Wednesday, May 18, 2016
A Hidden Gem in Croatia
Back in the 1990's there was a huge civil war in a country that used to exist called Yugoslavia. When the Berlin Wall came down and Russia had it's August Coup, Communism was falling all over the place. When it all fell apart in Yugoslavia, the factions that had lived as a communal country for all those years, couldn't seem to get along and it made a really messy war. Of course, the US got involved to help, but I'm not sure that we did all that much good. In the end, there was a big mess to clean up and a whole bunch of separate countries. Among them was Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Macedonia, and Croatia. Croatia has been placed firmly on my to do list.
Zagreb is the capital of Croatia and is one of the great historic cities of Eastern Europe. It survived the war and today is ready for tourists with guides and trams and all the historic sites that you'd ever want to see. I do love an old European capital, but that wasn't what I wanted to talk about today.
We all know how much I love to get out of town, and the only thing that I love more than that is waterfalls. So, while in Croatia, you have to visit Plitvice National Park. This well known wonder is full of lakes and waterfalls. There are 16 lakes in this park and 16 cascades to go with them.
There are boats, helicopters, wooden walkways, and many other ways to enjoy the lakes, waterfalls and other parts of the park. There are three hotels within the main park to stay at and the park is open year round. Obviously it's best to come in the summer months in order to see the amazing turquoise waters of these amazing lakes. It's some 380 meters from top to bottom of these lakes, it all falls in 8 kilometers, and it's one of the largest collections of lakes and waterfalls in a single place in the world. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is well cared for by Croatia.
But that is only the obvious part of this trip. I found a surprise, at least for me.
The village is called Rastoke, in Slunj. It's on the way from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes. This little village is full of water. There are buildings on the river. There are old mills that still grind grain. There are hotels and restaurants. There's a giant gorge full of waterfalls right down the middle of town. This little place is one of the most scenic villages I've ever seen.
This amazing little village was all but destroyed during the war. Afterward, they rebuilt it just as it was before. Technically, it's part of Plitvice Lakes Park, but it's a town that loves to see tourists, and it's right on the way to the other park. Pedros Restaurant on the water is the place to eat. There are plenty of shops as well. You can also do all kinds of adventure sports in this village. You can zip line, raft, ride ATV's, hike, swim and even kayak and bike. This is my hidden gem of Croatia. I'd never heard of it before, and as of now; it looks like a great place to visit that might even be a little off the beaten path and less full of tourists.
So, fly in to Zagreb and spend some time seeing a great historic city. Make your way to Plitvice and enjoy one of the world's most talked about National Parks. In between, take the road less traveled and stop off for a day or two in the amazing little village of Rastoke. The sights will amaze you, and who knows? You may not want to leave. Enjoy this fabulous hidden gem of Croatia...Rastoke!