We had the amazing privilege to go Croatia this past May. It’s been on our bucket list the last couple of years after seeing photographs of its breathtaking landscape.
It’s funny to see how I’ve changed over the last 10 years. I had always been such a city girl, and my travels had constantly revolved around large cities with their interesting architecture, culture, busyness, and crowds of people, etc. I still have a fascination with culture, and love seeing how people live differently around the world. However, as time passes the appeal of a chaotic, rich and hectic city is lost on me. More and more, my heart feels hungry and thirsty for the beauty and stillness that nature offers, the details found in a natural landscape, and the wild and native flora.
About 130 km south of Zagreb you find Plitvice Lakes National Park close to the Bosnia and Herzegovina border in a mountainous area known as the Dinaric Alps. This mountain chain spans from Italy over Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Albania. We spent 2 and a half glorious days there. We would arrive just before the park would open at 7AM. If you arrive the moment the park opens you have between 1 to 2 hours before people start trickling into the park. By 10AM the tourists arrive by the busloads. The park boasts 1.2 million visitors per year.
Waking up early was so worth it. We had a solid 2 hours of being completely alone to walk the trails before we would start to see other visitors. They have 7 hiking trails ranging from 18km to 3.5km. It’s a fairytale landscape of waterfalls, cascades, chutes, moss covered stones, rich forests, turquoise lakes, and winding rivers. The birds were our only companions and serenaded us each morning with their perfectly crafted songs during our hikes. Over 120 different bird species inhabit the forests of the park. Within the park, 16 pools constantly overflow one into the other, while a wooden narrow boardwalk twists and turns amidst the magnificent beauty allowing travellers to take it all in. The highest waterfall, Vikeli Slap, towers at 70 meters and is drenched in mist.
It reminded me again about the importance of marveling and the constant precious gifts that the earth bestows on us.
We also had the chance to visit Krka National Park (another wonderland of waterfalls and cascades), as well as a few cities like Split, Sibenik, and Zadar.
One of our last evenings was watching the sunset in Zadar. Zadar has what’s called a Sea Organ (Click to here to hear it!). Designed by Nikola Bašić, the sea organ is a set of stone stairs that descend into the sea. What looks like ordinary concrete steps is actually a system of pipes and whistles. As the sea pushes air through the pipes sound escapes—it’s melodic, hypnotic and a marriage between the beauty and force of nature and the artistic ingenuity of man. It’s ever changing depending on the force of the water and the direction of the wind. I mention this as I find it such a striking symbol of what man and nature can create together.
There is so much more to Croatia. We barely scratched the surface. It is truly a jewel with an incredibly rich history and culture, astonishing landscape, a warm people and some pretty delicious gelato (thanks to their Italian neighbors and Mediterranean influence). Hvala Croatia for the gift that you are!!!
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