Croatia / Travels

Plitvice Lakes

Our bus got into Jezerce, by the National Park, quite late in the day. The map had indicated it was about a fifteen minute walk to our pension, but I hadn’t realised this was along what’s basically a highway without a footpath. It was also about 7pm and getting dark, and the information we’d read about bears in the national park was definitely playing on my mind! Fortunately though, due to the isolated location and time of day, there was hardly any traffic, and we trudged our way up the road to the cluster of pensions which make up about half of the tiny village known as Jezerce.

The individual pensions and B&Bs were not very well signed, and in the encroaching darkness it was difficult to make out house numbers with the limited street light. We found our place though, although were immediately dismayed to discover the landlords spoke absolutely no English. This frustrated me as the listing specified “yes, we speak English!” The elderly couple spoke German though, something we latched onto because we each understood and could speak more German than Croatian! After having something of a discussion with them, Andre established they were looking after the place for their daughter, and I’m assuming she’s the one who speaks English.

They showed us to our room, which was very dated but huge and comfortable. We had bought a few items for breakfast the next day at a supermarket earlier in the day. Not expecting a kitchen of any kind we bought things that didn’t need refrigeration, but we did buy small bottles of juice which we ended up putting out on the balcony once we realised how cold it would get overnight. They were nicely chilled by the next morning!

It was about a half hour walk up to the national park entrance, but Andre decided to ask if perhaps the landlord could give us a lift up there. He was most obliging, and when he dropped us off he gave us his phone number and said to call us once we were done at the end of the day and he’d pick us up again. It’s amazing how much we could communicate with his German and Andre’s Afrikaans (plus the limited German we’d picked up travelling in Germany)! It was very stilted and mostly 2 or 3 word sentences, but it got the job done. The joys of international travel!

The Plitvice Lakes were not quite what I had expected, especially because of the time of year, I think. Rather than lush green forest around sparkling turquoise pools and waterfalls, many trees were turning incredible shades of red, orange and yellow, while some were already bare. It was still a beautiful sight, though.

According to Wikipedia:

The national park is world-famous for its lakes arranged in cascades. Currently, 16 lakes can be seen from the surface. These lakes are a result of the confluence of several small rivers and subterranean karst rivers. The lakes are all interconnected and follow the water flow. They are separated by natural dams of travertine, which is deposited by the action of moss, algae, and bacteria. The particularly sensitive travertine barriers are the result of an interplay between water, air and plants. The encrusted plants and bacteria accumulate on top of each other, forming travertine barriers which grow at the rate of about 1 cm (0.4 in) per year.

The sixteen lakes are separated into an upper and lower cluster formed by runoff from the mountains, descending from an altitude of 636 to 503 m over a distance of some eight km, aligned in a south-north direction. The lakes collectively cover an area of about two square kilometres, with the water exiting from the lowest lake forming the Korana River.

The lakes are renowned for their distinctive colors, ranging from azure to green, grey or blue. The colors change constantly depending on the quantity of minerals or organisms in the water and the angle of sunlight.

We spent the whole day following the footpaths and boardwalks around the creeks and lakes. There was one cafe open (off-season) where everyone in the park converged for lunch (food wasn’t too bad), and we also took a ferry ride on the main lake. In the evening we had dinner at one of the on-site hotel restaurants – I think it was perhaps the only one open, given it was the off-season, and even it had only a few other diners. The food was good though, and Andre called our landlord quite successfully to request a pick-up!

The next morning was time for us to leave. We had already looked up buses and found a timetable but were unfortunately unable to book tickets online. This was a little unnerving, as the bus stop was really just a bus stop and not a depot or anything like that. Our landlord very helpfully gave us a lift down to the bus stop, and we noticed across the road that there was a little information shack. Thinking perhaps we could buy tickets there, Andre went across to ask. They told us we just had to buy tickets once on the bus, so we waited with trepidation hoping it wasn’t full, as we really had to get this bus in order to catch a train once we arrived in Zagreb. It was reassuring when other people turned up to wait for the same bus, so we knew we were definitely in the right spot!

Well the bus was a little late, but it turned up and had plenty of space available, and we had a reasonably pleasant trip up to Zagreb.


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