Thursday weather forecasts looked like a possible break in the rain, so we booked ourselves on an excursion though TripAdvisor to Plitviče Lakes, Croatia's oldest and most visited national park, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. When the day arrived it was clear that the break wasn't going to happen - so we dressed for rain, brought our umbrellas, packed a lunch, and set off to our pick-up location. We joined two other couples (one from Pasadena, and one from Toronto) and our Petros tour guide, Matija, in a comfortable van for the 2-hour drive.
During the ride, Matija engaged us by sharing important history on the Balkan countries that made up the former Yugoslavia.
It was clear that he had a lot of pride in his home country of Croatia. We drove through towns that only less that 30 years ago were the center of the Croatian War of Independence - most of the buildings were newly refurbished, but a few were still left in ruins or had obvious bullet holes in them as a reminder of the conflict started by Slobodan Milošović's attempt to impose Serbian rule on the rest of the Balkan states.
Our first stop was a small town called Rastoke where two rivers converge, fueling several water mills, and creating a series of beautiful waterfalls. But this was just a preview of what we would see at Plitviče Lakes.
We jumped back into the van and headed for the National Park. The weather was foggy and damp, which actually had a positive side - the crowds at this place can be oppressive at the height of the season, but today we sometimes had the trails entirely to ourselves. The trails weave through a series of lakes that have been formed by a rare geological process caused by the presence of limestone that dissolves and coagulates - resulting in the creation of a series natural dams as the river flows downhill. The process creates lakes and waterfalls everywhere you look. Our first hike took us on log trails through the lower lakes.
Then we hiked to the upper lakes and stopped for lunch before heading back to the van. The fog and the mist created an other-worldly affect that convinced us that our guide wasn't exaggerating when he said that the place is amazing year-round and in all types of weather.
It was well over a 20,000-step day. We were damp and tired and the van was quiet on the 2-hour ride back. We followed our guide's advice and headed for Restoran Vinodal close by the drop-off point where we splurged for an elegant meal of Croation cuisine with a modern twist before heading back to the apartment on the tram.
We finished the day watching an episode of "House" on TV - thankful that they had left the original audio and used Croatian subtitles!
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Nancy McCabe &