Monday, September 21, 2009

Destination: Plitvicka Jetzera (Plitvice Lakes) National Park, Croatia

Going to Plitvicka Jetzera National Park almost made up for missing the Grand Tetons.

The drive to the park was entertaining. We encountered some of the windiest conditions that I’ve ever seen. When parked at a tourist info store on a ridge near the park, the car door literally almost blew off when I opened it (it definitely didn't shut fully after that). Many of the visitors to this station were not physically able to walk to their car by themselves.
On the outskirts of the park, the scenery reminded me of the western US. There were old towns with main stores made of wood and lots of farm land. Once inside the park, we saw the amazing ponds which glow bright blue in direct sunlight, due to the fluorescents which naturally occur in the water. Numerous waterfalls connect the ponds. And fish and birds are a frequent site. The water is so clear that it’s possible to see fallen trees up to 30 ft below. Instead of decaying and breaking apart, these trees remain in-tact and take on a white color (possibly due to the fluorescents?). The ends of the fallen trees which remain above water become the home for other plants to grow. All of this occurs in the deep in the middle of a ravine.

On this trip, I learned that “hiking” in Croatia is actually equivalent to the US phrase "taking a Sunday stroll.” At the beginning of the hike, we noticed that we were quite out-of-place in our hiking clothes, especially compared to the women in high heels. All the paths to the ravine were paved or wooded (for those going across water). And trams and ferries transport visitors to the beginning of the walks, ensuring nothing too strenuous. I was slightly disappointed as I was looking forward to some serious hiking.

On this trip, we were lucky enough to be in a small walking group with 3 very cute, Italian soccer players. All in all, a very worthwhile trip.

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