Plitvice Lakes National Park

A picture is worth so much more than a thousand words. Every once in a while I see a photo of a place I’ve never heard of before and immediately add it to my bucket list: Bruges (check). Dubrovnik (check). Plitvice Lakes National Park (check).

This trip was fantastic for exploring lesser known wonders that deserve every bit as much recognition as the big seven. Plitvice Lakes is the oldest national park in Croatia, made famous for its 16 cascading lakes and renowned for the stunning range of colours from turquoise to green, grey or blue. The park was officially added to the UNESCO World Heritage register in 1979 and was one of the first natural sites to make the list.

We planned our trip to Plitvice on our last full day in Croatia. Our hired guide for the day, Mladen of Funky Zagreb, gave us a world class tour with all the history and local hookups to make our day a memorable highlight. Our first stop of the day was at the Croatian War Museum just south of Karlovac where we learned about the city’s role in the Croatian Homeland War from 1991-1995. It is still shocking to think that the bombed out buildings were destroyed less than 20 years ago.

From there we continued on to a dairy farm where the Novkovic family made us a delicious breakfast fit for a king: home-made cheese, jam, eggs, bread, organic apple juice, and even some morning liqueur (When in Croatia!!). We also stopped in the sleepy watermill village of Rastoke where we enjoyed a wake-up coffee and landscapes akin to scenes from Lord of the Rings. I was almost expecting to see hobbits emerging from the cute little houses.

By lunch we had arrived at the park and spent a magical four hours wandering along the wooden pathways and climbing beside waterfalls as we photographed the lakes from every angle. It was so tranquil and rejuvenating to be out in nature and simply appreciating the beauty of creation. Although, no single image was as impressive as Niagara Falls, it was the culmination of the colours, size, and sounds that contributed to such a beautiful sensory experience. I couldn’t think of a better way to end our trip. Until next time…

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A Kaptol Celebration: Croatia joins the EU

Many people told me that Croatia’s political capital wasn’t worth visiting. So after we left the coast for our final three days in Zagreb, I had low expectations. But, what we experienced was nothing short of lovely. The northern temperatures were much cooler and allowed us the opportunity to explore the city all day long without having to break for the heat. We discovered a city reminiscent of the Austro-Hungarian architecture of places like Vienna and Munich with the familiar old-world feel that is so classically European.

Zagreb is such a liveable city and was definitely a refreshing break from the throngs of tourists that we’d been dodging the entire trip. We kind of felt like celebrities as we road our uber-touristy Hop-on Hop-off bus, waving at everyone we passed in the streets. It sounds ridiculous but it was actually extremely fun and an interesting social experiment.

With beautiful parks, historic buildings, and a plethora of pubs, there was plenty to keep us busy. So when we casually stumbled across the preparations for a great celebration in the old Kaptol, we were thrilled to learn that in mere days Croatia would officially join the European Union as the 28th member. What an exciting time to experience the culture of a country rebounding from years of war, economic turmoil, and political change. It is my opinion that Zagreb is severely overlooked as a travel destination and no trip to Croatia should be complete without visiting the nation’s capital.

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