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Plitvice Lakes National Park and February Don’t Go Together: Croatia

Some things just don’t go together.  Like sardines and peanut butter, or Pinocchio and honesty, or ice cream and weight loss.  Or Plitvice Lakes and February.

 

Had I done any research on Plitvice Lakes, besides learning that it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, I would have avoided my silly experience today.  But alas, I did not, and instead enjoyed a long bus ride followed by a nearly solitary walk in the snow and ice followed by another long bus ride.  Which is better than digging ditches.  

 

So I win.  Take that, Plitvice Lakes!

 

The brochure looked like this:

 

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes National Park

 

That looks amazing, right?  It’s just that I forgot about winter. Two days ago, I was in 90-degree weather in Thailand so you can see how one could make such a mistake. Plus, I rarely remember what month (or year) it is, so there’s that.  I’m pretty floaty, often existing in a timeless place.  But evidently, time does exist and seasons come along with it.  Like winter, in Croatia.

 

Going backwards for a moment, I now understand why it was so difficult to get a bus ticket to Plitvice Lakes at this time of year.  I spent nearly two hours in Zagreb’s small bus station trying to acquire the elusive roundtrip ticket.  The “information” desk might be more aptly named the “hint” desk, where tiny clues about how to get a ticket are delivered in a hostile tone through thick plate-glass windows.  Somebody needs to get this staff some doughnuts; not a happy bunch.  Anyway, it’s my job to decipher the scribbles and hints to acquire the ticket which can’t actually be done at the bus company storefronts but must be done by lining up at the properly numbered queue and speaking with another hostile person behind a plate-glass window.

 

But, in the end, I did it.  Again, winning!

 

The trip took two hours and passed through suburban and rural areas of Croatia.  Departing the bus with a handful of others,  I see the park is covered in snow.  The people at the park’s information desk scoff when I ask if I’ll have enough time to see everything with my bus departing in just 8 hours. They explain that much of the park is closed, the trails are icy, the lake is frozen and the boats aren’t running.  Good then.  Sounds perfect.

 

 

Despite walking as slow as a sloth, the walking is hard-going and slippery.  The trail hangs high above the canyon below and with no guardrails, I fear I will slip and inadvertently fling myself over the edge.  Admittedly, that is my imagination gone wild.  Far below, aquamarine pools cascade into more pools.  Hundreds of waterfalls pour from the top of the canyon.  I don’t tackle the sloping trails leading to the walkways below because I can barely avoid falling on the flat ones.  I walk and walk until I reach the terminus of the open paths: a frozen lake.  I pass a few dozen people in all my walking, so if solitude is your thing, February is your time.

 

It is indeed beautiful but with so much snow and lacking greenery, it’s hard for my eyes to even get a handle on the picture before me.  Plitvice Lakes in February resembles an abstract painting.

 

If you’re planning a visit to Plitvice Lakes, I’d recommend you go in late spring or autumn and avoid the busiest tourist months of  July and August.  Then, you’ll be winning too.

 

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