica, and a building of the Town guard loggia (Gradska straza from 1562, designed by Venetian Michele Sanmicheli, the same guy who designed Land Gates) with ages old clock tower... it makes this ancient Platea Magna (historic for the Large square as one of the names of the square used in previous times) a place for interesting research of both architecure ancient and latter, of matters civil and religious... a place where official and of informal aspects of life meets, where public gathers to greet modern 'heroes' who take name of Zadar worldwide.
A place that welcomes visitors for coffee or Maraskino, or just to sit down at the steps of loggia - very nice spot for people watching on a warm day. A square that challenge perception with 'collection' of buildings of different means and styles of few periods - a definitely one of the most interesting squares in Zadar.
The buildings here are rich with detail and historic meanings - the reliefs at Gradska vijecnica are like a postcards of iconic architecture in coastal region and though of a 'recent' (relative thing, yes) date, a person admire the skills of artisans, stone carver, who did the splendid job - such things are rarely seen on anything appearing later, but there are exceptions of course.
Taking a pleasant walk in shelter of old (and newer) buildings, along the interesting doorsteps and windows, with shiny reflections of light at well walked and slippery stones centuries old, hearing a sound of talking or playing music from the houses, to scent the cooking... makes for a great time spent outdoors. Even if rainy or cold day, there's some charm taking streets as locals do, seldom taken by most of visitors, but yes, there are people who like to explore, so you won't be entierly alone and you may feel welcomed by the embrace of ancient architecture and art.
Anyways, you'll see Zadar oldest part is quite small (comparingly to the entire size of what makes this city) and you may easily find a bar to take a seat at corners of the streets - to have a glass of wine or cup of coffee.
The photos here are near St. Simeon and 5 wells square in a very quiet quarter of the old town.
The history of Sv. Sime (St. Simeon) church begins sometime in 5th century for its first patron of that time was St. Stephen and the building was originally three nave basilica. In 1632 the patron changed - Stephen was 'replaced' by st. Sime, whose remains are saved within the church. It was going through numerous reconstructions through its long history, at some points using constriction material of the Roman remains.
Its northern wall got portals and thee windows in Gothic style in 14th century, inside frescoes were recently discovered from the same period.
The highlight of this place is however the silver and golden gilded, reliefed sarcophagus with relics of the patron, which is considered masterpiece of the Middle Ages art - from 1380.
You're not allowed to take photos inside but short stay inside will reveal its rich history, importance in regional context and some morbid remains in form of the sepulchres under the pavement by the side, inside the church - watch for the obvious sites with names of whom is buried under and the date of death.
Monday - Friday: 8.30 - 12 am and also 5 pm - 7 pm during high(er) season (1. May till 31. October).
Saturdays: 8.30 - 12 am
Mass is on Sundays (and holidays) at 8.30 and 10 am during which you're not allowed to enter for tourism purposes. Note that you can be chased away in rather rude form if you don't hide your camera, dress inapporpriately or speak too loud - and if you enter church for sightseeing during the service. It's not worth to risk.
When you enter the town through Land Gates a small and charming square of Five wells will be on your right side - on a little elevated platform which is monumentally watched over by tall and slim tower, Kapetanova kula or the Captains tower on one side and borders to the park (perivoj) at the other.
The name of the square is given upon five octagonal wells of stone, which were built here during Renaissance period; the system of underground chambers and filters were constructed and then connected into cistern below the square to collect the water, the pavement was laid upon it and the wells were built, creating one of the most unique public places of Zadar.
It has been recently thoroughly reconstructed following by original plans and re paved with stone of Brac island.
The main gates to city are known as Kopnena vrata or the Land gates and it's remarkable building on the border to Fosa, rich with symbolic details and ornaments of the time; they were built in 1543 by plan of Michele Sanmicheli whom with its work created monument of Venetian period in Zadar. Here is the image of patron of town - a relifed sculpture of the Saint Kersevan on horse and upon it, a large lion with wings which was a symbol of Venetian republic and can be also acknowledged at some other places in town. Here it takes outstaning position in great porportion, to be considered as the most important (symbolic) figure (of those who were in power in those days).
One can also notice 'skulls' of the goats, a little macabre details here. The largest of the gates was supposed to allow 'traffic' while two smaller gates by sides were for pedestrians to enter the town.
The gates vividly articulte the othewise impremeable walls of the high enclosure to Zadar which protected the town from envaders.