Hiking at Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

One of my favorite days of our whole trip was the one we spent hiking at Plitvice National Park! On our last full day in Croatia, we rented a car to drive from Split, a city on the coast, back to Zagreb the capital city, stopping on our way at Plitvice. Total drive time was about 5 and a half hours, 3 hours from Split to Plitvice and then another 2 and half hours to Zagreb.

We left our hotel right after breakfast so we’d arrive at the park around noon and have the whole afternoon to hike! Plitvice is divided into the Upper Lakes and the Lower Lakes; we parked at Entrance 2 to the park at the base of the Upper Lakes. Then we took the bus up to the top of the Upper Lakes and began our hike down – you can hike it the other way around, but we opted for a downhill hike!

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The lakes (there are 16 total!) are naturally formed in the mountains with waterfalls from one lake into the next. The trail wound us across the first lake, then through the woods beside it until we came to the top of a waterfall. Then it continued on down to the next lake. It was so neat because we’d be at the top of a waterfall, right next to it, and then the trail would wrap around and down until we walked across the next lake and could turn around to see that same waterfall from below!

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The trail continued the same way – across one lake to the trail alongside it and down to the next lake, continuing pass right next to the waterfalls! The park was incredible – the water was a beautiful turquoise color and so clear! And there were waterfalls everywhere you turned, even little ones in the woods along the lakes.

The trail across the lakes was made of wooden walkways, sitting right on top of the water – there were even a few places were the water was higher than the trail so narrow boards were laid on top for us to walk across.

When we got to the base of the Upper Lakes, we hopped on the ferry that took us across one of the bigger lakes to the section of the park where the lower lakes begin.

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After taking a quick break to eat a snack and refill our water bottles, we kept going on our hike. Because it was early in the season (we were there at the beginning of April), not all of the trails along the lower lakes were open so we hiked along the higher trails. Even though we weren’t right on the water, these were awesome too because we were able to see the lakes and waterfalls from above!

We continued hiking before getting to the finale, the big falls!

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Then we hiked the short way back to the Entrance 1, where we caught the bus back to Entrance 2 where we had parked. Hungry from our hike, we grabbed a late lunch quickly before getting on the road again.

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After our hike, we have a few tips to keep in mind for any future visits:

  • Make sure to eat beforehand! Our hike took about 4 hours total, and once we got started there wasn’t anywhere to stop and grab something until after we took the ferry across to the lower lakes. Luckily we had packed some granola bars to snack on and plenty of water!
  • Bathrooms! After a 3-hour drive, we were all ready to use the bathroom when we arrived, so we went to the first ones we saw right at the parking lot…and found they were stalls with just holes in the ground that you have to squat over! But we realized later, if we had just waited, about a 10 minute walk away, near the bus stop, there were bathrooms with regular toilets.
  • Keep your camera on a wrist strap – the trail goes right on the lake and in most places there’s not a railing, so it wouldn’t be hard to accidentally drop your phone or camera as you’re trying to snap photos!

Our day at Plitvice Lakes National Park was amazing – it is definitely up there on my list of most incredible places I’ve ever been! If you’re visiting Croatia, I would highly recommend a day trip to this beautiful park!

7 Fun Facts about Zagreb, Croatia

In my first post about Zagreb, I described how we used the short time we had (just 24 hours!) to explore the city. Along the way we learned some interesting facts about the city that I didn’t manage to fit in that post so thought this city deserved another one! Here are 7 things I found interesting about Zagreb…

1. You’d never realize it walking through the upper town today, but Zagreb was once two towns, Kaptol and Gradec. Back then the two were at odds with each other so there was a strip of dangerous “no man’s land” between them, but it is now filled in with buildings and streets that connect them so seamlessly, you’d never know they were once separate!

2. The Zagreb Cathedral is the tallest building in Croatia. At first I was bummed to see that they were doing restoration work on one of the spires (obviously thinking that wouldn’t look as nice in my pictures!), but on our walking tour, our guide told us that there has been reconstruction going on for more than 20 years due to the quality of the limestone it was originally built with. After that I began to notice that even in a lot of postcards, you could see the scaffolding on the spires!Zagreb Cathedral

3. Another fun fact about the cathedral: there are 3 large chandeliers on the ceiling that were initially hanging in a casino in Las Vegas! The story according to our walking tour guide is that when they were first brought to Zagreb, the church wasn’t sure if they really thought they were right for the cathedral (both aesthetically and morally) but hung them up to see how they’d look and then just never took them back down.

4. The upper town has over 200 lampposts, none of which are electric – they are all individually lit every evening and extinguished every morning! For years and years, one man who’s now in his 70s has walked around to light and snuff them himself every day and he now has an apprentice to help and learn from him.

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5. Along what was once the south wall of Gradec there is a tower called Lotrscak tower. For over 100 years the cannon at the top has been fired every day at noon – our walking tour was timed so that we’d pass by just at that time!

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6. I had read that Zagreb was a city of street art, but I did not expect any in the middle of the upper town… Amongst buildings that are hundreds of year old right next to the church of St. Catherine, there’s a building with a huge mural of a whale!

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7. And the last one is more of a tip than a fun fact… Right by the Jelacic square in the center of town, there’s a scale model of the Zagreb – it was very helpful as we were getting our bearings of the city!

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And that’s it for Zagreb! After Zagreb, we headed to the coast of Croatia to the city of Split, details coming soon!

24 Hours in Zagreb, Croatia

To kick off our two-week trip to Europe, the girls and I started out in Croatia, beginning with just about 24 hours in the capital city of Zagreb! We arrived in the afternoon after an 8-hour flight from Cincinnati to Paris, a 4 hour layover and another 2 hour flight to Zagreb. Exhausted from the long day spent traveling and losing 6 hours with the time change, we checked into our hostel, Swanky Mint.

After dropping our bags off in our room (and making a stop at the hostel bar to take our free welcome shot of rakija, a kind of homemade brandy made with herbs), we didn’t want to waste any of our short time in the city so we got dinner around the corner and then headed to the upper town to walk around a bit. We saw St. Mark’s Church with its famous tiled roof and the lesser-known St. Catherine’s Church, with a great view of Kaptol, the lower part of the old town.


Then we visited the Museum of Broken Relationships. Yes that’s right, a museum full of mementos from relationships after they ended, from things you’d expect like photo albums and ticket stubs to things like a wedding dress, a toaster and even an ax! It was really interesting reading all of the stories along with the pieces on display,  but it was definitely a downer hearing so many stories of failed relationships so we were all ready for a drink after! We stopped at the oldest tavern in Zagreb, Pod Starim Krovovima, which was right around the corner from St. Mark’s Square, before heading back to Swanky Mint for the night.

The next morning, after getting ready and eating breakfast at the hostel, we joined a free walking tour – which I highly recommend! (You’ll notice this is a trend of our trip!) On our 2-hour walk, our guide took us back up to St. Mark’s Square where we learned more of the history of the area we had explored the previous evening, and around the rest of the upper town including visiting the cathedral and walking through the Dolac market.

Dolac Market with the Cathedral behind it

Then we got lunch of strukli at a restaurant called LaStruk recommended by our walking tour guide. Strukli is a dish made of dough and cheese that is a traditional food from Croatia; it can be salty or sweet and some also have additional ingredients, such as truffles or honey and walnuts. As our guide put it, a local’s preference will depend on “whether his granny made salty or sweet.” It was absolutely delicious and we spent half the lunch discussing the feasibility of opening up a strukli restaurant once we got home!

After lunch we took a walk through the horseshoe of green spaces around Zagreb, all within walking distance of both the upper town area and our hostel – in fact the whole city is very walkable! The horseshoe walk took us through a few beautiful parks as well as past the Art Pavilion and the Croatian National Theater.

Towards the end of the afternoon, we found a café where we could sit in the street and people watch – from what we heard, a very typical Croatian thing to do – until it was time for us to head to the airport to catch our flight to Split!

There was too much to fit in just one post, so next up is more interesting facts about Zagreb!

Sneak Peek of Kim’s Eurotrip: Croatia & Vienna

I can’t believe I’m already halfway through my two weeks in Europe! We’ve already finished our time in Croatia and Vienna and are on our way to Budapest! I’ve been posting to our Instagram (@schmahlworld) and I’ll be sharing more details in future blog posts when I get home but thought I’d share some sneak peek pictures on the blog:

First, Croatia!

St. Marc’s Church in the old town in Zagreb, Croatia
Statue in Jelacic Square in the city center of Zagreb
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Wandering around the charming island of Trogir, Croatia
Morning view from the rooftop of our hotel in Trogir, Croatia
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View from the bell tower in Split, Croatia
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Hiking at Plitvice National Park, Croatia
Plitvice National Park, Croatia

And then on to Vienna!

St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna
Woman feeding the pigeons outside of the Vienna State Opera
Tour of the Vienna State Opera
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Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

And that’s it for now, more to come on our time in Croatia and Vienna, but for now, I’m on to the next legs of my trip!