Monday, May 28, 2012

Slap-happy at Pltivice Lakes

This weekend we splurged on a tour of  Plitvice Lakes, one of Croatia's finest national parks. The tour set us back $94 each for transportation, park admission, a guided tour, breakfast, and lunch.

A shuttle picked us up at our apartment at 8:20am (ouch!) and we were on our way! Our crew consisted of 13 tourists from Spain, France, India, England, Croatia, and Ukraine. Djana, our marvelous tour guide, repeated all of her commentary in Croatian, English, French, and Spanish -- we were impressed!

Since we normally wake up around noon (10:30 on a good day), most of the 90-mile bus ride was spent napping. But, I did manage to capture a shot of the bucolic Croatian countryside:

Does anyone else see this and think Windows XP?
As we entered the park, Djana made sure to point out all of the signage regarding rules and regulations. No fishing, no campfires, and no dance parties?

Dance parties are strictly prohibited.
Plitvice Lakes consists of a series of 16 lakes (jezera), interconnected by waterfalls (slap). It was declared a national park in 1949 and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. The park is nothing short of spectacular. Here are some of our favorite pictures of the lakes and waterfalls.

Jim at Veliki Slap, the biggest waterfall.
Part of the fun is wandering along the wooden walkways, which meander across the lakes, above the falls, and into the forest. I can't imagine trying to navigate these paths during the high season -- dozens of people must fall into the lakes!

One big disadvantage of tour groups is that you're forced to stick to a schedule. Our guide kept us walking for 5 hours straight, with only a stop for breakfast. Unfortunately, this meant that we were forced to snap a mad flurry of pictures as we went along. My favorite shot was taken as we were exiting the park:

Can you see the trail of people heading down the walkway?
On our way back to Zadar, we stopped at a local restaurant for lunch and a hard-earned beer. Little did we know that the biggest surprise of the day was waiting for us just outside the restaurant...

Our new Croatian friends... meet Med and Vjed!
Djana told us that the restaurant owner was an avid hunter who'd "found" the bear cubs abandoned in the wild. Being a kind, animal-loving man, he adopted the cubs and put them on display outside of his restaurant.