This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of all the Earth’s natural wonders and beauties. There are many we have not seen and probably won’t. There are others we have been fortunate enough to visit, such as the Grand Canyon (USA), Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe), Pamukkale and Cappadocia (Turkey) and of course the Great Barrier Reef (Australia), but they are stories for another time. This will be a glimpse at the extraordinary beauty we have found in a tiny part of the world: Croatia and Slovenia.
Some time ago we saw a television documentary about Croatia, where we first saw the stunning Plitvice Lakes and determined these must be seen. Slovenia was never on our radar, Ljubljana (capital city) happened to fit logistically with our itinerary, but after only 3 days there it is firmly in our sights for a return visit!
PLITVICE LAKES NATIONAL PARK – CROATIA
We visited the lakes over two days. The first took six hours (there are shorter options) to walk, boat and bus/train our way from the top of the lakes to the bottom. Timber board walks, and graded – sometimes rocky – paths took us on an adventure through some of the most amazing scenery we have ever seen. The surrounding forests are lush and a brilliant green, the lakes are an incredible shade of turquoise / aquamarine and there are more waterfalls than you can imagine.
Water burbles and gushes all around you, from multiple directions all at once, above you, beneath you and beside you. Occasionally the water laps at your toes or the power of the waterfall will land a soft spray upon you, but you won’t get really wet. There are fish and ducks to watch, birds and frogs to listen to – if you’re patient you may spot a frog camouflaged amongst the reeds, though judging by the size of them they were toads!
To avoid lots of strenuous hill climbing – always a wise idea – on our second day we drove to scenic lookouts along the ridge top. (No parking or park entrance fees). Viewing the lakes from above just completed the whole sublime experience.
The photos will not do the lakes justice. The scope and immensity of the area cannot be captured adequately and, of course, still photography cannot provide the sensory experiences such as the thundering of multiple falls cascading around you. Hopefully, though, these may inspire you to see for yourself.
LAKE BLED AND VINTGAR GORGE – SLOVENIA
Whenever it was mentioned that we would be visiting Slovenia, anyone ‘in the know’ would say “you have to visit Lake Bled, it is beautiful”. Well they weren’t wrong. It is a truly picturesque lake surrounded by verdant forests and mountains, calm despite the numbers of people walking or cycling its shore. No-one, however – not even my Slovenian hairdresser – mentioned the nearby Vintgar Gorge! Pardon the pun, but it is absolutely “gorgeous”.
Once again a board walk, but built clinging to the cliff-side, guided us through the magnificent gorge through which a turquoise river plunged. (I’m running out of adjectives with which to describe these places!) To cap it all off, being spring, the wildflowers were fantastic – masses of yellow, white, blue, pink and purple.
POSTOJNA CAVE – SLOVENIA
We have visited caves in a variety of countries, and always said “not a patch on Jenolan Caves” (west of Sydney), but nothing prepared us for this! It was huge, and a total of nearly 21 km have been discovered. We started our “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” with a 2km long train ride through low tunnels (you’ll duck if you’re tall!), surrounded by stalactites and stalagmites. We then had a guided 1.5 km walk, quite steep, through chamber after chamber of beautiful and awe-inspiring formations. Once again, the photographs cannot capture the immensity and overall beauty of this place. Apparently the stalactites / stalagmites grow at 1cm / 100 years. Looking at the size of these pillars, they are seriously old!
And there were olms! Olms are salamanders, pigmentless, eyeless, and living to over 100 years, the largest trogloditic animal in the world – nature’s perfect adaptation to living in the dark.
I’ve run out of superlatives, so I recommend you check it all out!