To Plitvička Jezera - Balkan Dreams - CycleBlaze

September 11, 2020

To Plitvička Jezera

We changed our minds about dinner last night.  Instead of returning to the place we’d dined the night before surrounded by waterfalls, we decided to walk up to a place on top of the ridge looking down on the valley.  Different menu, a change of scene - we’re easily bored, apparently.  We enjoyed another fine fish meal - grilled trout with polenta and zucchini.  You’ve already seen enough fish recently though, so I’ll just show you my appetizer: squeaky cheese with grilled mushrooms.  I should have recorded a video so you could hear the cheese squeak while I was chewing it.  Sorry.  You’ll just have to use your imaginations.

Walking up from Rastoke to Restaurant Ambar.
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Some color along the way.
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Bill ShaneyfeltFireweed looks like it is about done for the season. Fabulous macro shot!
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Scott AndersonTo Oh, of course. It probably is fireweed. There were so few blossoms remaining that it didn’t register.
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1 week ago
Grilled mushrooms, some greens, and squeaky cheese.
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The ruined fortress above Rastoke.
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A view off to the northeast. I didn’t research what this is, but we must have biked close to it earlier in the day.
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A view across the Korana to Slunj.
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We have a short but fairly hilly ride today to Plitvička Jezera, the national park that you probably recognize better as Pivlice Lakes.  We get an early start, planning to leave the afternoon free to take a hike in the park.  We’re up and having breakfast at 6, and then I go over to the bar around the corner when it opens at 7 to caffeinate and finish up the day’s journal entry.

We’re on the road at 8:30, after chatting with our host (who’s name I never learned).  He’s an interesting man, with enough English that we can converse.  He can even joke in English - when we arrived two days ago he asked why we were arriving on these bikes, since it was Wednesday; but today he looks approvingly and declares it a good day to ride.

We talk about Rastoke, its history, and this house in particular.  It was built in the 1700’s, but has been renovated and modernized.  The attached bar was originally a mill, with waterworks inside.  We discuss our itinerary and he approves of the pace we’re taking, travelling slowly enough to get a real feel for his homeland.

I don’t have the standing to ask what I’m most curious about though - his personal history.  He walks with a bad limp, and it’s apparent that his left leg was badly damaged somehow over the years; and perhaps there were other injuries because he’s pretty bent.  He’s a bit older, perhaps in his sixties, and I have to think that he’s a wounded warrior.  

He’s passing his days in such a beautiful spot, but doesn’t appear to stray far.  He alternates between staying in his downstairs apartment or sitting just outside the door at the bar, sipping coffee, having a smoke, conversing with friends.

Looking out from our room to the house next door. This looks like what I understand to be the traditional style for old Rastoke homes: a travertine base, and wood above.
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The top of the waterfall we’ve been listening to outside our window for the last two nights. You saw a photo of it from the other side earlier, cascading down into the Korana.
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Leaving Rastoke. It’s Friday, and a good day to ride.
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The ride to Plitvička Jezera is 20 miles of not bad road, but it’s highway all the way.  We’ve forgotten to load our route for the day to our Garmins, but they’re not needed really.  Our host points us in the right direction and then we just follow our noses.

I’d been apprehensive about this road.  It’s two lane the whole way and one of the main secondary routes to Split on the coast, and it’s pretty hilly to boot.  I had read the journal of another cycling couple that recently rode this highway going the other direction, and they didn’t much like it.  It’s why I hadn’t planned on visiting The Lakes (as our host calls them), until Rachael raised the question about a week back. 

The ride surprises us though by being much better than expected.  There are the big trucks of course, but there’s really not much traffic this Friday morning.  I’m sure we’re benefitting immensely here from the reduced tourism.  We’re especially pleased when all the truck traffic disappears about eight miles from the park, as we approach the most significant climb of the day.  It looks like trucks other than service vehicles are banned from the highway through the national park.

Still, there’s nothing to compel us to stop until we reach the park other than once at a summit when we stopped for a water break.  Once inside though, we come to a dramatic viewpoint to the lower falls and of course have to stop.

Our road shot for the day.
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Video sound track: Waterwheel, by Oregon.

We’re at the northern end of the national park here, looking across the Korana valley, with the lakes beginning just around the bend. When we leave we’ll backtrack a few miles and then cross over to the other side of the canyon to bike west on the road you can just make out on the opposite ridge.
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Looking at the beginning of the lakes; or rather, the end. This is the lower end, and the fall ahead is Veliko Slap (‘the big waterfall’), the largest one in the park. We’ll hike out there for a close-up look tomorrow. Isn’t ‘slap’ a perfect word for waterfall?
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Veliko Slap, I think. Or maybe it’s the one behind.
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The view across Korana’s canyon. The geology of the region is of an underlying karst layer of dolomitic limestone, overlaid by travertine.
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After a few miles of climbing at about 5-6%, we level out and approach the first of the three entrances to the park.  Our hotel, Hotel Jezero (the Lake Hotel) is somewhere near the second entrance.  We’re just wondering if we’ll have trouble finding it when it all comes clear.

We’ll be here two nights, taking walks this afternoon and again tomorrow.  We’ll stop here for now though.  There’s too much to say about this, the first national park in Croatia, to cram in here.

This could be it.
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Ride stats today: 21 miles, 1,900’; for the tour: 851 miles, 30,300’

Today's ride: 21 miles (34 km)
Total: 851 miles (1,370 km)

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