Some places we visit are ‘meh’. They’re fine, have some nice things to offer, but in the end their significance can be summed up in a set of geographic coordinates. Other destinations transcend place.
Croatia does that, in beautiful ways; in horrific ways. After taking taking the overnight ferry from Ancona to Zadar, Plitvice Lakes National Parks was the first item on our loose itinerary. We drove from the Coast up into the mountains. A few people were roasting whole pigs along the roadside. We saw only one farmer selling cheese. We ascended into veil of mystery.
Fall was choking the green out of the leaves. Shades of crimson everywhere. It was late when we finally arrived at the park. Almost too late to enter. The weather and the time of day added up to being among a handful of people in the park.
Elevated platforms help visitors navigate through the lakes without getting wet. During less austere weather, the pools of water shimmer aquamarine and topaz. On this day, near dusk in the fog, they murmured a beautiful shade of somber. Emerald moss and poppy jasper hummed through.
The landscape is not without its wounds. During the conflict, it was battlefield. Land mines riddled the terrain, as they still do in many places in Croatia. This only deepens my appreciation. That it has been scarred, that it’s had its share of violence, and yet through the commitment of the people who painstakingly removed those threats, has been returned to splendor.
Knowing all this, I walked in wonder through Plitvice, felt pieces of it slip into my heart.