What do the Romans and nuclear weapons have in common?
The winding, narrow streets of Zadar are typical of much of Croatia and are steeped in Romanesque architecture. This place is a time machine for everything super old, walk the Roman streets and gorge on a Mediterranean diet of oily fish and olives. Juxtaposed among the terracotta roofs and Roman ruins, something more sinister is at play. Croatia was once the former Yugoslavia and it once aimed to develop nuclear weapons (terrifyingly), these were abandoned after the fall of bloc but can still find clues amongst the ruins and ancient streets to a darker past.
Be Roman for a day
Zadar is a cute provincial town on the northern coast of Croatia. Sitting prominently on a rocky peninsula, Zadar is a compact city steeped in history. It is fabulously old here and has seen continuous settlement since 4000 years BC (6000 years ago!). Since then, through power struggles, sieges, conquests, migration and crusades, Zadar have seen several different rulers including the Romans, Austrians and Yugoslavs.
See and Do – Zadar, Croatia
It’s really hot and much of Europe is still waiting for AC to arrive en masse. Cooler times of day are the early morning before 9am or after sunset. The city is a ghost town in the mornings so you’re well positioned to beat the crowds. We did a self-guided tour which turned out to be a great 3 hours of treasure hunting – recommended as it saves you the €15 on a regular tour.
You’ll notice how Zadar feels like a time machine, you will find yourself navigating the narrow streets and beautiful Romanesque architecture. Grab a gelato for 8kn (€1) and explore the Forum, St Anastasia Bell Tower (15kn, €2) and public squares. Later in the evening don’t forget to check out the Sea Organ. A series of pipes have been drilled into the sea wall, they resonate with the crashing waves, creating strange and eery sounds.
Have you ever wondered where nuclear weapons live?
Vis is a charming island that is reachable by ferry, but still feels off the beaten track. Fishing villages dot the coastline and the pace of life is slow here. However to our surprise… Vis hides a dark and secretive past of nuclear missiles, bunkers and tunnels. Strategically positioned, Vis is just 60 miles from Italy and played an unlikely role during the Cold War. There are more than 70 km of disused tunnels across the island, a nuclear bunker and a James Bond style submarine pen carved into sheer rock. A throwback to the former Yugoslavia and communist rule under Josip Broz Tito.
See and Do – Vis, Croatia
Best to explore the island with a scooter or quad bike, expect to pay around 350kn (€45) for half a day’s ride. Climb the mesmerizing hairpin bends that snake around the island or take a carefree ride along deserted country roads. For the best spots, discover the unspoilt beaches of Stiniva, Srebma or take your pick from the hundreds of cute coves and bays.