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Report 1912: Spring Time in Croatia

By Letha from California, Spring 2011

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Page 10 of 10: Plitvice National Park - Sunday May 8th and Monday May 9th

photo by Letha Saldanha

At the top of the Higher Lakes-crosses show that the train is not running

We left Zadar and headed to Plitvice National Park. I knew this was an area that was heavily damaged during the 90s war, in fact the first shots of Croatia's war of independence was fired at Plitvice. What I did not expect, is that unlike much of the rest of Croatia that is on the tourist track, on the drive into Plitvice, you pass villages where the war wreckage is still as it was left; deserted villages, burnt buildings, buildings without roofs, cemeteries.

We got to Plitvice around 1:00pm and went straight to the inquiry office and figured out that we should get a two day ticket (180 kuna per person, slightly discounted from two, one day tickets), so we could see the lower lakes this afternoon/evening and then the upper lakes the next morning before heading back to Zagreb by afternoon. I am glad we did this and it was well worth it.

Plitvice is in a class of its own as far as parks go. Just like you do not want to go to a zoo once you have been on a safari and seen animals in their natural habitat, you will not want to go to a man made water park, once you have seen Plitvice where nature has created a master piece of lakes, waterfalls big and small and vegetation (and of course animals that we do not see but are well shown in a National Geographic documentary that we had watched).

We saw the lower lakes in the late evening light and when we saw it again in the morning light the next day, it took our breath away all over again. And the upper lakes are very different from the lower lakes. My plan was to take the train to the top most point of the upper lakes and then walk down, but once there, we found out that the train was not running; it was under repair. So we had to hike up and down the next day (about 18km, four hours round trip) but it was well worth it in spite of the fact that the weather took a unexpected nasty turn and our umbrellas came in handy. Of course the rain added to the splendor of this natural water world.

While many people do Plitvice as a day trip, and you can certainly see it all in one day, I am glad we split it up and had time to ramble. (e.g., at the end of the first day, we took a boat at the end of the lower lakes that drops you off at a point near the second gate of the lakes, from where you take a bus that drops you off at yet another point).

When you buy the tickets, they do not give you a real map and tell you to go the the souvenir store and buy a map. Since we wanted to get on the trail we did not do that so we had only the little map in out Lonely Planet guide. The park is very well sign posted so you can't really get lost.

The next day we also noticed that our ticket had a small but good map on the back. So when the bus dropped us off, we had to get our bearing and started walking along a trail. We looked down and saw lakes again and then realized that we were seeing the lower lakes again but from a much higher elevation with various vantage points along the way and now in the light of the setting sun. We also found some fascinating caves, all of which you will miss, if you rush through.

We met with Irish lady who was at Plitvice for a week and she had been doing all the 'off the main pathway' trails which are also well marked that will take you into the forest/woods. We would have loved to do that, if we had time. She told us that getting off the lakes viewing pathways and into the forest trail was a whole other experience.

After we got back, our new friend, Momo sent us photos he had of Plitvice from before the war. His family used to live close by and they spent every vacation there; he said he knew every rock and stone and his photos looked so much like what we saw and the photos we took that we had to marvel at mother nature and the fragile but sustainable ecology in this unique park.

We stayed at the Krizmanic Family B&B, a five minutes walk from Gate 1 of the park and the excellent Lika Kuka restaurant where we could not eat enough times (their lamb dishes are to die for). So we could leave our car at the B&B. Ivana, the hostess was very nice (there were some negative reports in other travel groups, but she was really nice and helpful etc. and I have posted this in those groups). And I strongly recommend Lika Kuka; again the owner would personally welcome us and chat with us as we went there to eat several times.

We left Plitivice around 5:00pm and were back in Zagreb in two hours. I had arranged to return the car to the Zagreb airport where HM Rent a Car supposedly has an office; we never saw the office but the representative met us promptly at the curb side and we handed the car over. We had already checked in at the B&B, Room Pleso's, walking distance from the sirport. Zeljka, the owner was wonderful, recommended a great neighborhood restaurant for dinner (Barba Niko, Pleska 125, Velika Gorica), and served us an early breakfast.

We wheeled our bags to the airport in time for our 9:10am flight back via Zurich. We were back home by 6:00pm.

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