July 23, 2018 — Dalmatia’s northern tourism magnet Zadar has undergone some odd, often-dangerous changes in order to accommodate its guests.
Ah, mid-July in the heart of Dalmatia. The cicadas have reached their fever pitch. The northerly maestral wind has begun its daily visits.
The usual whirligigs of magnets and knick-knacks once again usurp the cobblestone streets. The inflow in tourism has begun.
And Zadar? Ever present on the tourism scene yet always somehow a step behind? Zadar is awash in burgers and, in some places, dangerous cars.
The northern Adriatic’s town lackluster tourism apparatus has been well-documented by TCN before. Now, things are getting downright weird.
Start with the renowned staple of the Dalmatian diet: a slab of ground meat between a bun, with a bit of your favorite condiment and garnishing.
“Wait, that’s not a Dalmatian staple!” you shout incredulously. You’d be hard-pressed to think otherwise while roaming the streets of Zadar’s historic peninsula, which has enough fast food places to rival the white tablecloth restaurants. One corner of the town has two pizza places and a burger shop facing each other, forming a fast food Bermuda Triangle which tempts the senses of even the most steadfast fine diners.
It’s all a bit dispiriting for locals and chefs trying to promote the region’s traditional cuisine. Zadar, it seems, is in the throes of a perpetual gastronomic chicken-egg conundrum: does elite cuisine bring an elite clientele or vice versa.
“Owners calculate themselves and note what sells best,” noted local chef Renato Kraljev told Zadarski List in an interview.
Don’t blame the cooks and owners, he added. “I’m sure they don’t offer hamburgers because they want to.”
Blame basic economics: Zadar doesn’t offer top-notch cuisine because the guests and visitors don’t have deep enough pockets to shell out for such a meal, Kraljev said.
“It’s a fact that elite tourism in Zadar still hasn’t reached its full capacity,” he told the paper, adding there are few upper echelon tourists visiting the town. The ones that do arrive have few places to spend their money.
The problem goes into deeper complications, well beyond standard questions of who can afford what, according to local chef Mario Arbanas. It’s also a matter of when the guests arrive, he told Zadarski.
The bookends of the high tourism season — June and September — have more cash-flush tourists seeking a fine dining experience, he said adding the heart of the July-August rush is more of a mixed bag.
Arbanas and Kraljev both belong to the fine dining gastronomic scene, yet do not hold too much of a grudge against fast food joints.
But it’s this divide — between fine and fast dining — creating a schism in Zadar’s gastronomic scene; oil-slathered fish on one side, burgers on the other. For now, it seems the majority of guests will have their way. The burgers are winning.
And in this same vein, a small village on Zadar’s outskirts called Seline has a bit of a problem: cars keep passing dangerously close to beachgoers at its picturesque cove, Pisak.
An open letter to Zadarski List chronicles the problem of free-wheeling drivers, including the odd case of a wayward rock.
A Czech beachgoer regaled the author with a tale of a car kicking up a pebble, launching it at her 4-year-old son’s face. It hit him just above the eye.
The driver immediately apologized and tried to remedy the situation, softening the mother’s response.
“She didn’t blame the driver,” the letter states. “He was just doing something nobody else was penalized for.”
The beach narrows to as little as five meters — dimensions which don’t scare away some drivers. Yet the local authorities have done nothing to stop a well-documented situation.
Because in Zadar, it seems, “the customer is always right” gives carte blanche to anyone and everyone willing to spend a Euro.
Let’s see how the rest of the season goes. Perhaps someone will open up a beachside burger joint with a drive-thru.