We had contemplated getting up early and visiting Plitvice before the crowds of the day or visiting Rastoke in the morning, which we ultimately decided to do. With the town only a 10min walk away we set off on foot only to find ourselves in the middle of Slunj’s local elections. The town park was crowded with people having coffee perusing the candidates stands, which were all offering rakia if you voted for their candidate. Or even if you didn’t. Additionally, the local farmers market was open to capitalize on all the folks in town. We couldn’t bypass the chance to visit a farmers market and I am so happy that we didn’t. This was where we encountered the boiled meat man.
A quick bit of background explaining the presence of the boiled meat man. This mountainous region shares a similarity (and likely history) with the Austro-Hungarian culture. We noticed taht many people at the market were even speaking German. As you know, with that culture comes a love of meat. This man expanded upon that love with a giant vat of boiling oil that he would toss chicken, brats, ribs, you name it, into and let them cook to juicy, crispy perfection. Simply writing about it makes my mouth water. Not knowing what to expect, we initially we only bought one ¼ chicken (insert Gandalf voice shouting “You fool of a Took!”). I don’t think it took more than a single bite. We immediately went back for another. Should you find yourself in a situation where you can buy some oil boiled meat, purchase a double portion. It’s sooooooooo good. With our plates before us we sat down on of the benches nearby and sipped a cold radler enjoying being in a strange town surrounded by people we couldn’t understand and absolutely loving it.
After lunch we walked down to Rastoke. It was hot and the boiled meat, while tasty, is not exactly an energy inducing food. It certainly didn’t make us the most eager to do a lot of hiking in the heat. Rastoke is a small village and there aren’t too many places to explore, but we enjoyed seeing the river flowing through it. We were beginning to feel like boiled meat ourselves and sought some shade. We found an apple tree with a bench beneath is across from one of the old water mills that has been transformed into a cafe. It was incredibly tempting to jump into the Korana River to break the heat of the day; and while we didn’t we had fun finding frogs hiding on the banks. Feeling incredibly drowsy we decided a quick nap was in order before heading back to Plitvice that afternoon.
Rested up we hopped in the car and drove down to Entrance 1 of Plitvice. This is the access for the four lower lakes and the Great Waterfall. These lakes are larger than most of the Upper Lakes and the boardwalks are more level and easier to get around on. About two minutes after passing the ticket gate you are greeted with the view of the Great Waterfall and it is mind blowingly beautiful. While you have to play the tourist shuffle and jostle to get a mostly unobstructed view earlier in the day, if you visit in the late afternoons or evenings it’s a wide open vista.
And this go round we timed our arrival better so while we were going down into the Park most people were heading out for the day, meaning we didn’t have the crowds for long.
The Great Waterfall is the tallest in the Park, and like I said before is absolutely stunning; it looks like something out of a fairy tale. We took the path down the boardwalk and headed straight to its base. Keep an eye out while you’re walking and you might catch a peek of the fish and frogs living in the water and aquatic vegetation. Or if you’re really lucky you’ll see the sunken boat now covered in tufa (we have a shot of it in our Gallery). With our fill of the views from the base of the Great Waterfall we walked back along Lake Kaluđerovac to where it meets with Lake Gavanovac. Here is a tufa dam that is simply stunning as the water falls down its mossy structure into Lake Kaluđerovac below. Another thing about the boardwalks I liked was it appeared they were designed to be a part of the landscape, so they really didn’t detract from the beauty.
An aspect of the karst landscape we hadn’t expected to see during our visit were caves, but near the border of the Gavanovac and Kaluđerovac Lakes we stumbled upon the Brac Caves. There is a staircase that leads into them and you can go exploring around the stalactites and stalagmites; but bring a torch as some people have used them as toilet since there aren’t many around the Park. It’s kinda gross. Exiting the caves we returned to the beautiful river/waterfall between Gavanovac and Kaluđerovac Lakes, then followed the boardwalk around Gavanovac Lake to catch the boat across Lake Kozjak. Lake Kozjak is the longest in Plitvice with an area of 85 hectares, and they have an electric boat that takes you across it to Entrance 2. As it’s incredibly beautiful we couldn’t help but stop to take some photos on the way. We even witness a rare sighting of a white-suited tourist posing in a tree above one of the smaller waterfalls. When we finally arrived at the boat launch we made it just in time to see the boat leaving for its trip across the lake. So we had about 30mins to spare before it returned. A bit of bird watching helped pass the time and in a blink of an eye the boat was back.
On our trip over we rode across with a tour group of retired folks from Australia, and after some bad “American” jokes from one guy we finally got to ride in silence. I’ve never been a fan of jokes that poke fun at people or groups in a mean spirited way, and this guys was pushing all my buttons. As annoying as it is when people behave like that, it’s never worth stooping to their level. Even if we may have wanted to have one of us stoop behind him while the other pushed him so he fell out of the boat. When we reached the other end we learned that the boat was done for the day and we would have to walk back around the lake to get to our car. This turned out to be an unexpectedly pleasant surprise. By this time the Park was virtually empty and we walked back in silence listening to the birds overhead. When we made it back to the boardwalks we found we had them completely to ourselves. We could goof off taking photos and take in all the beauty. Plus the lakes were so still you could see the surrounding mountainside reflecting back in them. With the parking lot about to close for the night we had to take our leave from the Park so we didn’t get locked in.
We had worked up quite an appetite walking around we didn’t feel like trying to find another restaurant that night. So back to Fenicks we went, and it was delicious even the second time around. Full and ready for bed we retired for the night. We knew we had a drive ahead of us the following day as we were heading north to Ljubliana, Slovenia.