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Eastern Europe Tour

Day 13 Friday June 1, 2007
Plitvice Lakes - Rab

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The actual digital photos have much better resolution than the enlarged photos.
This badger guarded the stairway up to the rooms.

The Plitvice Hotel strictly prohibits wolves in the building.

I expected to sleep until 5 a.m. or so, but I woke up at 3:45. When I looked at my face in the mirror, I realized that I needed to go back to sleep. At 4:30 I gave up and worked on my journal for an hour before going back to bed.

One thing occurred to me that morning. If many Serbs had inhabited Vojna Krajina, if most of them left during the fighting, and if they could come back to reclaim their houses, then great portions of Croatia must be vacant with pending ownership. I had to wonder what was the countryís long-range plan for all of that territory. There probably was some kind of statute of limitations.

At first I could not find my comb or my water bottle. The water bottle eventually showed up. The comb was on my bed the entire time. It seemed incredible to me that I could still be using the same pens and comb that I brought with me almost two weeks ago. On most of my trips I have misplaced at least one or two pens. I have always depended on the hotels in the U.S. to keep me supplied. I lost three or four combs on my first visit to Italy.

The breakfast layout.

Unusual lighting in the dining room.

Breakfast at the Plitvice Hotel was in the same huge facility in which we ate supper. None of the Asians showed up while we were there, so there were lots of empty tables. The fare was similar to what we had consumed on the rest of the trip. I had a good-sized helping of scrambled eggs and little wieners. I also took a bowl of pears. They offered many kinds of juices. I took tomato juice for the first time on the trip. The best thing about it was the fact that the coffee was hot. Joanne and Lee joined Sue and me just as we were finishing. I think that this may have been the first time on the tour that anyone started breakfast after Sue did.

My left foot.

I wrapped my ankle with Pattiís ace bandage. I wore shorts, my nylon pants, a tee-shirt, and a jacket. I also brought my umbrella. The weather was cool, probably in the low 50ís, and cloudy.

We checked out of the hotel and loaded our bags on the bus. There was a delay for some reason. I sat down to chat with Lyle. He told me that he had been director of finance at Boeing for thirty years. He also disclosed his plans to drink the bottle of wine that he had been carrying around with him for a few countries.

We then trooped down as a group to the bus stop #ST-2. Two of the busses, which actually look like zoo trains without the rails, came by, but they were both going downhill to ST-1. We planned to go uphill to ST-3. Tom remarked to me that it was unusual that there were no bald men on the tour, at least none completely bald. I had not noticed that before he mentioned it. I had noticed that there is one mustachioed man and two bearded ones. More than half of the men are six foot or taller. In my previous two trips my impression was that I had been the tallest person in the group.

The park had lots of signs depicting activities that are not allowed. We had fun speculating on what the signs could mean: "No Macarena dancing," "No lynching of dogs," "No throwing oneís sister into the lake," etc. The sign at the hotelís entrance warned against brining wolves into the building.

The "funny" bus took us to our starting point.

Everyone was ready to hike.

When our bus arrived, it was already rather full. We piled into the third car. Susana had advised us to sit on the right side of the bus because the view was better. Not all of us could follow her advice, and, in fact, there was not that much to see. I sat next to Lauren. I never took my camera out of its case. Some of the people who were already on the bus had boarded the first downhill bus. It must have turned around at ST-1.

The ride to ST-2, known as Galovac, was uneventful except for one hairpin turn that caused our car to get whipped around quite suddenly. I worried for a moment that having all the weight on one side of the bus might have been a big mistake.

The first leg of the walk was downhill to the ferry station P-2. Describing the experience of walking on the boardwalks and looking at the hundreds of waterfalls and clear still water is an impossible task. Even the photos fail to capture how incredible Plitvice was. The best part was that we were able to do this first leg almost alone. Most of the other people for some reason started at the bottom and walked up.

The trail for the most part was a boardwalk.

Our first spectacular falls was definitely a photo op.

I said that it was spectacular.

A slightly different view.

I would love to know how Steveís photo came out.

Sometimes there were lots of falls.

Some of the falls were simple.

Some were covered with moss.

Sometimes the water seemed to come from nowhere.

We could often see the image of the falls reflected in the lake.

We were going downhill. So was the water.

Sue and her movie camera made it.

Sue was, of course, the last person to finish the first part of the hike. Fortunately the operator of the ferry waited for us. We all boarded the one that went across Lake Kozjak. A huge mass of people was waiting to board on the other side.

The Corcorans on the ferry.

Hikers being ferried in the opposite direction.

Susanaís favorite bear greeted us on the other shore.

Chickens on the spit.

MilanovačSki Slap.

At the ferry station there was a break area where one could buy drinks and snacks. I did not partake, but I took some photos of Susanaís favorite bear and the chicken on the spit near the open fire. The chickens looked awfully good, but it was much too early for lunch.

The second leg down to entrance #1 was even more spectacular than the first leg. However, by this time we had to fight for space on the boardwalk, which detracted at least a little from the experience.

Tom photographs some interesting falls.

Tom and I explored the so-called cave called ?upljara. It is really better described as a big hole in the ground than as a cave. I could not understand why in the world the guide book recommends against climbing through it. We were rewarded by a spectacular view from the road onto which we exited. I would say that one of the photos that I took was as striking as any that I had taken on the trip. [I was still using it as the wallpaper for my computer's desktop four years later.] Perhaps the writer of the guide book assumed that everyone would have already seen the view from the road.

This detour allowed us to find Sue and Patti, who were beginning to struggle at that point. I ended up helping Sue with her bag. It was causing her shoulders annoyance and some pain.

The boardwalk went through the cattails.

Joanne and Lee near a water cave.

Tom approaches ?upljara.

Looking back down the ?upljara hole.

The view from the top was breathtaking.

Well worth the climb.

Who would advise skipping this view?

Going back down.

We cross the lake.

We made the unpleasant trip over to the big falls. We had to fight our way through teenagers every step of the way. A couple brought their dog with them. What a nuisance to have to worry about your dog on a boardwalk for the entire morning.

The boardwalk got a little crowded.

All the youth groups wanted pictures by the "Great Falls."

There were supposed to be bears and wolves in the park, but this was the most ferocious mammal that we spotted.

The best view of the Great Falls was on the path back to the bus.

After seeing the "Great Falls" we had had enough. We still had to make the long ascension up to the road. Then we had to climb up the overpass to cross over to where the bus was parked. We arrived right at 12:15, the appointed hour. Sue was hoping to be able to stop for an ice cream, but the store was closed. Another example of these former Communist countries doing a poor job of taking advantage of Americans.

The Restaurant Macola.

The group soon stopped for lunch at Restaurant Macola, a really unusual place. They had a fairly large smoking area, a second set of tables that people used for lunch, and a dining room. For the second time in two days I wondered how they ever could fill the place. The dining room had at least twenty stuffed animals in it. Most of us thought that they went a little overboard on this theme. The Yogi and Boo Boo with beers were definitely special, however.

Sue and I both went to the bathroom before eating. We then went through the cafeteria line long after everyone else was seated with their food. I had a sensible lunch of soup, a pear, a banana, bread, and an O?uj?ko beer. Sue made the mistake of taking a bowl of pears and then asking for what the man in front of her had - pork ribs with potato salad. She had a Zlatorog beer that she ended up sharing with Tom.

Did I mention ...

... that they had ...

... lots of stuffed animals?

The beer bears.

The serving line.

I sat next to Lyle. In response to a question from Paul Miller, he told us that he had prostate cancer and that he would be taking radiation treatments when he finished the tour. That was fine, but I did not need to know the details, at least not while I was eating.

We then boarded the bus for the ride to the coast. Most towns in this part of Croatia had for decades had two churches, one for the Serbs and one for the Croats. Many of the Roman Catholic ones were destroyed by Yugoslav army in 1991. Many Greek Orthodox churches were wiped out in 1995 by the Croatians. Most of the Roman Catholic churches have been rebuilt. Many Greek Orthodox ones are still in ruins.

Bullet holes in the buildings hardly faze the Croats.

A satellite dish in a bullet-riddled building.

We passed through the town of Otočac, which was a center of hostility during the nineties. Mass graves were found here. The Greek church was destroyed and never rebuilt.

The roads that we traveled in Croatia seemed to be pretty good. I did not expect to encounter turnpikes.

To reach the coast we first had to climb the Dinaric Alps. They were very rocky. We stopped for a break just before we crested. We walked up a little ways and were rewarded with our first view of the Adriatic. The surprising thing was how desolate the western slope was all the way down to the shore. In fact, even the visible islands looked virtually devoid of vegetation. This was evidently largely attributable to the "Bora" the very dry wind that habitually came down from the Alps.

Susana informed us that Croatia has approximately 1,100 islands in the Adriatic. The coast and the islands have been desirable European tourist destinations since the sixties.

Climbing up to the crest for the scenic view.

The eastern Adriatic is full of islands and rugged coastlines.

It was chilly (for everyone but Sue) but scenic.

The pirate town of Senj.

She warned us about sea urchins, small aquatic animals with black spikes that stick out like a pin cushion. They are practically motionless. If you step on one, it can be extremely painful.

Watch out for sea urchins.

Goli, the island just north of Rab, was used by the Yugoslav government as a prison for male political prisoners.

Susana insisted that she knew of no free public toilets in Croatia. In fact, there was hardly anywhere in the part of the Croatian coast that we traversed where a bathroom break was even feasible. The old pirate town of Senj evidently has taken advantage of this fact. So we stopped in Senj even though there was not much to do there. We got to spend some time looking at the sea and the many island. We also saw some sea urchins that had attached themselves to a concrete wall in the harbor. Bojan disappeared with the bus; he returned in twenty or thirty minutes.

One lonely boat in Senjís harbor.

The desolate coast.

Susana told us that Rab, like much of the Adriatic was dominated by the Venetians for centuries. The asylum on Rab was used by the Italian government as a concentration camp during World War II. Silvio Berlusconi, Italyís former president of the council, was quoted as saying that the people detained there by Mussoliniís government were on "vacation."

The ferry to Rab departed from the town of Jablanac. The drive from Senj to Jablanac is along a very rugged coastline. There were numerous switchbacks, and the road rose surprisingly high at certain points.

Rab did not look too inviting when seen from the shore.


We arrived in the port of Jablanac just as a ferry was leaving. The bad news was that we would have to wait for the next ferry. The good news was that we were close enough to the front of the line that we would almost certainly be able to take the next boat. Most of us got out of the bus and walked around a little bit.

The ferry that entered the port a few minutes later was full. After it emptied, Bojan drove our bus aboard. On the ferry with us were two trucks and more cars than I would have thought that it could carry.

Our ferry was named after St. Christopher. He had been demoted by Rome, but he was still a big deal on Rab. His head was supposedly there.

I had saved a few kunas by not using the facilities in Senj. I used the menís room on the ferry. It was a hole. I wonder what the womenís room was like.

They knew how to pack the ferry.

Along the way we passed a ferry coming from Rab to Jablanac. It was as completely loaded as our boat was.

As we got close to Rab it looked a little less like the moon. We could see little clumps of vegetation on the sand. We eventually could make out individual sheep that somehow managed to find enough edible material on the steep hillside.

The ferry let us off a little ways south of Rab town. It was not quite as desolate as the east side of the island, but it was not anywhere that one would want to live. The bus drove north through ever greener land. We saw more sheep. Eventually we approached the town from the opposite side of the harbor from our hotel. The harbor was extremely picturesque. It was full of pleasure boats and ships.

Rab town.

Bojan dropped us at our hotel, the Ros Maris. The staff treated us like royalty. The manager welcomed us with champagne and the Croatian equivalent of donut holes. Several staff members in distinctive light blue uniforms offered whatever service we might need. This was by far the warmest reception that we had yet received.

Our bed room in Ros Maris.

Sue and I managed to commandeer the elevator and take our luggage up to our room. We then hurried back down so that we could soak up the ambience of the lovely little town. We went over to the square and ventured a short way into the park. We took individual photographs of the weird statue and the equally weird fountain without realizing that they were related. The statue was, according to a legend on Rab, Kalifront. The woman in the fountain was Draga. As Kalifront was about to take Draga forcibly, she prayed to Diana, who turned her into stone. Kalifront was forced to spend his time taking care of the forest. Eventually he became more beast than man and came to look like a tree.

Sue stocks up the fridge.

This was the sink.

We all ate supper together at the restaurant associated with the residence and apartments named Astoria. It was a stoneís throw from the hotel and offered very nice views of the harbor from the tables arrayed on its patio. I sat with Lyle, the Crepacs, the Reistetters, and the Thompsons. We had a very nice salad with tasty arugula, three different kinds of fish, and chard. It was a pretty good meal, although the fish was difficult to handle. Ray gave our table a short seminar on how to remove the bones from the fish, but I was at best only a little more skilled at it after he explained how to do it than before. None of us choked on any bones; I would rate the activity as a rousing success.

The view from our window.

An alley in Rab.

Joan and Lyle were ready for supper on the porch.

I sat across from Lyle on the end of the table closest to the harbor. We had the best view of the harbor. We also had the best view of the heavy black clouds which soon appeared overhead. We finished the dinner dry, but then the clouds burst. Most people were safely under umbrellas, but I got fairly well drenched. I had to get up and move to a drier place.

Empty plates at the Astoria.

The food finally arrived.

Ray was the expert at dealing with these critters.

And then the rain started.

The restaurant was well prepared for this development. They moved us inside to a cool little room across a tile-covered courtyard, or perhaps it was across the street. Audrey slipped on the way to this room, but she was not seriously injured. I had to suspect that this room must have had something to do with the crossbow festivals for which the town was famous. There were unidentified medieval costumes scattered about, and a crossbow hung on the wall.

Lyle and Nedra arrive at the dessert room.

For some reason Patti and Sue arrived quite a few minutes after everyone else. I never did discover what mischief they were up to.

The restaurantís staff brought us our dessert in this novel location. It would have been nice to enjoy dessert out on the patio, but there was something adventurous about the way that things turned out. Everyone seemed to come away from the dinner with a very positive feeling about the tour and their fellow diners.

I had ordered a glass of white wine. Each of the couples had a carafe of wine. Ray evidently thought that he was ordering half a carafe, but that was not one of the choices. Lyle also ordered a carafe for himself. Somehow there was a big mix-up in the payment for the wine. At first it appeared that Lyle was going to be stuck with paying more than his share. Then Susana offered to make up the difference. Then Andy said that he would pay the amount that Ray had failed to contribute, and he would get the money from Ray. The last that I heard was that Lyle actually made out on the deal. I never did get the details.

Not even leather armor would be needed.

The costumes.

Dessert is served.

Patti certainly liked hers.

The scarecrow left his hat here.

By the time that we finished dessert the rain had stopped. Tom said that he knew how to get back to the hotel. We followed him, but I think that we went quite a bit out of our way. Nobody cared. It was a nice night for a stroll, and Rab was a nice place to do it.

When we got back to the room I downloaded my photos. I had taken 365 shots in only one day. I was pretty certain that I would have a very difficult time culling them down to a reasonable number for the journal.