Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Tale of Two Cities - The Balkans (D4/5/6)

In the historic town of Zadar, I found myself in a dormitory full of strangers. A hostel dorm is not my top choice of accommodation these days but a combination of events and the lack of other options in the old town led to this. It was another late arrival and upon freshening up, it was time for dinner and I had an excellent seafood platter and local white wine at a konoba (local eatery). After the best meal of the trip so far, I walked it off to the harbor front to see and hear two unique features of Zadar - the Sea Organ and Sun Salutation. The incredible Sea Organ, designed by local architect Nikola Bašić, is an ingenious idea. It is set within the perforated stone stairs that descend into the sea with a system of pipes and whistles that exudes wistful sighs when the movement of sea pushes air through it. The result is hypnotic tones increasing in volume when a boat or ferry passes by. Right next to it is the Sun Salutation, another wonderful wacky Bašić creation. It is a 22m circle solar energy system that cut into the pavement and together with the wave energy that makes the Sea Organ's sound, produce a psychedelic light show from sunset to sunrise that is meant to simulate the solar system. The old town is just filled with Roman remains and some can be found in rather unexpected places. It is interesting how some of them have blended into the new buildings and environment. My favorite feature is when the ruins are actually functional, like how an old Roman wall with a gate added to it, is used to seal off a property.

psychedelic light show
As with most travelers to the southern Dalmatia, I used Split as a transportation base and at first did not think of it as an attraction per se. That notion changed shortly after I arrived. I got a nice room from a lady at the bus station and as we were walking back to her property along the busy Diocletian Palace waterfront, I immediately felt the exuberance mood of the city. That evening, a local folk dance, music and song performance was staged at the waterfront. Apparently, I had stumbled upon a regional celebration or event that I did not know about and it was fun and entertaining. Within the palace walls, a bar creatively turned the open courtyard next to the Diocletian Mausoleum and Sveti Duje Cathedral into a cool open air music lounge complete with candles, cushions and live music performance. The sound of opera singing led me to yet another fine performance a few twists and turns along an alley away. Like the old town Zadar, I find it intriguing the way section of the remains of Diocletian Palace appeared side by side with the new buildings. Some of the buildings are simply built fused to the ruins so you get a mixed of something old and something new within a complex.

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