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Plitvice National Park Monday 30th May

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What a big day.
Train at 9.30 from Ljubljana to Karlovac. We took the connection that suited us best in timing, but it was a regional one rather than the direct one. That is, it went round Zagreb rather than through, and stopped at 30 plus small stations, most underdeveloped to the point of not having a platform…you just climb down onto the tracks and walk off.

The conductors all came to visit and check us out. I guess they don’t get many people in the train who are obviously non-locals. One conductor came and sat down, and chatted quite fluently. I suspect he was after an invite for his daughter to visit, (she’s studying languages). But he was pleasant enough.

Eventually we got to the end of the line at a small station in the middle of nowhere. Well, on the border with Croatia. The Slovenian police/borderguard got on and checked us out, stamped our passports then got off, the train crossed the border and the Croatian border guard did the same thing. Then another conductor came.

Three or four hours after we started we got to Karlovac: walking out of the deserted train station, no bus stops or signs of bus transport. In the distance was a sign pointing to the “Centar”, so off we trudged, through a dodgy, broken part of town,  found a visitor centre, a bank (to get some Croatian currency), a coffee and the bus stop. Yes, there was a bus in an hour to Plitvice, an exorbitant $9 each.

Getting on the bus was the hard bit. Supposedly it came in at 3.15 at either slot 7 or 8. Quite a few came in around then and left, using 7 or 8. I just went up to the drivers, said “Plitvice” in my best interpretation and showed them the ticket, and they would furiously fob me off.
Eventually we hit the right bus. Slovenian bus travelers have obviously had coaching on seat grabbing by the Viennese. The bus was half full, but looked chockas, the way each person took up as much room as possible. We went for the only empty 2-seater, but were waved off by an old bag. I should have seen the territory had already been marked, by food and discarded wrappers, and the claimants returned shortly. We both squeezed into a seat begrudged by someone who didn’t have enough possessions to block it off.

And we were off, the bus madly overtaking on hills and blind curves, the driver tailgating cars and honking trucks. We roared through the countryside on a whirlwind tour. It felt like we had missed the drop-off point, and we certainly drove past Entrance One to the park. I had rationalized that the worst case would be that we’d get all the way to the coast if they didn’t stop. (There was no way to signal the driver without staggering down the aisle.)

Of course they did stop, at Entrance Two, and the co-driver actually looked out for us and signaled me to ‘get off here’ as the bus slowed. A quartet of hysterical Poms frantically begged a seat on the bus, but they were trying to get to Split and the co-driver brushed them off. Not his bus. We’re going to be doing something similar in a day or so, so I wanted to confirm this was the right spot to wait. They thought so, but they had been waiting for hours, they said. I was surprised to hear that they had left from Vienna that morning to visit the park and then intended to keep going to Split. That’s a really long day. Sylvia asked them about accommodation at the park and got a semi-sarcastic response. Time to leave them to it, I thought. (They weren’t there the next day, so someone…or something… took them away.)

If we had hired a car we could have stayed in private accommodation…every house along the road has a sign advertising “sobe”- rooms – but the hotel is in the park. The severe-but-friendly check-in clerk only had one room, she said. It was cheap because it was ground-floor, no view. In fact it is underground, so yes, the view is quite limited. Motel circa-1960, with thin walls and a plumbing brass band, but we’re not here for the hotel.

We’re here to walk through a beautiful freakish water park. Limestone waterfalls in a long chain of lakes, dammed by mounds of moss which build stone like coral. They then get colonized by reeds and water plants, building natural dams and waterfalls. The water is emerald and turquoise, and that clearness you get from limestone-filtering. Just lovely. It’s not just me that thinks that. The dragonflies have evolved to the same turquoise blue, and we saw other insects with similar coloring.

We walked a bit, caught a park bus to the far end of one arm of the park and walked back, first along the cliff-top walkway then descending down to stone and hand-cut wooden walkways that followed the lakes. Eventually you get to a dock, where a little electric boat takes you across the lake back to the hotels. That took about three hours, and shook off the stress of the travel.

We had dinner in a supposedly self-serve cafeteria. It wasn’t really self-serve, just no waiters. You help yourself to bread but the rest requires a staff member to serve it to you. It was cafeteria standard food, but cost nothing… $18 for the two of us. We stood behind a couple, and they were Australian and had been here the night before, so understood how the system worked. We just followed their lead. The food was very plain, sustaining, but not great. We had a risotto-ish concoction with goulash. There was a bar separate. Nothing on tap, not much in the fridge. The poor barman was keen to provide some sort of service, but there wasn’t much he could do.

We ate with Neil and Mary, from Perth. They have been touring with friends, starting with a Danube cruise. They were pleasant enough. They didn’t like Split, which surprised me, but most of it was about parking the car they hired. Because of the parking they went on to Trogir, which is less accessible but also supposed to be lovely. We might not get to Trogir.

Another quite elderly Australian couple were nearby.

Sylvia and I were quite pleased. We’d both been worried about getting here, but it all went to the vague plan as it was supposed to. We passed one small riverside village about 20 km before the park which I would have explored and I expect stayed at if we’d had a car, but that was the only bit that could have worked out better. The drive from Karlovac would have been horrible. It wasn’t just our bus that was out of control. I watched a car approach and swerve at the last minute, planted smack in the middle of the dividing line. Not my side of the bus, but it would have been a mess.

I should have mentioned…at the Karlovac bus stop I used the men’s toilet. Long story, but Sylvia knew you had to pay, (as you do a lot in Croatia), and the amount. Sure enough, a burly woman barked at me as I walked in, and I put 1 kuna in her hand.  The attendant went nuts, pointing to a sign on the wall, which said it was 3 kuna. Not sure why I did it, (3 kuna is about 55 cents…hardly a deal-breaker), but I shouted back at her with equal force and an equally mocked outrage: “3 kuna!!?”. She was all set to go to the next level but I handed the balance over before she got a chance.

Need I also mention that the Croatian’s who came in while this was going on walked past us and for some reason were not required to pay? Just me….

Written by wurstofvienna2011

May 30, 2011 at 7:37 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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