Sunset at the Sea Organ, Zadar
Car hire time! Yay, freedom! Having your own car to zoom around in is always fun but the cost is pretty high so we are keeping this to a minimum. Our primary goal was to visit Plitviče Lakes National Park, which is hard to get to using public transport. So we decided to drive from Split to Pula and hitting Plitviče Lakes and a number of towns on the way - Klis, Trogir, Zadar and Motovun.
Today, our journey will look like this: Klis -> Trogir -> Zadar. The former two are actually very close to Split and then it's just simply driving up the coast to Zadar.
We started the morning at Babic bakery and bought 3 things - a cheese sesame triangle, apple strudel and chocolate krafne. They weren't bad but I've had better apple strudel (hellloooo Germany). Then we went to pick up the car at Nova rent a car. We had hired an “Economy car” (VW Golf or similar) online - 3 days would cost EUR 100. Pricey pricey. The car hire wasn't far from the foreshore and the main bus station, so there were a lot of people around. Unfortunately there were only 2 people working at the car hire shop and we ended up waiting 40 minutes to get our car because the people in front of us were being really stupid. I was bored, so naturally I was listening to their conversation (can you blame me?) It turns out the car they hired wasn't ready (which made me think they were there picking up their car earlier than they were supposed to). The car hire person was saying they will call them when it's ready and Mrs Stupid Person was saying how she wouldn't be able to receive their call because she didn't have roaming on. The car hire person didn't care, haha.
Finally they left. But before they did, Mr Stupid Person stopped and asked if I was American. Ummmm wtf. No, I was not. Go away. Bye. Thanks.
The car hire person was pretty apologetic and processed our booking very quickly. He told us he upgraded our car for the trouble. I was pretty happy to hear that!
A took the key and we went outside to collect the car. Now the thing is, I can't drive manual. So A would be doing all the driving. But we did plan to give me a little lesson some time, lol.
Outside, a lady checked our papers and led us to the car. Oh jeez it was a Skoda sedan so it was huge. There was heaps of space in the car even after putting our luggage in. The three of us scrutinised the car for dents and scratches and then we were off. A had to quickly get used to the European manual car and European driving in general. The drivers in Croatia were a little crazy.
First stop was Klis, which was now famous for its fortress because Game of Thrones was filmed there. Kliss Fortress (HRK 60 = AUD 13) was Meereen. But that wasn't the only reason for visiting! It's quite an interesting bit of architecture as they built this along a rocky cliff/mountain (hence the irregular walls) and it's meant to be hard to spot from a distance. The view from there is supposed to be good! Take a look:
(Best viewed on desktop and in full screen mode)
Klis fortress started off as a small fortification in the 3rd Century. A few centuries later, it was claimed by the Romans and then by various groups before the Croats came along in the 7th Century. The 12th century came around and the Knights Templar owned it for it a while before transferring it back to the Croats. In the same century, Kliss fortress was even attacked by the Mongols, but they were not successful due to the terrain!
In time that came after this, Klis was mostly held by Croats and grew in importance. Many improvements were made during this time. In the 16th century, it was lost to the Ottoman Empire twice before taken over by the Venetian Republic for over 150 years in the C17th. After the fall of the Republic, Klis lost its strategic importance and was eventually abandoned.
That's a lot of history for a little place in Croatia! Today, what we see standing is the work of the Venetians and not the original Croatian construction, which is now unknown.
Next, we drove to Trogir, a small historic town located on a teeny island in between the mainland and a larger island. It is known for its Renaissance, Baroque and Romanesque architecture and there were plenty of examples of each in such a small place. We can credit the Venetians for this as they spent 400 years occupying Trogir.
Now this sounds really impressive but unfortunately A was not that impressed. He called it a “mini Dubrovnik + Korčula + Split” >:( I guess we have been spoilt with too much beautiful architecture over the space of a few days.
For lunch we ate on the mainland, just outside the bridge into Trogir. Big Mama was a small stall doing a roaring trade of burgers, HUGE burgers. We ordered one cheeseburger with bacon (HRK 34 = AUD 7.40) and a side of chips (HRK 15 = AUD 3.26). It was a huge feed. The burger doesn't look like much but it was as big as my hand all stretched out. There was a lack of veg but at least it had pickles! We shared this and the chips between two and it was more than enough.
Ultimately, we didn't “do” anything in Trogir but walk around and admire the achitecture. EVERYTHING had an entry fee, including all the cathedrals. Such as shame as the doorway at St. Lawrence looked spectacular, but you COULDN'T EVEN ACCESS THAT without ponying up the entrance fee. St. Lawrence also happened to be the grandest building in Trogir. Its construction took over 400 years.
Nearby was the Town Loggia, the town hall of Trogir, built in 13th Century.
Walking south took us to the Riva, a wide walkway alongside the foreshore. There were lots of boats moored in the port. Walking to the end of the walkway took you to Karmerlengo castle, built in 15th Century by the Venetians.
I felt we had seen all that Trogir offered, not that we could stay more than a couple of hours. We had about a 3 hour drive to Zadar ahead of us.
The road to Zadar was pretty boring because we took the express way. Unfortunately there was a toll of around 42 kuna. You get a ticket, drive then at the exit you give the toll cashier people your ticket and they calculate your fare.
At Zadar we stopped at Decathlon so I could pick up some supplies. Then we drove to our accommodation which was again, in suburbia. Instead of a room, this time we had a whole unit to ourselves. We had a kitchen, double bath, living room. Not that we used any of it really. But it was a really big place, you could easily fit a whole family comfortably. It was a bit dated though.
It was almost sunset so we walked furiously to the Sea Organ on the foreshore and caught it in time. The Sea Organ is an art installation consisting of concrete steps jutting into the water. Underneath this are some pipes that play notes when filled with water (when waves crash against the steps, basically).
There were heaps of other locals and tourists there to enjoy the show as well. It's actually famous for wowing Hitchcock back in the 60s, who said it was the best sunset he had ever seen. I've seen better (in LA, where there were vivid purples) but it was still a great sunset.
We only had one night in Zadar, so we quickly walked around to get a feel for it. Further down the foreshore was a market selling handmade goods and snacks but nothing caught my eye. We walked east into Old Town. The most significant thing we say was probably the Church of St. Donatus, built in the Byzantine style.
There was something else I wanted to do - get some Pag cheese (Paški sir). I found a cheese shop located in Old Town on Google maps, Gligora Cheese, and off we went. Pag Cheese is the most famous of all Croatian cheese and is only produced on the island of Pag. The reason it is so special is that Pag is geographically ideal for sheep's milk cheese production - it directly faces the largest mountain range in Croatia on which strong winds eventuate, which blows salt all over Pag. The sheep of Pag then eat the “salty” vegetation that grows on Pag and this passes through into their milk.
We got ourselves 140 grams of the stuff (HRK 39 = AUD 8.40 - not cheap!) and later ate it at our accommodation. Unfortunately it was nothing special :( Just another hard cheese….
We went back to our accommodation to pick up the car. For dinner we drove to Fragola, which was actually a pizza restaurant but their pasta was supposed to be quite good. A felt like eating crni rižot (black risotto) again. The service was quite slow but we enjoyed our food.
A got his crni rižot (HRK 78 = AUD 16.95) and a big plate of black came out from the kitchen. It really doesn't look great but it tasted quite good; it had a very prominent seafood flavour. You could see bits of squid which was good. 7/10
On the other hand, I got a Lasagne (HRK 49 = AUD 10.65). It wasn't too bad but I don't think the Italians would be pleased! The sauce wasn't rich and deep enough, and tasted a bit simple. I like a good Napolitana sauce bit this wasn't it. The lasagne was a little strange, there was layers of meat and cheese but not tomato sauce. Instead, the “meat and cheese” lasagna sat in a tomato sauce bath. It didn't taste bad but not something I would recommend. 6/10 #ipinions
For dessert, A let me order a tiramisu (HRK 12 = AUD 2.60). I wasn't disappointed this time! The layers were nice and even. I hate it when there's too much marscapone to sponge. The only thing they could improve on was giving out bigger portions :P