Road Trippin' Part 2
17.07.2012 - 18.07.2012 32 °C
After visiting Krka National Park we were stunned by the sheer volume of water that rushed over each waterfall. Waking up early the next morning we headed off to see more falls in Croatia’s largest National Park, as well as a World Heritage Site –Plitvice Lakes.
Plitvice Lakes National Park spans over nearly 295 km2 with two-thirds of the land covered in lush green forest. While the park has thousands of visitors on a regular basis, the park has strict regulations to preserve this national treasure. With no swimming tolerated in the park, the waters remain pristine and crystal clear, showing off the almost unnatural radiant blue. Starting at the highest elevations, one lake feeds into another via a series of waterfalls. There are so many graduated pools that feed into each other that the number of waterfalls in one park is breathtaking. While we agreed that Krka may boast the most volume of water, Plitvice Lakes amazed us when we easily lost count of how many waterfalls can be seen in this one area.
The lake water is chalk full of calcium carbonate, which, over time, calcifies the moss covered rocks and forms Travertine. This process forms barriers, damns, and riverbeds between the various levels of the river/lake system. As the water cascades over the travertine into the pools below, it continues to add deposits of calcium causing the continuous re-shaping of the landscape.
We discovered that there are different ways to experience the lakes. With small boats that can take you to different points around the lower and upper lake, row boats for rent, and buses that can connect trails off the main roads, many people only walk through portions of the park. We wanted to make sure we saw the entire area and chose to hike the 20 km trail. Rich forests enclose the surreal blue waters and shaded us from the hot sun. Starting with the lower lakes first, we clearly saw the levels that have formed from the travertine and how multiple waterfalls feed the next lake. Below us wooden walkways have been built for tourists to view the falls up close, but we had the best of both worlds by staying on the higher path to gain a bird’s eye perspective, while also having the option to descend to the main view points below.
We came to Veliki Slap, or Large Falls, as we rounded the lower lake, aptly named for the 78 meter drop which makes it the furthest waterfall drop in Croatia. Cascading water rushes down a large rock face in three separate falls even in the dry season, though the volume of wet season must be impressive. We continued on to a series of smaller yet equally beautiful falls, and after a while it became hard to judge which were the most picturesque.
From the lower lake we proceeded through the thick forest comprising mainly of Beech trees and apparently full of a variety of wildlife, including Brown bears, which we unfortunately did not see. Thinking that the endless procession of waterfalls was at its end, we were in awe when we came to the upper lakes, finding another set of falls around every bend. We spent six-and-a-half hours walking the 20 km, stopping often to take countess photos and snack breaks. Exhausted at days end, we left with big smiles and beautiful memories. Our only regret is that so many tourists are allowed through the park in a day, but were pleased that they did not impact the clear waters and rich forests, only impeding our walking speed and blocking some photographic opportunities. With so many falls to capture in photos, I am only including a few highlights in the blog.
From Plitvice we again continued on our road trip back to the coast and northward to Zadar, another large port-city where we would spend the night and return our trusty little Twingo car. While Zadar has not been a large tourist draw in the past, the scene is changing as young tourists are drawn to the Roman and Venetian ruins, vibrant night-life, and a beautiful sunset. While we had no desire to spend multiple days here, it was definitely worth a peek into the old-town.
We searched Zadar for accommodations but were met with full rooms and hefty prices, until finally settling into a cheap but clean boarding house. Wanting to make the most of our short stay we set off for an evening of exploration through Zadar. The long waterfront walkway is lovely to stroll upon in the warm evenings. Nearing a corner of the walkway we began to hear strange music with an odd melody seemingly radiating from the Sea. Zadar has the world’s only Sea organ, which plays music created by waves lapping at the sides of the promenade. From small holes that are found along the walkway, the waves play their almost mournful sounding melody for the tourists that sit and wait for the brilliant orange sunset of Zadar.
We sat on the edge of the walk snapping pictures until the sun went down, leaving behind a pink and orange sky. Turning our attention to the strange centerpiece of the promenade – a large circular grid of solar lights covered by glass and walked upon by countless people, we wondered about its purpose. As the sun vanished, lights began to twinkle under our feet and move in colours and patterns, all powered by the solar energy accumulated throughout the day. This artwork was designed as a sun salutation, and as the colours of the sky reflected on the glass and the lights flickered, the area was lit with a warm glow.
The old town of Zadar has a central church and bell tower, along with some Roman ruins, cobbled streets, and parts of remaining walls used for fortification (commonly found in many of Croatia’s coastal towns and cities). At night the streets in old-town Zadar become alive with buskers and endless tourists that wander from one performance to another, all the while licking their gelato and flashing their best attire. From musicians to magicians, statues that move once you deposit a tip, and cartoonists to realist artists, a night-time stroll to see the lively crowds is a must.
Exhausted from our full day of walking and taking in the sights, our night ended in a heap on our bed. The following day we caught a ferry to Pag, yet another of Croatia’s many islands. With still two islands to write about, I’ll leave these details for the next blog.
Love to all,