Tuesday, 11 September 2012
I had no preconceptions regarding the country: the flights were cheap and it was near the beach. I was sold. However, when we turned up in Split I discovered a city untarnished by hyper-tourism. It felt like Greece before it got ruined by sun seekers, or Italy without the expensive price tag. Gorgeous Roman architecture surrounded small narrow streets contained by the old palace walls which had become the majority of the city. I found myself constantly stopping and just staring, I felt like the luckiest person who had just discovered some secret gem – this also made me feel pretty ignorant about the beauty and secrets our continent holds.
Taking this into account we decided to change our route and make a proper stop off at Plitvice Lakes, the largest national park in Croatia. Despite a slightly crazy and terrifying journey (buses on the edge of mountains are not my thing), I could not deny that everything was breathtakingly beautiful.
The national park was located in a valley between forested mountains and thankfully the whole area hadn't become overpopulated with tourists traps; there wasn't even a McDonald's. In fact it was the complete opposite, the bus stop was just at the side of a random road and our accommodation was a log cabin in the middle of nowhere. Let me put this in context - there were signs warning people of bears! As we walked along the edge of the road to find somewhere to have dinner, I realized I had never seen so many stars. It captivated me.
A day before we left for Plitvice we were asked if we liked azure pools surrounded by wooded areas and obviously we all cried YEAH! Naturally, we were informed that we would love Plitvice. They were not wrong. The park was massive and surrounded by beautiful mountains which shock you at every turn; as you walk round you encounter waterfalls of differing sizes all running into the bluest waters I have ever seen. This park was literally one of the most stunning places I have ever been to, the sheer magnitude of nature left me and my problems feeling tiny, I felt stunned by how one tiny tributary stream could create a cascade of water and that strength made me also feel mighty and so very lucky.
Croatia has been so much better than I expected, the amount of unspoiled natural beauty and the friendliest of people has made this both a country I would recommend and a country I will return to. All in all, a great start to an already adventurous trip.
(PS sorry about the lack of pictures - dodgy internet connection!)