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Lake Bled - Plitvice National Park

Back into Croatia

sunny

Today is Homer's Birthday! Happy birthday to our sweet, funny, flamboyant friend Homie.

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Just as we are leaving Bled, I spot a bird that grabs my interest – not sure what it is, and I have the completely wrong lens on to photograph it, but I still have a go. I later find that it is a European Black Redstart, which is a new species to me.

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We set off in our Opel Corsa while Homer and Eddie are in their hired Fiat 500. With too much luggage between the four of us, it was more sensible to have two cars, especially as they are continuing their journey after we go home. We agree to meet at the next hotel.

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Today we are crossing back into Croatia, a process which is smooth and painless.

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The main excitement is that I spot another “new” bird at the border, the Crested Lark.

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It is motorway driving most of the way, and although we did start off by driving in a ”convoy”, we soon lose each other in traffic. So what are the chances that they pull up just after us in one of the many service stations?

We enjoy a glass of lemonade with freshly squeezed strawberry juice and an apple cake stuffed with cheese. Love their service stations here – everything is so clean and food to make a gourmet restaurant proud.

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Plitvice

The hotel in Plitvice is the only large sized accommodation we have on this trip. My first highlight is spotting a cute bird just by the entrance to the hotel. I initially think it is a Black Redtsart like the one I saw in Bled, but it turns out to be a Common Redstart. Another one for the life list.

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Hotel Plitvice
The hotel is a complete time warp from the 1960; bright, airy and open plan complete with marble, highly polished wood and minimalistic furniture. Although it is in need of some TLC in places, I love it!

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I love it even more when we are upgraded to a suite!

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Great view from the room too, of one of the many waterfalls the National Park is famous for.

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Not sure about their idea of what happens in a toilet though. Most people like to do their business in solitary confinement, not sitting around a table.

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We grab a coffee then head for the National Park.

Plitvice Lakes National Park

When the park was founded in 1949 it was one of the first national parks in this area, and a group of specially selected people sat down to discuss how to make the park work best for tourism and nature. I have to say, they have JUST the right balance in terms of facilities for tourists (over a million visitors a year) while trying to retain the pristine quality of the nature. In 1979, Plitvice Lakes National Park was added to the UNESCO World Heritage register. A well deserved entry.

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From the entrance right by our hotel, 214 steps lead down to one of the 16 lakes. From here we have a number of options how to continue. We choose to take a boat across the lake and change into another boat to travel further to another part of the park.

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The journey across the lake is beautiful, with many small cascades tumbling into the turquoise waters of the lake.

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At the jetty we start our walk up through the forest on a clearly defined path. I am not sure what I expected but I am initially a little disappointed that we don't see many waterfalls. The colour of the lake is stunning though. The colour changes constantly depending on the quantity of minerals or organisms in the water and the angle of sunlight, from azure to green, grey or blue.

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Soon the gravel path changes into a boardwalk in amongst the reeds and over the azure lake. Still no waterfalls though.

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By this stage I am beginning to worry that we are on the wrong path and won't be seeing any waterfalls. I ask someone coming the opposite direction: “Is this the way to the falls?” Her reply of “I don't know” doesn't exactly inspire me, neither does her partner's vague comment “There are some...”

Finally, a waterfall. Well, more like a gentle cascade. But it is water, and it is falling. OK, maybe more like tumbling than falling, but it is definitely water. I get excited.

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The path takes a turn and we start heading over the cascades and down towards the lower lakes. We see more and more waterfalls with higher and higher drops. Now we're talking!

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By this stage there are a lot of tourists on the board walks, making it very hard to set up a tripod to get timed shots. I would hate to see it in the busy season.

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The water is not only a stunning hue of blue or green, it is also incredibly clean, with great visibility and full of fish.

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The path follows the shoreline for a while, before continuing down more steps, right alongside bubbling cascades. This place is amazing!

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In the picture below, you can see where the path runs so close to the water (top left), without any hand rail or safety barrier, which greatly improves the aesthetics of the place. With my knee still playing up big time – it does not like all these steps – and my ankle still being quite sore and delicate, I am so pleased I borrowed my dad's walking stick for this trip. I really don't think I could have done today's hike without it!

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Setting up the tripod on the boardwalk for a long exposure (to make the waterfall look milky) is proving very hit and miss. I have to make sure I have a full 30 seconds before someone else walks on the boardwalk, as that makes it wobble slightly – enough to make my photo blurry and out of focus.

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When I lose one of the rubber feet off my tripod, I give up using it for long exposures for today. Poor David has been carrying it – and my camera rucksack – all afternoon. He is such a trooper!

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Having reached the bottom of the Lower Lakes, there is only one way from here: up!

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The way back up again is thankfully a slope, rather than steps, and the views are pretty good too. Shame it means shooting into the sun.

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By the time we get to the top, my knee feels like it is on fire, and David insists on going back to the hotel to get the car to pick me up. There is a shuttle bus that runs from one entrance to the other (the one next to our hotel), but just as David gets near the bus stop, he can see the bus pulling away. As they only run every 30 minutes, he decides it will be quicker to walk, and he is right. What a kind man he is.

After a welcome shower, we join Homer and Eddie for drinks, then Homer's birthday dinner. We all four celebrate by ordering Chateaubiand, and David and I share a bottle of local Merlot.

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Thankfully the red wine is much better than the white we tried the other night.

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At lunchtime I had a quiet word with the waitress, and she organised a birthday cake for Homer.

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The flag, however is a long story – we'd taken it over to Miami when we visited Homer and Eddie back in 2013 (to celebrate my birthday), but somehow it got left behind. Eddie brought it with him on this trip to Croatia and tonight he hid it on his person until the right moment.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY HOMER

Posted by Grete Howard 13:18 Archived in Croatia

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