Little Known Facts and Curiosities about Zadar
St Donatus’ Church, remains of the Roman Forum, and, more recently, modern attractions such as Greetings to the Sun and Sea Organ are true emblems of Zadar. These have become must-experience places in the city, the ones even a chance visitor will take the time to see. However, Zadar is so much more than a heap of attractions - it’s a lively city, full of stories and legends. Here are a few ‘did-you-knows’ about Zadar that paint a more complete picture about the city:
First things first
Throughout the history, Zadar played a very important role due to its strategically important geographical position and, consequently, kept good pace with inventions and culture of the (known) world. Indeed, Zadar used to be the largest fortified city under the Venetian rule, as testified by the remains such as Kopnena vrata (Land Gate) and the small harbour Foša. In the 19th century Zadar was also the place where many things were introduced for the first time in Croatia - the first newspaper printed in Croatian as ordained by Napoleon, the first operation under ether narcosis, the first public park (Queen Jelena Madijevka Park), the first Red Cross branch, to name but a few.
Similar, yet original
One of the most mythical and mysterious landmarks of Egypt is the Great Sphinx of Giza, and Zadar has one, too. Its size doesn’t match the one in Egypt, but it tells a story of its own. In the garden surrounding the so-called Villa Attilia in the Brodarica district, its first owner had a sphinx built to commemorate his beloved wife. Since it celebrates love, the Zadar sphinx is believed to grant love wishes.
Similarly to Venice, Zadar also has a somewhat different ‘taxi’ service - the so-called barkajoli, who take passengers from one part of the city to another in their rowboats. With tradition dating back more than 800 years, they are one of the mascots of the city.
Four patron saints
Zadar’s past is filled with numerous turmoils, wars and devastations so it is no wonder it was really in need of patron saints. Not one, but four, and each has a legend of their own linking them to the city. They are St Simon, St Chrysogonus Martyr, St Zoilus and St Anastasia.
Speaking of St Anastasia, the bell-tower next to the cathedral was finished by Sir Thomas Graham Jackson, British architect most famous for his work at Oxford university. However, he was by no means the only famous person smitten by the lovely city. Honoré de Balzac enjoyed the city and its famous product, Maraschino liqueur, while Alfred Hitchcock admired the sunset and proclaimed it the best in the whole world, to name but a few prominent figures who have strolled along Zadar’s historical streets such as Kalelarga (preferred name for Široka ulica), said to be older than the city itself. Each stone has a story to tell, a story about the lovely city of Zadar.