||Jarrod and I took the 8:05 am train from Budapest, Hungary to Zagreb, Croatia on May 3rd. Besides the
overzealous passport police, it was a pretty restful six-hour trip. I was in the restroom as we approached the
border, and just barely finished my business before the door was forced open by the passport policeman,
instructing me to return to my seat immediately. Never mind the fact that we had a good fifteen minutes until we
actually crossed the border. We later saw this same guy unscrewing every ceiling panel in our car to check for
illegal items. Now there is a guy who takes his job seriously.
Upon arriving in Zagreb we made our way to the bus station, hoping to catch a bus to Plitvice National Park. We
had just enough time to grab a pizza before the bus departed. Our “pizza” was an interesting concoction—layers of
rather thin, flaky and tasteless pastry dough layered with potatoes and ground meat, both unseasoned. Not very
tasty, but hearty enough to keep us full for the next couple of hours!
||return to croatia overview next croatia journal>
We arrived at the entrance to Plitvice National Park three hours later to find the tourist office closed. This is the
office that normally arranges the rental of private rooms. Not wanting to stay in a national park hotel (read:
overpriced!) we set off down the road. Our Lonely Planet guidebook mentioned a small village called Rastovoca
located a few kilometers away where residents rent out rooms of their home for a very reasonable fee. We had to
choose between taking the hiking path or walking along the highway to get to this village. Usually the hiking path
would be the obvious choice, but due to the recent (and current) rains and impending darkness, we set off down
the freeway. We were more than relieved to make it to Rastovoca after dodging trucks hurling past us at over 50
miles per hour for the past two kilometers. Rastovoca is a tiny, sleepy village comprised of about 10 cabin-style
homes, each one adorned with window flower boxes, and thankfully each renting out rooms to travelers.
Waiting for a break in the rain under the bus stop shelter in
Plitvice National Park.
The residents of Rastovoca place signs like this outside of their
home to advertise their rooms for rent.
Milan, the owner of the house we chose, welcomed us with a glass of Croatia’s finest plum brandy (a local
specialty). Or, I should say, welcomed me with a glass of Croatia’s finest plum brandy. Jarrod was welcomed with a
glass of Croatia’s finest rubbing alcohol. We’re still not sure what this stuff was. Milan indicated this was what
“men” drink. I’m proud to report Jarrod drained his glass, but not without making some funny faces.
Plitvice National Park is renowned for its 16
turquoise lakes which are linked by a series of
waterfalls. Wooden footbridges meander over,
under, and around the beautiful lakes and
waterfalls for 18 kilometers. Due to the recent
(and current!) rains, the cascades were at full
throttle. Every turn led us to another waterfall.
It is one of those places that photos do not do
justice. Which works out well, because it was
raining so hard we did not have many
opportunities to pull our camera out of our
backpack to take pictures. The only negative
thing I can say about Plitvice National Park is
that it seems to be a big hit with tourist
groups. We nearly lost an eye several times to
the edge of an umbrella as we attempted to
squeeze past a group of 75 tourists clogging
up the path, each toting a large umbrella. We
soon figured out the tour groups stick to the
wooden footbridges, so if we ventured on to
the hiking paths we would have them all to
ourselves. This move was well worth the
muddy boots and soaked feet!
Despite the rain, Plitvice National Park was one of the most spectacular
parks we have seen. A visit to Croatia would not be complete without a stop
The rain continued and even picked up steam as we made it back to our room in Rastovoca. Due to the
inclement weather, we decided to cut our stay short and move on down Croatia to Brac, an island near Split, the
next morning. Unfortunately, the rain decided to go with us. After a six-hour bus ride and an hour ferry, we arrived
in Supetar, Brac. Our intended destination was Bol, Brac, but the last bus had already departed so we had an
evening to kill in Supetar. After finding a place to stay, we grabbed dinner at a neighborhood café down the street.
Two hours later, we sat with the owner of the café watching the now full-fledged thunderstorm rage. This storm
rivaled Texas’ best thunderstorms. There was nothing to do but order another Karlovacko (local beer) and wait it
out. Four beers later, we were still sitting there as the local fire chief and two firemen arrived to tend to the flooded
street in front of the restaurant. The rain was coming down faster than it could drain, and the water had now risen
over the curb and was ½ way up the tires of the moped parked on the sidewalk. It looked like we might be
When the rain decreased to a heavy sprinkle, we made our break for home. The next morning we woke to partially
sunny skies, which restored a glimmer of hope to our dreams of swimming in the ocean and sunbathing on Croatia’
s famous beaches in the coming days.