Discovering ancient Dalmatia
On your Mediterranean cruises to Croatia, the ancient capital of Dalmatia, Zadar is one of the runaway success stories of the Croatian Adriatic, combining ancient and medieval heritage with a bustling café life, a vibrant bar scene and the kind of go-ahead architectural projects (such as the Sea Organ) that give the seafront the appearance of a contemporary art installation.
On an MSC Mediterranean cruise excursion you can discover that the collective name for a series of interlocking squares that forms Zadar’s centre, the Forum is the site of the original Roman marketplace – although little original now remains. Much of the original stone from the Forum found its way into the ninth-century St Donat’s Church, a hulking cylinder of stone built – according to tradition – by St Donat himself, an Irishman who was bishop here for a time. It’s an impressive example of Byzantine architecture.
The twelfth- and-thirteenth-century Cathedral of St Anastasia is a perfect example of the late Romanesque style instead, with an arcaded west front reminiscent of the churches of Tuscany. West of the cathedral, alleys emerge out onto the seafront boulevard of Obala kralja Petra Krešimira IV, where there’s a fine view across the water to the hilly island of Ugljan.
On your Mediterranean cruise to Zadar you will appreciate the palm-lined seafront path too. Most holiday visitors ultimately gravitate towards the so-called Sea Organ on the peninsula’s southwestern shoulder.
Designed by local architect Nikola Bašić and completed in 2005, the organ consists of a broad stone stairway descending towards the sea. Wave action pushes air through a series of underwater pipes and up through niches cut into the steps, producing a selection of mellow musical notes.