Dalmatia was the name given to the area south of Trieste on the east side of the Adriatic during the time of the Roman Empire. The province was named after the Dalmatae people of the region and was the home province of Diocletian, an important Roman emperor of the fourth century. In the intervening centuries, the Balkans, of which Dalmatia is a large part, underwent several wars and name changes that have altered the boundaries and scarred the towns. But they have not damaged the beauty of the region, especially its spectacular coast.

We have been fortunate to have driven the Icefield Highway from Banff to Jaspar, and the road that hugs the Cape Breton coast in Nova Scotia. We have travelled from the Kyles of Bute past Loch Lomond in Scotland, and along the shore of Lake Wakatipu in New Zealand. This drive along the Dalmatian Coast rivals them all. If the pictures don’t do justice to reality, it is because the reality was just too vast to capture in pictures.

Because we were both sick, we decided to cut across the Istrian Peninsular, rather than hugging the coast to Pula on the first day out of Portoroz. This got us into Rijeka on the coast in time to find our little room, get a decent meal at a local pizzeria and retire early. The weather was cold and rainy and with our flu symptoms giving us the chills, we were happy to have a snug little room with a tidy kitchenette to make ourselves a warm cup of coffee before snuggling in for the night.

The following day we followed the E65 all the way down the Dalmatian coast to Zadar. The views were just stunning, and the road was in fabulous shape allowing us to make good time and get into Zadar by mid-afternoon. The Hotel Delfin, where we stayed, was right at the end of the bus route, so once we were settled, we caught the bus into town and walked across the footbridge into the old walled city of Zadar.

Like many of the cities of this region, Zadar has been fought over for centuries. Its port was much prized by the Venetians, and when the Turks of the Ottoman Empire seized control of the Balkans in the 16th century, Venice successfully defended the city to ensure the continuation of its trade in the Adriatic. Today, Zadar is the center of much of the commercial success of Croatia, and its reconstructed old town was charming and inviting.

We were entranced by the ‘sea organ’ on the western wall of the waterfront. Designed by Croatian Architect Nicola Basic, the acoustic  pipes concealed under steps leading to the ocean interact with the motion of the sea to produce haunting and eclectic melodies. A nearby ‘greeting to the sun’ installation by the same artist harvests solar energy during the day and produces a colourful light display at night. After another fabulous European meal, we caught the bus back to our hotel for a night’s rest before the run to Split in the morning.