I expected places like Venice and Rome to impress me and being blown away by Yosemite National Park was hardly a surprise but I didn’t anticipate an almost life changing event when I visited a small ranch somewhere up a country lane in Northern Croatia. Life is full of surprises and I certainly got a big one when I arrived at Jelov Klanac.
Indeed I had never anticipated being in northern Croatia at all. The credit for my trip must go to my Serbian vet who on hearing that I had visited neighbouring Slovenia, suggested that if there was one place that I really shouldn’t miss then it was Plitvice National Park. I was a little shocked at this as I had never heard of the place! I promptly went home to investigate and just one look at the images online had me planning a holiday on the spot.
Plitvice National Park is a natural miracle of epic proportions featuring a wonderland of blue lakes and stunning waterfalls. I couldn’t believe that the place had not come to my attention before. I got busy looking at my accommodation options for a short stay at the park and after considering almost every hotel and apartment within a 15 mile radius of the entrance, my instincts told me that the right place to stay was the Jelov Klanac Ranch. Exactly why I thought this remains unclear other than the fact that I liked the look of the wooden chalet in which I would stay. The ranch’s website was less than clear regarding what else I would find there.
The day I arrived was truly horrendous. A terrific storm had delivered torrential rain, thunder, lighting and the blackest of skies. I was feeling rather depressed as these were no conditions for enjoying the waterfalls that I was so looking forward to. I pulled into the ranch with a heavy heart but as soon as I stepped out of the car my spirits were lifted. There was a serene and almost mysterious quality about the landscape which was totally captivating and the apartment was gorgeous.
The chalet, which featured three apartments, was sited next to what appeared to be a large sinkhole. The Karst landscape thereabouts is punctuated by such natural features and I felt like I had wandered into a fairytale land. The peace was absolute and to add to my enjoyment the ranch’s two dogs decided to take up residence with me. As did their cat who had several adorable kittens!
The ranch turned out to be a riding centre with magnificent horses. The stables were opposite the chalet and I couldn’t resist the odd foray to admire the livestock. Various riding trips were on offer and I began to regret that I had not allowed time to take one of these.
The following day I entered Plitvice with great excitement and inconceivably the sun was shining. The park was even more beautiful than I had imagined. I spent two days exploring every square inch of the place and completely loved it but it was Jelov Klanac that really stole my heart.
My three days in the back of beyond left an indelible impression. I am not sure if it was the scenery, the peace, the prospect of riding or Lucky the dog that made me resolve to return. All of these things and more I suspect. In any event I will be back there this summer and this time I am getting on one of those horses. I am assured that I don’t need riding gear and that denim will suffice which is a relief as I really won’t have much room spare room in my luggage. This time I will ride to Plitvice on horseback, wrangler clad and like a cowboy and I really cannot wait!
Article by Sally Stacey