(This is the sixth post of our Croatia-Budapest Trip, June-July 2014.)
Saturday, June 21
In the morning we showered en suite in the tiny, but immaculate shower, packed up (easy to do with half my clothes gone) and thought we’d go up the street to get some baked goods at the bakery the landlady mentioned. And on our way we would take half the luggage. This prompted an outcry in Croatian from the “mother” to the English-speaking daughter. We kept saying “one minute. . . one minute” like she could understand our English. Somehow she and I both thought if we spoke more emphatically in our native language that the other one would understand. This never works, but goes on all the time.
I stood at the front door, checking out the laundry hanging over our heads until the daughter dressed and peered down from her second floor stair landing, where we explained that we’d be right back in a minute and were just going to get some breakfast up the street and drop our luggage at the car. “Okay!” she said, then explained this all to her mother, who then made the universal symbol of “carry on,” a hand gesturing towards the front door. We were free to go.
Luggage stowed, we entered the bakery, the only ones in there, and started looking around. I immediately bought a bunch of the cookies (above) which tasted like those round nutty cookies at Christmastime, but without the annoying powdered sugar all over them. We bought some breakfast-looking breads, then Dave, seeing a loaf with a chunk cut out, wanted some bread. He pointed and asked with his fingers indicating a small bit. By this time, she was tired of us. She took a knife and whacked off a piece, rolling her eyes as she held them out and said “This one or this one?” He chose the small one and we skedaddled. Split is a working town, with little patience for American tourists, we decided. We paid our bill, stowed the rest of our luggage and left town, heading for the A1 going north.
Heading up the A1, we saw this interesting formation: Sveti Rok.
As we got closer, it morphed into this. We continued on, through tunnels and open road until we could stop for gas.
These freeways stops (this one at Gornja Ploca) had all sorts of interesting things to snack on:
I bought this one for my granddaughter because her nickname is KeKe (pronounced like this candy).
Paprika is the national flavor, we decided. We shared a bag once at some random lunch and it tasted like barbeque-flavored chips.
“Taccos.” I love how we come off as Americans.
I finally did buy this one, as I couldn’t resist the title “Big Pep.” (I could use some of these every afternoon about 3 p.m.) After a while, we turned off the A1 onto Highway 52, heading towards the interior, leaving the coast behind.
The landscape in this area is less Mediteranean, more rolling meadows with rivers and lakes.
It was lunchtime, so we stopped at the roadside restaurant/hotel.
Nobody was home, it seemed, but we needed to stretch our legs and after all, all the doors were open. Eventually we were served and after a few more minutes, they brought us these:
We sat outside in the car and enjoyed our lunch (we left the plates there, of course) and then continued on towards Plitvice Lakes National Park.
We decided to begin at the lower section of the park and walk our way to the upper section, following the well-traveled trail, as shown by the map, above. The lower box also shows the changes in elevation, but even after driving all morning after a pitiful night’s sleep, we didn’t find the hours we spent in the park to be strenuous.
We walked in from paying for the tickets (not cheap) and to the overlook, where we saw this sight: Veliki Slap, or Big Waterfall. It’s the tallest in the park. See that line of tourists about halfway up on the left side, all lined up to see this? That’s where we are headed.
The descent is via a sloping, switch-backed path, down through the forested slope.
We have now joined the line up of tourists as only a few can pass around the corner at a time, but we endure.
Okay! We made and got our picture besides, thanks to a skilled visiting tourist who knew how to meter a photo for proper exposure. I hope I did theirs okay, too (a time-honored tradition: trading cameras to take shots of strangers). We headed back up the boardwalk, following the hordes, but thankfully so far, no tour guides carrying flags leading a pack.
The colors are amazing, changing from a jade green to a teal to deep blues. We are happy to be here on a not-rainy day, as we’ve been following the weather forecasts ardently, moving the trip to Plitvice up a day, just in case. We had gorgeous weather on this day.
The park is a series of lakes and waterfalls in between each lake, and near each is a sign like this showing where you are (a little arrow on the right, which is hard to see) and the elevation.
Looking up the canyon.
The boardwalk crosses over one of the lakes, and there was a pathway to head up to the top of the canyon walls, passing by this cave. We decided to head on up the lakes (bypassing this gaggle of tourists). We realize that by arriving at 2 p.m, we were going to hit crowds, but the park is so huge it wasn’t a big problem. But Dave is a blue-sky kind of guy and will press on ahead just so his view is not the backside of multiple tourists, but a more open landscape. By bypassing some groups, he was able to see the natural surroundings that were quite frankly, phenomenal.
We stood here and took about five shots each of this, tilting our cameras this way and that for the exposure in order to get the blue below and the jade above.
Seeing Dave’s backpack was often my view as he kept pressing on. . . and I kept stopping. (However, the photographs on this blog were taken by both of us.) I did catch him once and got him to pause enough for the next two photos.
At one point the trail led up into the forested landscape, where I found some dainty wildflowers. We were headed to Jezero Kozjak, a big lake central to the park, where we would catch a boat ride to the next part of the trail.
View from the front of the boat, where we sat.
Another boat passed us going the other direction. Our tickets could only be used for one boat ride, otherwise I might have been tempted to get on another going the other way, and then another taking us to where we were now headed: towards those little set of falls, straight ahead of us (below).
A panoramic photo of the lake. The lake was serene, the day was not hot, but warm, the crowd on the boat was relaxed and soon scattered as we reached the dock. Most of the time I felt like Dave and I were in our own little world, being English speakers in a foreign country. We could sit at tables close by our neighbors at dinner but since we couldn’t understand them (and we assumed that they couldn’t understand us), a cushion enveloped us as we traveled where we didn’t speak the language. And it had the added benefit of creating a deeper bond between Dave and I.
The first few days in Croatia, we would walk side by side and not speak to each other. It wasn’t because we were angry or anything, it was that we were just out of practice.
At home we would spent most of our days in our own “caves:” he doing his work and me doing mine, and then after dinner I’d head up to my study to grade or even get a few minutes of quilting in, and he’d stay downstairs and read, grade or watch TV. Parallel lives that were now blending into one life: that of a middle-aged couple on the road together, creating memories and sharing experiences.
The ferry landed on the left side of an inlet, and we stayed on, as it crossed over and dropped us off on what looked to be an island, although we knew it just the other side of the lakes. As it turned out, we went backwards from everyone else. Fine by us.
As we walked along this path, a large group, complete with parents pushing baby strollers, came walking towards us. One older man detached himself from the group and went ambling off to my right, in between the trees. Usually good tourists keep to the trail, so I realized he was after something else. Sure enough, he stopped, looked at his group, unzipped his trousers and took Nature’s call. Unfortunately, he didn’t look DOWN the trail, so Dave and I caught the full visual image. We focused our gaze back to the left to see others in the group looking over at him, shaking their heads, smirking. We were smirking, too. Some things cross all language barriers.
The group passed us by and the trail changed to boardwalk, as it was headed over marshy land at the edge of the next little series of lakes. There are twelve in this upper section, but by taking the path we did, we would only see about half of them.
Because we live in a dry, quasi-desert country, all this water is amazing. Gallons and gallons and gallons falling over moss-covered embankments. We loved the sound and so took more videos here than any other place on our trip.
After a while the water splashing on this rock began to remind me of hail, the fat drops of water scattering and chattering over the surface of the water. I could hardly tear myself away, but we still had much to go and the light was changing, indicating late afternoon sun.
Dave snapped this blue little insect in mid-flight. Still can’t tell if it is a flying buzzing thing, or a tiny butterfly. I think the former.
Even the lichen on the bark is beautiful here. We won’t see such things in our neck of the woods.
This path leads back to the boat dock, where we will take a short ferry across and then up to the trams to carry us back to the beginning.
We board the ferry to cross over to the other side of this narrow part of the lake.
And head up the path to the trams, which we think will carry us back to the beginning. We start chatting with a couple next to us, waiting on the bench. They are from Russia and he is a photographer, carrying a tripod and bag of gear. Their English is pretty good (our Russian is non-existent) and we chat to each other. Of course, we are dying to get their views on the Russian takeover of Crimea–a real first-hand viewpoint, but I don’t think it’s polite to grill your benchmates on politics, so we talk about places they’ve been, places they liked a lot (many in the US). The tram comes and they board the first car and we board the second.
The tram takes us about halfway down the canyon, near the hotels onsite, and drops us off. We have a bit of a walk, and it’s late afternoon and we’re a bit tired. So we are passed a lot by faster-moving younger people, but we still manage to stop at most of the viewpoints, to look down on where we’ve been.
I wonder if the larger lake at the top of this photo is where the boat crosses.
The boardwalk that crosses the lower lakes, just above the Big Waterall. There are steps from this vantage point down to the hidden cave. No way I’m doing that, and I think Dave feels the same. We still have to find our hotel, find dinner, and get settled before we can call it a day.
Our final view of the canyon. The Russian couple kept our pace, and we saw them again at the big sign at the entrance, where he took our photo (below).
Next up: House Tina and a real, home-grilled dinner