Thursday, September 5, 2013

AWF Balkans - Day 3

Day 3

After the Lake Bled excursion and the long night at the concert, everyone was moving pretty slow this morning.  We had a long way to go and our first border to cross, however, so we were out and moving by 8:00 am.  The bus was still buzzing from the previous days activities:  people were sharing pictures, re-telling stories, and reminiscing on what could only be described as an unbelievable day.  But, as is always the case with these trips, the best was still yet to come.

Driving from Slovenia to Croatia was not a difficult route, but it did give us an education in the lasting tensions between countries in this region.  Because the war in Yugoslavia is still fresh in the minds of many people here, border patrol takes their job extremely seriously.  The co-ed pair of officers boarded our bus, which by this time was a mess of pillows, criss-crossed legs, and open mouth slumber, and were not impressed.  They yelled “Border Control!!!” as loudly as possible to shake some urgency into our group.  Everyone gingerly began searching for their passports in carry on luggage, but not in a timely enough manner for the two officers waiting for us at the front of the bus.  They chose to wait outside for us to get our affairs in order, when we discovered that 4 people had left their passports underneath the bus, and 3 had not received stamps at their port of entry.  Immediately, the officers went into lockdown mode, threatening to detain Denny, Kim, and Ali if they could not produce proof of their travel itinerary.  Armann (our guide and translator) assured us that this was typical of border control agents, and it was a suitable introduction to the way order is kept in the Balkans.  Thankfully, boarding passes and an apology were enough to keep the train moving.

Less than an hour later we arrived at our accommodations—a roadside bed and breakfast that looked straight out of a storybook.  There were beautiful red flowers in every windowsill and impeccably kept rooms inside.  It felt like we were staying at some high end ski chalet. 
After enough time to unpack our things, we hopped back on the bus and travelled a few more mile to Plitvics Lakes National Park, the Yosemite of Croatia.  Essentially, this place is a series of lakes that feed into one another through a network of waterfalls and streams, all of which are dutifully protected and continue to glow with the most brilliant colors I have ever seen.  Something about the limestone and dolamite rock formations that house the lakes give them these colors, ranging from turquoise to mint green.  The paths around the lakes were constructed in a very similar pattern to those we walked yesterday in Vintgar, reminding me of something out of Peter Pan.  Wooden planks of all different shapes nailed together to form bridge after bridge after bridge across the many waterways in Plitvics, allowing us to literally walk across the water. 

Throughout the day we stopped to take many pictures in front of waterfalls and enormous cliff faces, but never were able to find enough space to do a group workout.  Originally I had hoped to hang some rings and do skill practice with the group, but that simply wasn’t possible in this place.  Instead, we decided to hold off until we left the park and were rewarded with a high arching path above the local road just beyond the gates.  Since we had over an hour until the bus was scheduled to pick us up, we hung the rings and got to work.  Half of the group was working on ring swings, muscle ups, and dips, while the other half was practicing handstands, handstand walking, and various static yoga poses.  This workout quickly took on a playful tone as people were trying to one-up each other in different skills and learning things that were completely new.  Some highlights included Erik Hayes holding a handstand for approximately 6 months, Jenn Santich showing everyone how to stag, and Sven confidently (aggressively) spotting people on back flips.  As one might expect, we had quite the gathering of spectators gawking at us. 
Yet again, dinner was amazing.  Traditional soup to start with meat and fish to follow, all served outdoors in the courtyard.  The ambience just keeps getting better.

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