That morning we got up early (5:30) and got ready before heading to the bus station to catch a bus to Plitvice, Croatia’s national park. Our host was sure that leaving the house at 6:30 would get us there on time, but between missing one tram and waiting for a connection, we were scrambling for time and arrived at the station five minutes before the bus was supposed to depart.
Luckily we made it on the bus, which was a little late and headed off through the winding roads and hilly countryside to Plitvice. We were dropped off in what looked like the middle of nowhere at about ten and then spent forty minutes wandering around trying to find a place to store our backpacks, because in off season, everything in the area is closed. We finally found one open hotel, stored our luggage and headed down the trail to the park. We had been told by the driver that the last bus continuing to Zadar was at two pm, so we chose a short trail to walk.
A ferry took us over the lake and dropped us off at a dock with a series of steps leading up, so we wandered up the trail and spent the next few hours walking through the gorgeous lakes and waterfalls. No picture or words can do justice to the colour of the water – such a deep blue, almost jade. And the fall colours everywhere were beautiful. Of course we took a million pictures (ok, maybe only three hundred) and even managed to spot some wildlife in the form of bright blue song birds and a woodpecker!
Around one we were getting cold and hungry and tired from all the steps, so we wandered back to the hotel, collected our bags and trekked back to the bus stop where we met an Australian couple who had been travelling for about two months and had another two months to go. They had kids a little older than us back home and had done a similar trip to us when they were young so we chatted and shared food. While we have had really good luck with weather and such, they had had very poor luck this trip – three of four national parks they were planning on going to this trip had closed due to natural disasters and it had rained for two of the days they were in Plitvice. Once the bus came we boarded and drove down the mountain, through another series of mountains which had much more of a desert climate and finally to the coast where we were dropped off in Zadar.
We took a taxi to our host’s house (having gotten directions from Pam and directions from him via text on how to get into his place) and thus began our adventure with the host we never met. I can’t even be positive this person really exists. When we arrived he had gone to work, he worked late into the night and we were asleep when he got home, we were up and gone exploring the next day before he was up and when we came back he was gone. He was supposed to get home in five minutes when we called him but almost an hour went by and we had to leave to catch our bus. We communicated solely through notes and texts, aside from one desperate phone call when we were lost trying to get back to his place (before we realized we were less than five minutes away from his house!) So thank you to a complete stranger who was trusting enough to let two strangers live in his house for awhile!
Speaking of being lost though, we have never been lost in a city as often as we were lost in Zadar. Our relatively decent sense of direction went completely out the window and we spent multiple hours lost, wandering around industrial areas looking for the downtown center. Luckily we did find it eventually and it was worth it – the pier was beautiful and the walled old town was too. They had these old roman ruins as well as a couple of gorgeous churches – one of which apparently is transportable! We ended up stopping for pizza at a little cafe by the sea and we accidentally ordered two smalls (we were going to share one) but they were delicious, so it was ok. After another adventure in being lost we found our way back to Ivan’s (our host) and eventually had to leave for the bus stop, but had trouble finding a taxi to get us there. We stopped at a bank and asked them to call us one and eventually we got picked up. Another very close call and we made it on the bus with exactly two minutes to spare! On our bus journey down the coast we watched a storm roll in off the Adriatic – very cool. Luckily, we were safely in our hostel in Split before it started to rain!