A Day For Plitvice
Deep in the heart of Croatia just west of Bosnia, lies a paradise which would be hard to rival anywhere else on earth. Plitvice National Park is a wonderland with 16 terraced pristine lakes connected by waterfalls and lush forests.
Without a car, the best way for us to experience the park was through an organized bus tour. Our three hour ride took us past typical Mediterranean towns with stone houses which seem to rise up from the sea in a series of steps topped with a church, small seaside villages, and through the industrial city of Rijeka which we learned is ranked 8th in the world in ship building.
Out in the countryside we passed small stone farmhouses, many with tiny stalls set up to sell their local honey. Just as you might see in rural Ireland, some houses are abandoned and the roofs are missing, but here it's a different story. We learned that during the homeland war in the 1990s, many of the houses were destroyed or abandoned and today they have no owner. Even more startling to hear was that it will be difficult to repopulate this area for awhile because there are many hidden mines in the fields which have yet to be cleared.
Once at the park we were immediately struck by its beauty. Each of the lakes has minerals which reflect the colors of the landscape causing the water to be a crystal clear aquamarine color. Fish large and small, basked in the water in the sunlight and were completely unafraid of anyone passing by on the natural wooden boardwalks. It was if time stood still for them and we were looking at them in an aquarium with purified water. I wanted to plunge right into the refreshing water with them.
A highlight of the trip was a boat ride on a boat powered by batteries so there is no impact on the environment. As we glided across the water past feathery reeds dancing in the breeze, we noticed branches at the bottom of the lake which may have fallen in decades ago, but were perfectly preserved. All around us, small waterfalls tumbled down the hillside, and ducks and fish coexisted in perfect harmony. It was one of the most serene experiences I have had in years.
Feeling hungry and thirsty, our group was grateful when our boat docked in an area with picnic tables. Attracted by the smoky smell of a barbecue, we scrambled over to an open air barn where they were roasting chickens on a spit over a roaring wood fire. It reminded me of a folk park and smelled delicious.
Hiking back toward the parking lot, we came upon the tallest waterfall in the park. The water cascaded down from above and must be truly magnificent in the spring after the melting snows. Although you are requested not to go off the path, many members of our group pranced over there and posed right under it to the dismay of our tour guide. Much of the group was made up of medical school exchange students and our guide was like a task master trying to keep them in step with the tour.
When we arrived back at our hotel, I realized it was after 8:00 pm making this a long but memorable day. Just when you think there may be no more magical places in the world, one appears before you. I'll keep a mental photograph of this place in my mind forever.