Turquoise waters, clear sunny skies, mesmerizing beaches and tons of history is the essence of the country of Croatia. The combination of shades of blue of the sea and the white pebbles on the shore make for a beautiful postcard visual. Not to forget that this is the country where King’s Landing of the famous television series Game Of Thrones was shot. The place we started our tour de Croatia was at the capital of this country, the city of Zagreb. Since we had a total of 11 days to tour the whole of Croatia, we had as little as half a day for Zagreb before we head to the very popular Plitvice National Park
Car is the best option to move around in Croatia. The motorways are in great condition and one can make short stops at scenic locations. The drive is a wonderful experience, as one winds down the curves along the Adriatic seas as the sun shines bright. The journey is as exotic as the destination in this country. The blue and green shades of the Mediterranean Sea are as iconic of the country as its rich history and culture.
Though we spent a total of 0.5 day here in Zagreb, I have a short list of best things to do.
Museum Of Broken Relationships
We went straight from the airport to the popular Museum of Broken relationships. The museum is visited by travellers from all over the world. The contributors to the museum are also from across the globe. The exhibits include personal belongings sent across by people who are trying to recover from grief and sadness. These belongings symbolise the relationship they ever had with the relevant person. It’s uniqueness in displaying possessions that symbolise the contributors broken relationship along with a short synopsis as to why it had to end will engage you and interest you. The exhibits include personal belongings like a cell phone, a music player, a wedding dress or even a toaster!! They all have a story to tell.
Now this is a unique sort of a museum and thus I recommend a visit to this place if you are in Zagreb.
Museum of Broken Relationships
Saint Marks Church
The next stop was the 13th century St Marks church located at heart of the St Marks Square. The building stands out because of its colourful tiled roof with an emblem of Croatia on it. The roof was constructed in 1880 by Friedrich Schmidt and Herman Bolie.
Of course when we visited, the church was closed and we were told that it opens only during mass. So if you want to visit and see the inside of the church the only way is to go during the mass. Entry is free and it might also be prohibited. I recommend wearing appropriate clothing for the mass if you plan to enter the church.
Within walking distance of this old gothic church you will also see the Cathedral, the Croatian Parliament and the Ban’s Palace.
The Cathedral of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Cathedral is located at the Kaptol square and is a 11th century structure. It is the tallest structure in Croatia because of twin high sphires which are 108 metres high.
The Cathedral had to face many calamities like the Tatars attack followed by fire in the 13th century. In 1880 it was severely damaged in an earthquake and has been restored since then. Thus the architecture will be a mix of Gothic, Medieval, Renaissance and when we visited it, the restoration of half the Cathedral was still on. So the construction today seen is not the same as it was originally made in the 11th century.
Inside the cathedral you will find
- A beautiful marble altar
- The grave of Saints who are Croatian martyrs like Cardinal Stepinac, Petar Zrinski, Franco Kuharic
- Zagreb Treasury
- Cathedral organ
- The stopped clock at 7.03, the exact time when Zagreb was hit by an earthquake.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
It took us about 2 hours to reach Plitvice Jezera from Zagreb by car-approximately 130 kms drive. On way to Plitvice lakes, about 40 kms before, we came across another extremely beautiful site. The place is called Rastoke. It has small terrace waterfalls like the ones in Plitvice with water gushing in full force around houses and mills. The water flowed from below some houses that were open for rent too. There was a single small restaurant that served coffee as well. If you are travelling by car it will be a good stop to sip caffeine as you appreciate the magnificence of the falls. Also you will find less tourists or crowds in this place.
We stayed at B&B, Plitvice Falls Cottage which is located at Solen(village) Poijanak located on a mountain. We had to take a detour from the main road, about half an hour before the national park, and go up a winding road feasting on the most beautiful nature surrounding us. The area is very good for hiking and photographing, but since we were already late, we had to go directly to the cottage for dinner.
The hotel was a beautiful village house with 3 floors and 3 rooms per level with kitchen and a dining room in the basement. The rooms were well furnished with all amenities in the bathroom. It is surrounded by forest and small pathway took you down the hill. The views of the valley was breathtakingly beautiful.
The vegetarian preparation of Zucchini soup, Spaghetti, veggie bowl was the most delicious that we had in the 12 days trip of Croatia. The hospitality of the host, here was exceptional and I would go back there anytime.
The next morning before we left for the Plitvice lakes park, we were taken to this place where you get the most beautiful view of the Plitvice lakes from above a mountain. Since our stay was on this mountain, it was just 5 minutes from our hotel.
Plitvice Lakes National Park is a UNESCO protected World heritage Site. It has 16 lakes which are connected to each other by terraced waterfalls. Out of the 16 lakes, 14 are in the upper area and 4 lakes are in the lower area which is connected again by a lake but you need to take a ferry to cross and get to the lower lakes. We were informed by our tour guide that the collection of algae and limestone has resulted in the formation of terraces which took years to happen. This natural wonder is attracting tourists from all over the world.
The forest area covers 295 sq km with walkways crossing the lakes or going around it giving us a chance to witness the gushing waterfalls making therapeutic sound followed by absolutely peaceful lake and repeat.. the water turns from sea green to dark green to tuquoise depending on the depth.
The area is huge and that is the reason there is also a bus service that you can take to view the park. The best way to view the park, however, is by foot. Also there comes a point where you need to take the ferry to cross and then again start your hike to see the lower lakes.
When we visited in mid May, Plitvice lakes had unseasonal heavy rains for 3 days prior to our visit. Thus there were chances that park would be closed for the day. But fortunately the water had cleared in the higher areas and we could see the major part of the park and the most lovely waterfall that is just next to the front entrance. What we could not do is the ferry ride that takes you to the lower lakes. What we did was take steps that took us to more higher grounds and see the park area from above. It was great to take pictures from above and also enjoy the enchanting view.
A Few Tips
# Swimming is strictly prohibited in the park and if you wish to do it then you need to visit another popular park in Croatia, KRK national park.
# You need to have a pair of good walking shoes since the walk can be very long as acres of land is covered under this park. Depending how long a hike you want to take, being prepared is better than having sore legs.
# The park is very popular and hence can be very touristy. Thus you will consider the season of your sojourn. Though it attracts travellers in all seasons, avoid the peak season that is the summers, June, July and August.
# Check the weather reports for the date of your travel as the park closes if the water levels are high as the walkways are submerged in water. This can be a big disappointment for people travelling from far away countries.
I love national parks and my itinerary always includes one whenever I visit any country; if there is one. Croatia is famous for its UNESCO protected Plitvice Lakes National Park amongst many other things. Make sure to include it in your plans when travelling to this beautiful coastal country.
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