Jelena was the best host one could wish for, she kept me well-fed, entertained and relaxed. I’d been told that the people one meets on Warmshowers are unfailingly amazing, and this, my second experience being hosted, only confirms it. Jelena also set out on her first bicycle tour alone, and it was the best thing she’s ever done. Interestingly, a phenomenon not recognized by many cyclists is the depression post-tour, when the body is adjusting to suddenly ceasing the high levels of serotonin that it had been used to through such strenuous exercise. Apparently serotonin levels can take up to a month to rebalance. Jelena is a psychologist by profession and so she of all people knows about it. A good idea is to keep up daily intense exercise after the tour to ease the body into the change. She’s an example of a woman who can maintain grace and femininity while retaining personal strength, guts and courage. I am lucky in the people I’ve met while traveling!
On my day off from cycling, we walked into the centre of town to explore the highlights of Zadar. We wandered through stone-paved streets while Jelena shared interesting facts about the history of the town. Half-way up the Croatia coastline, remnants of the Romans are preserved in 3,000 year-old slabs of stone, still used as pavers in parts. Features of Venetian occupation are evident in the type of windows and carved lions over gateways. Zadar was one of the most destroyed cities in the bombings of the Second World War. Sections of the beautiful old-town were hit, blocks of boxy units in dull colours fill those spaces, built during the socialist era. Children were running around, laughing and playing amongst ruins of an old Roman market, in front of the circular Croatian-built church that is one of the postcard images of Zadar. It’s a city with so much variety in its evolution, it’s fascinating.
We treated ourselves to Albanian ice cream (the best in Croatia is made by Albanians apparently). It was like a mix between gelato and soft-serve, high quality flavours with an exceptionally creamy consistency. One of the first things I noticed back in Dubrovnik was that everyone seemed to be licking an ice cream cone. Maybe it’s something about those old towns and the bright blue sky that screams ice cream? I’m not one to argue.
Another signature landmark in Zadar is the sea organ, which to the camera looks just like a number of sets of steps on the edge of the water. Located next to each other, each set is slightly shorter than the one before. The waves play a simple melody as they wash in and out of the steps, which changes depending on the tide and the weather. Sitting and listening awhile to the music is very calming.
Back at the house Jelena made us a delicious late lunch of soup, roast chicken and salad. We chilled out for the rest of the afternoon, and then I crashed out early at 8pm. This camping sleep schedule is healthy but antisocial.