Saturday, September 7, 2013

Plitvice Lakes National Park (Croatia)

The Brochure Photo - Much better overview than we could shoot.

With our trusty Garmin and directions from the rental car agent, we exited Zagreb and made our way successfully to Plitvice (PLEET vee chee). For much of 2 hour trip we were amazed at how like rural Maine the territory is.  (Note the latitude is very close to the same but who expected the terrain/plant life and scene to look so much the same?  Not us.)  
Maine type traffic ;-)

As we neared our destination, things changed. It became more rugged and we discovered Rastoke Falls. This turns out to be an introductory version of the waterfalls at Plitvice.  

Rastoke Falls
Plitvice Lakes National Park is noted for it's 16 lakes separated by natural dams of travertine that result in literally innumerable cascades of water ranging from about 1 inch to 255 feet in height. The overall system stretches over a distance of 5 miles and makes a drop of 450 feet or so.  The travertine is deposited by some interaction of moss, algae & bacteria that builds up at a rate of about 1 cm per year.  Apparently this is created by the same process as the terraces at Pamukkale in Turkey.  We'll be telling you more about that in roughly a month from now.  
The national park is networked with a series of boardwalks and trails. To facilitate traveling these trails, Ivica Luketic created a series of options labelled creatively A through K.  Trail A is designed to take 2-3 hours. Trail K is designed to take 6-8 hours. Additionally the water exiting from the lowest lake forms the Korana River.

Upon arriving at our accommodations on the same Korana River (with it's own private waterfall) we were greeted by our host (the same Ivica Luketic who designed the trail system for the park), two large friendly dogs and a pony that is about the same size as the dogs. 

The Welcome Crew at Sobe San Korana (Sobe means "Guest room")
After enjoying lunch at a nearby restaurant (another meat platter for two and some local wine), we did Trail A as personally recommended by Ivica (saving us from studying the map and wondering how much of the trail system to attempt starting in late afternoon. We started from Entrance 1 and walked along the base getting our first views of the hundreds of falls connecting the lakes. We hiked to the top of the highest falls for a few more photo ops. We pretty much OD'd on the number of irresistible photo ops in our 2 hour hike. And lucky for you, we are sharing only a few of them. There were truly more falls than you can count, in limitless sizes shapes and descriptions. And all are surrounded with lush foliage. Definitely a place to be included in any travel itinerary to Croatia. 

One of the waterfalls
Another waterfall
An intersection of the boardwalks with requisite waterfall between them

A peaceful lake
Yet another waterfall

The next day we focused on trail C, designed to take 5-6 hours. We started with a 15 minute hike from the parking lot to entrance 2. A short boat ride left us a the beginning of a series of boardwalks and paths through the lakes and streams put us right in the action. It was several hours of walking through the trees enjoying the sound of falling water.  We the short circuited the official trail (per Ivica's recommendation) by taking a tram ride to a later portion the led down through a cave. Very cool both senses of the word. 

The Tram with a high powered truck because there are some steep hills to climb

Bill in the cave, which is more of a vertical tunnel
We returned to the entrance by boat, feasted on some delicious raspberries offered by one of the vendors and returned to our new local favorite restaurant for some trout. All in all a very pleasant, calm, soothing, experience.

As an aside...  At the Sobe (Inn), we chatted with fellow guests, a young couple from Holland.  (We always say "The Netherlands" but the Dutch apparently say "Holland").  The woman works with technology for managing AC, heat, etc for corporations. This is pretty much what Pat did in her first job (...which also included doing the same for Walt Disney World in Florida. That's another story, but feel free to ask about it. It is interesting.) Anyway, Pat mentioned that her main challenge in that job was explaining it to others.  The woman working in the field today said, "It's still just as difficult, that's why I simply tell folks that I am in building management."

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