If I’d got to the Dark Hedges pre-dawn as intended, they might have appeared as dark as their name suggests. But the light-coloured beech trunks and even just a hint of morning sunshine made this tunnel of trees a fairly light and airy one, not spooky at all.
Spookier is the fact that the number of trees has practically halved since they were first planted in the late 18th century, some through storm damage, but also as the flux of visitors has intensified.
This part-flooded walkway required a bit of nimble footwork here and there – easy enough even in heavy, water-resistant boots. But it was difficult to pause to take in the exhilarating and almost overwhelming experience of the waterfalls gushing into the valley below, accompanied by the constant roar and wind-tossed spray. I noticed some people had taken off their shoes and socks – that for me was the scary bit: are feet on slimy wet wood slip-resistant?
It’s a stunning place without a doubt. After days of rain, the waterfalls were energised and energising. You might think it’s easier to photograph the lakes and falls once the constant downpour stops. Not so! The absence of rain and the appearance of the sun brought the tourists in at what seemed to be a rate of a dozen coachloads every 10 minutes. As a result, the wooden walkways shook constantly, and I couldn’t very well block the path by hanging around with my tripod and backpack. So the good news is that I’ll be going again, when the coachloads have gone, whenever that is.
A few paces around the corner and the path was under 15 cm of water on account of several days of rain. Not so good for flimsy shoes, but great for the waterfalls!
It wasn’t the first wooden path I walked across at Plitvice, but it was my favourite: both for the cool, leafy shade it provided, and the play of light, leaves and water. I could have spent the entire day here.
This is what some of Altai’s countless unskied slopes looked like a few weeks ago. Something tells me that most of them are too remote to ever become crowded ski resorts, but you never can tell.