We kicked off our full day of exploration around Zadar’s old town with an espresso and tea overlooking the Forum; an ancient municipal square originally built by the Romans from the 1st century BC to the 3rd century AD. Evidence of this empire’s colossal constructions still remain amongst the rubbled ruins of temples and colonnades scattered across the square. But as we’ve seen on countless occasions during our travel, one era’s treasures often become diminished (or “repurposed”) for another one’s gain. A preserved Roman pillar stood on the edge of the square; re-dubbed the ‘Pillar of Shame’, it became a place of public punishment for troublemakers during the Middle Ages, where they were chained, humiliated, and beaten. Luckily the square is a much more lively and happy place today, and still the town’s center of civic and religious activity. Looming over the Forum you can see pictured the gorgeous circular St Donatus' Church, built in early medieval times using materials remaining from the ancient Roman structures. We enjoyed wandering this area and the rest of old town’s marbled streets, watching as families headed to their Sunday worship, shopped at the market stalls, or indulged in a weeks-end heaping cone of gelato.
After munching on a yummy local meat & cheese board and some drunken squid over a few glasses of Croatian wine at Proto Food, we moseyed over to old town’s seaside promenade for sunset. Alfred Hitchcock once dubbed Zadar’s sunset as the most beautiful in the world, and we were pleased to find that he was not exaggerating when he made this proclamation. The city has smartly capitalized off of this celebrity mention by commissioning two fantastic multi-sensory installations perfectly situated for a leisurely look at the sun falling into the sea. We first decided to check out the ‘Sea Organ’, a set of large marble steps leading down into the ocean from the promenade. As the tide comes in late in the day, sea waves push water and air into resonant tube chambers located under the steps, resulting in undulating organ-like tones sounding whenever the ocean breaks. After feeling sufficiently mesmerized at the Sea Organ, we walked a few steps over to the second monument, Zadar’s ‘Greeting to the Sun’. This 22-meter circular installation on the ground of the waterfront is built with multi-layered glass plates which contain solar modules underneath. The solar modules absorb light energy throughout the day, and then produce a spectacular show of colored lights as soon as the sun sets to darkness. We loved how each of these installs utilized nature to communicate light and sound in an ingenious way - highly recommended for any sunset viewing session in Zadar!