The Beauty and the Beast in Croatia

Trip Start Jun 03, 2010
Trip End May 28, 2011

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

September 9

We headed inland from Senj toward Plitvice National park, and its spectacular land of waterfalls. The fascinating thing on this drive was the fact that we were driving through front line territory of the 1991 and 1995 war zone. We began to notice deserted and crumbled buildings, but when we got to the town of Otacac it really hit us. Many of the buidings in Otacac are still pockmarked with bullet holes and shell hits. One of the main town halls of the main drag appears to have been deliberately left with its shattered front face, but many other buildings also were riddled. Most shocking was average looking apartment buildings riddled with holes, indicting how the battles went after the general populace in their homes, not juts the soldiers. The café where we stopped for coffee was riddled just above our heads. (See photo). As I understand it, the town was hit twice… first in 1991 as the Serbian dominated Hungarian National Army came through pushing out the majority Croats who had to leave town and go down to the coast as refugees to stay in the coastal hotels. Then again in 1995 when the Croats marched back against the Serbs, and pushed them back out of the town. Most of the Serbs have not returned, fearful of continued violence. Most fascinating to sit and have coffee amongst the people who either had to leave town to avoid the violence, or who were active participants, just five short years ago!

From Otacac we drove on to the Plitvice National Park. By the time we found the campground… about noon… the weather was quite warm and sunny. We were awfully tempted just to relax for the afternoon and "do" the park the next day, but there was a weather report posted predicting rain the next day. So, we did do the park this same day, arriving there about 1:00 pm. We did end up doing the whole walk, from the lowest falls to the highest. It is probably about 10 kms altogether, with a 30 minute boat ride in the middle. A shuttle bus is available to return to the starting point… well actually a good kilometre short of the starting point requiring an unexpected hike at the very end when totally exhausted!

It really is a spectacular walk. At some points the falls are high and dramatic, especially as seen from a little distance, at other points they are a series of small waterfalls stepping their way down from on lake to another, and at other times one walks along a quiet and serene lake or two or three between the falls. The lakes and pools are crystal clear and are swarming with trout, most of which are a few inches, but one in every 30 or 40 was a big monster of a trout, around a foot or more long.

We were certainly not alone… thousand of others were hiking the trails. Sometimes, especially with a tour group, the crowd would clump up and get annoying, but we were generally able to push our way through and be free for a while. The last chunk of the lakes were not on the group hike circuit, so it was a much more peaceful walk.

We ended up taking about 5 hours for the whole thing, including the 30 minute boat trip, and the 30 minute line-up to get onto the boats.

We were sure glad to have decided to do the walk on this first day, as that night the rains returned, and it rained through the next morning….

September 10, 2010

After a nice peaceful night in the huge Korana campground near Plitvice, we packed up to head back to the coast. We might have stayed longer but the campground charged a ridiculous $40 for a night! Given its location and its facilities, maybe it was worth it, but we just can't feel good paying that much in deepest Croatia.

The drive down to the coast to Zadar was pretty standard fare, through small towns and countryside in the long valley, but it got a bit dramatic as we hit the freeway over the top of the small mountain ridge above the coast… the wind was hurricane force! We hadn’t realized it as it was behind us, until we stopped at a café rest stop thing right on the top of the ridge. As we walked from the car to the café we literally had to hang onto each other to avoid being blown over! As we then drove down the windy side, the highway had blinking warning lights saying 40km/h due to the winds… and truly necessary, especially with us and our high-top van. I really could not keep it in the proper lane as the gusts came and went. We noticed motorcycles just crawling along, and a few of them had just stopped to wait out the wind. We are hoping the wind is bringing fair weather, as now predicted for the next week or so on the coast.

We made our way into Zadar and are staying at Borec Camping just 4 kms north. This afternoon we are just getting chores done, and are waiting until Tomorrow, Saturday, to see Zadar.

The main chore was getting the oil changed on the van. We stoped at one likely looking shop, but it turned out to be a muffler specialist. He directed us down the road a bit. Service shops here tend to be small 2 or 3 man type enterprises, often in a 2 or 3 car garage attached to or behind a  house. It took about 45 minutes for him to do the job (it takes me about 20 minutes at home). I was surprised at the bill…. About 82 Euro, which is about as much or more than we would pay at home for a simple oil change and filter. The surprise was the price of oil…it cost about $50 for 4 litres of oil, and about $30 for his labour. As I recall, we can get a 4 litre jug of oil at Canadian Tire for less than $30. I did check the price of oil at a supermarket later to confirm that I wasn’t being ripped off, which I wasn’t.

Speaking of ripped off. this campground near Zadar is costing almost $40. Again, it is nicely situated just a quick bike ride to town, right on the beach, grassy and peaceful, but it is a surprise to be paying as much as we did in Scandanavia, especially now that we are in shoulder season!
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Doreen on

Beautiful scenery. Wonderful pictures.
In the SUN obits today, there was a P.W. classmate of yours--Warren Gill, who died of cancer. Didn't know if you knew him or not.

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