Mali Losinj and Zadar

First thing in the morning I went straight to the tourist information centre to see if it was possible to book some accommodation in Zadar before we arrived.  Since the ferry was due in around 11pm I was having difficulty finding anywhere that was able to check us in at that time of night.  Unfortunately the office wasn’t able to help, but they gave me the number of the office in Zadar.  I then headed to the Jadrolinja office and bought my tickets for the ferry HRK 85, or about £9.  Not bad for an eight hour journey with a bicycle.

I took a ride around the town and ventured to the other side of the island where the campsites and hotels were located.  Every one of them appeared closed.  Some were obviously so, with workmen busy dismantling temporary shopping stalls and wrapping outdoor lights in clingfilm.  It was like coming to the pack down day after a big show.  I can see though that these places would be fantastic holiday destinations if you were looking for beaches during the day and sociable restaurants in the evenings.  If I was a family with the money I’d consider this as a destination.

One of the wooden sailboats moored in the harbour.

Mali Losinj.
The guys arrived around 1pm and had a very strong desire for pizza, so we hunted down one of the only open pizzerias and enjoyed another excellent pizza.  We also managed to book accommodation at a youth hostel in Zadar that had been recommended by a friend of mine and had 24hour reception.  That sorted we did our grocery shopping and I went back to my room to pack and headed to the ferry for 4pm. 

We were still waiting on the wharf at 4.30.  No-one in the waiting crowd of about 40 people seemed overly concerned about this but us.  I think we were all keen to get on the boat and relax, and in the case of the guys get some sleep to make up for the sleepless night before.  They had camped in the forest on a viewing platform that had apparently been very windy and noisy.  When it did finally arrive the ferry was a lot smaller than I had expected.  It had a lower deck for cars and two upper levels, the lower of which had an indoor seating area and the upper deck which was open to the air.  It also turned out the toilets were on the upper deck, and to make matters worse they were squat toilets.  On a boat.  Difficult.
Martin, Enzo, and Terry on the ferry.
When the ramp was lowered I was amazed to see it was simply a free for all – none of this foot passengers first, cars net, keep everyone safely away from the vehicles – it was just every man for himself.  Following the local example I headed on in and was directed to put my bike against the wall.  There were no railings or fittings to attach them to, so we just leaned them over and hoped it wasn’t a rough sailing.  There were only a few large trucks and a handful or cars boarding so there was plenty of seating for everyone inside.  However, the interior was so Spartan that it makes the Interislander look like a luxury liner!  There were yellow plastic chairs in the most uncomfortable shape set around blue tables screwed to the floor at the perfect distance to be the most uncomfortable and the least usable.  The bar was closed and there was no food or drink available on board.  We were prepared and had our own food, but some other passengers weren’t so lucky.  Enzo was kind enough to give a sandwich to an old man seated near the water cooler.  There was also no wifi, but we were lucky to be sitting next to a powerpoint of which the guys took full advantage.

The guys promptly laid down on the seats and tried to sleep, apparently with little success, but it was as good a way to pass the time as any.  I caught up on my blog writing had some dinner and read my book.  I’m currently reading Don Quixote (or ‘don key-shote-ee’ in Italian as it turns out), and after wading through pages and pages of preface the book finally starts at 5% of the way through.  I had no idea what to expect, but it wasn’t this story.  Still, I’m enjoying it so far.

Following ‘Croatian time’ we arrived in Zadar at midnight, an hour and a quarter late.  More glad than ever of the 24 hour access we went straight to the hostel, unpacked and fell into bed.  The hostel room was a 4 bed dorm, but by far the best one I have ever been to.  The beds are arranged in a cube, two above, two below.  There is a wall between each bed and the other and two openings, one on the side and one at the end by the window on which there are blinds you can pull down to block out the light.  In your personal cubicle there is a mirror set into the wall with a small ledge for storing things, and a light and two powerpoints.  Someone’s thought about this. All with a cheery striped orange colour scheme.
My cubicle bed.
In the morning we did some sightseeing including the 9th century Byzantine church of St Donatus opposite the hostel, and had coffee on the steps of the ruins of the Roman Forum.  We also had a listen to the Sea Organ, another fantastic idea.  On the waterfront there are pipes and other contraptions below the footpath that are powered by the waves to blow notes through holes in the concrete.  It was a very windy day so there was plenty of music to be heard and it was actually quite pleasing to listen to.
Church of St Donatus and Roman Forum.  Our hostel is in the background.

Inside the church of St Donatus.
That night we went out for a farewell dinner since it became apparent that it was unlikely we would be cycling together the next day.  We ended up in a traditional restaurant where an accordion player was regaling the drunken audience.  It was quite late by then, but we ordered dinner and listened to the entertainment.  I ordered what must be one of the best meat stews I have ever had.  It was unusual in that it came on a plate with the meat in two steaks with the sauce over the top and with gnocchi in the sauce.  Fantastic!  The drunken singing of the party next to us, not so much.

When one of the party came over to us to chat it came out that it was an end of season work do for a rental car company, which explained the rowdiness.  They heartily joined in with the guitar and accordion players in a bunch of traditional sounding Croatian songs. There was much standing around singing with your hands in the air - they even dragged poor Enzo up on to a chair and made him do the same. I have no idea what they were about and I never got the chance to ask before we left.  
Guitar and accordion accompany drunk singers.
After wandering around looking for a pub Terry had been recommended that was playing live music, only to find it was completely dead, we took a nightcap at another place in the old town and watched the lightning flash across the sky.  Suddenly it began to hail heavily and everyone rushed for cover.  The awning we were under was only partially successful at keeping chairs and tables dry.  That pretty much put an end to the evening and we went back to the hostel to sleep.


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