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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia | July 2014

July 6, 2014; Sunday
We left Budapest for Zagreb after lunch; a three and a half hour, 210 mile trip. Checking into Hotel Esplanade Zagreb, it was out to their terrace for a relaxing late afternoon, followed by dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, “Zinfandels.” We had stayed here overnight on our May trip to Istra; it’s a bit dated but comfortable and well located.

July 7, 2014; Monday
Awoken by our 6:00 am call we had a quick breakfast and were off to Plitvice Lakes National Park on a beautiful sunny morning. Although it’s only 85 miles south of Zagreb, it’s still a two hour drive. After a short stretch on the E65 to Karlovac, the balance of the trip is on the twisting single lane D1.

Galovac Jezero
Plitvice Lakes is the largest and oldest of Croatia’s eight national parks, opened in 1949 and placed on UNESCO’s heritage listing in 1979. The 115 square mile park consists of 16 lakes; cascading waterfalls and breath taking scenery at every turn. Trails and wooden footbridges connect everything, as well as an electric boat to move visitors along the largest lake, Jezero Kozjak. The pools of water are exquisite hues of azure, blue and turquoise; impossible to describe in word. The local geology over the millennia has created a world of beauty and a unique biodiversity. This place should not be missed, in spite of the sometimes crowded pathways and mostly unhelpful staff.
Judith and Dan
We spend four hours on the trails, lastly taking the difficult “K” route to the panoramic view of the big waterfall - the Veliki Slap. On this trail we met a lone woman who looked a bit lost. We asked her if she needed some help, and subsequently she tagged along with us as we attempted to discern the very poorly marked route. But our fortitude paid off as we stumbled upon the vista looking out to the Veliki Slap and the whole of the lake system – wow, one of the most beautiful views of my life!
We climbed down the steep and winding steps to the base of the waterfall, and then back up the other side of the ravine to the parking lot
Plitvice Panorama
and our car. Our trail companion, Angie, who turned out to be a botanist from Munich, hitched a ride with us to Zagreb; so we had some pleasant conversation to pass the time on our journey back.

We arrived at the Esplanade by 5:30 exhausted. After a cleanup we had some drinks on the terrace, and afterward a pleasant dinner in the relaxed café amid a threatening thunderstorm. Obviously sleep came quickly and easily.

July 8, 2014; Tuesday
We slept soundly. The morning was unlike yesterday; dark, dreary and drizzling. After breakfast we started our return to Budapest, but with a stop in Varaždin. This city is first documented in the late 10th century, but came into prominence in the 16th as a border fortress defending the Habsburg territories from the Ottomans.

Dodging the rain, we visited the Varaždin Castle and Civic Museum, a most down in the mouth monument and exhibit. That finished, we hopped back in the car and finished the drive, arriving in Budapest early afternoon. It was a wonderful trip, but we are glad to be back.