plitvice lakes national park (reminder: not jurassic park)
When my dad and I were chatting about what we wanted to do in Croatia, we agreed to the chagrin of my city slicker mother that we wanted to head to Plitvice Lakes National Park - Croatia's oldest and largest national park. In Hong Kong, we're surrounded by water but it's strongly recommended you don't jump in for the most part. (True story: Batman The Dark Knight was supposed to have a scene where Batman swims across the harbour, but since it's so polluted, they decided it would be safer if he jumped off the second tallest building in the world.) It would be awesome to see some actual non-polluted untouched nature for a change.
The park's absolutely pristine and bustling with tourists wielding selfie sticks or blocking the narrow wooden walkways, which can be a little frustrating. A whopping 1.1 million visitors pass through the gates every year, so definitely try and go in low season if you can. And for chrissakes, dress in proper hiking gear. For some god awful reason, we saw a bunch of women running around in stilettos which is totally not recommended, as there's mud, cracked wooden pathways and a whole lot of walking to do. To those gorgeous classic Louboutins I spotted, RIP. I hope you're in a better place now.
Not gonna lie, it is a tricky place to get to if you don't have a car and it's a very sombre drive: we drove past shells of bombed out houses and memorials, which was just such a jolt since it's so easy to forget the trauma Croatia's suffered. It's even stranger to think that you see all of this on the way to quite possibly one of the most beautiful places I've been to in the world - if you're not sold on the fact that the water is clear as glass, then maybe the roaring waterfalls and crazy interconnected lakes will. The whole time I was there, all I wanted to do was dive into the water and swim for hours. The pretentious git in me wants to make some sort of sense of the juxtaposition, but words fail sometimes.
Nobody's kidding when they say that it's the largest national park in Croatia, let alone Southeastern Europe. There's a number of stations that a little Jurassic World-y vehicle can drop you off at from the main entrance (more on Jurassic World later), plus at a couple of points you have to take ferries across. It's also really bizarre in that you're constantly changing levels as the lakes are all stacked against the terrain, meaning lots and lots of stairs plus a sore butt and thighs the next day. Worth it though.
At around this point, my dad who was walking ahead suddenly jumped and started walking really fast past a bench with a couple sitting on it. One thing you have to understand about Plitvice Lakes National Park: the walkways are just wide enough for two people to walk past one another without falling into the water. As I slipped past after my dad, I realised that the girl was crying beside her boyfriend and I all but broke out into a run to get away from the awkwardness. I was convinced that they'd just broken up or something, but when I caught up to my dad, it turned out that as he'd walked past the guy had just proposed to her and she'd said yes. That's the kind of place Plitvice Lakes is, a place so beautiful that it makes people crazy enough to propose to one another.
I'd just seen Jurassic World, so my experience was coloured by the fact that I was waiting for Chris Pratt to jump out around the next corner with a raptor squad. When I found out we had to jump into khaki coloured vehicles to and from certain stations of the park, my brain went into overdrive as the soundtrack blared through my head. Though Andy Dwyer never showed, it wasn't all that disappointing. Plitvice's absolutely rapturous.
Clap Your Hands - Whilk and Misky