I’ve never been that fond of winter. For one thing, it’s cold. For another, I once lived where it occasionally got down to -30. I lived through the winter storms of 1978. One winter there was so much snow that my car was in the shop for five extra days because the body shop was snowed in. (The damage was caused when someone slid into my car in a parking lot.)
My husband and I occasionally travel in the winter, mostly for visits to relatives. (This led to my worst birthday ever, when my husband swore he’d get home for my birthday. In the evening of that day, my husband called from the middle of nowhere, from a hospital (he wasn’t actually hurt), saying that he had crashed his car. I had to drive to West Virginia to pick him up. Once we traveled to Illinois on Thanksgiving weekend, and the car’s heater went out on the trip back. We had to stop along the way to buy gloves and blankets. But I digress. At length.)
Our travels abroad have included Mexico in the sweltering season and Ireland in the rainy season (insofar as they actually have a separate season for rain). And when we went to Croatia, we went in the off-season, but not one that promised bad weather.
We had figured without the Dinaric Alps. Our tour included a national park known as Plitvice Lakes. The further our bus went up in the mountains, the colder it became. It began snowing by the time we got there. It was wet snow, the kind that sticks to everything. It looks very pretty when you’re inside and warm and don’t have to go out in it. It’s probably the very best snow for building snowpeople and snow forts – not that I do either anymore.
This photo shows what it was like when our guide took us out to the lakes. That is to say, it was cold. Most of us hadn’t figured on this weather and were bundled up in sweaters and light jackets. Our guide knew better. We followed him to the lakes. Actually, we had two guides. The other one was a small black cat who went ahead of us, trot-trot- trot, all the way to the lakes. (The guide who didn’t have four legs had a habit of saying “Once upon a time” when he talked about the history of the country, which I found charming. But I digress again.)
When we got to the lakes, it was magical. The snow enhanced it, and we forgot about how cold it was. Plitvice Lakes is an interconnected network of lakes, separated by rocky waterfalls. We were just at the right point in the season when the snow was all around, but the waterfalls were rushing with snowmelt. The glistening snow and the tumbling waterfalls were insanely beautiful. The waterfalls were flowing so strongly that some of the wooden walkways between the lakes were not usable and we had to take detours – cautiously. The guide didn’t want to lose any of us and managed not to.
The photo at the left shows one of the areas that the little black cat led us to.
Our visit to Croatia (and Venice, Slovenia, and Montenegro) was wonderfully memorable. (We had a banana split in Split, then split Split before we split our pants. But I digress yet again.) A small black kitten tried to climb into our souvenir bag in Dubrovnik, obviously begging to come home with us. Our stop in Montenegro impressed us so much that we’ve actually discussed retiring there.
I still don’t like winter. All of the things I said about it are still true. But I learned that winter has a beauty all its own.
It took Plitvice Lakes to convince me.