Cascades and Turquoise Lakes

Trip Start Jul 18, 2008
Trip End Aug 02, 2008

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Flag of Croatia  ,
Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The scenery in this national park is breathtaking. It's like walking in the garden of Eden. There must be hundreds of waterfalls and cascades of all different sizes connecting a network of 15 beautiful turquoise lakes. We spent a few hours in the area, hiking around the lakes, past and sometimes over top of or right beside the waterfalls. The color of the water in the lakes is an unreal bright aqua, similar to that of Lake Louise, and surrounded by similar forest, but it's the spectacular falls that make the place special.

Like a couple of the other hotels on the trip, our hotel here was obviously built in the communist era.  It's a low profile non-descript concrete structure with an abundance of wood paneling inside, wide curved staircases, thin royal blue carpet over concrete floors,matching royal blue polyester curtains, sparse decor, and a vast dining / function room where the waiters push food and drinks around on institutional trolleys. There are three of these very similar hotels operating now in the park, but there were many more before the recent war here (1991-1995). We saw a few run-down, abandoned buildings tucked away in the trees here and there. Our guide Igor told us that all of the buildings in the entire park were occupied and trashed by Serb forces, and he said they also planted mines in the waterfalls and threatened to blow the whole thing up. Only a few of the buildings have been renovated back into usable shape so far.

We have seen and heard a few other reminders of the war: bullet holes scarring the cathedral doors in Sibenik and the contrast of old roofs vs bright new ones that were rebuilt on bombed buildings in Dubrovnik. What brought the war to life most was Igor's story of how he and his family once stayed in a room at our hotel in Split as refugees for 6 months. The fighting was essentially right outside their doorstep, so they fled with only what they could carry in suitcases. Igor was about 17 at the time, and his sister a couple of years older. They left his grandparents behind, since they refused to leave. Thankfully his grandmother and grandfather survived, but their house was destroyed. Although the Croatian government eventually provided funds to rebuild, Igor's family did not want to move back afterwards. I didn't pry into any further details, since it seemed painful for him to talk about.

Despite all that recent history, Igor is a warm, enthusiastic, empathetic man, and has been a fantastic guide. He clearly has pride in his country, even while acknowledging the less pleasant bits. Croatia appears to be stable and in fact prosperous now. In my view it has charm, beauty and tenacity enough to win over all who visit. I dare you to try and resist!
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