croatia · europe · Travel

Croatia 2016: Demanding waterfalls at Plitvice

Day 2 in Zadar.  The weather is…not great.  The sky is a flat grey colour and the wind is howling.  However, we have become quickly aware that Croatia weather is changeable so we make the decision to head up to Plitvice lakes.  When we created our original itinerary, this was a definite, but when we dropped Zagreb (due to ridiculously high one-way car rental fees) we also dropped Plitvice.  But now Mr Fletche has got over yesterday’s traumatic cross-country experience, and can happily negotiate the E65 (which we discover pretty much takes us anywhere we might want to go in Croatia) we decide to take the 90 minute drive.

Preparing breakfast. Without any cutlery apart from a teaspoon
Preparing breakfast. Without any cutlery. Apart from a teaspoon

After a breakfast made of whatever we can create with a teaspoon, served on a flattened-out cardboard biscuit box, we head out.  It’s easier driving out of Zadar than it was driving in yesterday.  It rains almost all the way.  We didn’t think  to pack waterproofs – or anything with sleeves even.  It’s summer!  Who packs waterproofs and long sleeves for a summer holiday?  As we park up at Entrance 2, we look enviously at all those people who did pack waterproofs and long sleeves.  But in true Croatian style, the sun makes an appearance and I no longer look silly striding around in shorts and a vest top.

We purchase our tickets, and a couple of bottles of water (a boring detail which will lead to a mildly amusing tale later on) and I decide to visit the restroom before continuing.  I am encumbered by a scarf, a bag, a hat and a bottle of water.  Squat toilets, with no locks on the door and nowhere to hang anything, are a no-no unless you have both hands free – one for the door and the other to keep yourself balanced and upright, and therefore not rolling around in other people’s pee.  I decide to soldier on.  We cross the bridge, enter the park – and there is a lovely cafe/restaurant with lovely proper sit-down toilets.  I’m very glad I didn’t risk covering myself and my belongings in other people’s pee now.

We’re not sure where we’re going – having not done any research on Plitvice which is very unlike me – so we follow the crowds.  It’s about 11am when we arrive, and it’s not as busy as we feared, although this morning’s weather may be keeping some people away.  We board the little ferry that takes us from “P1” to “P2”.  There is a boat at “P2” which will take us to “P3” – or we can explore the Upper lakes and falls at P2.   The P3 boat leaves every 30 minutes according to our schedule so we hop straight on.  What we don’t realise before we board is that you can only use this P2 – P3 –P2 boat once, so effectively, we’re missing out the Upper Lakes unless we walk all the way round.  See, this is where my obsession for research comes in handy.

Plitvice.png

I’m a bit bored by the boat ride to be honest… we’ve come all this way and all I’ve seen is a few piddling waterfalls at the side of the lake and some admittedly beautifully clear waters.  We embark at P3 into another hospitality area but we’ve come to see great waterfalls!  We study the map to give the impression that we know where we’re heading – we’re taking the 4.5km F Route apparently – and then just follow the signs that say “Great Waterfall”.  And soon we’re winding our way through limestone canyons and there is the sound of rushing water… yay, waterfalls!  And more waterfalls.  And they just keep coming.

At one point I look back across the blue/green waters to see that picture postcard view which led to Plitvice being on my original itinerary.  The sun pokes out every so often, and the drizzle comes every so often.  It’s like holidaying in Wales.  We come to a boardwalk and I think this must be it – we have seen all of the great waterfalls.  And then we turn left and we’re faced with a huge monolith with a bridal veil of water streaming down.  Ah, so this is what they mean by “Great Waterfall”.  It is indeed quite great.  You can feel the spray from 50 feet away – or maybe that’s just the rain.

Great Waterfall
Ah, this is what they mean by “Great Waterfall”…

We start to wind our way back up the hillside to the land-train station at Entrance 1.  It’s a long walk, and quite steep at times, but then you stop and take a breath at one of the many viewpoints and get such a spectacular view of the falls and crystal clear lakes that you forget that your legs are aching, your comfortable shoes are rubbing and you’re craving a lemon and lime Calippo.

Plitvice3Plitvice from above2Plitvice from above

One lemon and lime Calippo later and we’re on the train, bound for where we started.  It’s almost 3pm.  We contemplate walking back down to P1 and doing the Lower Lakes, but we know this will probably take another 1-2 hours.  It’s starting to rain again.  And we want to get back to Zadar in time to book our Kornati trip for tomorrow.  So we decide that the Lower Lakes aren’t going anywhere, and it gives us the perfect excuse to come back again soon to finish what we’ve started.  We pop into the souvenir shop where we end up buying nothing but the unopened bottle of water that I had unthinkingly walked in with.  I didn’t even think to swap it for a cold one out of the fridge.

It’s an uneventful trip back – apart from a warning light flashing on the Fletchemobile #3’s dashboard.  We pull into a service station, where Mr Fletche proceeds to use Google Translate to translate the entire vehicle handbook.  Something to do with oil maybe?  Or water?  Or the temperature?  Anyway, when we turn the engine back on, said light has now gone out.  I am convinced the warning light is simply telling us that there is a faulty warning light (this is my default when it comes to car maintenance – Croatian or otherwise).  The light does not appear again.

3398752_orig
The warning light could have meant any of these… from urbanfantasist.com

 

It’s a quick change and then back down to the Old Town to book tomorrow’s Kornati trip.  I’d tried reserving online with a company before we came to Croatia but they never e-mailed back to confirm so we decide to choose one of the many excursion vendors we had seen near the bridge the evening before.  It’s like a ghost town, empty stands with no people attached.  We locate one of the tourist agencies in town though, and come out clutching our reservations for the next day.  We also come out clutching a 100HRK note in confusion – why do we have change?  We fleetingly contemplate running off with our free 100HRK but we dither long enough for the agent to come running out of the shop and sheepishly apologise for the fact that she was accidently doling out free money.

We head back to Five Wells Square for an Aperol Spritz, and then dinner at Bistro Pizzeria Donat – we’re lured in by a woman promising us a free shot of schnapps that we would probably have got anyway.  The food is ok, but not the best we’ve had so far.  Despite my meticulous research we haven’t eaten in any of the restaurants that were on my recommended list (although Konoba Mario last night was next to the recommended Pet Bunara so this almost counts).  There’s not much of a sunset tonight – what with there being no sun and all that – but it’s still fun to sit on the Riva and relax with a book for a while.  We’re close to the Garden Lounge so it would be rude not to pay another visit.  It’s an earlyish start tomorrow so we make our way back to the apartment.

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