Saturday, July 12, 2014

Zadar: The Sea Organ

We wake up in Croatia, at Zadar. The Azamara Quest is a smaller ship, so we're able to moor right alongside the pier, rather than having to drop anchor in the harbor and use tenders to go ashore. This is great, because we can get off the ship and do our morning walk as easily as if we were at home. So after we've had breakfast in bed (another joy provided by the Azamara Quest) we set out.
There's a concrete landing, with steps leading down into the crystal-clear sea. There's a large, glass circle set into the concrete, and some other, smaller circles. Further along, there's a park. It's quite early, and very beautiful and serene. Suddenly, I hear music. It is strange, unearthly music. It sounds like something you'd hear through the windows of a cathedral. It stops for a moment, then starts again. Where is it coming from?  Not the ship, I'm sure of that. And it can't be a radio, because there's nobody here except us.  We continue walking, and the music fades away. Xingxing eventually does what dogs do, and we walk back towards the ship. But this time, there's no music. Did I imagine it?

The mystery of the music is solved at the beginning of our tour of Zadar. In fact, it is Zadar's biggest tourist attraction, the thing that has lured cruise ships to the city. It is a Sea Organ, a unique musical instrument designed by engineers and musicians to be played not by human beings, but by the sea itself. When we disembarked, we'd been standing on it!  Several dozen pipes have been laid beneath the stone steps and when there are waves, the action of the waves compresses the air in the pipes and creates the music I heard earlier. But of course, you have to have waves. When the cruise ships come in and the sea is calm, our guide tells us, they sometimes have to wait for a passing speedboat to create a wake and activate the organ.

Zadar is very old. In fact, its name means, Already Existed (before the Roman Empire) and people have lived here since 1000 BC. Old Zadar has a ring road, but the rest is for pedestrians only. The main street was built by the Romans, and still has some of its original cobblestones. It is just wide enough for ten soldiers to march abreast.  There are coffee shops everywhere. We visit the Benedictine Convent Museum, which houses the gold and silver treasures that weren't stolen during the Venetian Fourth Crusade, as well as some wonderful Renaissance paintings, including a Carpaccio.  The nuns are a bit taken aback by Xingxing's presence, but when the guide explains he's a service dog, they bless us both.

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