Up early today for a 3 hour drive to Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the largest and oldest parks in Croatia.
Let’s get this out of the way first…I’m not sure if it was the sausage roll I picked up from the supermarket last night or if it was something in the breakfast this morning……..but I will now spend the next couple of days getting over food poisoning. I start to feel a bit nauseous on the bus; I’m thinking maybe it is a slight bit of carsickness which is not unusual for me. What is unusual though is to become violently ill. Yep folks, I puke on the bus and it’s lucky that I have a plastic bag nearby. I feel much better afterwards and figure I’m in the clear…..nope. Another round of vomiting, this time in the park. I’m not sure if I can withstand the hike we are about to take, but I force myself to go and I am fine. Alright, back to Plitvice Lakes and the beauty that they are!
This is due to sunlight and minerals/organisms in the water. It’s quiet and peaceful, aside from the sound of the rushing water cascades and waterfalls. There are 16 lakes in total, and over 90 different sizes of waterfalls. I really wish we had time to explore for a few more hours. The weather just isn’t working in our favor today.
It can get really crowded here in the summer, and the paths are narrow so bring your highest level of patience! There are 8 hiking routes; each one should take around 2 hours so a full day here is ideal. I’m not sure which route we took, but I’m pretty sure our trail took us to the biggest waterfall, Veliki.
Back on the bus for a 2 hour drive to the capital of Croatia – Zagreb. We are staying at a hostel called Chillout. I try to get my own room; I’m still not feeling great and I just want to be alone but I am not able to go solo. The room I am sharing is really small, and I have to take the top bunk which is not ideal when I have to keep climbing down to use the toilet.
Chillout Hostel is great though….perfect location to see the sights and the lobby bar is a super fun place to grab a drink and meet fellow travelers! I go for dinner with the group but I don’t stay too long…tea and soup is about all my stomach can handle tonight.
The next morning we take a short walk over to the central square called Ban Jelecic. Many tram lines run from the square, so be careful when crossing the streets!
We stop at the large statue of a man on a horse. It is none other than Josip Jelacic- a Croatian nobleman, army general and expert military strategist; namesake of the square. The square has existed since the 17th century, and is now the center of the downtown pedestrian zone. Zagreb is the largest city in Croatia, but it still manages to have a small town feel…rich in history and culture. It is separated into Upper and Lower towns.
The Upper Town is made up of narrow cobblestone streets and historical and fascinating buildings. Our tour guide, Max, first takes us to Upper town where we start at Dolac market that caters mostly to locals; the stalls selling all kinds of fresh food. We go to the first stall, and an older woman gives us a sample of cornbread and then reaches over to her colorful bowls full of cottage cheese.
We have a look inside, and it is just as grand with many paintings and statues.
The next leg of the tour takes us past the statue of St George on a horse, killing the dragon. He is surrounded by a garden of flowers.
Around the corner of this statue is the Gradec Gate (Stone Gate) that leads into the historic medieval section of the town.
It dates back to at least 1266, and was damaged in many fires since Zagreb’s structures were made mostly from wood. As we pass through the gate, we see the painting of the Virgin Mary with Baby Jesus. It has a decorative baroque fence around it, and many flowers and candles sit below it.
Continuing up the cobblestone road, we reach St Mark’s Square, the location of the beautiful St Mark’s church. The roof of the church is made of colorful tiles that represent the coat of arms of Zagreb and the coat of arms of the Triune Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia. The church was built in the 13th century; we have a quick look inside to see a white and golden interior, with large murals on the walls.
Lower Town is all about parks, arts/culture, and is the business district. First we walk past the National Theater, a yellow Viennese style building.
On to King Tomislav Square, just across from the main train station. King Tomislav sits high on his horse and the large yellow building which is the Art Pavilion stands in the distance.
This is all a part of the Lenuci Horseshoe, a complex of squares and parks and a botanical garden in central Zagreb. It’s a nice place for a casual stroll, or to sit and take in the surrounding flowers and fountains. Little do we know that this is turning out to be the longest walking tour in the history of all tours. As it nears the 5 hour mark, I decide to sneak off and do the rest of my exploring. Lower Town is nice, but I’m not as excited by it so I want to go back to Upper Town! I head back to the Chillout Hostel for a quick stop and then I take the world’s smallest funicular(conveniently located right next to the hostel).