Today was long and eventful, we’ve had everything from a Spanish stranger in our car to a fairytale waterfall.
We were both equally disappointed with Krka earlier in the trip. The waterfall was pretty but it had been ruined by the vast crowds of people there. After seeing photos of Plitvice, we were determined to make sure its beauty wasn’t spoilt by crowds as Krka was. Given that it could well have been busier this wasn’t going to be easy.
The way we got around the crowds at Plitvice was by setting our alarms for 4am (yes on holiday..) and getting out of the door by 5am. We arrived at the park just before 8 but the drive itself was stunning enough to keep us entertained. Beautiful mountain passes snaking over the mountains separating the coast from the belly of Croatia. Heading over the wall of the mountains brought about a whole new ecosystem. The temperature was much cooler, starting at a chilly 9 degrees before rising to 18 later in the afternoon as a pose to 30 on the coastal side of the mountains. Gone were the scrubland sea shores and here were savannah like valley floors with the mountain sides coated in lush forest. The entire drive was made all the more beautiful for doing it as the sun rose above the mountains. They were unlike any other mountains I’ve seen before, like a huge wall, only one mountain deep but stretching as far as the eye could see. As we approached the top before going through a tunnel the wind speed was ridiculously high causing the car to skid out on the motorway.
When we arrived at Plitvice there were people, as expected, but there were no crowds as such. Besides one section we weren’t held up at all and didn’t have to queue for the beautiful lake boat. There was enough solitude that we felt like we were truly exploring the lakes, fully soaking up the waterfalls magic. It really did feel like a fantasy world – to any prospective visitors, get there as early as you can, this is a place best enjoyed alone.
Waterfalls trickled from great heights into enchanting fairy pools of every colour from turquoise to green to blue. Fish of all sizes gathered and gracefully swam around the walkways, inches away from our feet.
The walk was one of the longest we’ve done, yet the four hours hiking passed without us evening noticing. Constantly looking around, absorbing what our eyes were seeing, almost questioning the reality of such a place actually existing. Our visit was over all too quickly, but looking down at the walkways from the entrance gate we could see huge queues and people barely able to move. I imagine that to be some kind of hell on earth. Even if the waterfalls are beautiful, they’re best not enjoyed behind screaming babies and Japanese tourists. In the same way eating caviar with HP sauce kind of just, ruins it. Luckily we’d seen Plitvice unspoilt, so I can walk away with a positive memory engraved in my mind, unlike Krka.
Before heading home we went to see some bat caves about 20 minutes down the road. Despite this it did take us nearly an hour to get there getting hopelessly lost making a minimum of 10 u-turns. When we got there we arrived to find it deserted. Before setting off on a tour with a German couple (the only other people there) a strange old lady shouted at us. She asked if she could have a lift with us to the next town on the way back – I say asked – we had no real way of saying ‘no’ – more on that later.
The tour of the bat caves was interesting. We learnt how animals and people had sheltered here in past times, from cave bears in the Ice Age to soldiers during the Turkish persecution and during WW2. There were some huge, impressive caverns with skeletons found at the bottom. The bats hanging from the ceiling made it only the more eery. At the end of the cave the lights were turned out giving total sensory deprivation with only the sound of dripping water piercing the air. The total absence of light is strange, being able to see absolutely nothing, not even your own hand an inch away from your face. We left the cave glad of making the detour – although worryingly our old-aged-hitchhiker was still waiting for us outside 40 minutes later.
As we drove along the small, winding road we sat in awkward silence with our OAP hitchhiker in the back, making small-talk in broken English. About 5 minutes into the journey there was a police blockade and a police woman waving us over to the side of the road (we later learnt that they were stopping lots of cars due to the Syrian immigrant crisis happening at the time). After seeing a handgun clearly on display of the woman police officer we obviously obliged and moved over to the side of the road, it was quite scary and odd.
As soon as we came to a stop the (apparently) Spanish lady we’d been carrying practically leapt out of the car and said she’d carry on by foot. The police lady wasn’t too happy and when asked for ID our Spanish fugitive had none to produce. Somehow, after a few minutes of argument she was allowed to carry on her way. Why she was so keen to run off as soon as we were pulled over, and who she really was, I doubt we’ll ever know.
Despite Alex only having ID in the form of a student card and a photo of her passport, we too were eventually allowed on our way with no explanation of why we’d been stopped. Further down on the main road were another two police and one army blockade – I still don’t really know what was going on, but can only guess it was to stop the Hungary – Austria migrant trail.
The drive home was long and we were tired. The beautiful mountain views kept me awake and the temperature rose after popping out of the tunnel onto the coastal side of the mountains. All in all the day had been stunning. Total sensory overload from police road blocks to magical waterfalls.
The day was naturally ended with good food and another swim.