Saturday 28th June, 2014
I didn’t know much when I booked this trip to Eastern Europe but I knew I wanted to visit Plitvice Lakes. I think it’s the biggest tourist attraction in Croatia, pulling over a million visitors every year. The gates open at 8am and we arrive just after half eight. If I had it my way we would have been there at 7.45am but I jumped in the car of a fellow hosteller (with two others) so had to fit in with his timeline. The day trippers get in about 10-11am so it’s best to maximise all hours before they arrive. Plus there’s a fair amount of dithering on arrival; the car park was terribly signposted, I had to check my bag into a locker, people had to toilet, get tickets, postcards, food etc. So we weren’t on our ‘bus’ until 9am. I say ‘bus’ because to get from the entrance to other connecting points you need to get on these things that are part bus, part train, part golf buggy. There are three carriages, like little caravans, with the driver in the first and smallest carriage. The park is huge so these buses and also ferries make it possible to see everything. You can’t not catch one. There are a number of paths you can take around the lakes. We decide path H is what we’re after, the second most comprehensive route around the lakes.
This is my favourite day on my trip so far. I couldn’t count the number of times I said “I love it, I just love it” throughout the day. Everywhere you look you can only see blue or green. We have an absolute winner of a day weather wise with the morning light lending itself very nicely to photographs. My heart purrs the entire day as we walk past pools of the clearest water I have seen in my life, with what are surely the happiest fish in the world. I would l o v e to jump in but swimming is forbidden and I can totally appreciate that if it wasn’t they wouldn’t look anywhere near as beautiful. With every waterfall I am one drop closer to absolute zen. To the point that, by 2pm, if my heart wasn’t beating so fast from climbing up to numerous viewpoints, I would think I had relapsed into the complete serenity I experienced with Magic Mike that day in Istanbul. At this stage we farewell half of our group and Jessica and I go off in search of viewpoints on unexplored tracks. We hike for another two-three hours away from the main trails and the other tourists, swapping the sound of running water for the soft crunch of leaves in a beech forest. En route we see many forest mice (aren’t they just so cute when they’re not in your house?) and lizards, much to my delight. Back on lake level, thighs trembling, we fight tooth and nail to get on a bus to take us back to the main entry point, albeit with a small Spanish child on my lap. There I farewell Jess and buy a bus ticket to my next stop, Croatia’s capital, Zagreb. I check into Chillout Hostel at about 8pm and pass out without dinner, probably in a rush to dream of the paradise that I have just left behind.
h e a v e n