Sarge’s company rented him a stick-shift car, and I don’t know how to drive it yet. Being on foot is my favorite kind of exercise anyway, so I don’t mind walking. And I’m noticing things I would never see from the driver’s seat.
We went to dinner a couple of nights ago at Gricko Grill, a tiny owner-run spot where we had simple grilled meats wrapped in pita bread and served with raw onions. We all gave it rave reviews. On the walk home, we noticed a wedding party driving the other way, kind of like a New Orleans-style funeral parade. The party went by waving flags, singing, honking and shouting as they passed. We smiled, waved and shouted back.
My favorite place to walk so far is just a mile from our house in Old Town, an ancient area that spent several centuries under Venetian rule. It reminds me of Italy, with its Forum, Roman ruins, churches, shops and cafes. One of the most remarkable things about Old Town Zadar is that it’s paved in marble that’s almost slippery enough to skate across, polished by millions of feet over the centuries.
That’s not the only mesmerizing thing about the city. There’s a Sea Organ built into the marble steps along the Adriatic Sea that plays haunting piped music as the waves lap against the steps. And nearby, there’s a modern Greeting to the Sun with glass plates formed in a circle that collect solar energy for a light show at night. We were there on a chilly and windy afternoon, so we sat on the solar panels to warm up and people watch.
For dinner, we went somewhere that’s already becoming one of Sarge’s favorites – Kobona Bonaca – a place where he dined alone when he first arrived in town. The restaurant is tucked behind the Sea Organ by a church square.
“I tried to open the door and it was locked,” Sarge said of his first experience there. “I turned around to leave and the door opened. It was the owner. He put his hands in his pockets and said, ‘Do you have jingle lingle?’ I said, ‘Yes, I have jingle lingle!’ He said, ‘Then you can come in!’ ”
Then he poured Sarge a drink on the house, served him braised lamb and talked about America, Croatia’s civil war in the 1990s and things they had in common, like the fact that they both spent time living in Florida.
The owner remembered Sarge right away when we walked in. He sat us in a sunny spot at a heavy wooden table and brought us drinks, then something extra – a shot of cherry liqueur. The drink is one of the city’s specialties, and the owner said his friend distilled it himself from the Maraska cherries grown in this region. I let the kids take a sip. They said it tasted like cough drops. To me, it was more like a sweet cherry dessert, like a brandy.
By the time dinner was over, we went back to the end of the peninsula by the Sea Organ in time for the sunset. We had read that legendary film director Alfred Hitchcock once said that Zadar had “the most beautiful sunset in the world, more beautiful than the one in Key West, in Florida, applauded at every evening.”
Sarge used to live in Florida, and then we both lived in Hawaii, and we’ve seen some amazing sunsets. Last night’s was a pretty good one.
We watched it with our feet hanging over the sea wall. And with that, young W kicked his leg and accidentally sent his Adidas sneaker flying into the Adriatic. Sarge said his shoe will probably make it to Italy before W does.