In order to get to Plitvice we need to catch the 6:15 train to Zagreb then a bus to Plitvice. The original plan was to go to Dubrovnik then Split then Plitvice and only after doing that move on to Ljubljana. Because of ferry schedules we couldn’t do that so we backtracked. The train to Zagreb is 2.5 hrs then we walked to the bus station and after eating more burek took a 2.5 hr bus ride to Plitvice. Six hours later we arrived in the middle of the woods. We headed for the buildings in search of a toilet for Piper. After answering natures call we preceded to the ticket booth where we paid and headed for a boat that would take us across the lake. If you’ve never heard of Plitvice you need to get out more. It’s a park with 16 lakes in it all at drastically different elevations. This means there are waterfalls and cascades everywhere. When I say everywhere I mean EVERYWHERE!. Imagine Niagra falls divided up and spread over a 1000 acres or more and you get the idea. In order to navigate this natural phenomenon there are boardwalks that lead you around the lakes and falls. Sometimes there’s no other place to put the boardwalks but over the falls themselves. I brought three batteries for my camera but as of this point in my vacation two were dead so I was being very careful about what I took my camera out for.
I didn’t know what the weather was going to be like but considering the rumbling in the clouds the last few days we packed our rain coats in the daybag. Our first opertunity to use them came within 30 minutes of us entering the park. A few sprinkles here, a few there and we had them on. Most of the people in the park had brought no outerware at all and were walking around shorts t-shirts and spaghetti strapped tops. I also brought a packmate ziplock back so I could put all my books and electronic gadgets in a water proof package. In my life I’ve felt some pretty heavy storms but withing another 5 minutes it was raining about as hard as I’ve ever seen it. Our first action was to keep walking and just bypass all the people huddling under the trees. The intensity of the rain picked up to the point we were also huddling under the trees even though we had rain coats. At some point the trees were full and weren’t helping anymore so we made the decision to move on. Thinking the rain couldn’t go on at this rate for long was wrong. The rain was coming down so hard I had to put my hands over my eyes to keep my contacts in. Not only were we surrounded by waterfalls we were in one! The amount of water coming over our faces was about the same amount as what you’d get by staring into the head of a healthy shower. There is rubber tired train makes it’s way around the park so we and about a billion other people headed for the pickup point. We wait there for about 20 minutes under a tree. At this point we are as wet as if we’d taken a one hour shower with our clothes on. The rain gear helped for about the first 10 minutes and then no more. Umbrellas were worthless and the plastic hooded ponchos didn’t help people either. We were all drenched to the core and wanted out. The park had sent several trains to rescue us and after another 20 minutes we were back at the entrance only to be greeted by sun and blue sky. The rain lasted about an hour and probably dropped enough rain to fill a lake. It would have taken us too long to get back out to where were were so we made the decision to come back the next year and spend the night. We found a cafeteria with reasonable food and ate outside where the sun could dry us. I didn’t relish the idea of riding buses and trains for 5 hours in wet shorts. My clothes got about 80 percent dry before the bus came to take us back. Out of all my clothes the only part that didn’t get wet was the part of my shirt under my arms, the rest head to toe was wet. We got back to Zagreb and had about 2 hours to burn and some extra kuna to spend so we headed to the town center to get on the internet, buy pastries and eat Sladoled (gelato). We returned to the train station to get on our train. Our train was headed for Munich so I walked up to the conductor of the Munich train and asked if he was going to Ljubljana and he said “da” and pointed down the tracks to a series of cars on the same platform. We boarded the train and waited for it to leave. It took left 5 minutes early and headed east. I knew immediately that we were on the wrong train and asked an english speaking passenger where it was going. He said Slavonia. Slavonia is very different from Slovenia even though the names are similar. Slavonia is eastern Croatia near the Hungary/Serbia border and not where we wanted to go. We jumped off at the next stop which was about the size of a box of matches. The station manager said we could wait 5 minutes and catch the next train west to Zagreb again. We did but missed our original train east. The next one was to leave at 11:00 and get us home at 1:45. That would make for a short night because we’d already paid for bus tickets to southwestern Slovenia and it left the station at 8:30am…. Experience has changed the way I travel. Several times in the past I’ve thought about taking an alarm clock with me everywhere I go and this is one of those times I wished I’d followed through. My alarm on my watch wasn’t reliable because it took a genius (which I’m not) to set it. The train was destined for Venice so I figured if we slept past our stop we’d just end up in Venice and skip the city we wanted to go to. Life is like that sometimes. I’m getting good at rolling with the punches. I did fall asleep but managed to wake up 5 minutes before our stop so we got off and staggered home to warm beds.