Plitvice Lake National Park, Croatia
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Croatia Trip Journal from July 22 to 27, 2006

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Country: Croatia
Duration: July 22 to 27, 2006 and July 30, 2006 (transit)
Distance Traveled in the Country:  ~ 1400 km
Memorable Impressions of the Country: 
Croatia's main fame is of course Dubrovnik, which truly is outstanding.  But Croatia also has some spectacular national parks like the Krka and Plitvica Lakes National Parks. As with other countries, were its economy is doing well, people are less approachable.  We did come during the peak season and therefore had little chance to come into contact with the average Croatian. We still rode away from Croatia with great memories and wonderful pictures of the country.
Gasoline Cost: approx. $1.60CDN/litre for 95 Octane
Camping Cost:  between $17.00 to $36.00CDN/night.
Food & Drink Cost: Comparable to Canadian Prices. 
Exchange Rate: 1 KN (Kuna) = $0.20CDN

July 22, 2006.  We are lined up for half an hour at the border in the blazing heat.  We receive an entry stamp and are on our way.  6km to the south of Dubrovnik, we set up camp at the Porto Campground for 19 Euro/night ($28CDN/night).  Staying out of the afternoon heat, we head into Dubrovnik at 4pm.  The old walled town of Dubrovnik can be seen from the road high above and does look picture perfect.  The old centre was heavily damaged in the 1991, but has been rebuilt to its former beauty.  After parking the bikes we first explore the adjacent Fort Lovrjenac (St. Lawrence) located to the west of the old town walls.  Then we enter the old town through the Pile Gate which opens up to the Main Street Placa and the Onofrio Fountain.  All the streets in the old town are made of white marble.  The Main Street Placa ends at the far east wall and the area opens up to a square with a Bell Tower, a Orlando Column, the Sponza Palace-Historic Archives, a small Onofrio's Fountain and the St Blaise Church.  The St. Blaise Church is a beautiful Italian baroque building built in 1715.  The other two outstanding churches are the Cathedral-Treasury and the St. Ignatius Church.  Both structures are adorned by large marble figures.  We wander the narrow streets and sit on a door step eating a sandwich and drinking Diet Coke.  At last we walk the 2km long city wall, built between 13th and 16th Century, for 70KN ($14CDN)/person.  The sun is in a perfect spot for pictures and gives the red roofs and stone buildings a magic glow.  As we ride back south to our campsite the sun sets in our mirrors over Dubrovnik engulfing the peninsula in a fiery red glow.  Back at the campsite we meet Stefan from Austria on his BMW R1100.  We end up at the Pub for some beer into the late hours talking about motorcycles and traveling.  Pretty sure we will hook up with him again next year as we head to Africa.

July 23, 2006.  Temperatures are in the 30's Degree Celsius at 8am in the morning.  Before we even start riding we are dripping with sweat.  From Dubrovnik we ride along the picturesque Adriatic Coast and turn inland at Opuzen to Metkovic.  We decided to detour into Bosnia/Herzegovina.  The border crossing is speedy with no stamp, but the line up is an hour long.  40km from Metkovic in Bosnia/Hercegovina lies Mostar and its 21st Century Arched Bridge (once 16th Century), but was destroyed by Croat shelling in November 1993.  We have hit the hot spot of former Yugoslavia.  The temperature reached an unbelievable 49 Degree Celsius in the shade and 56 Degree Celsius in the sun.  Both Mike and I dip our heads into the Neretva River at the base of the Arched Bridge.  After a stroll through the cobble stone streets of old Mostar we are retracing our route to Croatia.  Entering Croatia was a lot faster then leaving and we are back at the coast and bearable temperatures in the 30 Degree Celsius range.  If possible, visiting Croatia should be avoided in July and August, since thousands of tourists arrive and clog up every beach, campground, national park and the roadway. The coastal road is jammed with motorhomes and cars and the posted speeds are 60km/hr.  We find a small campground located between Split and Trogir on the Adriatic Sea for 85KN/night ($17CDN/night).  A good base to explore both old towns of Split and Trogir, we set up for two (2) nights.

July 24, 2006.  Our first destination in the morning is the old town of Split and its Diocletian's Palace.  Split itself is a very ugly city with industrial factories and highrises. Since it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, we do have the GPS coordinates programmed into our GPS.  Following the City centre sign also leads to the Diocletian's Palace located on the harbor.  After Dubrovnik every other old walled town can't compare.  Parking the motorcycles under the Palm Trees, we enter the rectangular fortress from the central ground floor of the palace.  Stopping at the visitor centre located in the colonnaded square we pick up a walking tour map.  The Neo-Romanesque Cathedral beside the tourist office, can be entered for 10KN/person, which also includes the Treasury.  For another 5KN/person we were able to enter crypt located in the vaults below the church.  Another interesting excursion is walking in the excavated basement halls below the palace for 12KN/person admission. The former Temple of Jupiter is now a Baptistery of St. John and is worth the 5KN/person peak into the single room.  The Golden Gate façade was under construction, but the massive 1929 statue of Gregorius of Nin with his shiny toe still visible.  Yes, we did touch his big toe for good luck.  Exiting the fortified walls through the Silver Gate we wander through the market and Mike buys me some red shorts with the letters HRVATSKA (meaning Croatia).  From the town of Split we ride to Trogir, which occupies a tiny island in the narrow channel between Ciovo Island and the mainland.  Trogir is a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its Romanesque and Renaissance architectural styles within 15th Century Walls.  For 10KN/person we climbed the towers of the Fortress of Kamerlengo and then headed straight for the famous three-nave Venetian Cathedral of St. Lovro.  The Cathedral dominates the town square and is most known for its Romanesque portal of Adam and Eve.  The nude statues are located at the entrance to the Cathedral.  The 15KN admission/person allowed us to see the interior of the Cathedral, the Treasury and most excitingly climb the scary steps of the bell tower. Another excellent day of sight seeing and it's time to head back to the camp and hit the beach for one last swim in the Adriatic Sea.

July 25, 2006.  To make some time we hit the toll Autobahn at Trogir.  At a spur of the moment we stop at the Krka National Park and spend 3 hours exploring.  Leaving all our gear, Helmets and motorcycles to its elements, we were pleasantly surprised to have it being as it was when we returned.  The park is entered via a 20 minute boat ride, which drops us off at the ticket booth.  Admission is 70KN/person ($14CDN/person).  The Skradinski Buk (Waterfall) is truly spectacular with its 17 steps and a total height of 45.7m.  The mean annual flow across the waterfall is 55 cubic meters/second.  A nice and busy walkway leads around the waterfall and the admission fee allows one to swim at the base of the waterfall.  To think that we almost missed this place since the guide book merely mentioned it via one sentence.  Back on the toll Autobahn, we head past Zadab inland, climbing a pass from Posedarje and then enter into our longest tunnel on this trip, a full 5.5kms long.  We exit the Autobahn at G. Ploca and are back on the country road, passing through Korencia the Plitvicka Jezera National Park is only 19 km.  We are both exciting to see this park, since we have seen pictures of magnificent waterfalls and bluer then blue lakes.  The park-run campground is located 7km from the first entrance and was 185KN/night ($37CDN/night).  Definitely the most expensive campground on this trip, but location and demand dictates this price.  We are just able to set up the tent as one thunderstorm after another moves over us.

July 26, 2006. Entrance to the Plitvice Lake National Park (UNESCO World Heritage Site) is 100KN/person ($20CDN/person) for the day.  We are one of the first to enter the park at 7:44am and the wooden walkways that criss-cross the lakes and waterfalls are almost empty.  Just past the entrance gate is the most amazing view of a cascade of waterfalls streaming over cliffs and lakes bursting over.  We look at each other and think that this must be the best part of the park, but it only got better.  As we start at Entrance 1, we follow path K, leading us across Kaluderovac Lake to view the Sastaci and Veliki Slap (Waterfalls) close up.  We take the path on the upper ridge to the Ferry Terminal which takes us across Lake Kozjak.  On the way we see the Milanovacki Slaovi, Slap Milke Tmine and Veliko Kaskade.  As the Kozjak Lake crests it forms the Milanovacki Slaovi Waterfall, which flows into the Milanovac Lake and the same process continues.  In total there are 16 lakes, which are located on different elevations, causing the water from one lake to overflow into the lower lake and therefore creating unbelievably beautiful waterfalls.  From the Proscansko Jezero Lake to the Korana River elevation drops 161m and water flows through the 16 Lakes.  After the ferry we continue hiking up the path and view the waterfalls Galovacki Buk, Mali Prstavac, Veliki Prstavac and other smaller ones without a name. After 6 hours of walking the entire path system, we are ready for a break and rest.  For those who were brought up in Germany, this place has also a special place in our memories.  As Winitou (Karl May) was filmed here.   I actually have a picture with the actor who played Winitou when I was 12 years old.  In 1980 my family and me visited this park on our way to Greece. This national park is unique and worth every penny of it.  To avoid the tourist crowds July and August should be avoided.  Maybe next time.

July 27, 2006.  Again we decide to change our route and instead of heading to Romania next, we detour to Slovenia, giving us a chance to also hit Pula on the Adriatic Sea.  From the Plitvice Lakes National Park, we take the country roads over Otocac to Senj, which is located at the coast.  Following the coastal highway to Rijeka, we turn south to Pula, which lies at the tip of the Istria Peninsula.  Pula is famous for its imposing 1st-Century Roman Amphitheatre (20KN admission/person).  It resembles the Coliseum in Rome and therefore is very different to any theater we have seen in the past.  The 30 m high outer wall has two rows of 72 arches and can seat 20,000 spectators overlooking the harbor.  We were unaware of this theatre until we saw postcards of it in Dubrovnik and asked a tourist office were it is located, believing it was the one in Rome.  Heading back north, we take a quick run into Porec, but are unable to park the bikes securely and therefore decide to press on to the Plovanija border crossing into Slovenia. Leaving Croatia was a breeze as they waved us through without even an exit stamp.

(See Slovenia Journal for continuation of the trip)

July 30, 2006.  On our way to Romania from Slovenia we enter into Croatia at the Bregana Border Crossing and cruise through the country via the 300km toll Autobahn (115KN/motorcycle or $23CDN/motorcycle).  Our exit border into Serbia was Bajakovo. 

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