Like any statement that claims something is ‘the best in…’ it’s a ridiculous thing to say.
Hitch stayed in Zadar in 1964 where he was enchanted by its setting sun, proclaiming it better even than Key Florida; which was presumably where he thought the best sunset in the world was until he visited Zadar
We’ve seen some wildly flamboyant sunsets in our time, Jamaica and Sri Lanka are stand outs, but to pick one as being the best even of the ones we’ve witnessed seemed like a task for fools.
Still, you can’t make a judgement until you’ve experienced something for yourself.
As the sun started to droop, we waved down a ferryman, sailed to Zadar’s old town, traversed its glinting cobbled streets and plonked ourselves down on a wall facing due west in time for nature’s performance at Nikola Basic’s ‘Greeting to the Sun’.
The Greeting to the Sun is a fascinating construction; a 22 metre diameter circle made up of three hundred multi-layered glass plates under which solar panels draw energy from the sun throughout the day, waiting for darkness.
Watching the sunset is a bit of a thing in Zadar and there were hordes of people already in place when we arrived. Most were local families but there were also quite a few American setting-sun worshippers. Whilst travelling through Croatia we met a lot of North Americans yet oddly, apart from in Dubrovnik, hardly any Brits.
At first I was miffed. I’d seen ‘I’ve got to go there’ photos of Zadar’s setting sun reflected in fiery hues on the mirrored glass circle and wanted the same shot. But the circle was filled with people.
As the sun started slipping to the shimmering horizon, stretching shadows to grotesque lengths and bathing the world in King Midas’ favourite colour, I muttered under my breath as children performed silhouetted cartwheels and couples posed theatrically to be captured on their iPhones with the world’s best sunset.
They were ruining the scene… except they weren’t.
Realisation quickly dawned. This was a celebration of the sun that was meant to be enjoyed by the people in whichever manner they saw fit.
Some people sat in quiet contemplation, others danced. There was an air of Pagan appreciation of the life-giving golden globe.
It was a beautiful display for sure; soft and seductive. Wondrous and soul soaring rather than dramatic – more Vivaldi than Wagner.
And then, as the sun slipped below the horizon, a funny thing happened.
It didn’t go dark.
I’m used to clicking away like mad to capture sunsets that don’t hang around; shifting from soft pastel colours to the sky being on fire before the vibrant streaks in the celestial landscape are smothered all too rapidly.
This didn’t happen in Zadar. The sunset lingered… and lingered… and lingered.
It was as if the sun was being defiant about going to bed early and wanted to hang around to see what happened after dark.
It lingered around for so long that many worshippers became bored and toddled off when the sky was still going through its mauve stage.
That was a mistake. The Greeting to the Sun hadn’t woken up yet.
When it did it reminded me of the arrival of the mothership in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Barely noticeable ripples of neon lights announced that it was starting to rouse itself before, after what seemed an age, it finally erupted in a frenzied symphony of pulsating colours. A solar powered dance floor.
Here I am, praying for this moment to last…
Combined with the epic ballet in the heavens, Zadar’s sunset scene was utterly bewitching. And the Greeting to the Sun didn’t even exist when Hitch was hooked.
At that moment I’d jubilantly swallow that Zadar had the best sunset in the world. At very least it’s got to be one of the longest.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to lots of other places. Follow Jack on Google+