Plitvice Lakes

T: Sorry! We have been busy (traveling) so we are REALLY far behind on the blog! Don’t get confused – we are currently in India! Be prepared for your inbox to be flooded during the next week as we catchup! 

Friday, Dec. 20, 2013

We were dropped off in the tiny village of Rakovica, and since we didn’t know where we were going, started searching for our UK cellie to call the host and let her know we had arrived. Before we could even get the phone out of our bag, the hosts’ son showed up and offered us a ride to the house.

Holy crap, these people are good. He led us to our room with en suite bathroom and then brought us tea and coffee.

It’s definitely slow season so we had the entire floor to ourselves, making the €35 euro nightly rate even sweeter.

We settled in and since it was a beautiful day, decided to catch the last of daylight. We made the 500 meter walk up the hillside to a pretty viewpoint looking down on the tiny town.

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On the way back to the house we stopped at the only supermarket in town and picked up whatever we could find to create something for dinner.

Our host Marijana greeted us upon our arrival back home. She was an absolute sweetheart and quickly brought us up a half bottle of merlot and welcomed us into her home. We arranged plans for the following day regarding when we would be going to Plitvice Lakes National Park.

The night passed quickly as we enjoyed just hanging out without the self-inflicted pressure of feeling like we needed to be somewhere or do something.

Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013

By 8:15 a.m. we were out the door and on our way to Plitvice Lakes National Park. The drive was only 15 minutes. We paid the 40 kuna entrance fee to the park and got espresso before descending down the pathway.

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The sun was hiding, which was unfortunate but during this season we were just excited to not be spending the day walking around in the rain. Immediately we were treated with a peak at what we would be exploring the remainder of the day.

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Only the Veliki Slap (Big Waterfall) and lower lakes were open for us to explore. The remainder of the park, although absolutely gorgeous I am sure at any time of year, are not open during the low season. The third lake is massive and to include it on a day trip, visitors shave time by taking a ferry to avoid the long winding walks that would otherwise takes hours.

We weren’t exactly bothered by the fact that the majority of the park was closed. The place is absolutely incredible and magical.

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The weather wasn’t fantastic and the recent snow left freezer burned foliage, but still the place is absolutely gorgeous.

The water is clear, tinted turquoise and the depths of the lake a mysterious royal blue. Rickety slippery wooden pathways lead visitors to the various viewpoints, waterfalls and lakes. The entire park feels like a sci-phi futuristic fern-gully inspired dream. The place is absolutely crazy and I thought this could easily be my new favorite place on earth.

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James seemed unimpressed with the weather, but was happily reunited and preoccupied with his GoPro. We explored the first lake for probably too long before realizing there was much more that the park has to offer. We went to the Big Waterfall before climbing the snow covered stone steps to the Vidikovac viewpoint.

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Pictures don’t do the place justice. You need to be there to believe it (Mom, that means you).

We were unaccompanied for a few hours before groups of tourists came parading down the walkways, so we picked up the pace to avoid unwanted tango sessions on the narrow walkways.

I can’t imagine being there when there are thousands of visitors crammed on the walkways forced to match the speed of the tourist ahead of them. For James’ sake, I was quite happy to be there in the off-season where we had the freedom to explore as quickly or as slowly as we pleased.

We made our way to the second lake and then came up to the point where we were told to turn back due to the closure of the rest of the park. Without a physical barrier to stop us, we decided at 12:30 p.m. we would try to explore further on our own. We made the walk along the third lake for a good hour and a half before deciding realistically we only had an hour of daylight to explore further.

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The empty amber forest was decorated with leftover snow and James and I peacefully cruised through the endless forest. By 2 p.m. we had barely moved a millimeter on the park map, making it seem pretty irresponsible of us to carry on into the darkness. Besides, I didn’t exactly feel like being served up for a bobcat’s dinner. So we turned back and made the hour and half walk toward the main entrance where we retraced our favorite steps.

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Just before heading back up to the entrance to call it a day, we decided to hurdle the barrier of a closed off a section that lead below the big waterfall.

The trail down was flooded and the steep pathway quickly descended, paralleling incredible waterfalls.

A massive hole had us pause and consider whether this was too stupid of an idea to continue. Due to the flooding, a tree that previously served as the support to the trail we were using had disappeared. We looked at it, put a toe down to test it, and then decided to quickly jump over the hole and carry on down the path.

Thank the park lords we did, because at the bottom this is the view we received.

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We scurried back up the broken path and by 4:15 p.m. we were on our way back to our home.

The little supermarket saw us again later that evening.

The perfect day was finished off by watching the Cougs bowl game. Besides the pirate-like annoying UW announcer (coug -awwww-ers) and the last two minutes of the game even upset me. Naturally, James was boiling livid, so I quietly snuck off to bed to avoid the storm brewing in the living room that hopefully would be a bit calmer in the morning.

Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013

While James was still pissed off at his Cougs, I was pumped and preoccupied about visiting Rastoke.

Rastoke – never heard of it?

Well, up until our little bus ride from Zagreb to Rakovica two days prior – neither had I. Thankfully ADHD means that while I pretend to write blogs on our many bus journeys, I really just stare out the window (always expanding our travel list as I throw in requests to backtrack).

I’m not sure how I did not know this place exists. We passed Rastoke on the bus and nobody seemed to bat their pretty little Croatian lashes, but it looks like a scene straight out of The Hobbit.

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Cute wooden pathways and bridges link tiny little cottages atop lush green islands. I feel like little red-riding hood should live here (but the wolf grandma would be nice).

Still focused on the last 120 seconds of the game, James indifferently agreed and our adorable wonderful host Marijana dropped us 20 minutes down the road in Rastoke. We headed into a random (and the only) cafe to get some fuel before zipping around the place.

The best espresso in my lifetime (I worked at about seven coffee shops in my lifetime, one of them being the green mermaid you all love to hate) was found at this random place.

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We ordered up a second round and it’s now safe to say the benefits of the two week juice detox were officially gone.

The kind bartender allowed our bags to occupy the corner of the bar while we ran around across the many bridges and tiny pathways tangled up in the tiny village.

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After an hour of exploring we made the 500 meter uphill walk with our packs to Salunj and waited patiently and hopefully on the side of the road for the only bus of the day to stop and take us to Zadar.

Of course, exactly one minute early, the bus came and too easily we grabbed seats.

About Tarynne Mingione

Registered Dietitian (RD, CD), Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT 200)
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