Got wet, but not upset: Rastoke and Plitvice Lakes National Park

May 17th, 2015. Categories: Croatia

On Friday, our drive from Zagreb took about an hour and cost a few dollars in highway tolls before the road narrowed into the countryside. We passed numerous small towns. Some were thriving, others not. Livestock and personal gardens butted up against the road. There were the remains of unfinished houses and failed roadside restaurants. The oldest ruins were covered with ivy. Since it was Sunday, a lot of people were walking to and from churches on the only road through town, and I dodged them like orange cones.

Our first stop was at the cliffs overlooking Rastoke town. We only had enough coins for an hour on the meter.

Rastoke is the old part of Slunj municipality and is known for its well-preserved mills and the picturesque little waterfalls along the Slunjčica river. The falls flow into the Korana river whose water comes from the world-famous Plitvice Lakes. Wooden structures are built over little islands between the flowing and falling clear waters. Small bridges cross this way and that. The landscape is lush and green, full of birds and cats. The water is full of fish and frogs.

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The first views of Rastoke.
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Despite the drizzle and lack of tripod, I had to take longer exposure photos.
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Doorway and river.
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The saint of dangerous bridges.
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Shed and wood storage.
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Backyard waterfalls.
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Bridge over clear waters to garden cottage island.
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Husks.
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Path.
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Front door of a cat lover.

The sights and sounds were enchanting, and we decided to stay longer for a drink and snack at one of the nearly empty restaurants on the water. The place raised its own trout in a pen built with stone into the river that flowed under the restaurant. They fed the fish bread with penicillin growing on it.

Our waiter was a friendly man from Zagreb who spoke perfect English and had a sly, vampire-like face. We ordered a half liter dark beer, grilled potatoes, and a platter with local cheeses and cured bear, boar, deer, and pork. As we ate, a friendly tabby cat hopped up on the bench to visit.

It took a few attempts, but I was able to remove a deeply embedded tick from his ear. I flicked the parasite into the water just as a snake swam by.

The drizzle disturbed the surface of the water and tapped lightly on the wooden roof of the hut. A few small falls filled the afternoon with beautiful white noise.

I felt as relaxed as Thailand again.

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Not the most inviting sight when entering a restaurant that serves a basket of bread.
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Snack platter of local cheeses and cured bear, boar, deer, and pork.
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Cat: post tick pick.
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J at our table over the water.

We pulled up to the AirBnB around four forty-seven or eight, and I said “smell you later” to J.

I looked at my kingdom; I was finally there.

Time to sit on my throne as the—

BITE!

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Puppy Doo Doo.

An adorable little golden retriever puppy interrupted my song as I unloaded the car. The two month old little ball of fluff had a joyful smile and zest for life. And biting.

Our “cabin” was a small building in a complex of four more buildings on top of a hill. Two were built for and rented out. Our very wooden lower room had a dining booth, bar, small kitchen, and bathroom. A steep wooden ladder accessed the low ceiling attic bedroom.

The place was owned by a couple that was younger than me, and I was jealous of their scenic spread (and especially their puppy).

That evening, we played with “Puppy Doo Doo” outside on the hill overlooking the river valley. For dinner, we made pasta and vegetables and enjoyed northeastern Croatian wine. The wine was dry, with a wet texture. It was dark red in color, almost wine-red, and it poured with the fluidity of liquid.

The friendly farm cat came inside to visit and sit on the bench with us. I fed him a saucer of milk. We heard a whimpering outside the door and let puppy inside too. I played with him on the floor and tried to keep hime from biting all of our stuff. Instead, puppy’s bites damaged my pants.

We had trouble sleeping.

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Mushroom Top and Puppy Doo Doo hang out overlooking the valley.
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The hill across the way.
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The little house with brush fire going.

Saturday morning, a thick mist obscured the valley.

We drove down the hill and into the national park, bummed that we might not be able to see anything.

Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the oldest national parks in Southeast Europe and the largest national park in Croatia. The protected area of 297 square kms (73,350 acres) is most famous for its series of lakes formed by natural dams at different elevations, the flora and fauna, and numerous waterfalls.

J and I parked at Entrance 2, bought our entrance tickets (110HRK/$16 each), and walked into the park past the empty restaurants, trinket shops, hotels, and staff parking lots.

A large group of German tourists walked one direction, so we went another. An electric boat brought us across a narrow channel to one of the trailheads.

We were immediately enthralled. The boat dropped us off on a rickety wooden platform at the base of roaring water. Small waterfalls rushed around all the wooden walkways that led further into the park. Visibility was still low due to the mist and drizzle, but we could see that the water was glass clear and full of many fish.

J and I began our walk to the top of the upper lakes. The boardwalks wound right over streams and waterfalls, around scenic pools and into moody woods. There were no rails to block the view or keep someone from falling in. This system would never fly at home due to people’s obesity and litigiousness.

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Snail.
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Moody dingys.
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Pole bird puffs.
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Our first view of the amazing walkways over water.
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Look ma, no rails.
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Water and steps.
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A little fall in the woods.
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Bark weathering.
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Placid pool.

I tried to take as many photos as I could, but without an umbrella my camera was getting wet every time I took it out. Every photo required a lens wipe down, and this got tiring. Visibility was poor and the startling blue water was subdued. Luckily, the lack of light allowed for longer exposure photos of the waterfalls. My camera got soaked doing this.

We stopped numerous times to take photos, listen to the water, watch the fish or listen to the loudly croaking frogs. The walkways were mostly uncrowded though periodically a large group of Chinese, Korean, German, or French babbled by.

At the top of the upper lakes, we took the free “train” (a militaristic, tall truck towing multiple covered passenger trailers) back to the parking lot, paid the 28HRK/$4 parking fee, then drove into town to get a better, more reasonably priced lunch.

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Misty logs.
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The moody woods.
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Another waterfall.
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The long falls by the path up to the next lake level.
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Path detail.
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Lucky nose.
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Barely able to make out one of the more popular sights through the mist.
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The stick in eternity.
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A path along the water’s edge.
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More falls.
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Pretty fly.
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Our wrong turn.
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Salamander.
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An unusual natural drain that emptied off a cliff as a waterfall.
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J on the path.
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Fish.

When we returned via Entrance 1, the crowds were thicker and the mist slightly thinner.

We descended through a crowded cave and across a boardwalk to some of the most beautiful sights yet, including the big waterfall. The walkways got crowded enough in parts that they swayed up and down and needed caution when passing.

In addition to the mist falling uniformly from the sky, the crashing waterfalls created an extra gust of mist that was guaranteed to ruin any picture.

The weather showed no signs of clearing, and we were tired and damp. We walked up along one last stretch of trail, then took the long boat across the lake to the second entrance. Another “train” brought us back to the parking area and we paid our last fee of the day.

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Looking up from the cave.
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Gushers.
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Froggy went a’ croaking.
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Atop a big waterfall.
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Nearby: more waterfalls.
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At the base of the great falls.
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Blue water during a break in the mist.
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Silky.
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Canopy.
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Swimming upstream.
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A view of the valley.
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One of the more scenic paths we took, as seen from our return walk.

Plitvice Lakes overwhelmed us with beautiful scenery and the sounds of rushing water. It was really magical.

That night, we sleep soundly as the drizzle continued to fall.