Day Thirteen – Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

This was an early day today, but I was so sad that we were leaving Slovenia that I woke up extra early so I could go find a cafe and a real coffee. That is one of the things that this trip did not have. A lot of real Americano coffee. So we headed out to see what we could find.

Low and behold, we went to the cutest hipster cafe. They were bright yellow and had homemade chocolate croissants and real coffee. I wanted to cry! They were a tiny hole in the wall place. But the funnest thing about this cafe, is they had a foam globe on their counter, and they recognized our accents, and asked us to sign their globe with our home country beside our names. How fun! We will be memorialized forever!

We returned to the hotel to eat our breakfast and decided to go to the room where our provided breakfast was to eat with our tour mates. We when we saw what the provided breakfast was, we were glad we ventured out to find better food! It was sandwich meat and some yogurt. Definitely ours was a better breakfast.

From there we all got on the bus to head out for Plitvice Lakes Croatia. We were all excited to go, but first it was a four hour bus ride. On the way to Plitvice lakes ( at 11 am) we stopped for lunch. Our tour guide apologized for the early lunch but wanted us to have as much time as possible in the parks. She told us that we had a short half an hour lunch and to make sure that we were all on the bus in half an hour or she would leave.

This lunch stop was one of the more rustic stops we had. It was an old wood building and a gas station. We scooped out the gas station first, it was a little gas station with a small selection of snacks. Next we tried the cafeteria style restaurant. From there we found a choice of soups and sandwiches. We all decided to try the soup, since it seemed the best value at $7 for soup and a slice of bread. All of us rushed back to the bus after our lunches, not wanting to be left behind and excited to get to Plitvice Lakes. Only we were missing two tour mates.

The two youngest members of our tour were missing. They had mentioned they wanted to go for a walk, but now that it was time to go they were no where to be seen. Our tour guide got really nervous. No one wants to leave someone behind, but the rules were if your late you miss the bus. Your tour guide decided to scout out the surrounding areas on foot looking for them, 25 minutes later, she found them and was bringing them back to the bus. Apparently they were in an empty resort taking selfies. All of us on the bus were pretty mad. Lesson learned, when you are on a tour, don’t make your tour mates wait. No one wins.

Back on the road, its an hour ride to Plitvice Lakes. This area is very wooded compared to everywhere else we have been on our tour. The houses are smaller here. And most of them still have bullet holes that show. There are lots of signs on the way for hotels you can stay at to see the lakes, however, they are still. Good 45 drive too the lakes, so I can see why we stayed where we did.

We pulled into our hotel to check in, and was not sure what to expect, as we were told that this was the most rustic hotel of the tour with nothing around except the lakes. They were not exaggerating. There was nothing around, which was nice. We were literally on the path that leads to one of the parks entrances each room has a balcony over looking trees and woods. After checking in we were given our park passes and let loose.

So to save time we jumped onto one of the shuttle buses the park provides, which leave every 15 minutes, to get to the trails inside the park. We were on one of these with a bunch of our tour mates and we got out at the top of a wooden set of stairs that seemed to. Just lead into a camp ground. There were bathrooms, picnic tables and a bunch of facilities that you needed to walk through to get to the trail. The trail was a wood boarded path, and it quickly became apparent why as the woods slipped away to a swampy area.

It was really cool to be on a boardwalk surrounded by reeds and grasses that clear out to crystal clear water with small fish and frogs in the water. There were birds and dragonflies all around. It was serene to walk into after being on a bus all day. The group quickly fell apart after the swamp as the trail went back into the woods and crossed over bubbling brooks and along cliffs.

Some of our tour mates would power walk ahead, wanting to cover as much ground as possible. Others would walk lowering enjoying the scenery. Some took photos every two steps. Some just enjoyed nature. This place is magical. Everything is green, and there is water falling and bubbling all over the place. In the park there are 16 major waterfalls.

In the trail close to our hotel, there are the upper waterfalls and the lower waterfalls. It is easier walking/access by far to start at the top then tour the bottom. You can reach the lower waterfalls by a fairy ride to the other trail. However most of the tour groups do the top trail first, so we had to navigate around large tour groups.

We had about 4 hours in the park until it would close/ until a major rain storm was expected to come our way. We could easily have spent two days here. We instead hustled and tried hard to see both set of trails.

The amazing/ challenging part of this trail, is that every two steps you go, you see something you need to take a photo of.

Near the end of the trail, we finally got to the walkway that every one imagines when they think of these parks. However it was starting to spit, and there was thunder rolling in the distance. We had hoped that we would be able to capture the essential bridge photo. However there was no time. Our new goal became, get to our hotel, before we were struck by lightening/ missed the last bus home. It was a struggle. We  decided to skip the bat cave, as we weren’t sure how the bats would behave with thunder, and we weren’t sure how slippery it would be with water on the rocks.

Instead we had a steep climb. This is after 4 hours of walking up and down hills in the park, so we were pretty tired by this point. But we knew we had 15 minutes to get up that hill before we missed the last bus to our hotel and would have to walk to find our hotel.

Walking up the hill we found a bunch of our tour mates, all trying to catch the same bus. As we reached the top of the hill and saw the bus stop we were happy to see a group of people waiting at the bus stop and a bus coming down the road. That meant that we were definitely going to catch the last bus, which made us so happy.

As we were climbing into the bus, the wind started picking up and the rain started coming down. It looked like we would be getting a large summer storm.

The bus dropped us off where we originally jumped onto the bus, and we ran to the hotel. Then came the question.. how to dress for dinner. The bathroom in our room was fairly small, so it didn’t seem worth it to try to fight with the shower. Plus it was raining out side, so it wasn’t like we wanted to dress up only to get rained out. So casual clothes it is.

We had dinner in the hotel next door. The meal was included as part of our tour. It was ok, but defiantly it was the low priced meal that this hotel offered. It was weird they gave us a lettuce salad with no dressing and no toppings. We had to bug them for some olive oil.

Since it was a rainy night in the middle of a natural park, we gathered in the lobby to have some drinks and play a game of heads up! It was so much fun that the other tour that was at the hotel, kept trying to join our game. But since it was our 2nd last night on tour, we were not too interested in letting them in to play. We played a lot of rounds until hotel staff pretty much kicked us out of our lobby to go to our rooms.

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