May 10, 2017 93

Silence of the Frozen Giant

Monday, and it is still very cold outside and the news says the peak will be reached within the coming days. Minus 23°C they say, which is not so promising in a smog-bound town like Sarajevo in winter. I barely see the ugly grey buildings through my office window; I feel that I need some fresh blue beauty to inhale. I don`t know exactly why, but at that very moment I think about the winter vacation I spent at Plitvice Lakes with my parents in early the 1980s. Whenever I try to recall those memories I see us sitting on a horse-drawn sleigh in a magical snow globe. I must have mixed some Disney movies with ex-Yugoslavian nostalgia to merge all those memories into such a fairytale. I feel calm whenever I think of it. Avoiding deeper analysis I just accept it in the manner that a master Yoda would: “You will know the good from the bad when you are at peace.”

Within a second my brain switched into top gear. I was checking the official national park site, online weather stations, Google maps and booking sites. Sunny! -25°C! The park is open, accommodation available all over both countries starting from 15 EUR, and there are so many beautiful places to see on the way there. A split-second decision is made. I decide to make Bihać my base. From there I am 30 minutes away from the Croatian Plitvice Lakes and also Strbački Buk and Martin Brod, both amazing waterfalls in northwestern Bosnia. All look magical in deep minus conditions.

Photo: Strbacki Buk, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Tuesday, I leave Sarajevo in the direction of Jajce, the 14th century fortified capital of the Bosnian Kingdom and residence of the last Bosnian King Stjepan Tomašević. Jajce, two and a half hours from Sarajevo, is approximately halfway to Bihać,

There is a great photo location right across from the Old Town of Jajce, on the other side of the river Vrbas. The waterfall of the river Pliva located just below the fortified city falls into Vrbas creating truly beautiful scenery.

Photo: City of jajce, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Not more than 15 minutes drive away are the beautiful Pliva Lakes with many good fish restaurants and fairly priced bed and breakfasts. For someone who is there for the first time and who wants to discover Jajce and its surroundings, history and heritage, as well as to enjoy the local cuisine and general hospitality of the people, you can easily plan two fulfilled days. But I was already there so many times, so I headed on to Bihać.

On my way there I drove through Mrkonjić Grad nearby the beautiful Balkana Lake and small city of Ključ. This whole area of northwest Bosnia and Herzegovina is full of clean green rivers and beautiful lakes, a truly joyful experience for nature lovers.

Photo: Moonrise over the city of Mrkonjic Grad, Bosnia and Herzegovina

I have chosen to stay in the Hotel Emporium in Bihac for the price of 27.5 Euros per night with breakfast included. That is a very nice price for a new hotel with a sauna and, of course, warming up in a sauna after spending the day in -25°C was a comforting notion.

The next day, after a restful sleep, a hearty breakfast and a 30-minute drive, I entered Plitvice Lakes National Park and then spend no fewer than 7 hours just taking photos in perfect silence. Never underestimate Master Yoda!

Photo: Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Photo: Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Photo: Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Photo: Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Croatia’s largest and one of the oldest national parks in Southeast Europe: Plitvice Lakes belongs to the Dinaric karst area and due to its specific geology and hydrology of 16 cascade-wise arranged interconnected lakes it truly is one of the most impressive karst entities in the world. 

In 1979 UNESCO added it to the World Heritage register, 30 Years after it was founded as a National Park. The protected area, visited by more than a million of visitors each Year, extends over 296.85 square kilometers.

The entrance fee for adults for the period from January to March is approximately 6.5 Euros.