Croatia- A brief respite in Plitvice Lakes National Park

As we left the city of Split behind we were ready for a bit of nature and calm. As we drove the 280km from Split to Plitvice we left behind the motorways and entered a serene world of woodlands and differing shades of green. The picturesque Plitvice Lakes National Park is an area of 300sq km covered in lakes and forest.

We arrived at our accommodation choosing Ethno Houses Plitvica Selo http://www.ethnoplitvice.com as they were located in the heart of the National Park. What a wonderful choice!! The perfect set up for families. The kids were instantly out of the car and running around to explore. The accommodation is a set up of very quaint wooden cabins perfectly suited to a family with a kitchenette and plenty of space to spread out. We were in a family suite and there was more than enough room for our family of five.

Not only were we located only 400 metres from the highest waterfall in the heart of Plitvice Lakes National Park, we had a choice of many activities on hand to try like cycling along marked routes, archery, bowling, badminton, miniature golf, table-tennis, darts and hanging bowling.

Mini golf at Ethno Houses

Mini golf at Ethno Houses

The kids were kept entertained with the outdoor obstacle course, the mini ZOO and even the pet Vietnamese pig. They weren’t even interested in venturing out to the park as they were so enthralled in all the joy of running around and playing with all the animals.

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We finally dragged ourselves away from this wonderful place and headed off to the starting point. Paths, mostly made of wooden planks or gravel have been built and take you through the whole park. We started with an Electric boat that transported us and hordes of tourists (this wasn’t even high season) to the beginning of the trail.

Electric boat at Plitvice

Electric boat at Plitvice

The paths meander through the park allowing you to take in the most awe inspiring beauty, the colours and calmness you feel as you walk through the park cannot be described. It’s like you’ve entered a movie set to some fantasy movie like “Lord of the Rings”.  A walk from one end of the park to the other normally takes around four hours but there are so many wonderful views it took us around 6 hours to meander through the park.

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The only drawback to this extraordinary place is the amount of tourists, but how could one complain when we are exactly that! There are many instances where the path is extremely narrow and there is no way to take over the person in front of you if they have stopped for a moment. This in turn causes a back log of people stopping dead in their tracks wondering what is going on ahead. The feeling of being rushed deters from the serene surroundings and brings you back with a thump knowing your still in this modern day crazy rushed world.

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We only spent one night here thinking it would be enough. Looking back we should of stayed longer. I’m sure that if we’d started our hike at the very beginning of the day we would of been able to avoid the tourist buses coming in for their day trip. Our accommodation was so comfortable we could of relaxed at the end of the day with a sauna or a good book and glass of wine.

Wherever we travelled in Croatia we had the same thought..it wasn’t long enough. This country is full of amazing surprises, from it’s dramatic Adriatic coastline through to it’s emerald green lakes and wooded forests, we merely touched the surface of a truly extraordinary country. It won’t be long before we are back to take a more in depth look at this little corner of the world.

Croatia – Royal Splendours in Split

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Our time in Dubrovnik ended much too soon but we had more to see of this wonderful diverse country. We packed our newly acquired Croatian rent-a-car jamming all the luggage we had accumulated on our trip and headed for Split. The drive from Dubrovnik to Split is one of the best scenic routes of Croatia. […]

Wow Croatia -Dubrovnik, a gem!

One word for Croatia – WOW. This country is stunning. We had heard about it’s beauty but on arriving into Dubrovnik our eyes couldn’t believe the stunning blue colour of the Adriatic sea. We chose to stay at the Villa Dubrovnik, the perfect spot for us to take in a bit of luxury. Upon driving down a very narrow road along a cliff we arrive to an opening with a metal, wooden and glass box structure hanging precariously on the edge of the mountain. This was to be our transport, an elevator taking us down along the side of the cliff into the hotel.

Access via lift down to Villa Dubrovnik

Access via lift down to Villa Dubrovnik

Entrance to Villa Dubrovnik

Entrance to Villa Dubrovnik

Every room in this hotel has an amazing view of the ocean and Old town of Dubrovnik. A 15 minute walk and you are in town or alternatively you can catch the hotel’s own Venetian vaporetto and be dropped off at the marina right in the heart of the Dubrovnik.

Villa Dubrovnik vaporetto - transfer to the Old Town

Villa Dubrovnik vaporetto – transfer to the Old Town

As we arrived quite late the kids were itching for a dip in the ocean after a hot day. We quickly checked in and headed down to the bowels of the hotel where the rock cliff has been turned into a private beach. We spent our first night swimming, cooling off in the Adriatic while watching the sunset over the Old Town.

Sea access - Villa Dubrovnik

Sea access – Villa Dubrovnik

Heading for a sunset swim- Villa Dubrovnik

Heading for a sunset swim- Villa Dubrovnik

Villa Dubrovnik - Sunset swim

Villa Dubrovnik – Sunset swim

Villa Dubrovnik

Villa Dubrovnik

Villa Dubrovnik - Allanah testing the waters

Villa Dubrovnik – Allanah testing the waters

Villa Dubrovnik - Lucas taking a dip in the Adriatic sea

Villa Dubrovnik – Lucas taking a dip in the Adriatic sea

Sunset - Dubrovnik

Sunset – Dubrovnik

Old Dubrovnik town is a walled city. Governed by many a country over the centuries, it has seen it’s fare share of war. Ruled by the Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman Empire, Hungary, and Serbia.Dubrovnik was a rival to the trading routes of the Venetians which made it a very wealthy town but a town constantly under siege.

In 1806 it surrendered to Napoleon as that was the only way to end a month-long siege by the Russian-Montenegrin fleets who bombarded the city with 3,000 cannonballs. At first Napoleon only demanded free passage promising not to occupy Dubrovnik, but not long after French forces blockaded the harbours, forcing the government to give in and let French troops enter the city. On this day, all flags and coats of arms above the city walls were painted black as a sign of mourning.

Fast forward to 1991 and the people of Dubrovnik people were to thank Napoleon for this time of occupation. On October 1, 1991 Dubrovnik was attacked by JNA with a siege of Dubrovnik that lasted for seven months. The heaviest artillery attack was on December 6 with 19 people killed and 60 wounded. Total casualties in the conflict according to Croatian Red Cross were 114 killed civilians.

Our local tour guide from Dubrovnik Shore Tours http://www.dubrovnikshoretours.net shared a few of his own personal stories. Only 9 years old when the war started in 1991 he believed that if it wasn’t for Napoleon’s fort at the top of the mountain overlooking Dubrovnik the whole town would not exist today. The Serbian army tried to flatten the town with army tanks coming in from the top of the mountain but couldn’t get past the Napoleonic fort built for protection all those years ago. Dubrovnik is surrounded by mountains on one side and the Adriatic Sea all around.

A view of the Old town

A view of the Old town

The port of Dubrovnik

The port of Dubrovnik

Taking in the view from the Dubrovnik walls

Taking in the view from the Dubrovnik walls

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Walking the length of the fortified walls

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Taking a break!

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A moment of brotherly love

A personal story of his was the day he first tried lobster. When the city of Dubrovnik was attacked the Serbians cut off all power. Being a tourist town all the restaurants were unable to keep all their seafood and supplies so they were handing out all their lobster, oysters, and other perishables to all the locals. As a 9 year old boy he remembers devouring lobster for a few consecutive days until all supplies had been depleted. It was a positive memory during a time of great hardship for many locals for a few years to come.

The main street Stradun

The main street Stradun

It is a 16-sided drinking fountain built by Onofrio de la Cava (1438. - 1444.). The Fountain is part of the town's water supply system which Onofrio managed to create by bringing the water from the well in Rijeka Dubrovačka. The well is located 20 km from Big Onofrio's Fountain and this construction was a masterpiece of that time.

The 16-sided drinking fountain built by Onofrio de la Cava (1438. – 1444.). The Fountain is part of the town’s water supply system which Onofrio managed to create by bringing the water from the well in Rijeka Dubrovačka. The well is located 20 km from Big Onofrio’s Fountain and this construction was a masterpiece of that time.

Fresh water supply

Fresh water supply

The sights of Dubrovnik are many, from the city walls, the Franciscan monastery to meandering along the narrow streets of the old town. During the day it is buzzing with tourists but linger after all the cruise ships have gone and the experience is enhanced.

We enjoyed one of our most memorable meals here at Gils Little Bistro ( gils.hr ) Situated down an atmospheric little side street run by a Frenchman and his Australian/Croatian wife. The food is a bit pricey but well worth it for the quality compared the many tourist trap restaurants to be found here.

A satisfied customer

A satisfied customer

Weighing our meat

Weighing our meat

We spent a few glorious days and nights here and were only able to take in a small slice of the region. We didn’t even manage to visit any of the amazing islands we had heard about. Looks like Croatia will be on the list for the future. Our next stop Split!