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Published: July 15th 2008
We missed the new highway to Zagreb and traveled on the A1, which was the old route. It took us through some gorgeous valleys and past the Purecko lakes, which the road follows for over 20 km and where we stopped for a quick morning tea. The weather was so calm that the lakes were like mirrors and the mountains were reflected in the surface of the lakes as we drove along.
The valleys were sprinkled with small villages half hidden in the green of the trees; all red roofed, three story high Croatian houses with a Swiss/Austrian touch, and their window boxes were overflowing with red, orange and purple flowers. Their roofs had that Swiss/Austrian/mountain-German tilt on the gables.
Once through the main towns, there seemed to be thousands of hectares of trees. When we stopped for a break we noted that they seem be a type of oak and maybe, this explains why Frank had so much oak furniture.
Carmen led us on the beautiful back route and we joined the coastal highway as it traveled inland from the coast to Ljubjana.
For lunch, we stopped at a large roadside restaurant with window
boxes overflowing with deep red geraniums and beautiful pink roses surrounding the doorway. The restaurant specialized in spit-roasted lamb so we ordered a large lunch and also1 kg of lamb off the spit to take to Plitvice Lakes for our dinner.
It wasn’t long before we arrived at the lakes and turned off into the car park to inquire if it was worthwhile getting a ticket for the park today to do a half-day today and another half day tomorrow. The 24 hr period was not possible and the information people said to give it a miss today even though we still had 6 hrs of sunshine, and come back at 8.00 am when the park opened. It turned out to be very sensible advice.
We managed to get out of the car park within 15 minutes so didn't have to pay and traveled the 3 km to the next park entrance and then the 3 km to the house.
We came to the beginning of the Rakovica village where we would be staying and Di and I commented that the house on our right looked like the photo from the web site of the house that
we had booked - and it was. What luck to find it so easily! An elderly couple was sitting outside and we introduced ourselves. They were our hosts, Maria and Marco. They greeted us warmly in a mixture of what sounded like German, Croatian and a smattering of English and took us upstairs to the apartment. The rooms were small but very adequate as we were only here for the night and had left our suitcases in the car.
They provided a cup of great brewed coffee and a small bottle of grappa. We spoke English, they spoke Croatian and German; we drank the grappa and it was one of those discussions where we laughed a lot, proposed toasts, spoke about Marco’s new still and his grappa making, and shared the convivial good wishes common to people the world over.
The river from the lakes flowed by their house but about 100 feet below and kids and adults were swimming in the clear water.
We then walked along the road that followed the river to the village to look for a supermarket to purchase the makings to add to our cold spit-roasted lamb, for dinner for the
evening. The hills at the back of Rakovica were very Swiss with green pastures flanked by pine trees and houses nestled against the tree lines. As we walked along the road, there were restaurants with signs of painted pigs, lambs on spits and every place had large bar-b-qs built in stone with chimneys topped with wind caps.
One house opposite was severely shot up but unlike the stone building around southern Croatia, it was constructed of hollow brick and plastered over which meant bullets went straight through the walls instead of making pockmarks in the marble and even through walls inside as well. It looked like a sieve and the gardens, impervious to the conflict and the anguish, were growing through the house and flowering in the now roofless rooms.
We found the supermarket and a pub with a bar-b-q covered garden house by the sides of the ravine, which had a place for spit-roasting. Interestingly the spit was set to the front of the fire- more along the lines of the Argentine roasts where the carcass is split through, the rib case opened up and spread eagle before the piles of glowing coals. There were three positions
that the pig/lamb could be set. In addition, there was a large washing area with concrete tubs one and a half meters wide. A huge wrought iron enameled bathtub, which we presumed they boiled the water for preparing the pigs. It was well set up.
I went and bought beers and drinks which we had after wandering around looking at the wildflowers that were prolific in the area. The whole area around us was a sea of colour from the wildflowers. We then bought food, wandered home looking at the houses and the construction taking place, prepared dinner and took off early the next morning for the Lakes.
We got a great car park as we were early and decided on the 4- 6 hr bus-walking-boat-walking-bus tour that covered all of the lakes.
One would think the bus could come to the people but you had to walk 400 meters down the hill on poorly marked tracks to the bus stops then determine where to wait.
The bus/train was a four carriage reticulated Mercedes truck that looks as if it was something to take skiers up the hill from the car parks. It took us
through cool shaded forests to the top of the falls where the river flows in. At every bend, there were tantalizing views of the falls and the lakes which we would explore on our walk down stream. When you start the walk the river flows in through open flat lakes surrounded by trees. Under the overhanging bushes you could see flotillas of trout in the shadows of the trees, their dorsal fins breaking the water, just balanced in the slow flowing water.
There was an abundance of iridescent blue dragonflies skimming across the water or milling around the reeds and plants growing in the water. A butterfly came and sat on Dinah and stayed even when she transferred it to her hand to take its photo.
The varying colours of the lake were remarkable, ranging between milky blue to deep sapphires and greens in the shadows. In the open sun the colours ranged from translucent pale aquamarines to intense deep emerald and I hope the photos do justice to the colours and the beauty of the lakes, the waterfalls, the fishes, the wild life and the gentle forests that surround the lake.
We were fortunate we caught
the second bus of the day, when there were few people about so for the first three hours we saw very few people. We walked at our pace and the tracks were generally constructed of wooden walkways in environmentally sensitive areas with wooden slats made from planned branches (of approximately the same depth) and with steps set at the thickness of the slats. This meant you had to concentrate on where your feet were otherwise you could trip.
The Plitvice river splits into a multitude of streams each cascading through this wonderland of falls that separate the dozen or so lakes that drop the 150 meters over the length of the park.
We eventually walked down to the large central lake where a ferry took us down the lake to the restaurant in the centre of the park. Here we had lunch.
Jan’s knees were giving her a bad time so Rodger asked the best way out from this lake back to the second station to catch the bus back home. There were two option he was told: the first was to catch the ferry back to the previous station and walk 420 steps straight
Blue Dragon Fly
There were hundreds of them on the plants by the lake
up the hill; the second was to take a little longer but gradual climb up a hill without steps. They decided on the gradual climb route but did not realize that this route, other than for a short section to and from the Grand waterfall was the normal walk up the station and it was a long steep climb.
Rodger had also been asking the rangers about the probability of seeing wild bears that frequent the park. They had told him there were plenty around so he had been on the lookout all morning and was a little disappointed that we were taking a separate route and might see a bear. So the mischievous Di found a large poster of a bear in the restaurant, took a photo of the poster, cropping off the winter snow so it looked like a bear close by. She then took photos of a cave we passed so we could pull Rodger’s leg and tell him we saw a bear near a cave and had photos to prove it. When we met up with Rodger and Jan again they fell for it hook, line and sinker and were so envious of us!! Rodger
kept commenting on how lucky we were and asked all sorts of questions and Di finally admitted we tricked him when he asked “How close were you when you got the photo?” She admitted the bear was two meters away and he was on the restaurant wall! We all had a good laugh!
We can now see why the information people advised us to give the afternoon tour a miss---I the lower reaches in the afternoon, there were now hundreds of people crowding the walkways and I can understand why they have build timber steps and staircases and wooden paths to protect the environment. The wildlife of ducks, insects, birds,f ish and bears couldn’t care less and they all buzzed about - except the bears of course!.
The Grand Waterfall was impressive but the walk up the steep cliff face was even more impressive as you climb above the falls and look back along the valley across three or four of the lakes and see the waterfall cascading over the stones that are overcrowded with plant life.
We felt sorry for Rodger and Jan as they had to trudge about 4 km around and up an even
higher climb than if they had climbed up the steps, as they had to follow the lakes further down stream over another three or four falls.
Their only consolation was there were no steps; the road and the track just inclined upwards over a much longer route.
After about six hours, we returned to the car park and took off for Ljubjana.
We had a pile of Kuna left over from Croatia, so pooled it all and filled the van with diesel at 9.35/lt = AUD$2.35/lt, bought three bottles of wine, ice creams and other goodies.
We crossed the boarder into no-man's land between Croatia and Slovenia, and straight through to Slovenian Customs who had a cursory look at the passports and waved us through.
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