I am still surprised by the freshness of the sea air I breathe in already when exiting my car at the parking of Maraska building. It is Friday evening. I smell grilled fish and mangold, mum knows that Zagreb Dalmatians are craving for a fish menu. Small talks, stories of everything that happened in the meantime. And red wine from Perić, this year it tastes especially good.
Saturdays, son wakes me up, even when the forecast says “rain” and draws clouds on my mobile phone, even when “jugo” is blowing, or is freezing winter, my window never fails; there is always Zadar peninsula bathed in sunshine.
Walk to the center, the best part of my weekend. I will pick you up, says my friend, not a chance, I say, I will walk down, absorbing the sights and scents, I want to pass by the marine hearing the yachts’ masts rattle in the wind, take a glance of Vruljica park and children enjoying on swings, just like I used to. I want to take the longer way near the gas station where speed boats take the fuel, I want to look across at the fishing boats, I wish to hear the Cathedral’s bell announcing noon.
I am crossing the bridge, allowing the wind to mess up my hair. It is such a pleasure sensing the wind those couple of steps over the bridge, be it jugo, bura or tramontana. I enter the old city walls, passing by Narodni trg already packed with people, the morning shopping at the nearby market is already done. Someone plays the guitar sitting on the Town Guard Loggia staircase. I proceed to Četiri kantuna and then to Varoš. I will always meet someone I know here and exchange some of those expected sentences, when did you come, how long will you stay, let’s grab a coffee one of these days!
Đina café is no longer what it used to be, neither are we, but I left here so many days and nights, that I will always find a piece of me, in the atmosphere, in the paintings hanging over the bar, in a familiar smile, in the flavor of big macchiato, in high bar chairs, at my favorite place by the window wherefrom I will look at (un)known people passing by.
Ever since I live in Zagreb, when I come to Zadar it is not enough for me to hide within the old city walls, I must see and smell the sea, so I proceed further through Varos to the sea promenade. The promenade as it used to be, with solitary walks, random love couples hiding on a secluded bench, few children’s trolleys, and dogs with their owners is now, with the Sea organ transformed into a tourist mecca, so crowded that in summer one cannot pass through. Despite the crowds I greet the Greeting to the Sun and sea that plays music and all what it brought to the promenade and to the town.
In my twenties I used to work as a tourist guide on the boat taking tourists to Kornati archipelago. Even then I knew how beautiful and special Zadar is. Now millions of its visitors are aware of this. Finally, Zadar is, fully deserved, one of the most beautiful world destinations.
Remembering the once deserted promenade, it feels so nice seeing all this crowd from near and afar sitting on the Sea organ and waiting for the most beautiful sunset in the world. Oh yeah, it is no myth nor the marketing bait for the naïve ones, it is absolutely true. The Zadar sunset is the most beautiful one. Hitchcock knew what he was talking about! Nowhere else are the colors so intensive, nuances so deep, and the merging of sun with islands and horizon so unforgettable. Say I am biased, say whatever you want, but come and (re)assure yourself.
When I already got via sea promenade to “Riva”, a café bar where I could sit, put my legs on the nearby wall and watch the promenade, Ugljan and Ošljak, I don’t feel like walking back along Kalelarga and crossing the bridge again. I’d rather go down to the harbor and take barka to return home. I will leave to barkarjol five kunas, he will take me to the other side with steady and firm rowing strokes and offer me his hand to get out of the boat. I will pass by the lined yachts, then turn behind “Tankerkomerc” and disappear between apartment buildings. Straight to mum’s lunch, right on time while my father slices the bread, puts napkins on the table asking always the same question: where have you been so long?
Saturdays afternoon, in summer time, we always go for a swim. We leave late, it is so hot that we don’t feel like dragging ourselves to the beach before 4.30, even 5 pm. All my beaches; Kolovare underneath the school in Arbanasi where I’ve learned how to swim; plank platform on Borik where I was coming during my high school time, then Pinija in Petrčane, where we’ve spent almost half of our lives. There is a hidden and protected cove when strong southern wind is blowing and the external paved side towards the islands when northern wind is blowing. Lately, there is also the Puntamika beach, underneath Niko’s restaurant, here it is the best. No shade, but I was never a girl of shades, give me bright strong sun, let me merge with the stone I’m lying on, let me melt, let everything disappear but sun on my eyelids.
Finally, the sea. Our sea. The more I travel around the world the more I realize that our sea is the best. “Ča će mi Copacabana” , I do not need sandy beaches of Southeast Asia and Western Africa; there you just have an eternal wave of the ocean, where you cannot swim, you can rather just let yourself to the waves and let them throw you back to the shore. I felt the tropical seas, lagoons of turquoise colors, but also the fear from sea monsters lurking from the deep. Here I can freely throw myself into the sea knowing that the most dangerous predators are the sea urchins, starfish and sea cucumbers. Nowhere else I can swim making the clear cuts through the morning calm sea with my hands, while the contours of the island in the horizon make me feel safe and comforted.
Nothing in this world can compare with the first swim of the season, with the first dive in when I let the sea rinse all my worries, when I let the big blue wash away all my troubles, the real and imagined ones.
Nothing in this world can compare with the last swim of the season, although you never know when it’s really the last one, but something inside me tells me that this is my last dive this year and I enjoy it infinitely more in what I lose, what disappears, at least for one circle around the sun, until next summer and until next dive.
Sunday mornings I leave for the coffee in Marex, a café bar which I reach walking through Maraska Park. I enjoy the view to the peninsula and Preko, catamaran departing for islands Silba and Premuda, I enjoy watching grebes, swimmers and seagulls, I inhale the sea, overhearing the conversation from the next table, I absorb the colors and live this special kind of “fjaka”, knowing deep inside that everything is just the way it should be. As long as there is my hometown and my homecoming.
 Maraska – well known Zadar liquer company with over five centuries of production, here referring to the apartment building behind the old Maraska factory.
 Jugo – usually warm southern wind, bura – cold northern wind, tramontana – dry northern wind
 People’s Square
 Four Corners – famous sight of the town where two streets and four corners meet
 Ugljan, Ošljak – islands in Zadar archipelago
 Kalelarga – the widest and longest street on the peninsula built during Roman empire, taking its name from Italian „cale larga“ meaning the wide street.
 Barka – small wooden rowing boat operating as sea taxi between pensinusla and mainland
 Barkarjol – man who take passnegers rowing the above mentioned wooden boat
 Ča će mi Copacabana“ – translated „I don’t need Copacabana“, a verse from a famous old song by well known Croatian cantauthor Oliver Dragojević
 Preko – small village on the island of Ugljan, just accross Zadar, the name meaning is „Accross“
 Fjaka – Dalmatian expression for slow way of enjoying life, when you feel like not moving, and not doing nothing at all.