Moisture in the air, windows cloudy, skin damp. The morning sun poking its way through droplet paths as they slide down. 5:30 AM never looked so appealing. Eyes stinging from the distortion of time. We wipe ourselves down and make a plan for the day ahead. The choices for today, Coast or Lake?
Coast it is.
Putting our backs against the sea. We head into the centre of Rijeka. Breakfast a lingering thought as coffee is the focus. My body not functioning without it. Kings Caffe Pub is the destination, located a short walk from the harbor. In and out that’s the goal. The waitress keen for the table has us seated and ordered within minutes. I can smell the coffee grinding, the musk floating in the air, sharpening my senses. It’s like an addiction I can’t live without. An essence that’s part of my being. I’m excited.
Jenny (let’s say that’s the waitresses name) arrives promptly and positions in front of me; a French Press (large), Eggs Benedict (Florentine style) and a large plate of Nutella French Toast. My eyes widen at the sight and my stomach shouts. The press tastes bitter yet smooth, the Benedict delicious and filling and the French toast mouth-wateringly sweet. What a start to the day.
The roads ahead are dry, traces of yesterday’s rain gone. The heat now in its 30’s causes a haze to rise up from the burnt tarmac. I can feel the staleness of the air in the car. Today is different, today we skip the tolls and go straight down the coast. No charges, no hassle, no waiting in line and certainly no boring views. Today we do it right.
This route has us driving down snake-like roads, vicious and tiring. Leading us past peaceful cottages and apartments, modern and aged. We rush past cliffs of all shapes and sizes, terrifying the cars around them as well as enticing them to stop to take in the view. We need a break. Pulling into a small roadside parking bay we spot a protruding promenade down below.
Engine off. Swimming shorts on. Towel over the shoulder and down stone steps we go, venturing along the shores of Senj.
What we found was beyond what was expected. At the end of the steps, small pebbled Cove’s stretched as far as the eye could see, both left and right. We head for the one directly in front. My feet gliding over the smooth rocks as baby waves attempt to drag me in. The water translucent and looking as though it had just come out of a tap. One foot, both feet, knee deep, waist and then under. As my body broke through the surface of the water and I was fully submerged I felt the cold spread over my skin. It was so refreshing, so awakening. Colder than the sea last night, but more enjoyable and bearable. I could have stayed for hours on end losing track of time, but we had places to be. 30 minutes of splashing, swimming, bathing and then back in the scorching heat of the car and on the open road once more.
Zadar we are on our way.
So far the coast is a pleasure to drive down (Danielle driving not me). Taking the roads without tolls was definitely the best decision, although it added a couple more hours onto the journey, there really wasn’t any rush. Cars flying past, skimming and swerving. The windows down, breeze running through my hair, Spotify blasting classics; Avril Lavene, N-Dubz, Busted and Kelly Clarkson. Our screeching voices filling the air, attempting to hit the notes.
This is the life.
Arriving in Zadar just after 1:00 PM meant there was still so much day left to seize. We had learned many lessons from the day before and therefore were fully prepared with the sleeping arrangements for tonight. Parking up along the sea front of the city, in an area by the name Kolovare. This spot was more of a busy, free for all location, crammed with car after car and person after person. No structure or signage. Nether the less it had bathrooms, showers, a bar, the ocean just a few feet away and most importantly SHADE. The value of shade when sleeping in a car is extremely high. No one wants to sleep in a sweatbox.
Socks on, shoes on, bag packed and on my back, second adventure on the way.
The streets of Zadar reminded me of those in Venice, close together and claustrophobic. Displaying the same colour pallet most of Central Europe uses. The front of the buildings standing tall and proud, proud of the heritage they are built upon. The restaurants and shops here have so many secret passageways and rooms, I’m convinced this is one big maze, like something out of a labyrinth. As we look around In astonishment I noticed that the floor looks wet, glossy with some sort of smooth coat. It’s mesmerising. My feet slipping with every other step, what a marvel. In the distance, a glimpse of blue caught my eye, followed by my ears perking up at the roaring of the sea. That’s the direction to head.
Through the markets and out onto gravel. Tourists in every direction. The smell of fresh corn on the tip of my nose. I stop, hearing a melody unknown to my ears. We follow the direction it’s coming from, straight down the seafront. Passing people swimming and sunbathing. Only when reaching the end did we hear its power. Crowds gathered at the edge of the concrete shore. With every gust of the wind, every wave, we hear the melody get louder and louder. This must be the Zadar Sea Organ. I’m unsure how it works but it certainly sounds complicated. My ears ringing, the sound so loud and consuming. The masses all with phones out capturing the moment. I just sit on the edge, feeling the vibrations through my body, eyes closed. Taking in every moment.
Bag down, clothes off, shorts on. I walk up to the edge of the shore. Toes perched over the side. It’s architecture, unlike any other shoreline, man-made, solid and concrete. Next, to me are steps slowly descending into the water. Not for me, I like the height. 1, 2, 3, Splash. Water rushing up my nose, tickling my throat. The water similar to that in Senj, so refreshing and cold.
As day slips away and the sun slowly disappears behind the silhouettes of the mountains in front. I sit on the edge of Zadar and look out across the water. The moon clear and crescent to my left. There’s a mixture of pink, purple and dark blue in the sky. This is by far my favourite part of the day. Sunsets are so peaceful and tranquil it’s hard not to relax. Even with the noises, tourists are making behind my position. It is our last night on the Croatian coast, a fact that deeply saddens me. I’m left thinking back over memories from the last 24 hours and can’t believe the exquisite sights my eyes have witnessed. All so unique and beautiful.
It’s time. The sun eventually dies out and the crowds of people become even denser. They are here for the same reason we are. To look upon the Greeting to the Sun Monument as it illuminates the surrounding area. Shadows of all sizes dance and marvel in its assortment of lights. Each square programmed with a different colour than its neighbour. This ignited circle of colour is a monument dedicated by Zadar to the sun. Symbolising communication with nature through the use of light. As I think of this, I place myself in the centre and imagine the memories created here. The emotions this place is responsible for. This thought relocates me to a place where I am lost for words. A place within my mind that will truly cherish this moment forever.
Without a word we stand up, look at each other and walk hand in hand back to the car.
I wonder what tomorrow will bring.