“Shine on you crazy diamond” – Croatia in a nutshell.
The local currency Kuna might not be competing in the big league right now but the wealth of this country cannot be measured in dirty, meagre measures such as money. It comes in the form of unspoilt natural treasures.
To say that the water in the lakes and waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes (Plitvicka-Jezera) are crystal clear is an understatement of mammoth proportions. Every description sounds like a cliché since words cannot describe the ever-changing colour of the water, the fish below the surface, the sparkle of the myriad cascades that turn the limestone and growth into travertine, a porous, soft rock which forms this phenomenon of nature. Our guide Helena describes the meticulous care taken to sustain this Unesco World Heritage wonder forever.
“It might sound cruel but the animals in the park need to survive on their own so please don’t feed them. Our hope is that every person that comes here will leave with renewed zeal to protect nature in whatever small way possible.”
I am moved to tears at the splendours of Mother Nature and how insignificant I am in the midst of it.
The people of Otočac are proud of their river, the Gacka (Gacka River) and rightly so since it’s the cleanest one in Croatia. Drinkable water is to be found in 80% of the rivers, a fact that needs to be shouted from the rooftops. We fill our water bottles at the spring and mills of the Brajković-Orešković family and drink deeply of the life-giving liquid. A rare privilege indeed!
The impish, sparkling sense of humour of the three employees at the Grabovača National Park (http://pp-grabovaca.hr/index.php?lang=en) set the tone for the scramble up the hill to the Samograd Cave, the only one in the park open to visitors.
“Are we there yet?” trying to catch our breath.
“It’s just round the corner, 10 more minutes.”
We stop believing them after a while….
The Samograd Cave stops us dead in our tracks. Don’t know what we were expecting but certainly not the majestic, ghoulish cavern 20 metres in height. The stalagmite lumps of glimmering white crystals and the little indents that have no name in English since they’re uniquely Croatian containing ‘pearls’, grow at 1mm every year. The size suggests that each one is a lot older than my late grandmother!
Croatia kicks ass when it comes to conservation, respect for nature and keeping it clean. “Shine on you crazy diamond!”