My exploration adventures have taken me to many beautiful natural and man-made places on the planet. This week I found a gem in Croatia’s 295 square kilometer Plitvička National Park. This is my short story about my experiences enveloped by the deep forest and seeing beautiful lakes, cascades, waterfalls and wildlife there.
The rain began early in the morning in Zagreb and continued all the way to Plitvička, an hour and a half away to the mountains. Once there, who cared that it was raining slightly as I discovered the grandeur of this magnificent park.
I went with a small group of like-minded adventurers with a Croatian guide. She said that the park had been cleared of land mines from the war between Croatia and next door neighbors Serbia and Montenegro in the early 1990’s.
“Wait a minute” I thought, as I said “Did you say land mines? Were all of them removed?” “Yes,” she replied. But she recommended we stay on the marked trails anyway and then the worst things that could happen would be to encounter a bear or slip and fall. This was an adventure like no other! I felt encouraged to stay on the trails and away from the cliff edges!
On the way to Plitvička our small expedition stopped at Rastoke in Slunj which is famous for its picturesque waterfalls among the village houses. In addition to the postcard images, it also was nice to hangout in a cafe to get warm, drink a coffee, and share stories among fellow explorers before pressing on to Plitvička which was our objective.
Plitvička is famous for its many forest lakes, cascades, and waterfalls between them. The lakes are pristine and you can see fish in the crystal-clear water. The fresh, clean mountain air is invigorating! Despite the rainy weather, walking along the lakes and cascades and under the waterfalls was a joy!
Many of the pathways near the water are smooth, split-hewn tree limbs. Other walkways on the cliff edges are dirt and stone with some serious (but amusing), cautionary signs warning of sheer drops of 80 meters! There are no handrails and serious injuries occur daily.
Regardless of the dangers from slips and falls, the forest, many lakes, cascades, waterfalls and wildlife are delights to see and listen to. The rain added to the water volume and the water gushed past as visitors throughout much of Eastern Europe and Asia hiked the trails before stopping for the lunches brought with us.
For a short period of my visit to the park, I decided to hike on a high trail away from the crowd and found myself in solitude. I appreciated the beauty of the forest, rocks, plants and the lakes below.
As one might imagine, there came a time when Mother Nature called. I did recall the guide’s admonition to stay on the trail (remember “land mines?”). The urge was too great so I walked a short distance off the trail. Land mines, zero; me, relieved!
The treasures of this park come from its natural beauty and preservation with minimal human intrusion. It is wonderful that since 1949 when it was designated as a national park it is not only preserved by the people of Croatia but is also under the umbrella of UNESCO and included in the World Natural Heritage list.
The people of the country are very proud of this resource and many told me of my need to visit when I arrived in Croatia. Definitely, Plitvička Jezera is one of several places in Croatia to include in one’s bucket list.