Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
It feels like I can’t manage to go on a single trip abroad without barely escaping some sort of fiasco. Sometimes you can over-prepare as much as you want, but you can be caught in crazy situations. Being in the middle of nowhere in a non-English speaking country by myself doesn't help either.
By this point, I was nearing the end of my eight country circuit through Europe, and Plitvice Lakes in Croatia was my last big endeavor to tackle before relaxing I could relax in Germany before my flight home. Tired is an understatement to describe how I feel at this point, but I keep repeating to myself to push through for this last, ultra-beautiful national park. Plitvice Lakes is a gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage site with waterfall after waterfall spilling into perfect sparkling teal water. Not something I was keen on missing out on.
If there is anything you must know about me, know this— I can fall asleep just about anywhere, especially on public transportation, which I know can be dangerous. But I can’t help it. The whirring of engines, the lurching of constant stops, and uneven bobbing of rickety roads just don’t phase me. In fact, there’s almost something weirdly calming about it.
And so it leads my to my downfall.
As you can imagine, this story begins with me taking a two hour long bus from my hostel in Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes, and of course, falling asleep and missing my stop entirely. I fear that rewriting the entire story verbatim and getting into the details will cause a self-induced panic attack, so here’s a rough timeline of what happened + my emotions:
11:30 AM — Bus leaves the station from Zagreb heading to Plitvice Lake National Park.
12:00 PM — I leisurely fall asleep making the wrong assumption that Plitvice Lakes would be the final stop of this bus ride as it is 1) a major tourist attraction 2) around two hours away which feels like how long a bus ride should last.
2:00 PM — Get woken up by a bus driver who is yelling at me in Croatian. Two teenage boys sitting across from me translate and tell me that I’ve missed my stop by half an hour, and that I need to get off the bus, go across the street to the other bus stop, and take the next bus going in the opposite direction. Sounds easy enough.
2:15 PM — Fifteen minutes have passed waiting at this bus stop across the street from where I was kicked off. Hardly any cars have passed. A sign tells me that I’m in Korenica, which with my sparse knowledge of Croatian geography, doesn’t help. I start to panic that there’s no bus. I also realize that I don’t have much money on me.
2:20 PM — I realize that the last bus to get from Plitvice Lakes to Zagreb is at 6 PM, which I’ve already paid for. Within twenty minutes, I’ve gone from “I’ll take the next bus, no big deal” to full on panicking as no busses or cars have passed through in this small empty town.
2:25 PM — Not believing that there are any busses that will pick me up ever, I wander around and find a small wooden shack labeled “Tourist Information”. It’s literally a shack that’s just big enough for about two people to stand in. A young woman, who thank god, speaks English tells me that the next bus is at 4:30 PM, which means that if I’m lucky and everything runs smoothly, I can maybe make the return bus from Plitvice to Zagreb that I’ve already paid for.
2:30 PM — I don’t like the odds of not being able to make my next bus home, especially because missing the final bus to Zagreb meant a chain reaction of missing trains to get to Germany that I had already purchased tickets for for the subsequent days.
Desperate for any way to get to Plitvice by 6 PM, I ask the lady at the shack if there are any other options. She calls up a business card of a taxi guy, which seems weird considering that I’ve definitely never seen any taxis in my half hour standing around here, even on the main (and only) road that goes through this town.
2:31 PM — The overdramatic part of me starts to think that I’ll die here in Korenica, Croatia. RIP Adrienne.
2:45 PM — This so-called “taxi” arrives but is actually a guy in a gorgeous Audi with an even more gorgeous wife sitting in the passenger seat with her face adorned with a pair of gigantic Prada shades. She has the hair of Judi Dench except sleeker. I feel like I’m in a Bond movie.
3:00 PM — I’m listening to really loud Croatian pop music, and I come to the realization that I’m sitting in the back of a stranger’s Audi, which should scare me a lot, but I somehow remain calm. Even though he’s speeding like a maniac and his wife is nonchalantly tapping away on a phone whose brand I am unfamiliar with, I’m just happy to just be away from the random-ass town that is Korenica.
3:15 PM — Et voilà. I arrive unscathed and actually have time to explore Plitvice Lakes. I would’ve been lucky to have made it in one piece before 6 PM but the travel gods are smiling upon me somewhere. I've truly dodged a bullet.
Plitvice lakes is huge — one could easily spend an entire day there, and most people begin their Plitvice hikes early in the morning. I manage to carve out some short routes that I could power walk through with the sparse remaining time I have left. This is the result.