Friday, December 11, 2015

Waterfall Wonderland

Note: This post is slightly out of order. We actually went to Rovinj, Croatia, before we went to Plitvice National Park, but it makes more sense to discuss Rovinj with the other coastal towns.

I have long wanted to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia. (Plitvice is pronounced something like pleet-weet-suh.) However, the first day we visited the park, I was disappointed. Why? Because the popular photos of Plitvice show lakes surrounded by waterfalls that cascade into clear, aquamarine water caused by the dissolved minerals on the lake bed that reflect the light. (Check out the virtual tour on the English website.)

But on that first day, when we hiked around the upper lakes, it was rainy and misty.  It was still beautiful, but we could only hear the rushing of the waterfalls, a muffled soundtrack to our stroll, and view them distantly in the mist. Take a look at what we saw that day:

There had been so much rain that the waterfalls and creeks were overflowing. Many paths in the park were underwater, and we were a little nervous about walking over the rickety wooden bridges with white water pouring underneath them. In other places, we were walking right on top of a waterfall.

The next day dawned a little brighter. Now take a look at what we saw on the same walkways the second day:

Notice all the waterfalls in the background.

And the waters were much bluer, as well.


See how clear the water is? 

We missed many of the waterfalls, including the tallest one, but we ultimately felt satisfied with our visit. The late October colors, with leaves falling from the trees, gave us a different view of the Plitvice Lakes than most tourists see. 

We enjoyed our stay at the Hotel Bellevue, a modest, refurbished late-60s hotel that has been there since Croatia was part of Yugoslavia. We took all our evening meals at the Hotel Plitvice, across the road. There, we met a woman name Linda, a retired teacher from Virginia.  Every year she takes off alone for about two months and undertakes a long walk. She has tackled the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route  (500 miles) and Wainwright’s Coast-to-Coast Walk in England (190 miles), among others. Sadly, I did not get a photo of Linda and I lost the link to her mobile blog, so if anyone comes across it, please email me with the address. 

We came at the end of the tourist season and Linda, like us, was one of only a handful of people in the park who were not part of a large Japanese tour group. Apparently, people from Japan don’t mind traveling in the off-season, and that's smart, because the sights are nicer without the crowds.  Because the tour people all ate together, there weren’t many others to converse with, so it was a pleasure to share a dinner with Linda. One of the joys of traveling is meeting people like her who make the most of life and inspire us. (And also shame us, because she is so fit!)

One day, because the food was good at the Hotel Plitvice, we decided to go there for lunch. You can’t tell from this photo in the dining room of our friendly young server, but we were the only people there! The Japanese tour groups were gone for the day, and everybody else was apparently out in the park. So there we sat, being served lunch, two people in a room that could seat 300 or 400 or more! 

Plitvice is a lovely park, even today, you do not want to venture off of the wooden walkways and paths around the lakes. Apparently, there are still unexploded land mines from the ethnic conflicts that broke out after the breakup of Yugoslavia. Needless to say, we heeded the advice and stayed on the designated paths. Rain or shine, Plitvice National Park is definitely worth a visit.

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