Friday, October 26, 2007

don't speed through grabovac

Because the policija will get you. If it weren't for a bend in the road, you could see one end of town from the other, so not much is happening for the cops to do except hand out speeding tickets. Almost every time I was at the bus stop or the market next to it (five times), they were parked across the street, lying in wait. They made me think of the Keystone Kops, two little goofy guys in neat uniforms and caps, squinting their eyes over that device that figures out how fast cars are going. After hopping off the bus, I went over to them to ask if they were familiar with the guesthouse I was looking for, and I got the clear impression that I was In The Way. The receptionist at the autocamp across the street was way more helpful.

It took me about six hours and two buses to get to Grabovac, so I didn't do much the day I arrived except walk half a kilometer to a bistro for dinner. Rain was starting to fall, and by the time I left after eating a plate of fried squid (looking deceptively like small onion rings, except for the tentacly sections), french fries, a bitter lemon soda, palačinke pancakes with chocolate, and an espresso, it was dark and the rain that was falling was freezing. I knew a cozy room was waiting for me at the end of the relatively short walk, but there were a couple of moments of thinking, boy, this sucks. It wasn't so much walking through the cold rain, it was walking through the cold rain down a country road with barely any walkway, that was full of big trucks going by very fast. Rain doesn't slow down Croatian drivers. In fact, it may make them go faster. And every time a truck went by, I knew a huge spray of water was coming. So on each approach I either hopped further away from the road into dark, soaking shrubbery, or crossed to the other side. Thankfully the place I was staying had a clean shower, lots of hot water, and a heated towel rack. I was lodging for the first time in a private home. Lots of these are in Croatia (also Slovenia, and probably neighboring countries as well); advertised by signs that say Sobe, Zimmer, Camere, or Rooms, proper ones must be registered. If you're looking for lodging, you can just walk around knocking on doors until you find a place you like. In some places, their owners will meet arriving transportation to try to net lodgers, which is always a bit awkward — they crowd the door of the bus, shoulder to shoulder, holding up their Sobe signs. I'd feel bad choosing one over another. Besides, I usually arrange accommodation in advance, so just grab my bag from the hold, tell the pleading faces that no, I don't need a room, and scamper off. There isn't a hostel in Plitvice, so I had asked the owner of Ravnice Hostel in Zagreb if she knew of anything, and got the contact info for House Tina. Like many houses in the area, it's almost brand new, and a driveway was being laid down while I was there. Commenting on all the new houses, the owner told me it was because the area was trashed during the war. I keep forgetting that there was a war here recently. Croatia, from what I can tell, is pretty cleaned up, or maybe I don't know what to look for to see the signs.

Thankfully it wasn't raining the next day, so I could do what I came to do, and see the Plitvice Lakes Park. There's lots of national parks in Croatia, and Plitvice is probably the most popular. It's a string of lakes on different levels that are slowly but constantly changing through time as the travertines between them are built up. Waterfalls tumble down cliffs, the lakes spill from one to another, and fish swim around the clear, clear water. Walkways wind through the park, and visitors can pick and choose which route to take, based on how long it takes to complete a circuit, although the time estimations are fairly generous. You can walk all the way around, or do any combination of walking, boating, and bussing. I chose the four to six hour route, dawdled along the way, taking detours down other paths, and still had time to twiddle my thumbs before the bus back to Grabovac.

The weather in Zagreb had taken a turn for the chilly, but walking around Plitvice Lakes it was evident that the time has come to get some winter accessories. I was wearing a t-shirt, a wool jersey, a bicycling windbreaker, a jacket, and had tied my bandana around my neck, and I was still cold. Maybe wearing my three-quarters trousers that day wasn't a wise decision. And if I had any second thoughts while sitting on the toasty bus to Zadar the next day, the snow blanketing the hillsides higher up was there to remind me that I was wrong. Plus I found out later that it started snowing the day left. Somewhere in the Mediterranean during summer I had considered butchering a pair of my long trousers into a three-quarters pair, but didn't have a pair of scissors. I'm glad now that I didn't get the opportunity, because winter is coming.

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