Just as much the perfect day trip as Trakai, I've seen photographs of Plitvice many times before and stopping in Zagreb was partly to let me come here. I was just hoping that it wasn't going to be another disappointment like Brest Fortress.
Getting there was strightforward, 8:40 bus from Zagreb to Split stopping at plitvice about halfway there. Another guy from the hostel was also going so we joined up, we had been told that the middle section of the park was closed for the winter or because of flooding but weren't sure which. At least it meant that the park entrance fee was dropped from a steep £11 to £7, "including use of boat ride and tourist trains in the park".
There was a huge selection of marked trails through the lakes and I guessed that the estimated times were based on octogenarians so we had time to do one of the longer ones. Most of the trails started off on a common route down to the bottom lake and past the "Big Fall". Unfortunately the lakes and falls all run directly from south to north and at this time of year the sun was sat low in the south all day, making getting good photographs of the falls very difficult, the best photographs are all looking away from the falls.
After probably about 30 minutes of gentle walking, mainly over boardwalks we approached the dock for the boat trip. As far as we could tell there were 6 people in that section of the park including ourselves. I expected to tell the boat drivers how many people were headed that way so that they could wait for them - then the Japanese couple ran past un and onto the boat. Strange behaviour thought I, wasn't as if there was going to be a shortage of seats. Then when we were maybe 30 metres from the dock and obviously visible to the crew the boat took off! Talk about sticking to schedules, we couldn't do anything but laugh at the ridiculousnes of it. I suspect they may be in cahoots with the cafe there as there was no other option than to grab a coffee, sit back and wait for it to return.
When it did return we made sure we were on it before it ran off again. The boat ride was 10 minutes to the other end of the lake, there were landing sites at either side of the shore but we didn't seem to get an option and were droped off on the opposite side to the one we needed for the longer walks. We then found out that the train (actualy a big truck pulling trailers) was only heading back to the entrance that we came in at. In effect all of the upper side of the park, more than half of the total area was "closed". We now felt cheated as the reduction to £7 didn't represent the portion of the site that was inaccessible. There was a definite lack of information available and there were no "closed" signs anywhere so we decided to walk up the road until we were physicaly stopped or it looked too dangerous to carry on.
I think that the line about the upper part being flooded was an outright lie, if anything the boardwalks in the bottom section were more in danger of flooding. We past a landrover coming down as we walked up and I thought the ranger in it made a signal to turn around but he didn't stop to enforce this so we carried on. It was worth it, the upper section was far more scenic and of course there weren't hoards of other tourists to spoil my pics.
We left it a bit late to head back to the entrance for the bus back to Zagreb but managed to yomp down just in time to catch the last "train" to the exit with the staff heading home.
Overall a very good day trip - and we met a member of the German Beach Vollyball team at the bus stop, have to look out for her in Beijing.