Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

On our third day in Croatia, Ashley and I took a tour to Plitvice Lakes National Park. We woke up at 4:30 am to get to the tour at 5:20 in the morning. We left Split around 5:45. We had been told the tour was from 5:45-9 and would take about 4 hours to drive there and 4 hours to return. Naturally, we assumed this meant that we would arrive around 10 and leave about 5. Little did we know we'd spend almost two hours picking people up at various hotels around Croatia and then drive the 4 hours. That was a little irritating, but once we finally got to the National Park, it was totally worth it. We drove through the town of Sibenik, where the actor who plays Luka Kovac in ER is from. That was kind of cool.

Despite all the picking up of people, the drive was absolutely beautiful. It was along the ocean for a large part of the drive, until we went through a tunnel and suddenly the landscape was green. That was a bit of a strange change in scenery! It was brown and then suddenly 10 minutes later it's completely green. (some of these pictures are from the drive back too).

The tour was in three different languages: English, Russian, and Italian. The tour guides were very nice. I planned to stay awake for the whole ride but I couldn't quite manage it. Luckily we returned the same way so I was still able to see what I'd missed. We arrived at the national park around 11:30. We bought some souvenirs (my usual plate and postcards!) and then started walking through the park. The first thing we see is this amazing panoramic view of a couple of the lakes and some waterfalls.

We then started walking down to the lakes and waterfalls. I cannot even describe, and pictures don't do justice, how incredibly beautiful the water was. It was soooo clear and bright bright blue. The waterfalls were amazing and it was just lake after lake of this amazing water.

Apparently it is also the second most biodiverse location in the world besides the Amazon. There's even a theory that this is where the Garden of Eden was located.

With all of its biodiversity, I saw several animals:

Some ducks

A lot of Fish

A snake (which I learned much later was rather poisonous...)

Two butterflies

And a bug

They were all very exotic.

That woman had the strangest outfit I've ever seen.

The walkway to see everything was very narrow, which lead to near falling and made picture taking a bit difficult, but I of course managed ok. One of the tour guides (Emilija) noticed that I liked to linger behind everyone so I could take pictures and she lingered also so I wouldn't get lost. She said she was a "freak" with pictures too, so she understood. Yes, she called me a freak. Also, it's very easy to get lost in this park so she didn't want me to wander off by myself and lose everyone. So I just kept in sight of her, and then she started pointing out all the bugs, butterflies and cool flowers while we were talking so I could take pictures of them.

We walked along the beautiful lakes and waterfalls and then reached the boat that took us (very slowly) across a lake. There's no swimming or boats allowed in any other lakes. I'm sure that's the reason the lakes manage to stay so amazingly beautiful. There was a bit of a tiff between the tour guides and this group of 15 or so Croatian men (about 25-30 years old.) They cut in between a bunch of people in our group, so one of the tour guides said "Actually, we have to stay together" and the guys told her to shut and wouldn't move. So our tour guide told the guy letting everyone onto the boat and they made the guys wait behind everyone. That made them a bit mad and they yelled in Croatian "THIS WON'T BE THE LAST TIME YOU SEE ME." it was very exciting.

After we crossed the lake in the boat, we continued walking in the park through some more amazing pools, as you can see below.

This pool was the only one that had this color green in the entire park. It was really beautiful.

I wasn't quite ready...
After we wandered through the amazing park, we hiked up a hill to meet the trains to take us back to our bus. The trains/buses were full every time they passed about half our group got down to the buses but then the rest of us got stuck. Apparently you weren't allowed to walk down the hill because you could get hit by the train. We made it down the hill about an hour later. Then they took us to lunch. We had soup, a weird salad with what I think were pickled peppers, and turkey. We then drove back along the Dalmatian Coast at sunset, which was beautiful again. I managed to stay awake this time. I learned that Dalmatian dogs are called Dalmatians because it was believed their spots were the islands in Croatia. All in all, it was a very tiring and long day, but it was totally worth it and sooo beautiful. Our tour guides said they had never seen the park that busy and were worried we wouldn't like it because of the crowds, but it was still beautiful and so well preserved. I didn't even notice the crowds except to try not to be pushed into the water! The next day we wandered around Split a bit more then took the ferry to Hvar!

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