From the trails around a lake near my home, one can sometimes catch a glimpse of a lone swan. All the hikers ooh and ah, and snap many pictures of this celebrity. So when, while we were waiting for the ferry in Krka National Park, Croatia, I saw at least eight swans, I took an unconscious step forward in amazement.
“Look how many swans there are!”
Apparently, Micah was more concerned about the possibility of getting ice-cream than about the swans.
I gazed at them in wonder as some of them swam right up to me, so close I could pet them. Then they started to nibble the algae on the side of the dock, and prune their feathers.
I could have stood there watching them all day, but we had to get in line. Mama smiled and told me, “None of those swans are going to turn into a princess.”
I grinned. “Because it’s the daytime. The swan only turns into a princess at night.”
Soon, we boarded the ferry, and set off for the Krka Waterfalls.
I first caught sight of these falls from the front seat of the ferry, which took us through green mountains on either side and above sparkling, turquoise waters. I was busy capturing photos of yet another swan couple gliding gracefully past the reeds when I suddenly looked up and there, in the distance, was a white line of cascading water.
“Look! I can see the waterfall!”
I held my breath in anticipation, because if it was as majestic from such a distance, I couldn’t imagine how splendid it would be right up close.
As the ferry docked, I heard it. A loud roar, gushing in my ears. We walked through a swampy forest and saw our first waterfall, small but somewhat cute.
We continued on through an area of shops and restaurants, and I gasped in amazement as I saw, through the trees and people, the Krka Waterfalls.
At this point, it was just a massive swirl of white foam, but as I maneuvered my way around the crowd and stepped onto a bridge, my eyes soaked in the wonderful sight.
Words are like trying to describe a palace using bricks, and even pictures cannot relate the wonder of the experience, because it gives only one sense: sight. But there was smell, hearing, even touch.
The fresh scent of a forest cooled by dozens of streams and waterfalls. The sound of swirling and trickling water, the hum of language, the swish of a breeze. The refreshing feeling of cool sprays of water on hot skin, the warmth of sun rays.
We crossed the bridge, admiring the…first level. I was so excited to hear that there were many more cascades further up the mountain, since I had expected only one.
We slowly climbed up some very nice wooden steps, grasping onto railings for a good view and trying not to slip on the wet rocks. As I gazed out towards the second level, I caught my breath. There, spreading above the water that spilled over the edge, was a rainbow, faint but still very visible.
Oh, I love rainbows! And waterfalls. And mountains. And…ducks! My eyes widened as I saw a stubborn female duck paddle away from the edge, trying to fight the current. She was a very strong duck, because she succeeded.
We climbed up yet more steps to an overlook, where we got a wonderful view of the falls going down, down, down, and further up, more falls. I looked behind us, and frowned. Was that it?
But as I walked back, I discovered a path leading further up, and urged my family to follow.
They did, for about ten steps into the platform that opened up, then my parents sat down on a bench.
I was anxious to continue, but I was also hungry, so we sat down and quickly discovered that someone had forgotten bread, a very important ingredient for a sandwich!
So we had a very salty meal of salami and bell peppers, after which I firmly declared that I didn’t want to even look at a slice of salami until we got back to the States!
After lunch, we climbed up the next staircase, and another one, and another one! All of them were steep with a generous number of steps, so when I arrived at the top, I was quite out of breath and my thighs burned terribly. Well, also because I chose to run up instead of walking up, like the rest of my family, and I hadn’t stretched beforehand.
While they climbed, I headed over to the railing where I caught my breath while admiring the amazing view. Waterfall after waterfall, one, two, three, four, on and on! Each one was different, with a unique swirl, cascade, and ripple.
But suddenly, I was startled to feel something touch my leg, and I glanced down to see a butterfly on my leg! It wouldn’t move, even though I turned to soak in the sights. Until Micah ran up to me, that is.
We took a little break at this scenic overlook, then we hiked further up the trail of steps. Along the way, one could catch glimpses of rushing water, little streams and mini waterfalls, all twisting down the mountain.
Then we arrived at a little pond area, where a few small waterfalls emptied into. Sadly, I thought the trail was over, since people were leaving in cars and buses, but as I soon discovered, there was a path that went to the left, over the water!
We walked on a wooden pathway that was elevated above the water, and winded through the trees, into the distance. As I embarked on this magical tour, I gazed around me with wide eyes, sinking in the view. Low-hanging boughs of lushly leafed trees, mossy stones and smooth pebbles, the perfect mixture of green and brown…
Since it had rained the night before, everything was tinged with droplets of water, all the leafy plants and brush renewed after the rain. The air was fresh and crisp as I lingered behind my family, not wanting to miss a single swirl of water, a single trickle in the leaves.
Beyond, in the dense wetland of a forest, I heard a tinkle of conversation, maybe a water nymph with a fairy wood-sprite. I saw a cheerful, elfin face peep out at me through the water, because in the foam of bubbles and gushing water, any image can be conjured. Or was it…
The atmosphere was so peaceful, so romantic. What more could you hope for, with endless streams, waterfalls, forests, and wooden bridges? The whistle of birds, wind through the trees, faint ripple of laughter. It beckoned to me, and I couldn’t resist its call.
As we continued on the wooden platform, there was suddenly a clearing in the trees, and the ground was dotted with purple lilacs! Dainty little things, like the skirts of fairies, or the jewels of wood nymphs.
But, unfortunately, all things must come to an end, whether good or bad. Luckily for me, our stroll through the Krka Lagoons ended with a grand finale, one that I will remember always.
We climbed down a long flight of steps, since, after all, what comes up must come down. But around the corner of an old, abandoned building covered with vines, a towering waterfall gushed straight down, as tall as the entire staircase!
And in the middle, a woman was standing, posing for pictures!
That gave Micah and I an idea, and we exchanged excited glances. We couldn’t swim where everyone else was, because it was too crowded and too cold, but maybe we could splash around there!
After Mama and Papa’s acquiesce, we changed our tennis shoes into water shoes, and stepped into the pool of water beneath the waterfall.
Ooh, it was freezing! No way we could have swam! But I soon grew used to the trepid temperature and stood in front of the cascade, gazing up in awe at the streams tumbling over the mossy cliff edges. I was so close, I could touch the water! Not surprisingly, it was icy cold.
Micah and I waded through the water and plunged through the bushes on the right. To our relief, the rocks were not slippery, so we explored with relative ease. My feet were soon numb from the cold, but as usual, their complaints were ignored. It isn’t every day one gets to roam through a forest lagoon!
Behind a little ‘bridge’, Micah and I gasped in surprise. Hidden behind the tangle of vines and branches was a tall, thin waterfall, flowing beneath the ‘bridge’ into a rushing river on the other side.
“That’s a sight the others won’t get!” Micah exclaimed.
I agreed, treasuring the view in my head. I’d never see it again, because I didn’t bring my camera on our precarious expedition.
We looked around for a bit before Papa joined us, and watched as we carefully made our way down the hill and splashed onto land. It was a wonderful experience, being surrounding by foliage and water, and I was sorry it was over.
We dried off and headed to the ferry, from which I got my last glimpse of those majestic falls. But no matter how impressive they were, I would always hold the magical lagoons closer to my heart. Is that the sparkle of fairy wings I see?