"Beautiful" is one of the most overused adjectives in my book.
Duchess Kate? Beautiful. A sizzling pizza fresh out of the oven, oozing with greasy melted cheese? Beautiful. An evening spent nestled in the best spot on our new couch – we've named it The Crevice – watching ABCFamily Christmas movies while petting the sweetest dog in the world? Beautiful.
But if you forced me to describe ONLY ONE thing on this entire planet as being beautiful (you probably threatened me with No Carbs Forever, you evil!) - I'd say Plitvice National Park in Croatia.
If you've ever read any of Buzzfeed's Places You NEED To See, you'll have probably already caught a snippet of this heaven on Earth. It's what initially lured me in. And when Cassandra and I agreed to participate in the Croatia seminar (twist our arms, right?), Plitvice was at the top of our non-negotiables list.
Plitvice is in northeastern Croatia, very close to the border of Bosnia & Herzegovina. It's about a three hour drive from Split (and near Zagreb, as well), and to make it easier on ourselves, we booked a day tour with a company through Viator. We were with 10-15 other people, and two tour guides who were extremely knowledgeable and friendly. Highly recommend!
After a long bus journey gazing at impressive mountain sides and finding important photo opps (see above) #CokeWhyYouNoSponsorUs, we arrived at the national park ready to rumble.
You board this little choo-choo train type thing which takes you down a steep pathway surrounded by towering greenery, and it drops you off right at one of the entrances. There are 16 lakes that make up the national park, and basically you "hike" your way around them - about 8 miles total. But the scenery is so gosh darn stunning, you don't even realize you're physically exerting so much energy. Sneaky.
Colors so incredibly vibrant – I described the water as "Listerine blue-green" – the water so unbelievably clear (you see all the fishies darting to and fro... well, actually they were all quite lazy and simply floated close to the water's edge... I can relate.), birds squawking and waterfalls rushing with urgency. Even with thousands of tourists roaming around, there was a certain peacefulness engulfing the grounds.
It's what I imagine the world in Avatar to be like. Well, before all that went down the drain.
Cassandra and I were so overtaken by the sheer beauty, we were at a literal loss of words. The only phrases we could muster to describe our feelings were,
"This is so stupid."
"I'm done with this."
"This is DUMB."
Not that we actually thought that any of this was dumb or stupid, you see. It was merely that, there were no words in the English language to adequately encompass what a spiritual, unbelievable sight Plitvice was to behold.
At one point, we were so enthralled with the nature surrounding us that we didn't even realize our entire group had meandered about 15 minutes ahead of us, and our tour guide Haris had to double back to retrieve us. Embarrassingly enough, the reason we thought we were alone was because "everyone else has to be behind us." Nope. Not even the seventy year olds.
After a fair bit of "hiking," we stopped for a beverage and a break, and Haris turned to us with a knowing grin – "so are you ready to see the really beautiful parts?"
Our jaws dropped.
"But... but how can it get any more beautiful?"
"Ah. You've seen nothing yet."
With that, he hustled us all on an electric boat that took us across a sizeable lake, and we continued gasping in awe every time we blinked and were faced with a new picture-perfect scene.
^ Like, what.
^ K, nature. Ya gotta chill.
♫ Don't go chasin' waterfalls ♫
TOO LATE, TLC. TOO. LATE. #noragrets
Once the tour was over, our guides whisked us off to a restaurant right outside of the park borders. It was cafeteria-style and the old woman working it chattered a mile a minute in Croatian as she pointed to each dish, with brief pauses as she looked expectantly at Haris, cueing him to translate for the rest of us.
He recommended the hearty beef borscht over a huge dollop of mashed potatoes, and so we obediently complied. Oh my word. With each bite, I could tell that this was ultimate comfort food – it made my heart warm and happy thinking of how this dish must provide so much familiarity and joy to so many. Then, we treated ourselves to a generous slice of a traditional Croatian cake because hey, we did hike eight miles.