When I saw that Ailsa posted “Flow” as this week’s travel theme at Where’s My Backpack, my stomach sank a bit. As far as I could recall, I has used my favorite photos of rivers and beaches for last week’s “Peaceful” challenge. It took some time for memories of a day spent exploring the Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia, to rise to the surface of my mind.
I spent eleven long days training at the Faculty of Medicine in Reijka, Croatia as part of an international workshop in viral immunology; on the twelfth day, our hard work was rewarded when we were treated to a hiking tour of the most stunning lake country I have ever seen. The color of the many linked pools seemed almost an opaque turquoise from afar, in the sunlight. But once near the shore or on the water itself, I realized it was crystal clear (filled with fish) and that the hue seen from a distance was a trick of the limestone and chalk basins.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Plitvice Lakes are comprised of >16 lakes, separated by natural dams but connected by waterfalls of all sizes. Our small group had the privilege of a guided tour from one end of the valley, winding around (and through!) the lakes and making our way through the surrounding forests to an overlook at the other end.
Each corner of the path brought with it new surprises – towering waterfalls, quiet, still pools, fallen trees reclaimed by the waters, and dark caves leading into the surrounding mountains. Although our group was only a small fraction of the total people in the park that day, the valley was mostly silent, minus the roar of the surrounding falls. There was a visible sense of awe and wonder in each face and very little was said,out of respect for the grandiose, sacred beauty that surrounded us. When we did speak, the words almost always emerged as a whisper.
I learned later that the precipitation and deposition of calcium carbonate via the flow of the falls and rivers moving through the valley resulted in the eventual natural damming of the lakes and establishment of this extremely unique geological formation. The power of flow to both build and erode was abundantly clear throughout our exploration of the park.
Yet, as with last week, I found these waters to also be peaceful – not only the calm aquamarine pools of the upper valley, but also the thundering cascades. Something about that power, pounding (virtually) throughout eternity reminded me how insignificant my current worries were, how little impact the flow of my life has on the bigger picture – that nature has been carving out these hidden jewels long before I entered the world, and will continue long after I leave. What a wonderful thought.