Today was a lovely day, following Tom's birthday, which didn't seem to be a day that could be beaten for beauty.
It started with a "bit of a lie in," as our tour guide would say since we didn't have to be in the bus until 9:30 am. Instead Tom and I took a walk in a Zagreb park. Then we boarded the bus and had a nice drive through the countryside in our way to Plitvice, a national park and also a UNESCO site.
We had a four-hour guided hike (some took options for shorter versions) through the lush greenery and lakes, filled with waterfalls spilling from pond to pond. The lakes were s beautiful turquoise color and filled with fish from carp to pike to trout. The hike included two boat rides, which took us around outlets in the lakes. The 200 steps up at the end of the hike was challenging for a few. Read more about the park: http://www.np-plitvicka-jezera.hr/en/
These waterfalls, combined with the limestone and moss create travertine, like what GFH--one of our local high school-- floors are made of.
On the drive, our guide gave us a history lesson about the struggles of Yugoslavia, its break up and wars with its neighbors, and the religious and political battles. She also explained how the relationships are today between Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats. Along the way, we could look out the windows to see the ravages of war: bullet holes in homes and imbed put buildings. We stopped at an outdoor museum of ruins and war machines from tanks to aircraft.
As s break from the heavy topic of war, our guide told us s touching story of a wounded stork Melena and how she has been cared for but that she cannot fly south due to an injured wing. However, her mate always comes back to her each year. One year, he was two weeks late, so Melena took another mate but he returned. Everyone celebrated and the he destroyed her eggs and drove off the intruder. Read more: http://www.total-croatia-news.com/lifestyle/3050-klepetan-and-malena-croatia-s-most-unusual-love-story
One last item to note: our guide warned us that we will be staying in the best hotel st the park. However, it would only be a three-star hotel and the service still in the communistic style: not very friendly or accommodating. She reminded us about how recent the war and changes have been (1990s) and to take this as an opportunity to learn.