Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
Frank Bernheisel
Posted 2.17.18
Just Outside Washington

All photos courtesy the authors


Leaving Opatija
Friday, October 27, 2017

We left Opatija with skies grey, weather cool. We were headed to Zadar, the route to which would take us along the coast, up into the mountains and back to the coast, about 190 miles. As we drove along the coast, we passed many small towns. We had a comfort stop at one with a view of this fort that overlooked the Adriatic.


In this country you cannot take a drive without seeing something centuries old. As mentioned, the area's history includes rule by Greeks, Romans, Goths, Croatians, Venetians, Austro-Hungarians, Napoleon, and the Italian Fascists.


On part of the journey over the mountains, we passed near the birthplace of Nikola Tesla. His name had come up several times already during the trip because Croatia claims him. It took a look at Wikipedia to understand the claims about Tesla's nationality. It turns out he had Serbian parents. His father and both of his grandfathers were Serbian priests.

Nikola was born in Smiljan, in 1856, in what was then the Austrian Empire. As a result of birth place, the Croatians claim him and as a result of parentage the Serbs. We could argue that he was American, since he immigrated to the U.S. in 1884, became a citizen and did most of his work in the U.S. before his death in 1943.


This was the first time we saw a Croatian mountain range with more than 20 windmills. It was not the last. The EU provided funds to help Croatia fund them. The area is a natural for windmills because of the 'Bura' wind, a northern to north-eastern katabatic wind (high density air from a higher elevation down a slope under the force of gravity). Sometimes the highway and tunnels close due to the strong winds.


One impact of the Bura wind is the lack of soil and therefore vegetation on some of the islands. The mountains were very rocky and some were solid limestone; some valleys had too much stone to permit farming, foreground of the picture. Some of the valleys appeared very fertile and were farmed, as seen above.

We reached Zadar, which is where we were to board our cruise ship, LaPerla. We could not board until 4:30 p.m. since another group had departed that morning, and the crew was busy getting ready for our arrival. However, we were able to leave our carry-on bags with crew members to put on the boat, while we had a walking tour of the city and then lunch. Zadar is the oldest continuously inhabited Croatian city with evidence of people dating back to the Stone Age. It is the fifth largest city in the country with about 75,000 inhabitants.

Zadar, like all the Adriatic cities and towns show their history in the buildings. We walked the narrow streets and alleys with their shops and restaurants and then we would come upon a period building like the one below from the Italian Fascist period between the world wars.


It was surprising to see many modern buildings in the city. This was due to the damage from the heavy bombing of Zadar by the Allies during WWII (1943 to 1944) because it was an Italian Fascist city. It is estimated by some that 80 percent of the buildings were destroyed.


The city center was hardest hit, especially around the Roman Forum and the Kalelarga Street where no buildings were spared.


Much of the damage was caused by fires after the initial explosions. The destruction included: 12 Austro-Hungarian palaces, the post office, the Forum, the Church of St. Chrysogonus, the churches of St. Mary, Our Lady of Health, and the Cathedral of St. Anastasia. Only the churches were restored.

Zadar was during the Roman times a major city, as such it acquired the characteristics of a traditional Roman city with a regular road network, a public square (forum), and an elevated hill for Roman temples. Like many of the ancient buildings, the ones that survived, have been repurposed to a 'new' life as a residence or in this case a business (pix below). The above picture shows the remains of the Roman Forum.


This building reminded Kathy of a town we visited in France. Napoleon's army was down this way so maybe there is a French connection. There was definitely a Venetians connection; Venice ruled Zadar for over 500 years beginning in the 13th Century. The city is still surrounded by the massive city walls that they built.


A big tourist attraction in Zadar, is its wave organ. The frantic reconstruction to repair the destruction from WWII turned the sea front into an unbroken, monotonous concrete wall. To alleviate the starkness, an architectural musical instrument was created.


Music is made by sea waves pushing into columns below the marble promenade. The holes in the promenade are tuned to musical notes. As the waves go into the columns, music happens. Kathy thought they were not recognizable songs, but musical sounds nonetheless -- think dolphin sounds.

We unpacked and got settled on the boat; it was nice to unpack, knowing we would not have to pack again for the next seven days. After the required safety demonstration, La Perla headed to sea and, for us, it was time for wine and more food.