Lois writing now
On Thursday October 31 our group shrank considerably, since the main Road Scholar program was over and the majority of the group was heading back home. Eight of us, plus our guide Juge, continued on with the extension of the trip, heading inland to the northeast. We have a small bus with 20 seats, so there is plenty of room. As usual, when we left the city of Split (second largest in the country after the capital Zagreb), the weather was fine for tee shirts and lightweight pants. The bus climbed inland, and crossed over the coastal mountain range. The altitude is about 1000 meters, and there's a dramatic change in climate.
We were driving on a major toll highway, and there are illuminated signs over the roadway that remind drivers about hazardous road conditions or a change in the speed limit. They also list the temperature. We entered a 6 km long tunnel, and it was 15 degrees Celsius. That's fine for late summer clothing. On the other side, not so much - it was now 7 degrees Celsius - time for fleece, gloves and a warm hat! For those of you who do not function in metric units, that's a drop of about 15 Fahrenheit degrees in 4 miles! We encountered some light rain and at one point, the fog was so thick that we really couldn't see much more than a few car lengths.
By mid-morning, we had arrived at the town of Smiljan (pronounced Smil-yan), where Nikola Tesla was born. There was an interesting museum that we toured for an hour or so. On to lunch, and then another hour in the bus to our destination for the night, just outside Plitvice Lakes National Park. We had an excellent introductory talk by a ranger, at which point it was already dark out. I am looking forward to hiking tomorrow, even if it's raining.
It's now Friday evening, Nov. 1. We had breakfast this morning with a large crowd of Taiwanese tourists, and then headed out at 8 AM for a guided hike in the national park. It began with an overlook of the highest waterfalls in the park. Then we headed down to lake level. The falls are formed by the growth of tufa dams within the canyon; the dams hold back the water in the lakes until the water cascades over the tufa formations. The blue-green color of the water is caused by the calcium bicarbonate in the water. We hiked along at the water's edge giving us many views of the myriad falls in the canyon. One of the nicest parts of our walk was the general lack of crowds along the trails. Also it was cool out (probably about 40 degrees) and not raining. There's lots of foliage and the largest trees we have seen in Croatia, with some fall color.
Our trip there included a ride on an electric boat across the largest lake, and later a short shuttle bus ride. This three hour field trip was my favorite part of our entire trip so far in Croatia.
We boarded the bus and headed north towards Zagreb, stopping at Burger King for a quick lunch. Our room at the Hotel Dubrovnik is gorgeous. Shortly after we arrived, we had a 2 hour walking tour of the section of the city nearest the main square. There were thousands of people heading out to the cemetery to pay their respects this evening for All Saints Day. We have plenty of time to look around on our own in the next few days.