A MUST See

Trip Start Jun 02, 2010
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Trip End Oct 03, 2010


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Where I stayed
Funk Hostel and Club

Flag of Croatia  ,
Monday, August 23, 2010

As much as I have enjoyed all my travels over the last couple months there is one thing I regret: The loss of enthusiasm.  Let me explain.  When you are constantly moving and traveling for weeks on end it becomes a lot of work.  Not only do you have to worry about where you are going to stay in a few days or how you are going to get there, but you also have to continually pack and unpack the same. damn. stuff.  It becomes exhausting.  And because of this exhaustion it is really easy to start to lose your enthusiasm for what you are actually seeing.  As horrible as it may sound, there have been a couple of times where I am looking at a beautiful castle or church and all I can think is: "gee, you never see any of those in Europe" (this is with heavy sarcasm, of course).  So it becomes a constant struggle not to let the enthusiasm for what I am seeing and what I am doing die.  And it isn't just me.  I have heard of people spending entire days in their hostel because they are just so tired of sight seeing.  How sad is that?  But I guess that's what happens when you are moving day after day and seeing church after church.

So while I have been enjoying all the sights it has been a while since I got really excited about something.  Well, that all changed the other day when I was in Croatia.  Now, most have heard that Croatia's coast is the must see place, and that's usually where people go.  I won't argue that Croatia's coast isn't absolutely beautiful, however, it is not the only thing in Croatia.  I think so many people hear about the coast that they completely pass up another gem of this country: the Plitvice Lakes National Park. 

It is not exactly the easiest place to get to.  There are no trains that go there and the buses are a hit or miss.  This means that while you can usually get a bus to the park there is never a guarantee that you can get one back from the park.  This made me a bit nervous as a solo traveler.  I had looked into booking one of the three hotels by the National Park, but they were completely full for the night I needed.  So I HAD to get back to Zagreb.  Luckily, the wonderful hostel I was staying in had a deal with this iBus tourism group.  Basically the hostel would call what was essentially a shuttle bus transport organization for you and reserve a seat.  It only ended up costing about 20 kuna ($4) more to go through this private company than to do public transport.  And it was faster and more comfortable.  You can't beat that.

So I got on the shuttle bus around 9 am and we got to the park around 11am.  We only had about 6 hours in the park, but actually that is plenty of time to see the entire thing.  Now the Plitvice lakes are a bunch of terraced lakes that form the most beautiful waterfalls you have ever seen and have the clearest, crystal blue water you can imagine.  What makes the park even more magnificent is that the trail you hike follows the lakes and waterfalls the ENTIRE time.  It is perhaps the best National park I have been in for photo opportunities.  You can either start your hike at the top or the bottom of the terraces.  If you start at the top you will be hiking downhill the majority of the time but then at the end you will have a RUL steep climb to get out of the "canyon".  However, if you start at the bottom you will definitely be dealing with bigger crowds but you will get the best views of the waterfalls (meaning you won't have to turn around to look at them).

I started at the bottom and spent the next 5 hours in absolute heaven.  Nothing can describe to you how glorious it felt to get out of the city and back into nature.  Especially when the nature was as picturesque as the Plitvice Lakes.  I found myself with a constant smile on my face.  My vocabulary simply isn't extensive enough to describe to you how magnificent this place was.  The water reminded me of the purest sapphire, especially when the sun hit it just right.  And each waterfall, be it small or large, was completely unique in it's shape and the way it fell.  A lot of times in nature one can get bored with seeing the same tree covered hill over and over again.  Well, not here.  Sure, you are looking at what is essentially a boat load of lakes and waterfalls.  But each seems more beautiful than the next and your eyes simply can't get enough.

I was able to hike the majority of the park and in all likelihood I could have done the entire thing easily.  However, I didn't want to miss my shuttle back to Zagreb and the way the crowds were moving there was a slight possibility that could have happened.  I swear, I don't know what it is about national parks, but people just act stupid when they are in them.  They never look at the signs that say "stay on path", "no swimming", "no littering", and then they wonder why they get in trouble for doing those things.  There was one dude who full up threw his cigarette butt into one of the lakes.  I tell you, I was overcome with an overwhelming urge to grab that cigarette butt and then shove it down his throat and say "THERE! Now you know how the fish feel".  I of course contained myself, but I definitely gave him a dirty look.  I just can't understand why you would take the effort to come to such a gorgeous place and think nothing of destroying it.  And then there were those kids who were playing their Nintendo DS games WHILE they were walking.  Let me tell you why this is a bad idea.  1) Naturally you will miss all the glorious sights around you if you are constantly playing your video game. 2) The walk ways are literally just wide enough for two, MAYBE three people.  They are also made of wooden beams that are not the most evenly placed.  And there are no railings.  So these kids that are playing their games (and I saw 4) are not paying attention to where they are going and end up tripping, which causes a ripple affect down the line of hikers and then bad things happen.  I'm actually surprised I didn't see anyone fall into the water. 

However, perhaps the worst people in the park were the parents who insisted on bringing their strollers with them.  Strollers!  In a nature park!  I have already described what the walk ways look like.  Well, there are also steps with these wooden beams.  Lots and lots of steps.  So you can imagine how convenient it is to bring a stroller into such a place.  The worst part of it is that Stupid Stroller man would get angry at the rest of the crowd for being in the way or not letting him pass.  Well I'm sorry that you're an idiot but I'm not going to hold up my enjoyment because you either are too lazy to carry your kid or your kid is too lazy to walk.  Hmph!

It may sound like I didn't enjoy my day at the park, but really these experiences were just minor hiccups in an otherwise wonderful day.  I can't imagine why more people don't visit this place.  I mean, there were a lot of people there, but I didn't hear one American accent.  Not one.  Except mine, of course.  So I would have to say if anyone ever finds their way to Croatia, don't spend all your time at the coast.  Remember there is a national park, somewhere in the middle of the country that will take your breath away and steal your heart. 

Just beware of the strollers.
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Comments

Alissa on

Man I wish that I could have gone there with you. Its looks and sounds so nice.

Zagreb on

Cant believe someone would throw cigarette butt into the lake. It makes me so sad and angry at the same time. Some people admire beauty of Croatia, and some are, well just envious and disrespectful. So sad.....

On the other side, i am glad that you had a blast in Plitvice national park !
Best regards

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