Sunday, June 11, 2017

Not 1, or 2 but 3 trip-of-a-lifetime experiences in one day

We had heard about Plitvice Lakes National Park from our friends Don and Kim of Harvest Hosts - they actually RV'd thru much of Croatia - as well as many other countries. After hearing about their experiences, we considered renting an RV while we were there, but it would only be for a few days and RV rentals are quite expensive as we found out. (e.g. see So, Jim did a bit of studying our options, the calendar, and a map and we decided to rent a car for a few days.

We left Vinkovci and traveled by train back to Zagreb where we rented a car. It was very easy - the rental office was just a block from the train station. They spoke English. We needed to show our passport, Jim's Florida driver's license, and a credit card. They pre-authorized the card for $900 as a damage deposit. When we brought the car back undamaged, that was cancelled and the cost was about $150 for 3 days. We filled the tank once - about $60. After much calculation (litres vs gallons, Kuna vs Dollars) I figure the gas was about $5.20/gallon. One interesting thing the car did to save fuel is to turn off when you're stopped at a light. If the rental place had not told us about this, we would have thought something was really wrong when we stopped at the first light! But, as soon as Jim let up on the brake, the engine came back to life. Actually pretty cool, no idling - just on or off.

The first hour or so was on Croatia's one toll road that is fairly new and it was wonderful. Even after we left the toll road, the conditions were great. First stop would be Plitvice Lakes national park with its scores of waterfalls. But, it was getting late in the day, we would need to stop somewhere for the night and go to the park the next day.

I searched on Google Maps, and then while Jim was driving and found a B&B in Grabovac for $39. The hardest part about finding places to stay is the last 100 yards ... actually finding them. Since they aren't large hotels, there are no big signs. And, this one happened to be mislabeled in Google Maps. After driving back and forth a few times and calling the phone number provided, we made it. She asked if we would like some coffee. We said, No - but if you could guide us to where we could get some wine, we'd be very appreciative. She responded, "I think I may have a bottle of local wine here somewhere." Wow - now that's service!

1. Plitvice Lakes National Park

The next morning we were up and on our way to Plitvice National Park. It was only a 15 minute drive. It's a very popular place - long lines at the entrance and waiting for the boat that crosses a lake. But it's also quite large and there were plenty of trails where we could walk and be the only ones.

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Beautiful turquoise water everywhere

Chris' creation - an animated gif made from an iPhone Live Photo

Jim's masterpiece, using the "waterfall" setting on his Samsung Camera 2

2. Nikola Tesla's Home and museum

Less than an hour west of Plitvice is where Nikola Tesla was born, Smiljan, Croatia. Nikola Tesla is a Geek's Geek. Arguably the father of modern technology - alternating current electricity, wireless radio,

In case you don't know, Nikola Tesla was a genius in the field of electricity. Some call him the inventor of alternating current. His home and museum were fabulous.
Nikola Tesla birthplace and museum
A beautiful spot in Smiljan, Croatia and a replica of Nikola Tesla's experimental lab from Colorado Springs

We got a live demonstration of this Tesla Coil, where it electrified the air enough that Jim could hold a flourescent tube in his hand and it lit up without being plugged in to anything. 

3. Drive to Croatian coast

After being entertained and fascinated at Tesla's museum, we got back on the road and Jim drove over the coastal range of Croatia. It was rather late in the day which gave us splendid sunset views as we came over the crest. Just gorgeous.

You drive thru a tunnel at the crest of the coastal range. When we emerged on the western side, we gasped at this view!

Coming down the western side of the mountains, we ended up in the town of Karlobag, just in time for sunset.

We struck up conversation with these friendly mountain climbers from Hungary. One of them spoke great english. We took their photo, so they took ours!

It's electric!
We had no place to stay for the night. While we're driving, we figure we can find a B&B or some kind of hotel or room just by stopping and looking around. Jim stayed with the car because the parking lot had a payment meter that only took coins and we didn't have the right coins - what do you do? Anyway, I walked a couple blocks, noticed a sign with the symbol that meant room to rent, and knocked on the door. The woman who answered spoke not one word of English and I spoke not one word of Croatian, but somehow with sign language and money, we were able to make the arrangements. She said we could park inside their gate on the grass - it was tight, but Jim made it. The room was nice, it had a microwave and a hot water maker. We could drink our morning coffee on the lovely terrace in the morning.
When we left, she would't let us go until she had picked some fresh rosemary and lavendar from her yard. So, I call her the Lavendar lady.

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