After Prague we took an all day train journey through the Czech Republic, Austria, and then the upper portion of Croatia heading for Zagreb. Travel days, especially train travel days, quickly became an oddly comforting experience for me. It was a day designated to doing (mostly) nothing and catching up on research for our next destination, book reading, picture editing, podcast listening, and (in Josiah’s case) napping. After traveling by plane between our last few destinations I was excited to be on the train all day. I had lots of time to research and decide on our final stop for this trip (the Dolomites, woot!), which felt relieving and exciting. I also got sucked into this book, because dramatic love stories are the best, am I right? Or maybe that’s just me.
Anyway, we arrived in Zagreb late at night and explored a little bit of the city the following day. We got in some shopping, a trip to the Museum of Broken Relationships, and a lovely dinner in a treehouse-like restaurant eating pizza and drinking rosé. The next morning was stressful getting out of the city and I may have snapped at my mom like a big jerk (sorry Maj!). But as we made our way out of the city and into the countryside the stress started to slide away bit by bit. We made our way to Poljanak, where we stayed over the next couple of days exploring the Plitvice Lakes National Park.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
We immediately added the Plitvice Lakes to our list of places to visit after Josiah came across a picture on Instagram. The colors already had us mesmerized and we were so excited to see them in person. We stayed in a small house in Poljanak, a little village close to the lakes. It was so quiet and comforting to be away from city noise and see green for miles and miles. Our hosts mom let us into the house when we arrived, enthusiastically showing us around, bringing us bottles of sweet liqueur, and trying to communicate even though neither of us knew what the other was actually saying.
That first morning in Poljanak we woke up to a gray wall of clouds and the likelihood of rain all day long. Undeterred by the inevitable rain we decided to do the long 13 mile loop around the lakes our first day (unless the skies were dumping crazy amounts of rain at which point we’d adjust accordingly). Thankfully we only had gray clouds and drizzling skies for most of the day so we got to do our planned route and enjoyed most minutes of it.
The sheer beauty of this place is amazing. It was yet another time on this journey that I found myself laughing randomly as I looked at my surroundings because I didn’t know how else to respond. It was incredible; bright turquoise waters, electric green leaves, and white/gray cliffs that backdrop waterfall after waterfall. Wooden plank paths wind over the lakes and skirt by the many waterfalls, and the long trail we hiked that first day took us into the surrounding forests with the lakes or a waterfall never far from view. Josiah blissfully hiked the whole day in sandals and no shirt, spurring on lots of side eye glances and quiet chuckles as people passed. And at the very end of our day the sun poked out from the clouds giving us a glimpse of what we’d see tomorrow.
Day two we woke up tired and with sore feet so we decided to do a combo of hiking, taking the ferry, and hopping on the bus to get to the higher lakes. We were #blessed with a sunny day and were able to see how brilliant the colors of the Plitvice are when that yellow sun is shining down on them. The crowds were a little heavier with the sun out but we navigated our way around the slow pokes, heading back to our favorite spots the previous day. We also rented a row boat, all trying our hand at gracefully (or not so much) gliding our bodies through the water. And after that we celebrated our rowing accomplishments and America’s independence (it was July 4th!) with some ice cream and more hiking. As the day slowed to an end we took in as much beauty as our eyes and hearts could muster stealing one more look and taking one last picture before heading home.