It's another humid daybreak in June in the city of Pula on the north-west coast of the Croatian Adriatic. The sun is about to rise above the silhouette of a city that only seems silent and sleepy. A motor ship is leaving the port, headed about 300 miles to the south. Its final destination: National Park Krka River, whose best-known natural landmark is Skradinski Buk.
It could take five, maybe six hours, to get there. It doesn't matter. As the sun rises, the ship glides across the unquiet waters of Kvarner Bay, among the islands, small and large. It's a beautiful morning. No one cares that we're heading into an area with rain clouds.
Croatia is a small country in southern Europe with a very rich history. For a long period during the 20th century, it was a part of Yugoslavia, until it regained its independence 15 years ago. “Slightly smaller than West Virginia,” as someone has noted, it comprises a long swath of coastline, as well as large central plains and mountainous area between Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The coastline along the Adriatic Sea is dotted with a thousand islands, and across the sea is Italy.
Our ship is fast. The sea becomes quiet and smooth as oil in the Zadar channel. Two more hours to go. Clean air whips against the faces of the passengers on the deck. They are trying to be louder than the roaring of the engine, as the ship cuts swiftly across the surface of the sea.
An old Austro-Hungarian fortress guards the entrance to the bay of Šibenik city. The combination of modern and renaissance architecture in Šibenik looks quite stylish. It's a city of some 50-60,000 inhabitants, which means it is relatively big by Croatian standards. We long to stop there for at least half an hour and visit its famous cathedral or some of the fortresses, or just walk along the lungomare – a promenade along the coast, typical of most Adriatic cities. But we can’t.
One hour later, after being transferred to a smaller ship in the tiny port of Skradin, we're finally in Skradinski Buk. We're looking for a noise, actually. Buk stands for buka, which means noise in Croatian. And you can hear it even before you see it – a waterfall cascading down a series of 17 natural steps in the limestone riverbed.