Visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park
(Reminder: not Jurassic Park.)
When my dad and I chatted about what we wanted to do in Croatia, we agreed 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 into the harbour. True story: in Batman The Dark Knight, Batman was supposed to swim across the harbour. Since it’s so polluted, they decided it would be safer if he jumped off the second tallest building in the world.
Plitvice Lakes is the antithesis of Hong Kong harbour. The park’s 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 it's worth going in low season if you can. And for chrissakes, wear proper shoes. 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.
I'm not gonna lie, it is a tricky place to get to if you don’t have a car. It’s also a very sombre drive: we drove past shells of bombed out houses and memorials, which a jolt since it’s so easy to forget the trauma Croatia’s suffered when you're mainly seeing sanitised tourist spots. It’s even stranger to think that you see this on the way to one of the most beautiful places in the world – if you’re not sold on the fact that the water is clear as glass, then maybe the roaring waterfalls and interconnected lakes will win you over. 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. As I slipped past after my dad, I realised that the girl was crying 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 he’d walked past just as the guy had just proposed to her. 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.