Plitvice Lakes (Plitvicka Jezera) is one of those places that really does deserve the ‘natural wonder’ epithet. As you walk along the easy to navigate boardwalk, just when you think that it can’t get any better than this, it does!
The pic above was one of the first vistas that greeted me as I left the ticket office at Entrance One. This walk takes you around to Veliki Slap (Large Waterfall) impressive in its own right, but what makes this place so mesmerising is the sheer number of falls each one more magnificent than the last.
The day was made all the more enjoyable by some good company (Canadian, Spanish & Welsh fellow Falling Lakes Hostel guests), great conversation and the opportunity to spend some time trying to capture some the natural beauty on the old Fujifilm XT10 (the results of which can be found by clicking on the image below).
The pics go some way to capture the beauty and you can find out more about the park online, but as always this is a far cry from the lived experience of a visit.
I stayed at Falling Lakes. A top quality hostel in the nearby village of Korenica. We were some of the first guests for the season with the hostel having only just started taking guests a couple of days before I arrived. Boris and his father made us feel so welcome, it felt like staying with friends. I chatted with Boris on the first evening, trying to describe the feelings evoked by my first sightings of evidence of the recent war. I’d noticed numerous houses lining the roads along the drive out of Karlovac pockmarked with bullet and shrapnel damage and we the bus had also passed the Turanj Military Complex museum. Boris explained that this area has had a long history of cultural, social and military turmoil. As we chatted this turmoil became quite personal. Boris (in his early 30s) and his family fled to Germany from nearby Sarajevo when he was a teenager and subsequently settled in Canada. A few years ago he and his sister had decided to return to land of their birth and set up the Hostel (much to his father’s initial vexation). The hostel now hosts about 5000 guests each year and seems to me to be a beaut story of triumph in the face of great adversity.
This part of Croatia seems to epitomise the cultural struggles of the broader Balkan region. In almost every century since the 15th, the area around the Lakes has been the stage for some significant moments in history story of the Balkan region. Most recently the Korenica is regarded as the site of the first shots fired in the 1990s war of independence. On Easter Sunday in 1991, Josip Jović, a Croatian Police Officer was shot and killed by the Serb Paramilitary outside the Post Office building (just around the corner from the Hostel).
As much as I was impacted by the natural wonder of Plitvicka Jezera National Park, the brief time spent with Boris and his dad left a lasting impression of the strength of the human spirit, both to destroy and to overcome.