Spring is the ideal time of the year for excursions. Nature is waking up from it's winter hibernation, it's warm, but not hot as in the summer and the only thing you need is good weather, comfortable sports clothing, a knapsack on your back, and you're ready to go. So, why not take advantage of one weekend this spring for a trip to Rastoke, a watermill settlement, located by the town Slunj (100 km from Zagreb), in Karlovac County. If you are going by car from Zagreb to Rastoke, the fastest way to reach there is by the A1 Highway to Karlovac. Then from Karlovac, go with the local road D1, across Tušilović, towards Slunj. If you do not have your own means of transport, the easiest way to get to Rastoke is with one of the bus lines that run everyday towards the city Slunj. Ticket prices range from 67 - 79kn per person one-way, and a detailed schedule of departures and arrivals can be found at www.akz.hr. From the bus station in Slunj to Rastoke, the distance is only a 500m leisurely walk along the pedestrian sidewalk.
Rastoke or the “Small Lakes of Plitvice”
The settlement Rastoke is situated at the mouth of the river Slunjčice, which flows into the river Korana. A travertine barrier creates a series of small waterfalls, rapids and basins. The most famous waterfalls are Buk, Hrvoje and Vilina Kosa. Rastoke are located at the entrance of the Plitvice Lakes, which is the oldest and most famous National Park in Croatia. The settlement is special due to its numerous mills, which date back to the 17th century and were built from travertine stone and wood. Some mills even contain primitive washing machines and wool. Due to its architectural heritage, ethnographic and historical value, as well as its natural beauty, in 1969, Rastoke was declared a cultural monument. It is breathtaking in its natural beauty, cuisine and traditions, and we are sure that you will not be disappointed.
What can you do…
Explore the settlement by walking along the trails overlooking the waterfalls and rapids and enjoy the beauty of nature. Visit the mills, part of the Holjevac family farm, and you can see a mill from the 18th century, which helped the locals create flour that was used to make bread, cakes and polenta. Try out fishing on the river Slunjčica, but make sure to follow their “catch and release” rule. You just need to obtain a daily permit, which costs 150kn and can be bought at the travel agency or café bar Vodena Ovca.
Drink a coffee at Vodena Ovca, and enjoy the café’s wooden terrace, while under your feet run murmuring waterfalls, as you're refreshed by water blowing off of the lakes. The bike trails are fixed-up for lovers of an active holiday, and in the lower part of Korana, the Rastoka River is the ideal place for canoeing and kayaking. In Rastoke, today, there are approximately 30 households, which were renovated and are well preserved to keep intact the traditions of this region. You can be a witness to the past lives of the people in this area and experience how they once lived, what they ate and even how they arranged their dining room and bedrooms. A number of the restaurants offer traditional dishes from this region, such as homemade polenta from the Rastoke mills, as well as dumplings, doughnuts, proj (bread without yeast from 5 types of grain), trout, lamb, venison, homemade bread, noodles and strudel. Join in a variety of workshops on the Holjevac family farm, to learn about creating handcrafted souvenirs and various handmade artifacts (purses, hats, scarves) using many traditional techniques (weaving, knitting, crocheting). Visit the cave, which leads to one of the waterfalls. If you want to extend your trip for several more days, most households offer accommodation, either in rustic rooms or bungalows.