So now part two of our Croatian adventure. On Wednesday, we drove about three hours into Croatia to Plitvice Lakes National Park. It is a few miles from the Bosnian border. We managed to stop for lunch a a great little Marche rest stop, which made the drive much easier. I am so proud to say that I got us there using only an old fashioned road map. It was actually kind of fun to navigate, and the scenery was absolutely beautiful. It is hands down the most beautiful drive I have ever been on. This country is so pristine and uninhabited still! And Plitvice was absolutely wonderful. It is a series of terraced lakes, all laced together with waterfalls. The whole time you are there, you are either looking at the crystal clear, aquamarine water of a pristine lake, or an amazing set of falls.
We stayed at a bed and breakfast called House Tina in Grabavac, just a few miles from the park entrance. I just have to say that it was such a nice little place to stay, and the fact that they served breakfast, dinner, and had a playground made it the perfect place for us to call home for two nights. There were other families staying there, too, both with four year old boys. One was italian and the other was Croatian. Let me just say that language doesn’t matter…little four year old boys are the SAME EVERYWHERE. Thank goodness.
On Thursday morning we were set to hike, but woke up to it POURING down rain. I am sure you could hear my heart breaking from Croatia. However, we are Chicagoans, and Midwesterners first and foremost. That means we do not back down when the weather doesn’t cooperate. We dress for the occasion and hike on. Unfortunately, we hadn’t packed rain gear OR sweatshirts and it was both cold and rainy, so a trip to the Plitvice Lakes souvenir shop was on the agenda. I do have to say that the kids looked adorable in their hoodies and Vance was so stinking cute in his way-to-big-poncho.
Speaking of Vance, at first he was NOT happy. Not into the mud, the hiking, the rain, the cold. He wanted to go home, which is weird because this is a kid who lives for rain puddle splashing. BUT right when we got on the trail and saw our first little water fall, he was amazed. Then, he started to open up to nature and before long we were all splashing in puddles, walking through squishy mud, and getting more dirty than I have been since my days as a summer camp counselor. It felt so good! Caroline was confined to the Ergo because the trails were actually treacherous, especially for her. She didn’t mind though, and took naps here and there while we hiked.
We did the Upper Lakes trail first. We had to take a shuttle up the mountain to the starting point. Vance’s funny comment of the day was “I thought you said this was a shuttle bus. I would call it a puddle bus” because of the rain. We descended the mountain, completely in awe of the amazing blue water, the fish that you could see swimming because of how clear the water was, and the fact that we were crazy enough to do this in the rain with two kids. When we reached the first of the large falls, our eyes were so happy. The scenery made the rain just disappear because it was so breathtakingly beautiful. I am looking back at pictures and the beauty just cannot be captured on film.
We continued on our way, across boardwalks that had us walking on the water, up waterfalls, through the muddy woods, and up and down mountains. Once we got to the boat that crosses the largest river, we noticed it starting to clear up. This fueled us to do the rest of the park. Keep in mind Vance was on foot the whole time, what a trooper! We got him some hot chocolate and warmed up near a barbecue fire before heading up a sightseeing trail towards the lower lakes and a cave.
The cave was Vance’s favorite part, probably because I told him it was a pirate cave. I had to give him SOMETHING to motivate him to climb up and down mountains! I honestly can’t believe how many stairs we had to climb…but we climbed stairs down the whole mountain and then we had to climb stairs up through a cave on the side of the mountain. And i carried Caroline the whole time. SO my calves still hurt. But it was worth it.
We survived, we did it in the rain, and we had a great time! It was close to one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen with my own eyes. Thank goodness they had a hot shower and a great meal awaiting us when we got back!