Friday, May 23, 2008

Into the Green. Krka National Park.


T
oday is all about the color green. I love visiting National Parks. These are the places on earth that each country has decided is worthy of protection; they are the places that represent the best of Mother Nature. Some places are so unique - like Cappadocia, Turkey - that they are even designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites. As my daily surroundings are defined by concrete and metal, the more I want to seek out nature refuges when I travel. I have a strong need to feel, breathe and smell the earth.

It took some discussion (and a small argument which I admit, I started and then quickly apologized for) before Lei and I agreed to go to Šibenik ("She-bah-nik") and the nearby Krka ("Keer-ka") National Park. I wanted to go to Krka and Lei decided to tag along - she's not much of a nature girl but I think that at the end of the day, she did enjoy her visit to the park.

As usual, our challenge was to figure out how to get from Trogir to Šibenik. One thing about travelling during the off season, transportation may not run as frequently. We headed for the bus station and got vague instructions to stand on the side of the main road that would take us towards Šibenik and so we did. All the time we were waiting, I kept my fingers crossed that we would actually catch the bus for the 72 kilometre ride to Šibenik.

We were patiently waiting for the bus to come and then out of the blue, a car pulled up. Inside were Jascha ("Yas-cha") and Christian - two German guys that we met at dinner last night when they were seated at the table next to us. They said "hello" and in return, we asked where they were headed. When they replied "Krka", we told them that's where we were going as well. We asked if we could ride with them. Of course, was the answer back. And so that was how Lei and I got to Krka - our second hitch hiking experience in Croatia! Go figure.

The guys kindly emptied out the contents of their backseat into the trunk and Lei and I got in. Traveller conversation filled the time. Jascha, who reminded me of Drew Carey was the more chatty the two. Christian, was more quiet and focused on driving. The two friends had bought a cheap Saab in Germany and were on holiday, driving through the Balkans to Turkey and then back to Germany. We were catching on their last day in the Balkans. From Šibenik, it would be less than a day's drive home for them. As a traveller, I envy the Europeans who only have to travel short distances to go from one country to an other.

Chit chat, chit chat and before we knew it, we had arrived into the town of Skradin ("Skra-deen") - a small Croatian village located at the entrance to Krka National Park. We took a few parting photos with Jascha and Christian, exchanged contact information and said our thank-you's and good byes. We wished them well on their journey home.

As usual, Lei and I had no idea where to go so we started walking. Soon, we saw a sign to the Visitors Center and that's where we headed. We had two simple questions - how to get to Krka and how to get to Šibenik. The first question had an easy answer - just stand at the ferry dock around the corner. The second question also had an easy answer but not one that we wanted to hear. The ONE and ONLY bus to Šibenik leaves at five something in the afternoon - too late for Lei and I. So we inquired about hiring a taxi. Possible was the reply back. We decided to worry about getting to Šibenik later. For now, it was about wandering through Skradin while waiting for the ferry.

A teeny, weeny place, Skradin is about as charming a place as can be. Narrow winding streets, stone buildings and in the middle of all, a cathedral.





















































With a few minutes to spare, we were back at the ferry dock. We boarded the small ferry and before we knew it, we were chugging our way up the Krka River - leaving Skradin behind.























































Krka National Park is known for its karst landscape. Karst describes a landscape that is shaped by the dissolving action of carbon dioxide and water on carbonate rock, which in Krka’s case is limestone. Over thousands of years this process has resulted in the formation of a series of distinctive landscape features including the gorge that the Krka River snakes through. The water was a vibrant, deep sea green - stunningly beautiful against the limestone hillsides.





A short 20 minute later and we had arrived at the Park. We followed the crowd and headed towards the Park's main attraction - Skradinski Buk; a waterfall with a 46m drop over seventeen limestone steps.

A wooden plank walk straddles the Krka River. On one side you see the gentle flow of the river....







































....and on the other side you see the falls of Stradinski Buk - water raging over vegetation covered limestone steps. What an awesome view!!




















































































We followed the path which took us to an overlook where we could see the falls up close and the Krka River gently flowing towards the Adriatic Sea.




We took a few minutes to enjoy the vista and then continued our way along the path which wound its way through woodlands. The sights and sounds of nature were all around us. I was really enjoying the stroll through the woods.

We soon came across a canal. The water was shallow but crystal clear. Small fish were swimming about - dappled shade providing them refuge. The path led to an old mill that now serves as the park's gift shop.
























It was a picture perfect day and I was relishing my time in the park. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to explore Krka beyond this point - there was more to see. We had to scurry back to catch the ferry to return to Stradin.

Krka turned out to be a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of city life - even in Croatia. Next stop for the day - Šibenik.