Checking out the Sea Organ in Zadar
Find out everything you always wanted to know about the magical Sun Salutation and Sea Organ in Zadar
There can be few things more enjoyable than strolling along a sun-kissed seafront with your loved one, as the sea gently laps against the promenade or softly caresses the beach. It sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? Well, in Zadar Croatia, they’ve gone one better. Hypnotic, ethereal, enchanting music drifts across the seafront promenade, soothing stresses and charming visitors. But there are no musicians and no sound systems; this is the song of the sea organ in Zadar and it’s completely powered by nature. Let’s take a closer look at this magical creation.
A brief history of Zadar
The city of Zadar, on the Adriatic coast of northwestern Croatia, has a history stretching back millennia. Archaeologists have found settlements from the Neolithic Age and evidence suggests that the first settlers were Liburnian tribesmen from Illyria, part of the modern day Balkan region, making Zadar the oldest city in Croatia.
Next came the Romans in 49 BC who stayed until 476 AD when their European empire crumbled. Zadar went on to become the capital city of Dalmatia under Byzantine rule in the 7th century, before falling under a series of conquerors including Franks, Croats, Venetians, Hungarians, Turks, Austrians, French, Italians and Serbs. During World War II, Zadar was badly damaged by allied bombing requiring some reconstruction, especially along the seafront. But Croats never gave up hope of self-rule and finally, in 1991, after a couple of historic episodes of successful Croatian rule, the Croats regained control of their land.
Today Zadar is the fifth largest city in Croatia and one of the historic centers of the Dalmatian region. And one attraction brings visitors from around the world: the unique, magical sea organ in Zadar.
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What is the sea organ in Zadar?
In 2004, the city commissioned local architect Nikola Bašić to breath life and vibrancy into the concrete esplanade, or Nova riva, that faces out to sea along Zadar’s western shoreline. The vista from the riva out over the Adriatic is sublime so the city clearly wanted something to match and compliment it. And Bašić certainly did not disappoint with his exceptional design for the world’s first ever pipe organ that’s played by nature; the sea organ in Zadar.
At first glance you could easily walk past the sea organ since, on the surface, the instrument looks like a series of ordinary marble steps leading down into the water. But the mesmerizing call of the “morske orgulje,” a 2300-foot long pipe organ, gives its location away. Look a little closer and you’ll spot the tell-tale organ pipes set into the top of the steps.
So what’s playing them and making the hauntingly harmonious music?
Buried beneath the steps lies an ingenious musical instrument that harnesses the power of the wind and wave action along the promenade. Seawater or wind enters via holes at the bottom of the steps, pushing trapped air up through narrowing channels under the pavement into underground resonance chambers. From there, the air is forced out under the pressure of the waves through the organ pipes embedded in the top steps, creating a melodic, tonal song that reverberates along the seafront.
Five pipes are set into each set of steps. And with seven sets, every one tuned to a different chord, the effect as the waves play the 35 pipes of the sea organ in Zadar is mesmerizing. Many describe the result as haunting, others love the randomness of the music produced by unpredictable waves, gusts and sea breezes, while some love the other-worldliness of it all. Ultimately, it’s the wonderful changeability and irregularity of nature that produces the unique sound so no two songs are the same, no two moments can be recreated and each visit is an exclusive, one-off experience just for you, never to be repeated.
And there is one final surprise to bring the wonderful music of the sea organ in Zadar to life.
Obviously the music doesn’t stop just because the sun sets at the end of the day so designer Nikola Bašić created another installation to compliment the pipe organ with an evening light show. His second work, called Sun Salutation, is similarly curious and quirky, but instead of capturing wind or wave action, the 72-foot wide glass artwork collects solar power as its energy source.
Set into the pavement, just a few yards along the promenade from the sea organ, 300 multilayered glass plates and solar cells absorb sun power during the day and then get to work as the sun sets. And as dusk settles on the waterfront, the glass plates turn into colorful lights, blinking, pulsing and throbbing in random patterns said to represent the movement of the sun and solar system. All the planets are represented, with glass panels set around the display depicting their alignments. And the result is a fascinating, mesmeric, thoroughly hypnotic dancing light show. What a fabulous counterpoint to the sea organ in Zadar, don’t you think?
The unique sea organ in Zadar is waiting for you
No visit to northwestern Croatia is complete without a stroll along the Nova Riva esplanade to enjoy the view, take in some glorious Mediterranean sun and listen to the incredibly inventive sea organ in Zadar. Thirty five buried pipes and tubes sing, whistle and warble as the azure sea caresses, slaps and fizzes up against the steps. Wave and wind action is converted into random notes inventing and reinventing songs every day. Sometimes the sea organ sings a song of joy, other times it is a soft lament or a cry, but one thing’s for certain, you’ll never hear the same song twice. Add to that the Sun Salutation light show as the sun sinks beneath the horizon and you have a truly unforgettable experience. Leave us a comment with your favorite Croatian memories, or to tell us what’s on your Croatia wish list. And in the meantime, don’t forget to tell our friendly travel consultants that you want to build a visit to the unique sea organ in Zadar into your next trip. We know you’ll love it and we know you haven’t seen anything like it before.
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How many more reasons do you need to book your tickets and hotel in Zadar? Happy travels!