Thursday, June 14, 2007

Day Fourteen – Wed June 13 – Prvic, HR to Bled, Slovenia via Plitvice Park

We enjoyed another breakfast on the terrace, packed & awaited the 10:15 ferry back to Vodice. Everything had been perfect and relaxed, as hoped, on Prvic, and our only anxiety was what might await us with the car. Denver boot? Towed Away? Pile of tickets?

We bought our tickets from the woman in the little booth that opens about 10 minutes before the ferry pulls up to the pier. She bore an really unfortunate resemblance to Wavy Gravy, San Francisco’s legendary clown, DeadHead, activist, etc., but Paul tried to put that out of his head.

As the ferry pulled in toward the dock in Vodice at around 11:00AM, we were literally looking through the binoculars to see if the car was still in the lot (yes), did it have a “Vodice boot” (no) and did it have a ticket (yes, apparently). When we got off the boat and to the car, we learned that the paper stuck under the windshield wiper wasn’t actually a ticket, but a flyer to a girlie-nightclub, so with no further ado, we threw it away, jumped into the car and hit the road.

We were able to get onto the expressway without too much trouble, and decided to head toward the Plitvice Lakes National Park, since we had been unable to see it on the way south. We got to the park a bit before 1:00, and opted for the “E” tour, which was said to take between two and three hours, which was perfect. The drive to the park got us into some pretty and mountainous area. The coastal areas in northern Dalmatia were more arid and desert-like than I had imagined. It resembled the eastern part of the Sierra heading to Nevada or part of Arizona. But this area in central Croatia was lusher and had some dramatic topography.

The park itself is beautiful. In 1949 it was created as Croatia’s (or at the time, Yugoslavia’s) first National Park and contains dozens of lakes and hundreds of waterfalls that are actually creating travertine stone and constantly, subtly shifting as the calcium deposits build the rock. The area is very lush and moist and the cerulean blue water in the lake was beautiful. Our “E ticket”J, started with a tram ride up to a drop off point, where we hiked back down between lakes and past falls for about an hour and a half, and caught a mini-ferry boat that carried us across a small part of a lake. From there it was still another 15 minute walk to the park entrance, and by the time we got there, the grilled chickens we had smelled on the way-in were all gone. Luckily, they still had sausages, so we used literally all but one Kuna on a sausage, beer and roll which we shared as a late lunch around 4:00.

Soon, we were back on the road, and the navigation toward Slovenia wasn’t too challenging. There was some interesting driving on a section of twisties which presented a bit of a challenge to Annette as a driver however. There seemed to be a need on the part of many oncoming drivers to take up more than their “lane” on this narrow road as they took the corners. Whoa!...there’s another car coming toward us! But we made it safely and without too much stress to Lake Bled by around 7:15PM.

We lucked into a parking place about 200 meters down and across the street from our hotel, the Grand Hotel Toplice, so we didn’t even bother to ask about hotel parking since we were only there for one night. The hotel lives up to its name. Paul had decided to splurge for this one night, spring for the lakeside room at the fancy hotel and it lived up to expectations; with the oriental rugs, antiques, balcony and general “old, European, grand resort” ambiance.
We took a brief walk along the lake (shortened by some swarming bugs), and ate dinner at the Panorama restaurant outdoors overlooking the lake. We had a goulash soup, grilled shrimp on skewers, grilled “sea bass” which tasted more like a trout or other fresh water fish. All quite good, and enjoyed with a Union beer (one of the local Slovenian varieties) and a Slovenian pinot gaube…whatever that is! We were serenaded by a Slovenian version of Paul Shaefer with his synthesizer, who alternated between polkas and other folk favorites (much to the pleasure of one large table of Sixty-something Germans near us) and songs like “Spanish Eyes,” “Besa me Mucho” and “The Look of Love.” After a couple of beers, Paul experienced “beer headphones”, the auditory equivalent of “beer goggles,” and declared: “This guy rocks!”

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