Day 4: Pula - Plitvice
We asked the hotel to call a taxi at 6 a.m. to bring us to the pier in Pula. It cost 50 Kuna (around 7 €). From there we wanted to take a ferry to Zadar and continue by bus to the National Park Plitvice Lakes (Nacionalni park Plitvička jezera). We have seen pictures of the Plitvice Lakes and immediately knew we had to go there. It is a National Park in the mountains between Zagreb and Zadar next to the border of Bosnia Herzegovina. It is a UNESCO's World Heritage Site, enlisted in 1979 and features world famous lakes naturally arranged in cascades. Currently 16 lakes can be seen on the surface and it offers a great variety of waterfalls. Many busses on the Zagreb-Zadar-Split-Dubrovnik route stop there.
We already bought the tickets for the Linijska Nacionalna Plovidba ferry a couple of days before and it cost around 14 € per person. It is the same ferry line we previously took for our day trip to Mali Lošinj. We were the first at the ferry but couldn´t board yet, they start boarding about 15 minutes prior to the departure. But we wanted to be early, because we had seen on our Mali Lošinj trip that the boats are crowded and there is little place for luggage and we wanted to get a place in the small luggage area for our stuff for the long boat trip - 5 hours from Pula to Zadar. While the boarding to Mali Lošinj was no problem, this time people immediately crowded around the entrance of the boat, trying to get ahead of each other. We still got a good place with ocean view and a good place for our luggage. Unfortunately the windows of the ferry were kind of milky, so that you could barely look through but still, traveling by ferry was a better option than by bus, because you can walk around inside and they even have a snack and coffee bar, plus we had some short stops in Unije and in Mali Lošinj, where we could go on deck.
When we finally arrived in Zadar, my friend wanted to walk to the bus station with our heavy luggage, but I declined. It was maybe just a couple of kilometers away from the pier but it was hot and I was not sure to easily find it, so I prevailed. We took a taxi to the bus station which actually shared by a couple. We didn't know that it was common there, but it was all good. The ride cost 40 Kuna (around 5 €).
In our first stages of planning the journey, we had Zadar included for a one night stay. It´s said to be a nice coastal city. And driving through the city we got a glimpse of the promising looking old town behind some walls. The Sea Organ of Zadar is supposed to be especially interesting but unfortunately we didn´t have enough time for a longer stop in Zadar. We just waited a bit at the busy bus station, which has a lot of restaurants and is a traffic junction with bus connections to Plitvice, Zagreb, Split, Sibenik, Rijeka and Dubrovnik among others. We had bought our bus ticket from Zadar to Plitvice already online before we left Berlin. Unfortunately online booking is only possible with a few bus companies in Croatia, including Croatia Bus. Everything worked out fine, so that we left Zadar after a few coffees and a lunch at the bus station with our Croatia Bus, having successfully ignored all the people at the station who want to book us room, a ride or just want a donation.
After a bit more than two hours we finally arrived in Plitvice. We had booked the "Hotel Plitvice" in advance. There are not too many choices for accommodation in Plitvice and we wanted to stay close to the entrance of the Park, entrance 2 in particular. While the hotel price is a bit high (basically you are paying for the location), you can simply walk to the park from the hotel, which is a big plus, given that there is not really a city or village, just a forest, and we didn´t have a car.
The Hotel Plitvice was easy to find from the bus stop. There are signs leading you there for just a short walk (also for Hotel Bellevue). When we entered, the hotel showed a kind of old Yugoslavian charm. It is huge, well maintained and a bit old-fashioned - which was actually kind of interesting. It felt kind of being in the golden age of communism. Our room was spacious and tidy with a nice view, air conditioning unit, mini-bar and spacious bathroom. The small TV didn´t have much to offer, but there was enough else to see. A breakfast with a relatively huge variety of food and drinks was included and the hotel also has a bar, a café, computer, free Wi-Fi and a kiosk. There is an ATM at the Hotel Bellevue, just next to the Hotel Plitvice.
It was already past 5 p.m. and the park closes at 7 p.m., so we didn´t have much time to explore the park. But at the entrance 2, just a short walk from the hotel, they were very helpful and told us, what best to see in that little time and they also recommended us the sightseeing program "H" for the next day, which is a 4-6 hours trip. They also told us, that our day ticket (which cost about 15 Euro) is valid for two days, because we stayed there overnight - we just needed to get a stamp from our hotel for verification on the next day. The ticket includes the bus and boats of the National Park. I was pleasantly surprised at how efficient the management of the park is.
After going down the hill at the entrance 2 we reached a lake, where a ferry - which leaves every 10 minutes, took us across the water. From there another ferry, that leaves every 30 minutes, took us through the lake to the coffee and restaurant area, from where we walked back along the lake. There weren´t many people anymore in the Park and it was quite pleasant and a first impression for the day to come. It is a world of its own.
We went to dinner at the restaurant nearby the hotels. There are two restaurants in the hotel area (but they seem to be more or less the same, one is self-service) and no supermarket, but we bought beverages already in Pula. The restaurant offers nice fish but the fruit salad was definitely right out of the can. Vegetarians shouldn´t order the baked potatoes there, as to my friend's dismay, the special taste of his potatoes came from unannounced bacon.