All posts by Chrissie Brungs

The Historic Centre of Graz and Schloss Eggenberg

The UNESCO World Heritage site in Graz has two components: The historic city centre and Schloss Eggenberg, which is located within the city, but a little further out. Apart from World Heritage status, Graz has another major claim to fame, as it has been a UNESCO City of Design since 2011, being part of the Creative Cities Network. On top of those UNESCO accolades, Graz is not only capital of Styria, but also Austria’s second biggest city, behind Vienna. I’d say those are reasons enough to visit!

I was in the lucky position to spend a whole week in Graz in September 2017, as I had been granted EU-funding to participate in a staff mobility scheme to visit a partner university. Naturally, I also made time to discover the city and the World Heritage here.

“The City of Graz – Historic Centre and Schloss Eggenberg reflects artistic and architectural movements originating from the Germanic region, the Balkans and the Mediterranean, for which it served as a crossroads for centuries. The greatest architects and artists of these different regions expressed themselves forcefully here and thus created a brilliant syntheses.”
(from the UNESCO website)

Discovering the historic centre is quite easy, as everything is in easy walking distance. The tourist office has several maps on offer for free, which depict different walking routes through the centre, and they are all excellent. Graz really is a charming city – walking through the lanes and courts with their buildings from different eras, you can’t help feeling transported back in time.

 

Another big plus are the many cafes, restaurants and pubs to revive you from your excursions through town; not to mention the friendly locals. To top it all off, there is also a funicular right in the middle of the city (the Schlossberglift), to take you up to the Schlossberg. Views from the Schlossberg are quite amazing, though I wasn’t very lucky with regards to the weather when I went up. (You also have splendid views over Graz from the restaurant on the roof of Kastner & Öhler department store.) I also really liked the many parks and gardens. The Kunsthaus, a museum of contemporary art, certainly seems a little out of place among the beautifully restored town houses – small wonder it is called the friendly alien.

 

Even though I usually quite enjoy discovering a city on my own, taking part in guided tours often offers great experiences, which you otherwise wouldn’t have. In Graz, I participated in a culinary tour of the Lend district, which was excellent. Our group learned a lot about the history of this part of town and we sampled food and drink from both traditional places and new ones. What struck me most was the number of cafes, shops or eateries run by people who had given up their former careers to pursue something they love. This really struck a chord and I got the impression that Graz really is a rather openminded and innovative place, despite the traditional looks.

 

Schloss Eggenberg leads me to a linguistic problem: The German term “Schloss” is generally translated as either castle (German: Burg) or palace (German: Palast), but in many cases, neither quite fit (at least as far as I’m concerned). A palace immediately brings to mind places such as Versailles, Schönbrunn, the Taj Mahal or Topkapi, which are famous for their size, beauty and intricate detail, whereas a castle is generally associated with a defensive structure (either original or faux), such as the Krak de Chevaliers, Burg Eltz or Conwy Castle. A Schloss, however, is often something inbetween the two: not quite as defensive and practical as a castle, but neither as insanely beautiful as a palace. Schloss Eggenberg, to my mind, is a good example of that linguistic problem.

It seems, at first glance, like a building from the baroque era, but its beginnings actually date back to the late Middle Ages.

 

Schloss Eggenberg belonged to the Eggenberg family, apparently once the most important noble family in Styria, with several members of the family taking high-ranking political offices under the Habsburgs. Extensive building works were carried out in the 17th century with the aim of showing off the social status through the family seat, so that nowadays the medieval origins aren’t quite obvious. For the 17th century extension, nothing was too expensive and a number of famous architects and artisans planned and carried out the works over several decades. Everything was based on a time-related symbolism, from the amount of corner towers down to rooms, windows, doors, paintings and so on. The Schloss underwent another major change in the 18th century, going full-blown Rococo, and in the 19th century the garden was transformed according to English landscaping designs. Due to the fact that the Schloss was uninhabited for a long time, during which no further extensions or changes were carried out, it is now one of the best-preserved and significant baroque palaces.

Unfortunately, it isn’t allowed to take photos inside – I highly recommend taking part in a guided tour of the state rooms. The paintings, especially within the Planetensaal, are breathtaking. What I found most striking, though, was how an old chapel was incorparated into the building. Even though I quite like the exterior and the park-like gardens, they seem rather unspectular in comparison with the baroque grandeur of the interior. On the other hand, you do get a nice surprise upon seeing the lavish interior decór.

 

In sum, Graz is a great place to visit, even if you aren’t as keen on UNESCO World Heritage sites as I am.

Further Information

Location: Graz, Styria, Austria (47° 4′ N, 15° 26′ O)
Tourist information: https://www.graztourismus.at/en
UNESCO website for this WHS: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/931
Cities of Design website: http://www.designcities.net
Nearest airport: Graz (https://www.flughafen-graz.at/en/home.html)

 

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The Canals of Amsterdam

The canals of Amsterdam – or the grachten, rather, as they are called in Dutch – are an amazing sight and I love walking around Amsterdam trying to find the nicest houses and details.

Naturally, it isn’t only the actual waterways that are so pretty, but the combination of beautiful town houses, canals, houseboats, quaint little cafés or pubs and shops.

 

The World Heritage Site is limited to the ring of canals built in the 17th century, namely those reaching out from the old town centre up to and including the Singelgracht. The area was granted World Heritage Status due to the amazing city planning and necessary engineering works to carry out the plans: The area is reclaimed land, land that has been claimed from a previously uninhabitable swamp. What I find astonishing, is how the architects and engineers not only built a city from swampland, but also made the results look pretty. They could have made do with a not-so-nice, but practical solution – but instead they chose to put a lot more money in and build a lovely new district. Though, in all fairness, the money was actually put in by rich merchants, who wanted pretty houses… A success all round, I’d say.

 

According to the offical description by UNESCO, ‘this urban extension was the largest and most homogeneous of its time. It was a model of large-scale town planning, and served as a reference throughout the world until the 19th century’. The description continues to state that

‘It is a masterpiece of hydraulic engineering, town planning, and a rational programme of construction and bourgeois architecture.’

Definitely a Must-See!
I like visiting Amsterdam any time, but it is especially charming around Christmas, with an ice-rink in front of the Rijksmuseum and christmassy food stalls and lights everywhere.

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The Beemster Polder

The Beemster Polder is one of those UNESCO World Heritage Sites that you could easily visit without realising its special status and I am happy to say that I, for once, didn’t make that mistake. Beemster is a large-ish area in the province of Noord-Holland, situated to the North of Amsterdam. It was created by draining a large lake in the early 17th century, thus reclaiming land for agriculture.

The Beemster polder is a lovely area – green, with lots of canals and bordered by rows of trees and farms with sheep and cows everywhere – and basically a byciclist’s heaven. The landscape is shaped like a checkerboard, with straight lines for canals and land and even though I would never have expected it, this is one of the reasons the polder holds heritage status: the geometrical layout of the reclaimed land is, apparently, an example of Renaissance landscaping principles.

 

I highly recommend exploring the area by bicycle, as you get much closer and get to see much more than just driving through in a car. Combining parts of different cycle routes, I spent a whole day cycling through Beemster and neighbouring areas – thus also taking in the famous cheese town Edam and the old fishing village Volendam. As the area is quite flat, you don’t need to be super fit to spend a day cycling, it is actually quite relaxing. There are cycle maps available for free at the tourist centres (VVV), which are perfectly sufficient – but there are also more detailed maps on sale. The Dutch also have a genius system of signage for their cycle ways, namely the knooppunt system. There are signs at frequent intervals and you can follow the knooppunts (points) and basically make up your own route, if you like.

 

Compared to some other World Heritage Sites, the Beemster polder may seem a little unspectacular, but the calming effect of spending a day or a few here should not be underestimated. It is a perfect spot for spending time outdoors and simultaniously having the chance of taking in Dutch culture and learning about watermanagement, cheese or fishing, and if you crave a little more urban action, Amsterdam is only about an hour away.

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The Windmills at Kinderdijk

Whenever I think of the Netherlands, the first image that comes to my mind is of flat, green country, divided by countless canals and dotted with windmills. In truth, there are only a few places left where you actually have an abundance of windmills, and one of them is the World Heritage Site Kinderdijk. 

At Kinderdijk, you find a network of a staggering 19 windmills within a relatively small space and the sight is amazing. The Dutch may be sick of hearing this, but in the eyes of tourists windmills are quintessentially Dutch and they’re quite mad about having their photos taken with one.

Much more than just looking pretty in an old-fashioned sort of way and making for a sufficiently touristy photo opportunity, windmills are evidence of Dutch engineering genius. If it wasn’t for windmills, quite a large chunk of the Netherlands might still be uninhabitable swampland or covered by water entirely. Rather than just be used to grind grains, windmills in the Netherlands are, or were, used to pump water and help make the country habitable.

According to the official description,

‘the Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout is an outstanding human-made landscape that bears powerful testimony to human ingenuity and fortitude over nearly a millennium in draining and protecting an area by the development and application of hydraulic technology.’

I was utterly amazed to find out from the above mentioned description of the site that the windmills ‘function as fall-back mills in case of failure of the modern equipment’ even today. From one of the volunteers on site I learned that most of the Western part of the Netherlands would be underwater in case pumping should stop for three months. Let’s hope all those pumps and hydraulic systems keep going!

 

At the pumping station at Kinderdijk, you can watch an interesting, hands-on display, as well as a film on the history of the site and how water management with the help of windmills works. There are also two museum windmills, which can be entered and explored. All the other windmills can be viewed from several walkways. For the ones further from the entrance, little jetties have been built to provide better photo options – towards the end of summer, the reeds on the edges of the canals grow very tall and if it wasn’t for those wooden platforms, you’d hardly be able to see some of the windmills. There are also benches at frequent intervals, so you can have a rest or even a picnic. When I visited, you could buy pancakes and ice-cream from stalls near the first museum mill – I don’t know if they are available all the time, though.

 

Although the area isn’t too large and can easily be explored on foot, I would recommend renting a bicycle from the cafe/gift shop. However, you should watch out for tourists who apparently haven’t ever ridden a bike before, have hardly any control over it and go here, there and everywhere across both lanes. If you see one of those, take cover. On the whole, cycling through the lush, green countryside with canals on both sides and windmills seemingly everywhere is a wonderfully relaxing pastime.

In case you visit in summer or generally when it is warm and sunny, you may want to bring a cap or sun hat. I didn’t, because I thought it wouldn’t be that warm at the beginning of September and quickly regretted it. There is hardly any shadow to be found along the paths and cyclelanes connecting the windmills and if the sun is out, it will burn down on you relentlessly. I paid for my foolish misjudgement with a splitting headache.

 

There are several ways of getting to Kinderdijk, which lies roughly within a triangle between Rotterdam, Dordrecht and Utrecht. You can visit by car, of course, but public transport is also an easy option, with bus connections from the three cities mentioned above. From Dordrecht and Rotterdam, Kinderdijk can also be reached by means of the Waterbus, i.e. by boat. It takes about half an hour and is a nice change to sitting on a bus or going by car.

I absolutely loved this World Heritage Site, as it allows you to experience a typically Dutch landscape, learn about the history of the area and the underlying engineering methods and also to either walk or cycle around in the open air. A definite must-see!

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Detour: The Palaces of King Ludwig II

When visiting World Heritage Sites in Bavaria, King Ludwig II’s two palaces Linderhof and Herrenchiemsee and the castle Neuschwanstein offer a nice detour. Many tourists actually believe one of those to be a World Heritage Site, but wrongly so. Equally wrong are those who consider it a copy of Disney’s Cinderella castle. But let me start at the beginning…

Ludwig II lived between 1845 and 1886, and ascended to the Bavarian throne in 1864. He was a generous patron of the arts and initiated and financed many architectural and artistic projects. The older he became, though, the less he bothered with matters of state and was considered to live in a sort of dream world, hence his nickname ‘Märchenkönig’, or fairy tale king. He was considered mad by many contemporaries and eventually declared insane and deposed as king. Shortly after, he was found dead on the shores of Lake Starnberg, but the initial explanation of suicide by drowning did not hold when it was discovered that there was no water in his lungs. The mystery probably won’t be solved any more, and whether Ludwig II truly was a little mad or just a misunderstood eccentric, Neuschwanstein, Linderhof and Herrenchiemsee make for excellent sightseeing destinations.

Neuschwanstein probably is the most famous of the three, and often mistaken for either a World Heritage Site or a copy of Disney’s Cinderella castle. The amount of misinformed drivel you are confronted with by accidentally listening in on tourists’ conversations could make your blood freeze. But don’t let me get carried away by this, one of my pet peeves.

What Neuschwanstein Castle certainly is, is one of the most photographed castles in the world. I have visited Neuschwanstein Castle twice so far, and both times I was more than a tad frightened of being trampled underfoot by the hordes of visitors. The sheer number is mindblowing; 1.5 million visitors per year, according to Wikipedia. But then Neuschwanstein really does offer everything people look for in a castle:
It is situated in a lofty spot in the mountains (though not so high up you couldn’t reach it), it has lots of towers and turrets, and nooks and crannies, and once you have made it up, there are spectacular views across the foothills of the Alps and the Allgäu region. Not to forget the legends that still keep popping up of a deranged king trying to build an idealised version of a castle, only to committ suicide (or be killed, rather) before it was even finished.

Despite having visited the castle twice, there is much more to see. I would especially recommend taking some time for longish walks in the area, because those would provide stunning views of the castle from different viewpoints – and the landscape itself is beautiful and makes for a perfect holiday destination, especially if you’re into hiking, biking or paragliding.

 

Building works on Herrenchiemsee – or more correctly, Herrenchiemsee New Palace – were begun in 1878 and, as with Neuschwanstein castle, never finished due to Ludwig II’s death in 1886. The palace is located on Herreninsel island within Lake Chiemsee and offers spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and especially towards the Alps mountain range. Despite the rather large number of visitors I encountered, the island offers quiet and tranquility. You can walk through woods and fields, or take a trip on a horse-drawn carriage. I even saw several young deer when I was there. Due to the size of the island, visitors aren’t all lumped together all the time, except for the waiting areas for the boat transfers to the Fraueninsel island and the mainland.

Most remarkable about Herrenchiemsee palace is that it was planned as a copy of Versailles. I think that similarities in the garden’s layout are certainly there, but it would take a lot more to even come close to Versailles’ grandeur. Notwithstanding, Herrenchiemsee palace is striking, and in my eyes it gains most through its situation: If I had a chance to build myself a palace, I would definitely enjoy a location surrounded by woods and water.

 

Linderhof palace is perhaps the most extravagant of the three building projects, and shows Ludwig II’s eccentricity best: It sports a hermitage, grotto, Moorish kiosque and Morroccan House, as well as lavish interior design inside the palace. Linderhof is also the only building project that King Ludwig II saw completed. The palace grounds are situated within the Ammergebirge Nature Reserve, which makes for beautiful surroundings, and the palace was actually built on the site of an old hunting lodge. To be honest, though, I believe I would have preferred the unspectacular hunting lodge over the overwrought style of the new palace…

 

All three palaces are easily accessible from Munich, though not in one day. As they are each located in beautiful surroundings, I would recommend at least an overnight stay for each rather than just going for a short trip from Munich. Neuschwanstein is located close to the World Heritage Site Pilgrimage Church of Wies (or Wieskirche), which I’ll soon write about, as well.

 

I would like to thank the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen for granting me a photo permit for exterior photographs at the three palaces and for providing additional photos (see captions above for details).

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Würzburg Residence with Court Gardens and Residence Square

Built between 1719 and 1744, with the lavish interior finished by 1781, the Residence in Würzburg is a superb example of a Baroque palace. The team of artisans and artists from Germany, Austria, Italy and France surpassed themselves here and created a variation of the Baroque style called Würzburg Rococco.

The Residence in Würzburg is a breathtaking example of the Baroque style and was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1981, together with the Court Gardens and the Residence Square. I couldn’t say that I am a huge fan of Baroque architecture or art, but I admire the craftsmanship and detail, nonetheless.

In my opinion, the style was taken a tad over the top here, but even if you don’t like the style or just consider it all a bit too much, the overall effect cannot be denied. Even I was left gobsmacked on entering the huge hall with the staircase – there is just so much to see that you can’t help stopping in your tracks and craning your neck while trying to take it all in. The ceiling and overall décor within the court church had much the same effect. I don’t think I have ever seen so much gold and marble in one and the same place.
The Bavarian Palace Department kindly provided me with the following two photographs to showcase the amazing interior:

 

Apart from the architectural design and built-in features, there are many artefacts to be viewed, chief among them paintings and intricate furniture, but also an indoor carousel for the children who lived in the residence. Curious to see were also the many rooms or even flights of rooms that were designed to follow a common theme. As we’re talking about a palace here, this wasn’t merely done through a little colour-coordinating for pillows and curtains, but basically everything in those rooms is matched, from colours over carved furniture to paintings, mosaics or murals and whatnot.

In all honesty, though, I have to say that I enjoyed the Court Gardens even more. This may, in part, be due to the fact that it was an absolute scorcher of a day when I visited. Luckily, there are many benches througout the gardens, so that you can stop and rest and just take in the views inbetween strolling around. Despite the Court Gardens having a rather artificial feeling to them (which is typical of the Baroque area), there are enough huge trees to make the layout bearable. Admission to the gardens is free, by the way.

 

Unfortunately, there is a disappointing aspect, as well: The large car park in Residence Square is quite an eyesore and rather blemishes the front view of the Residence. The Residence is a definite must-see, though, despite the flawed car-park situation.

 

I would like to thank the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen for granting me a photo permit for exterior photographs of the Residence and the Court Gardens and for providing two photos of the interior (see captions above for details).

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Bamberg

Bamberg is a splendid example of a central European city with a medieval centre. Located between Würzburg and Bayreuth in northern Bavaria, it offers well-maintained historical buildings, water in the form of the river Regnitz and countless nice places to stroll around, eat or drink.

When I visited Bamberg, I was extremely unlucky, weatherwise: It was raining cats and dogs and just wouldn’t stop. Not the best conditions for sightseeing or taking photos, so I will definitely have to undertake another visit at some stage.

I learned that Bamberg was a very important town in the medieval and early modern eras, due to its links to the Slav peoples and – with growing prosperity and massive building projects – its architectural influence on other central European countries. I definitely wouldn’t have expected this, before coming here – to my shame, I had somehow always thought of Bamberg as just another example of a medieval town. How wrong one can be!

The criteria for Bamberg being a World Heritage Site are as follows, according to the UNESCO WHS website:

‘The layout and architecture of medieval and baroque Bamberg exerted a strong influence on urban form and evolution in the lands of central Europe from the 11th century onwards.’

It continues to say that

‘Bamberg is an outstanding and representative example of an early medieval town in central Europe, both in its plan and its surviving ecclesiastical and secular buildings.’

In the 18th century, Bamberg became a centre of the Enlightenment and was home to such famous figures as the philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and the writer E.T.A. Hoffmann. I was in for another surprise, there.

The World Heritage area in Bamberg is distributed over three parts of the city: the Bergstadt (hill city), the Inselstadt (island city) and the Gärtnerstadt (market gardeners’ district). In addition to the architectural heritage, Bamberg houses three documents which are part of the world’s documentary heritage. Information on those can be found in the entrance hall of the Staatsbibliothek Bamberg (i.e. the state library).

 

Due to the never-ending downpour, I couldn’t leisurely stroll through the historic centre as planned, but very nearly jogged through it. Despite the lack of fun in that, the special atmosphere of the historic centre still shone through. I hope that the few photos I managed to take can actually convey what a pretty city Bamberg is.

Apart from the very well maintained historic buildings, Bamberg has a number of cafes and restaurants on offer, so it is possible to intersperse sightseeing with breaks. I imagine this to be especially nice on a sunny day, when you can actually sit outside. Another definite bonus in my eyes is the proximity of water in the form of the river Regnitz.

One thing annoyed me immensely, though: I cannot for the life of me fathom why city planners would situate huge, ugly parking lots in front of some of the most beautiful historic buildings. I know that space is hard to come by in cities, but surely there has to be another solution, rather than have all those cars blemish the views of the historic town centre?

 

Even though I couldn’t enjoy my trip to Bamberg as much as I had hoped due to the poor weather and the necessity of catching an early-ish train, I can say that it is well worth visiting.

 

I would like to thank the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen for granting me a photo permit for exterior photographs of the New Residence and the Old Court and for providing two photos of the New Residence (see captions above for details).

 

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Detour: The Art Nouveau Swimming Pool in Aachen

When in Aachen, most tourists naturally focus on the cathedral, which was Germany’s first World Heritage Site, and on the lovely historic town centre. And who would blame them – Aachen is one of the prettiest German cities I know and despite the cathedral often being overshadowed by its much larger and more well known ‘neighbour’, the Kölner Dom in nearby Cologne, I personally find Aachen Cathedral prettier.

However, a little detour within Aachen is quite in order: One really shouldn’t miss a visit to the public swimming pool Elisabeth-Halle, which is an Art Nouveau gem.

 

The pool building is located in the town centre and was built between 1908 and 1911, making the Elisabeth-Halle over a hundred years old and, more importantly, one of Germany’s few remaining Art Nouveau pools. Many were destroyed or experienced a change of function, unfortunately.

So, even if your hotel accommodation does not have a pool, don’t forget to bring your swimming gear on a trip to Aachen. You’ll feel transported back in time on visiting this pool, starting right on entering. The entrance hall is huge, and it only gets better the further you go inside. You’ll be awed by the high ceiling, which makes for an especially nice swim when the sun is out. With the many large windows, it feels a little like swimming outside when the weather is nice.

The changing rooms are amazing as well, charmingly old-fashioned and situated all around the pool and on two storeys, due to the height of the building. Apart from the main pool, there are several others, not all of which are still in use. In former times there were also so-called ‘Wannenbäder’ available, i.e. tubs, which could be used for small money by people who did not have proper bathing facilities in their accommodation. They can still occasionally be viewed and I found it quite interesting to see the individual small rooms, each with its own tub. Nowadays, they aren’t in use anymore, as modern facilities in houses and flats leave this former ‘Bäderkultur’ (bathhouse culture) unnecessary. There were also sweating baths and down in the cellars there was even a bathing facility for dogs! =)

 

When I undertook a guided tour of the building, I was quite astonished to find out that the cellars were used as air-raid shelters during WWII, you can still see some of the signage. I think I would have freaked out if I had had to spend any long-ish amount of time down there. The tour of the cellars was worthwhile, in any case, as we were given a huge amount of information on how a public pool actually works, regarding the layout, the running of it, the heating and the water hygiene regulations.

 

I really recommend a visit to the Elisabeth-Halle when you’re visiting Aachen, it makes for quite a change to swimming in regular, modern pools. Don’t worry, though, the showers etc. were all modernised a few years ago, its only the building and design that are retro.

The city’s webpage for the pool is only available in German, I’m afraid, but it does state the address, opening times and contact details, which should be helpful even to people who do not speak German.

 

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Detour: Opatija

When I visited the Plitvice Lakes in Croatia, I stayed in Opatija, which is located right on the coast in the Kvarner Bay.

Apart from Opatija being a lovely destination in its own right, it is located so that you could quite comfortably visit two World Heritage Sites while staying there: the above-mentioned Plitvice Lakes and the Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica in the Historic Centre of Poreč. However, I think that this holds true mostly if you have a car at your disposal – I was stuck with public transport and did not manage to visit both sites. To be fair, though, I might have, if I had planned a little better in advance.

 

There is evidence of Optija being inhabited from before Roman times, but it really took of as a hip seaside resort for the rich and the famous in the 19th century. At the time, the area still fell under the jusrisdiction of the Austro-Hungarian empire and Opatija became a favourite resort on the so-called Austrian Riviera. A large number of hotels and villas was built, many in the beautiful Art Nouveau (or Belle Époque) style. Thankfully, many remain and were or are being restored, making Opatija a rather pretty city. One of the aspects I enjoyed perhaps even more is the promenade called Lungomare, which allows you to stroll along the coastline for miles and miles. It actually connects several towns in the area. I was also quite taken with the situation regarding food: There are sufficient numbers of cafes or restaurants, and even food stalls where you can grab a bite if you don’t feel like dining out. When I visited, there were several events on at the open air theatre, and you could regularly listen to really good musicians in the park for free.

 

In case you’d like to explore the surrounding area, there are several pretty towns strungs along the coast, you could go hiking inland in Učka Nature Park or go on a day trip to Istria. Alternatively, you could visit the islands of Cres or Krk.

Opatija makes for a lovely detour from visiting World Heritage Sites!

 

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Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia just has to be one of the prettiest World Heritage Sites I have visited so far. The vast hilly woodlands, the streams, waterfalls and cascading lakes are breathtaking. Due to the underlying limestone and chalk and the reflected colours of the canopy and sky, the water takes on mesmerising hues of greenish-blue and is crystal-clear:

 

You really wouldn’t be entirely wrong comparing some of those lakes’ colours to a Caribean or South Seas beach and when I visited, I wanted nothing more than just jump in – this is not allowed, though, because people entering the lakes would destroy the underground, which makes the colours so special. To keep the park intact, it is absolutely necessary to stay on the paths and wooden walkways.

The national park was created in 1949 and is just under 297 square kilometers large; it was granted World Heritage status in 1979. The park is situated about 55 km from the Adriatic coast and can easily be reached by car or coach – there are regular tours on offer. Getting to the Plitvice Lakes by public transport is a little more tricky, but not impossible.

Plitvice Lakes National Park is home to many species of birds, and also to bears and wolves, apparently. Thankfully, I didn’t encounter any of those! =)

 

I know that a majority of tourists to Croatia spend their time on the beaches along the Adriatic coast, but it is well worth having a day away from the beach in the beautiful Plitvice Lakes National Park.

 

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