Thursday, 22 April 2010

A walk in the park.

Written 20th April.

We have that the best day!  Plitvice Jezera national park was, until very recently, our only croatia recommendation, got from some people we met in a carpark in the algarve back in January.  Golly, it did seem a long way off back then and now here we are - doesn't time fly!

and yes, the borders on this map are wrong, can't do anything about it!

The drive across the high plains in the early morning (well, early-ish, it was at least morning!) was a sobering one.  The war which eventually led to Croatia's independence from Yugoslavia started at Plitvice, when the Serbs seized control of the park and all its buildings and turned all the hotels into barraks.  After a short period of fighting, the UN forced a three month moriatorium on independence but at the end of that period, the fighting resumed until eventually independence was declared and Croatia started to be officially recognized as a country but the squabbling and bloody fighting over the boards continued for several years.  Ok, so many places we have so far been have been touched by war at some point but it was the stuff of my school history lessons, this was all in 1991, while I was at school. Plitvice was only won back by Croatia in 1995, just months before the Accord with finally settled the boarders for once and for all.  We passed through abandoned villages left to decay, and still inhabited villages with the houses peppered with the spray of bullets, and everywhere the graves and memorial stones of those who died fighting.  I don't know enough to form an opinion about who was right and who was wrong, probably no one and everyone in either order.  And we have since met someone who's only comment on the matter was "well I'm deeply disappointed.  I thought it would be better but we have this independence and we don't know what to do with it" So it seems like a terrible waste.  But, and I was thinking this about Slovenia too, either way, it is all so close and a bit hard to comprehend.  Most people we have had any dealings with here were born or grew up in a different country, possibly two countries for those in italian istria.  Countries which had completely different ideals and ideologies and without relocating or indeed going anywhere, their world has completely changed.  In a time frame I can remember.  Its very hard to take in...

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, walking in the park.

Plitvice National Park is a series of stepped lakes stacked on top of one another, with waterfalls flowing and tumbling down between them.  And it is amazing.

On arrival at the entrance, it is not immediately clear what's what - well it wasn't for us anyway but we got the germany speaking ticket seller - but it soon became apparent that there are 16 different lakes and umpteen waterfalls,

five different trails or walking routes by which you can see them, and buses and boats to see that you get all the way round in the time you have decided you have.

We went in at gate 2 and opted for the 4-6h trail H, which had us starting by taking the massive tractor bus up to the top lake, Proscansko Jezera.

Once in the park and en route, the trails are clearly signposted, the paths are either obvious tracks or wooden walkways and it is stunning.

No pictures I take will do it justice but of course I had to have a go - 1.5 SD cards full in fact!  It is one of those places where every turn is a viewpoint, every viewpoint is a picture crying out to be taken.  The crystal clear turquoise and emerald pools, the cascades of diamonds glinting in the sun.

The path we took wends its way down following the level of the lakes.  The wooden walkway snakes sinuously in front of you,

at times through the forest or skirting the edges of pools,

at others striking out across marshland

or right into the spray of a waterfall.

Sometimes it is up high,

sometimes, just floating at

(or below!) the level of the water,

following the paths of the streams and falls.

It is glorious.

The water colour is apparently due to the minerals washed down from the mountains so it is always different depending on the light or concentration.

Spring is the time to come for the waterfalls when the rivers are swollen with melt water and the lakes overflow at every edge - the noise is defening at times but all it takes is to round a corner and instant hush again.

I think in summer you get the best colours, when the water is stiller and the sun is at its brightest but it also gets busier and the paths would be less fun if full - more like trudging round ikea on a sunday we imagine, but with better vistas and fewer sofas and tea lights...

Even now there were coachloads of people (a lot of japanese!), we saw them on buses we weren't on and boats going in the other direction, but somehow managed to have our little bit mainly to ourselves.

So we found the falls,

the lakes,

some inky black caves,

rushing rivers

and tranquil pools

and even the end of the rainbow.

The transport links were good - and we were lucky to arrive just as the boat bus we wanted were ready to leave so no waiting.  We had lunch with us but the food in the café looked good and the coffee was a sensible price. 

Our allotted path took us 6 hours  - could have spent longer if time allowed but not more than a day - and that included some sitting in the sun and chatting to other random travellers - met a canadian lady who has made me want to go to south america, I'm sure we could just box jules up and meet it there... - and several detours, including the caves and the viewpoint on path K high above the Big Slap (waterfall!) the highest in Croatia at 78m.

It felt like few people bothered to get all the way up here which is their loss as the view was jawdropping.

All in all, a grand day out and highly recomended!

So, onwards and downwards, back to the coast and in search of some island fun.  We just need to find somewhere to park...


  1. Stunning pics yet again - looks simply breathtaking.

  2. Great trip, great times, i'm just lurking, but wanted to point out that the law about alcohol has recently changed in Croatia from 0.0 to 0.5% so you're safe for a couple of beers.