Croatia On the Road #1: Zagreb and Plitvice Lakes National Park

Road Trip By Brian Norton |

The good thing about travelling with someone so alike is that you share the same weird must-see priority list; thus our Zagreb sightseeing tour started from the Mirogoj Cemetery, the memorial park where members of many different religious groups rest among ivy-covered marble arcades since the end of 19th century. Here we slowly walked among pavilions, monumental graves and domes listening to the sound of our steps and savouring the lights of the sunset from the Medvednica mountain, feeling the capital town underneath us, with its noise and its chaos, so far and blurred.

When we started to worry to get trapped inside for the night, we went downtown to have a beer together with two Croatian girls from the couchsurfing website, as we were longing for travel tips from locals to improve our Croatian itinerary.

They managed to bring us in a local pub where we were the only two foreigners, which is kind of accomplishing a mission impossible considering that the old centre of Zagreb is shaped by souvenirs’ shops and claimed ‘traditional croatian restaurants’ which follow one another as in a circle of Hell.

We asked for a place on the seaside that tourists don’t know and our friend told us about her grandmother’s village, Luilovo Primorsko, which isn’t on a map either! We were so excited by the exclusivity of this information as we got the itinerary (exit the highway at Zuta Lokva, drive towards Senj, cross a little village named Sveti Juraj, keep straight until the exit of the tunnel where you have to suddenly turn right and follow the way until the beach) that we didn’t realize our plan for the day after was already too hectic, and so we had to turn it down.

Another local tip, which in this case we didn’t dare to ignore, was about MUU: the street art museum of Zagreb. We visited its first and main project, the graffiti Hall of Fame in Ulica Kneza Branimira, 450 meter of a colourful wall painted by the winners of a competition which took place in 2010, 83 astonishing artworks all part of a wider context, a project aimed to ‘bring art into neglected parts of the city where there is no cultural content and to form a more coherent street art scene in Croatia, raising people awareness about street art and its esthetic, cultural and social value’.

I was in Heaven.

The cherry on the top was that thanks to this graffiti hunting we also discovered a farm market just at the beginning of Kneza Branimira Road, where we bought something for our road trip until Plitvice Lakes National Park and breathed some truly Balkan spirit walking through the stands!

Farm market - Zagreb, Croatia

Back on the road, after less that 150 kilometres, we arrived to Plitvice Lakes National Park, which soon proved itself as another circle of Hell. The beauty of the nature is breathtaking, these 16 lakes are connected by waterfalls and the colour of their water ranges from emerald to blue, turquoise, green and grey. The problem is that you have to share all this outstanding natural beauty with thousands other visitors walking in single file through the park’s paths! Thus, you barely have time to stop enjoying the view because the ones behind you want to go on and/or you are stocked behind a group of friends taking a picture together. And I won’t say anything about waiting in line for the ferry and the buses to get from one side of the park to others! In fact, my advice is to avoid to take the ferry and the buses and walk the whole itinerary by yourself; unfortunately, because of my stupid knee I can’t, but if you are regular knee-endowed I strongly advice you to avoid other visitors as much as you can to properly enjoy the immense beauty of this park.

I would have liked to spend there at least one whole day, but late in the afternoon we had to leave because we had to be in Zadar before sunset. Do you guess why? The answer is in the next post!

Go to the next chapter: Flanking the Balcan Coast

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