Lower Plitvice Lakes

Click the map icon at the right to display a map of the part of the park we explored on this day. Like yesterday’s map, it will open in a separate window, in case you want to keep it open at the same time as this one.

Lakes Kozjak and Milanovac from up high
We got up at 6:30. The alarm must have worked, though Dorothea’s notes don’t say. When the dining room opened for breakfast at 7:05, we were there, and we caught the shuttle to station 1 at 8:30, after a longish wait. There were several other passengers, including a Japanese man with a lot of camera equipment.

At the shuttle station, a trail began that led northward along the top of a high cliff overlooking the valley, which had at this point become a gorge. The views of Lakes Kozjak, Milanovac, Gavanovac, and Kaluđerovac were spectacular. We passed the Japanese photographer at one of the first viewpoints, where he had set up his camera on a tripod and was carefully framing the perfect shot. Later he passed us, wasting no time between viewpoints, and we passed him again, deep in concentration, at the next one.

Walkway crossing a waterfall
There were other people on the trail, though it wasn’t yet crowded, and we could see more down below, following trails that wound along the lakeside at the bottom of the gorge, and even across the falls that separated one lake from another.

Veliki Slap,
For quite a bit of the way along the top, we had a view of the Big Waterfall (Veliki Slap), where a small watercourse named Plitvice Potok (the second word means ‘stream’) pours its waters down a 70-meter (230-foot) cliff into a kettle-like basin with an outlet just below Lake Kaluđerovac. About a kilometer from the start, the high trail met a path leading from the Entrance 1 parking lot, and the number of fellow walkers increased noticeably. We now descended, in a series of reverse loops, to the level of Kaluđerovac, the last lake in the chain. The outflow, joined by the water from Veliki Slap, becomes the river Korana, which follows a wandering northward course for almost 90 miles, during which it serves for about 15 miles as the border between Croatia and Bosnia. (Eventually, it joins the river Kupa at Karlovac, which, according to the Rough Guide, was deliberately sited between these two rivers because the difference in their water levels guaranteed a fresh flow of water through the fortress’s moat. I guess nobody likes a stagnant moat.)

Travertine below
To get us to the Big Waterfall, the trail crossed a walkway built over a low fall — one of the steps in the water stairway — that stretched across Lake Kaluderac near, but not quite at, its outlet to the river. The yellowish brown travertine that formed this barrier was clearly visible at our feet.

We walked up to a point near the foot of Veliki Slap where a broad observation area was fitted with bleachers, presumably for the benefit of tour guides’ audiences. No one was lecturing at the moment, but the bleachers, with the waterfall behind them, were a popular posing place for snapshots. We exchanged favors with another couple and sat for our official Veliki Slap portrait.

Veliki Slap portrait — note 'chinny' hat
When we turned back to Lake Kaluđerovac, we followed its east shore upstream, then crossed the fall that separated that lake from Gavanovac, just above it, and continued north along the west shores of Gavanovac and Milanovac. Somewhere along the way, a Frenchman who was with another group hailed me and asked (“admiringly,” Dorothea wrote) if my hat was a “chinny.” We struggled with that for a bit, then I thought to say “Tilley?” He smiled and said yes, so I turned the hat over and showed him the part of the Canadian hat’s verbose label that was written in French. He read it avidly, and told us that he planned to buy a hat like that for himself. The trail offered many chances to become acquainted with the waterfalls that divide the lakes — sometimes in the distance, sometimes up close and personal.

Falls between Milanovac and Kozjak
From the falls that separated Lakes Milanovac and Kozjak, the trail left the shoreline to cut across a bulge and get us more efficiently to the boat landing (P3) at that northern, downstream end of the big lake. Probably because it’s at the midpoint of many visitors’ walks in the park, this area has been developed as a kind of outdoor food court. It’s a big open meadow where victuals of various kinds are available from several stands arranged in two rows, with wooden tables and benches in the wide space between the rows. There’s also a souvenir shop, and of course public toilets as well.

Kids were kicking footballs around in a part of the central space that was clear of benches and tables. The place was full of people, some eating lunch, some shopping for souvenirs, others just hanging around, perhaps waiting for someone else to finish eating or shopping. The crowd included several groups of pre-teen kids, and we realized that the last Friday in May was right in the high season for school field trips. Down at the landing, a longish line of people waited for a boat to take them back to landing P2.

We were attracted to a snack shop that had a fire going and chickens and other treats for carnivores turning on a spit. We got some tasty local sausage, bread, French fries, and for dessert apple strudel. As usual, I drank Ožujsko and Dorothea Jamnice. Once again, the food wasn’t cheap, but it was good.

Lake traffic
When we’d finished our meal and made use of other facilities provided, we walked down to the landing and got in line. The park has a fleet of half a dozen or so electric boats that are in constant circulation on the long route that takes in almost the whole length of Lake Kozjak, but they can’t keep up with demand on a busy day, so a certain amount of waiting is necessary. We stood in line for perhaps half an hour. (Dorothea’s notes say that we arrived at the meadow at 11:15 and got on the boat two hours later at 1:15, so a half-hour spent waiting after our leisurely meal sounds about right.) We were well content; we’d seen as much of the lakes as we had planned to see, and had no reason to be in a hurry. It was pleasant to finish the excursion with a long ride on the lake. We sat in the front row of passengers, and I took this picture of a boat coming the other way without having to leave my seat.

The large boats dropped everyone at landing P2, where they took on passengers who were waiting to go back to P3. To get to the side where the hotels were, we crossed the lake on the same short-run ferry we’d used the previous day. Two of them were running now, and even though they carried fewer passengers than the larger boats that ran the length of the lake, the crossing was so short that the ferrying was quite speedy and efficient. I don’t remember us having to wait at all.

Steps from the lakeside toward the hotels (there were many more)
A day and a half of walking — hardly incessant, but a lot more than we’re used to — made our climb up from the lakeside tougher than it had been the day before, and we stopped several times to rest; fortunately there were benches at intervals along the way to make this possible. We got back to the hotel at about 2:00, and stopped at the reception desk to ask how we might catch a bus to Zagreb the next morning. Then we went up to our room to rest, read, and snooze. A refreshing breeze came in our open windows until 4:30, when the sun began to shine directly through and we began to bake. We had to close the windows then.

We weren’t complaining. We’d had sunny weather, often hot, during nearly all of our two days in the park, and it had been ideal for our visit. “The sun-dappled forest,” Dorothea wrote, “was a delight.” And I’m delighted to concur.

At 7:00, we went to the dining room for dinner. Our waiter, a strapping lad who looked as if he might be happier with a job in the construction trades, didn’t understand much English, and his comprehension of our orders was, um, approximate. I got the steak in gorgonzola sauce that I asked for, but instead of steamed rice I got Tater Tots again. (However, they were bigger and better than Wednesday’s version, so I didn’t really mind.) Dorothea ordered mushroom risotto and tomato salad; the risotto she got was carrot instead. (According to the menu, it was “risotto with fine herbs.” Perhaps carrots are regarded as a fine herb in Croatia, or just in the Lika, but I’m skeptical.) We both had Sacher torte for dessert. It was heavy on the jam, which somewhat overwhelmed the chocolate, but this was certainly not the waiter’s fault, and we liked it — jam is one of the things Croatia does very well. Our respective beverages were exactly what they had been for the previous two meals.

Once again, we didn’t stay up late; the afternoon snooze had been necessary, but not sufficient.