Plitvice Lakes National Park (23 – 24 May 2013)
The bus from Zagreb to the Plitvice Lakes National Park was pleasant but E and I were not entirely in high spirits because we knew that it was cold outside. Furthermore, the weather forecast for the 2 days we were going to be at the lakes did not look promising at all.
We had booked rooms at the Javorina House. This was located along the highway somewhere close to Entrance 2 of the national park. Note that I did not say “close”, but “somewhere close”. It is within walking distance to the entrance if one is willing to walk at least 30 min. The most unnerving part of the walk was along the, I might add narrow, highway itself. There is no pavement. So for a few hundred metres we had to watch our side all the time. After crossing the village called Mukinje, it is a pleasant stroll through the woods to get to the lakes.
Based on reviews, and this map app that E had introduced me to, we knew that we had to stop at the Mukinje bus stop since this was the nearest to our accommodations. At the bus stop near Entrance 1, a lady came by and started questioning everyone who remained on board where we were going. I told her that we were going to Mukinje. She was probably just making sure that no one got lost but she behaved as if I did not know what I was doing by wanting to get off at that stop. She asked me what I wanted to go there for and whether I had rooms booked there. Well I know that Mukinje is in the middle of nowhere. Even Entrance 1 looked like in the middle of nowhere. Might I be trying to spite myself by getting myself hopelessly lost in the middle of nowhere in a foreign land?
E had some issue with the walk to the lakes from the House. I did not think that it was because of the walk since she was athletic, but it had everything to do with the fact that it was in the middle of nowhere. Well, I did not choose the place. My initial choice was somewhere closer to the lakes and I did remind her that Javorina was some distance away from the entrance. However I really did not have very much to complain about. It was not ideal but it was not all bad.
A 2-day pass to the national park cost a whopping 180 kn. A 1-day pass cost 110 kuna. E was not too pleased to have to pay the higher price since she had already decided in Zagreb that the lakes could be done as a day trip from Zagreb. Much of the time I wondered if I should be feeling guilty for making her spend 2 cold rainy days at the lakes with me. However my plan had always been to spend 2 days at the lakes to enjoy nature for a bit and E had chosen to tag along on the Croatian part of my journey.
I would of course also find out that visitors staying at the hotels within national park grounds only had to buy a 1-day pass even if they were visiting for more than a day.
There was rain that first day, and the ground was littered with puddles, and it was cold. E and I refused to waste our time there and decided to walk as much as possible to keep warm. We were disappointed about the weather mostly. The scenery around us did not look very amazing either and the lakes were a cold heartless grey. We kept our fingers crossed that things would pick the next day.
The national park is located in a mountainous karst area and consists of a series of lakes arranged in cascades and surrounded by forests. The lakes were separated from each other by natural dams formed from travertine deposited by the action of moss, algae and bacteria and their waters flowed downhill like the lakes were all part of a wide river in the karst valley. So the lakes were formed much like how reservoirs would form behind dams built across rivers, except that of course no home was drowned here. The waters of the lakes displayed different colours depending on light angles and mineral and organism quantities. I would not call the lakes spectacular but they could be quite pretty at places.
If the first day was bad then the second day was abysmal. It poured much of the time. It was as if all the water in the national park had all at once decided to do a water cycle demonstration that day. And of course it got really cold. Wet and cold, a wonderful combination.
After walking for a while and getting totally drenched, E and I decided to seek shelter at Entrance 1. There was a cafe there and we thought that we could warm ourselves in there and maybe get something to eat or drink. It was practically lunchtime anyway. But of course every other visitor at the park had the same idea as us. After wandering about the area trying to get fed, and finding that the crowd was just impossible, we gave up. The rain was also not letting up. We decided then that that was the end of our day and we should try to head back towards our accommodations. There was a hotel nearby and maybe we could get lunch there.
We got to the hotel and by then it was way past lunchtime and we were practically the only ones there trying to get fed. Fortunately the restaurant was still serving. It was a good lunch, but we were not in the best of moods to enjoy our food much. Our bodies and clothes were drenched and so were our spirits. We were going to wait till the rain let up more and then we would make our way back to our accommodations.
And then in the later part of the afternoon, a miracle happened. The sun came out! It was as if the most amazing thing in our lives had just happened to us and we left the hotel in a flash to enjoy the sunny weather, fearful that the sun would disappear again before we could make the most of it.
We went off to enjoy the park and even revisited the sights that we thought were the best since they would look even better in sunlight. The lakes definitely looked much prettier with sunshine and I would say that they were not worth visiting in bad weather at all. It is amazing what the sun can do to a person’s spirits too as E and I both felt much happier.
Nearer the end of the day, we decided to visit the part of the Upper Lakes that we had not been to. This was in the area just across the lake at Entrance 2 and was easily accessible with the free boat ride covered by the entrance ticket. However, the free transport in the park end service at around 6 pm. Nevertheless, since the days were long in May, and E and I were capable of walking the long way around the lake to get out of the national park, we went ahead with our plan.
This last portion of our visit turned out to be a godsend. It was as if God had taken pity on us for our suffering in those 2 days and had decided to reward us with what must be the most beautiful part of the national park. The lakes stopped looking like lakes but a series of small ponds with water cascading into each other. We walked on the usual wooden walkways along travertine dams and brushed shoulders with sloshing cascades and even waterfalls. The area was intimate and cosy and in the evening sun looked absolutely gorgeous. To add icing on our gorgeous cake, we had the whole place all to ourselves! I kept imagining building a cottage right in the middle of the ponds and living there. If I could make all the tourists stay away it might be a wonderful place to live in.
I wish we had more time to explore the area but as the sky got darker we had to start heading back to the warmth of our rooms. We almost could not find our way to the main road within the park and I got a little worried. I was in fact preparing myself mentally to stay overnight by the lakes if we could not find our way out. E and I were talking about the animals that lived in the park. I think they have bears there.
But in the end, we found our way out of the park, in the dark, and so ended our mostly wet adventures in Plitvice Lakes National Park.