Zadar the main city of northern Dalmatia, occupies a long peninsula, which separates the harbor on the east from the Zadarski Channel on the west. The old town, on the north-western part of the peninsula (4km long and only 500m wide), encompasses the port and Jazine Bay. The new suburbs of Vostarnica and Brodarica are along the north-eastern coast outside the peninsula, and the north-western coast is given over to the 'tourist zone' of Borik.
The old town has been rebuilt several times but retains the look and feel of an ancient Mediterranean eity. The streets are paved with gleaming white stone, high eity walls run along the harbour and as soon as the weather gets warm, people pour into the cafes or wander along the harbourside promenades. A wealth of museums, churches and monuments have recently been repaired and reopened in an attempt to lure tourists from the beaches and camping grounds at nearby Borik.
Zadar was inhabited by the Illyrian Liburnian tribe as early as the 9th century BC. At the end of the 3rd century BC, the Romans began their 200-year-long struggle with the Illyrians and by the 1st century BC, Zadar had become a Roman municipality and later a colony. It acquired the characteristics of a typical Roman town, with a rectangular street plan, a forum and baths. Water came from the nearby Lake Vrana. Zadar does not appear to have been a particularly important town for the Romans but when the Roman Empire was divided, it became the capital of Byzantine Dalmatia. In the 6th and 7th centuries, the city was settled by Slav migrants and Zadar eventually fell under the authority of Croato-Hungarian kings.
All was well until the rise of the Venetian empire in the mid-12th century. For the next 200 years Zadar was subjected to relentless assault by Venetians seeking to expand their hold on Adriatic trading interests. There were four unsuccessful citizens' uprisings in the 12th century, but in 1202 the Venetians managed to sack the city and expel its citizens with the help of French Crusaders. The people of Zadar continued to rebel throughout the 13th and 14th centuries, with the help of Croato-Hungarian kings, but finally it was sold to Venice in 1409 along with the rest of Dalmatia.
Zadar's economic growth declined under Venetian rule because of Turkish attacks and frequent Veneto-Turkish wars. The city walls were built in the 16th century but it was not until the end of the 17th century thai the Turkish threat finally receded. With the fall of Venice in 1797, the city passed to Austrian, French, then Austrian rule. The Auslrians took a city that had an Italianised aristocracy and they imported more Italians from their provinces in Italy to administer the city. Italian influence endured well into the 20th century, Zadar being excluded from the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes and remaining an Italian province. When Italy capitulated to the Allies in 1943, the city was occupied by the Germans and then bombed to smithereens by the Allies; almost 60% of the old town was destroyed.
The city was rebuilt following the original street plan and an effort was made to harmonise the new with what remained of old Zadar. As though the city had some magnetic power to attract trouble, history repeated itself in November 1991 when Yugoslav rockets launched an attack on the city, keeping it under siege for three months. Bombs sailed overhead and the city's residents were virtually imprisoned in their homes with insufficient food or water. Although the Serb gunners were pushed back by the Croatian army during its January 1993 offensive, this experience has embittered many residents and made them more receptive to nationalists and flag-wavers.
Few war wounds are visible, however. Zadar's narrow, traffic-free stone streets are again full of life and the tree-lined promenade along Obala kralja Petra Kresimira IV is perfect for a lazy stroll or a picnic. Tremendous 16th-century fortifications still shield the city on the landward side and high walls run along the harbour. Zadar can be a fascinating place in which to wander and, at the end of the day, you can sample its famous maraschino cherry liqueur.
Today Zadar is the administrative, tourist and cultural center of the region called the region of national parks and islands, it includes four national parks and 1200 km of a picturesque sea coast with 300 small and large islands, peaceful and untouched bays and about fifty attractive tourist destinations. Modern hotels, camps, private suites, villas and nautical centers are situated along Zadar's tourist region, both on the mainland and islands. The promenade around the peninsula offers an unforgettable impression of the sight of the islands at sunset. Walks around the old town are a real happening for each inhabitant of Zadar as well as for its visitors.
Coordinates: N 44° 06’ 58", E 15° 15’ 01"
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