Field | Crayfish alert at Žumberak Mountains

Hi everyone, and welcome back to my blog. I took a month+ long break, during which I focused on my health and final exams at my University. At the same time, BIUS – Biology Students Association was preparing for their annual field trip, that I really wanted to be a part of!
BIUS is an association that gathers many Biology students from our department and focuses mainly on field trips, excursions, and expert lectures, all in order to complement and expand our Biology-related knowledge about certain topics. BIUS is also a publisher behind In Vivo Magazine, for which I serve as editor-in-chief.


Firstly, however, I would like to write a bit about my love for scientific (and a little less scientific) field trips. My primary love is the lab, after all. However, I grew up in a tiny village, surrounded by a living world – woods, animals, endless fields of tall grass… I actually started to think about studying something science based, perhaps Biology even, way back in the primary school, after wanting to identify all the bugs and spiders I would find in my front yard.
During my first two years of Bachelor’s degree, the thought of going out to the field didn’t really cross my mind, but it all changed in the middle of my third year, when I realized that something was lacking in my life, and that something turned out to be raw nature.

Photo by Đina Nola

This year’s big field excursion lasted for eight days, but I was only able to attend for the last four. Usually, BIUS organizes this kind of excursions twice a year, in May and September, but due to the pandemic, it was completely moved to the end of September, when situation in Croatia improved. Every year, a new terrain is explored, usually switching between continental and marine area. For this year, the leadership chose the Žumberak Mountains which are located on a border with Slovenia, and are approximately one hour drive from Zagreb. Žumberak is a mountain range divided into two parts, the Samobor Hills and the Žumberak Hills, both comprising the protected nature park Žumberak – Samobor Hills. It is home to many plant, fungal, and animal species, some of which are endangered or sensitive.


At first, shortly after arriving I was planning to spend every day with a different group, but in the end, I spent all the days driving around with the Crustacean group. I wasn’t sure how much fun is that going to be, since I knew very little about freshwater crayfish, apart from researching crayfish plague for a little while as an undergrad during an elective lab course.
I was already familiar with two members, Lena and Ljudevit Luka, since we are the same generation and took multiple classes together, and I also knew Anita and Karla a little bit; the whole group was very determined to carry out their research but with the sprinkle of carefreeness. I didn’t feel excluded for one bit and they were extremely patient with me taking photographs and filming videos.

So, what did Crustacean group actually do? Anita kindly explained their goals:

  • monitoring of the species Austropotamobius torrentium, also known as stone crayfish (how many specimens, in which streams are they located, what gender…)
  • taking swabs of crayfish cuticles in order to check for crayfish plague pathogen; this is later investigated by using the PCR method
  • taking water samples using special filters in order to check for crayfish presence; this is later investigated by analyzing the eDNA (environmental DNA)

How does that actually look like out in the field?
The first thing we did every morning, was to check the map and the roads; sometimes, we drove for more than one hour to reach a destination. Then we walked up to a stream, which sometimes proved to be rather tricky, since some seemed to dry up overnight. The most important thing we did before and after walking in every stream, creek or puddle was to disinfect our rubber boots, in order not to accidentally transfer pathogens to different habitats.

The group was very active even before my arrival, so we checked some permanent streams where they already set up special crayfish traps, that were actually made of old plastic bottles, with some tasty hot dog sausages in them. (Don’t worry, those traps are reusable! They just have to be washed thoroughly.) After taking out crayfish, one by one, they are measured and gently rubbed with a toothbrush, in a special buffer, to collect possible crayfish plague pathogen. Every tube containing that buffer is then labeled and safely stored. Crayfish are carefully released back into the stream, at the same place where they were found.

However, sometimes we went to streams for the first time, which meant no traps. So how do you catch a crayfish then? With hands. Usually they were hiding under rocks, but what most people probably wouldn’t expect, is that they are freakishly fast. Still, even during night-time catching & release, every member of the group was highly skilled in catching them. They could also easily discern female from male specimens, and Ljudevit Luka readily explained how, and also sent additional images (the ones below). In short, the main difference is that male crayfish have gonopods, while females don’t. (Gonopods are modified legs that are substantial during mating.)

A female stone crayfish

In four days that I spent with this wonderful group, I learned a lot and had a really amazing time. I wanted this post to focus mostly on crayfish, but I’m planning to post another one, where I will write a little bit more about travelling, our camping site, and wonderful nature I was able to document. I also took many videos, which I’m currently editing in one coherent, presentable, work, which I initially planned to release at the same time as this article, but life got a little bit in the way.
I sincerely hope you liked this write-up, and will read my next one as well!


Here you can find social media of some of the members of the Crustacean group, as well as the KarioAstacidae website, a student project led by Ljudevit Luka and Lena, which focuses on Astacidae populations in Zagreb.

Neuro & speleo

As promised (to my two and a half readers and myself), I’m diligently writing another post, and this one combines my two greatest scientific loves – neuroscience and biospeleology!

Last weekend, I attended two very important conferences – 3rd Rijeka forum on neurodgenerative diseases – diagnosis and treatment in early stage of disease and 2nd Dinaric symposium on subterreanean Biology. There was one day overlap between the two, so I chose to spend my Friday in Rijeka, but more about that later on. Since this trip included a lot of walking and transport, for the simplicity I packed only the bare necessities, which included only one pair of booties (this comes in play later on).

The topic of neurodegenerative diseases is something I would really like to do all my future research in, and it’s also a subject of my master thesis (precisely, neurofibrillary tangles in rat brains). Also, there was no attending fee, which is pretty much amazing for the students. We (Bruno and me) arrived in Rijeka (from Zagreb) very early in the Thursday morning by bus and set to find the University campus where forum was taking place. This wasn’t my first time in Rijeka, so we didn’t have any problems with finding the venue. The forum consisted of plenary lectures held by renowned professors from all over the Europe (Sweden, Italy, Slovenia, England) and Croatia of course, and it was roughly divided into two parts, basic neuroscience and clinical research. As a biologist, I didn’t pay too much attention to clinical part, and instead was dutifully solving my programming homework. However, it was amazing to be there for both days, and just listening what was new in the world of neurodegenerative diseases. I didn’t find courage to ask questions (during the Q&A time, or even after), but I hope that one day I will. We didn’t “touristly” roam around Rijeka, but we stayed overnight in the most gorgeous apartment in the centre, I was seriously impressed!

On Friday, after lecture, I stayed in the venue for a little while (internet access!) and then we went to the train station. I love travelling by trains, and I try to do it as much as possible. Luckily, this train to Ljubljana (yes, Slovenia again!) also went through our next stop, Postojna. If that name rings a bell, that’s surely because of the Postojna Cave, one of the most famous caves open to tourists in the area. It is also special because there are many blind cave salamanders, which are part of the vivarium as well. Our plan was to visit this cave at Sunday, while Saturday was reserved for the Dinaric symposium. The symposium was held in Karst museum in Slovenia, and we caught the last plenary session and some posters. There was a short break (we went to the town centre to stock-pile some food) and then, the excursion!

Blonde haired woman sitting in a train (with a green background and glass reflection on the right).
It’s just me in a Croatian railroads train.


We were driven by car by our hosts, Teo and Ester (who we met during this summer – I will write about that in the next post!) to Rakov Škocjan. I would like to use this opportunity to say that Slovenia is really beautiful, full of intact nature and small roads. In Rakov Škocjan, we set for a quite a long walk to visit two natural bridges and caves near them. I had my shiny new camera with them, so I was taking as much photos and videos as possible, and honestly, I also used this as an excuse to stay behind, because I had a hard time keeping up with the rest of the group (I’m chronically out of shape). The trails itself is beautiful, a part of it also goes near the river Rak. Soon we came to the first natural bridge, which is completely made of stone. The only thing human hand built were protective barriers, so people don’t fall down. The story behind both bridges is that they used to be huge caves, but they collapsed, leaving only the bridges. Parts of the caves still remain, so most of the group went down to enjoy the cave and river that goes through it. I stayed behind, because I assumed it would take me too long to climb down and back up, and I didn’t want to hold back the whole group.

A stone natural bridge, infused with forest; green and grey colours are dominant.
Little Natural Bridge of Rakov Škocjan


After the first bridge, we went back to the meeting point, which was the hotel where we had lunch. Next, the second bridge, which is 5-minute-long car ride away, and about 20 minutes by foot from there. Usually, the passage under this large natural bridge is almost completely under water, but we were lucky, as it was completely dry. We carefully walked in the river canyon, up the entrance of the second cave. Since Bruno and I didn’t bring any headlamps, one of the organizers kindly borrowed us spare helmets with the lamp on. Which lamp, you may ask? Scurion, the best of the best! I was so excited to wear it that I made Bruno take countless pictures of me!


Then, we naturally went to explore the cave, which wasn’t as dry as the canyon. Sometimes, it was really hard to see how deep the water level is, and that’s how I ended up with a very wet right foot. Like, full on water in my boot, because the water level was just a bit too high then I anticipated. This didn’t stop me to try out my camera, and I was very satisfied with the photos, since they are a big step forward from the ones I took this summer (again, this will my next post!). The light from the Scurion was on occasion so strong, that some of the photos look almost burned, I couldn’t believe it.

speleo
Biospeleologists in a cave


Some folks went through the whole cave, but I wanted to go back the same way, to take more pictures of the bridge and cave entrance, since I didn’t have enough time to do it the first time we went through. Honestly, at moments, I felt like everything is a bit too fast, especially for someone who wanted to take a quick break and just enjoy the nature or take a few snaps for the photo album. The whole time however, I was thinking only how wet my sock is, and couldn’t wait to go back to our apartment and change. However, the group had other plans and first we went to the small café close to the big lake, which I honestly didn’t see. We did say to Teo that we would like to go back and would skip dinner (programming!), so he organized a transport back for us, which we were quite grateful for.


The next day, the big day! Postojna cave, or at least we thought so. After waking up, we realized we should walk two kilometers up to the cave, with both of our backpacks and I also had a bag full of photography equipment. There were some taxi companies, but no one answered, and we also didn’t have almost any cash, since I’m used to paying with a bank card. This was actually a problem in Postojna – apart from big chain stores, everything was to be paid in cash, and all ATM-s were located in the city centre. All of this, combined with our train schedule and my sill wet boot, contributed to us giving up on Postojna cave, and heading for a train station… Where we realized that the ticket office is closed, and we can’t pay with bank card in the train. So, Bruno quickly headed back to the centre, and came back with some pastries as well. Our way back went smoothly – first train to Ljubljana, trying out new burgers at McDonalds, and then train to Zagreb. During that time, we decided to come back to Postojna during the winter, and explore that cave, as well as going back to Rakov Škocjan on our own, setting our own pace and excursion plan. However, apart from finishing my homework assignment, the most important thing, excluding pretty photos, is the fact that I finally finished reading Dracula, the book I struggled with for almost two years, for the reasons I still don’t understand.

A view from inside to outside of the cave; framed arch with the blackness of the cave forming an outside frame, and sky and forest being the picture in the centre.
The cave near the Big Natural Bridge; a view from the inside.


 

A short adventure in Pula

Pula is a small town located in Istrian peninsula (Croatia), famous for it’s film festival, beautiful sea, and rich history. As such, it’s also a great choice for many symposiums, meetings, and congresses – I have visited it twice this year only!

My Pula adventure lasted for four days, during Croatian Neurological Academy, a medical congress dedicated to neurology (and neuroscience). The Academy was held in Histria hotel, on Verudela beach – this setting is wonderful, we were surrounded by sea for miles. Also, the food was superb; many choices for main dishes and desserts (sea food, vege options, pasta, various meats, pastries…).

Now, this blog is called Science Pit, because you know, science; however I also like to travel a lot, and I am a self-proclaimed history buff. So, this particular trip was a bit less neuroscience, and a bit more “look at that historic statue!” (Don’t worry, I went to a gorgeous science museum as well!)

When thinking about Pula, most of people immediately think about Pula Arena, an amphitheater distinct by being the only one that has all four towers still preserved. It was built between 27 BC and 68 AD. This was my first time visiting the Arena, and honestly, it’s impressive. Walking inside something so old, imagining what have taken place in this structure, which famous Romans were part of the fights… It’s a breath-taking experience, and words don’t do it justice.

Huge stone arches of Amphitheater in Pula; with sky seen through the arches.
Amphitheater in Pula; 2000 years old.


After Arena, I visited Temple of Augustus, a temple dedicated to Augustus (formerly known as gaiusu Octavius), first Roman emperor. The Temple has been standing in its place for 2000 years (give or take a few years). When you are in front of it,  the Temple seems as it was built couple of years, and not two millennia ago. The third historical landmark I saw was an arch – not Arch of the Sergii, but Porta Gemina (rough translation = Double door).


After all this, I headed back to the direction of the hotel, with a twist – Aquarium Pula is just 15 minutes by foot from my hotel. At first, I was a bit taken aback by the ticket price (student ticket is 90HRK =12€), but my mom encouraged me to go with her anyway. And honestly, it was worth it. I was a visitor once before, as a part of my obligatory Field Trip during my Bachelor’s. Surprisingly, I was as fascinated this time, as I was the first time – the abundance of sea life in Croatia is staggering, and it always reminds me how little we know about our oceans. The aquarium also has reptile and butterflies sections, but those include species not found in Croatia (such as caiman). I would absolutely recommend visiting, and take your time while you’re inside – photography is allowed!
This photo is just a small glimpse of photos and videos I’ve taken – they deserve their own post, or even a video. P. s. Of course I’ve found a cave!

 

 

Speleology school

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with this concept, but in Croatia, many Mountaineering and Caving Associations organize Speleology schools. Ever since I’ve enrolled into my Bachelor’s degree in Biology, it was my dream to explore caves. I often talked about with my friend Mia – we tried to imagine how would it be deep in a cave, talked it all over numerous times with our colleagues, and, most important of it all – debated which school to choose?! In that, we had a help of my very dear then-friend who recommended the Association he was a part of – Mountaineering Association Velebit. If that name rings a bell, it’s is because Velebit is the largest mountain range in Croatia, and tourists often get lost on it during summer hikes. Velebit is also a home to two Croatian National Parks (Paklenica and Northern Velebit) and one Strict Reserve (Hajdučki i Rožanski kukovi). The yellow colour flowered plant, Degenia velebitica, is endemic species in the region, which is blossoming with flora and fauna. Also, largest and deepest caves in Croatia are located on (in) Velebit, so the name is more than appropriate.

Honestly, it’s a bit difficult to write this, because during those two months, I’ve experienced extreme difficulties and changes in my personal and professional life, and when I look back, I still get very emotional about certain aspects of my life. Also, I’ve written twice about it already (both articles in Croatian) – for In Vivo, student journal I’m editor-in-chief of, and for Velebiten, official magazine of Mountaineering Association Velebit.

The duration of the school was something less than two months, due to Easter holidays break. Our excursion happened over 5 weekends, apart from the first one, which one only Saturday. One very special rule of our school is that we don’t sleep in tents – we are improvising them using tarpaulins 😊 School consists of 20 students, and approximately the same number of instructors, both seasoned speleologists and the ones who finished the school previous year. First excursion, I was so excited and couldn’t wait to get in the cave, but almost gave up the whole school, because I had difficulties walking a steep hiking trail. However, thanks to support to one of my friends, I successfully made it and entered Veternica, a famous cave in Zagreb. Veternica is part of Medvednica (Bear mountain), with its highest peak at 1035 meters being Sljeme. Despite its name, there are no bears here! Veternica is a very long and highly complex cave – it is more than 7000 meters long. Tourists can view around 400 meters of this, while the rest is reserved for cavers and explorers. Geologically, Veternica is made of limestones, and harbours large evolutionary heritage. Remains of Neanderthals have been found in the cave, which have been worshippers of the cult of a bear. Cave bear, to be precise (Ursus speleus), and a fossil of a large lower-jaw was found in the cave as well. Today’s most famous cave dwellers are, naturally, bats, and more than 10 species call Veternica their home.

The whole experience was simply breath-taking and overwhelming – figuratively and literally, because I managed to break and bruise somewhere around five ribs. The event is probably more dramatic in my head – during the way back from a small “room” called The Beach, I was feeling a bit tired, after walking around 2 kilometres through mud, cave rivers, climbing all around, and trying not to fall. Veternica (and most of the caves) are not as you seen them in movies, huge and vast. This cave is wide enough for people to walk almost without squeezing through, but it requires using all four of your limbs, sometimes jumping from one side to another, no-gear climbing, and one particular part, called “Ramses’ passage” required us to walk on all fours, almost in a push-up position. At that time of the year (March), Veternica was full of water, so we were quite wet, and the rocks were slippery. Anyway, the part where I slipped is a bit difficult to describe, but I had to walk over a small canyon, one foot in front of other. To the right, fall down the canyon, but through the crack. When I slipped I hit the opposite wall and leaned on it hard, still standing on the initial path. I started slipping down; heard some soft bone cracking in the middle of loud water hums. I wasn’t scared, just in a sudden pain that didn’t leave me enough time to think, when a voice said, “I got you!” from below, paired with the feeling of someone supporting me. It was one of the experienced instructors, Luka, whom I didn’t even notice was close to me. He checked on me immediately, and asked if I wanted to take a break, which I immediately refused, explaining that since I’m in an adrenaline rush, and stopped feeling any kind of pain, I’d love to continue. Luka was with me for half the way, with one of my friends (also a highly experienced caver) taking over.

le me (1).JPG
Picture 1. Me, during various stages of school


Somehow, this accident only motivated me even more for my next task – to climb up and down 30 meters tall rock. There are no words to precisely describe the descend, when you are experiencing this for the first time. It’s scary how small people look like, even from that height! This particular rock is called Gorsko zrcalo (“Mountain mirror”) and is also part of Medvednica, but on the opposite end of it. It can be found in the middle of the forest, along the popular hiking trailer, and, on the first look, it doesn’t seem scary. At least when you don’t look down! This was my first time using the gear outside the training area (which we visited a day earlier), and I didn’t really trust it. I feared that I will fall out of my harness or that I will fail to properly secure my stop-descender. However, I climbed with one of the calmest instructors, so I forgot all about this – my only problem was un-securing the aforementioned stop-descender.

Picture 2. A view of Gorsko zrcalo; climbing up; my instructor calming me down before descend (Photo 2: Marko Rakovac, Photo 3: Darko Jeras)

zrcalo (2)Picture 3. Happy that I climbed up, trying not to scream in a slight rib-pain (Photo: Darko Jeras)


All three other weekends were proper excursions to Gorski Kotar, where we would stay overnight, eating dinner around camp fire, the only warm place miles around. We were always tired, but happy and satisfied, because we managed to move our boundaries, get to know something new, meet new people and develop acquaintances.

Getting to know each other isn’t just a pleasantry – it could be life-saving. It’s crucial to know on whom you can rely when things go wrong and your life depends on someone. This might sound a bit grim, but it’s quite realistic (just remember my broken ribs – if one of the instructors wasn’t there to catch me, I would probably end up with punctured lung, 2 kilometres deep in a cave). Panic is also common, and it’s rewarding to know person well enough to calm them down when climbing back up 150-meter-deep pit.

During those three weekends, we visited four different caves, although to me, a novice caver, most of those experiences merged into one. However, I’m not implying those caves are that similar, but I was rather focused on successful descends and ascends, using my equipment correctly, and passing some tricky passages. Also, there is no a simple “rope down the pit” way – the rope is “broken” to anchorages, and there is a particular set of procedures to pass it. What I really love about caving, is that you don’t think of anything else. There are no worries, or planning (apart maybe what to eat when you get out); you are present in the given moment, focusing only on task at hand. And by that, I mean rope. You are focusing on the rope.

Picture 4. In the cave, in the pit… (All photos: Dalibor Paar)


There is not much life in the caves, most what you hear are voices of your colleagues, and water dripping, sometimes slowly, sometimes in a waterfall. Lamps are a necessity (with the rest of the gear!). But the cave walls are stunning, all the number of shapes and how they sparkle under the head-lamp, it’s mesmerizing. Exiting the pit is almost an experience on its own – there is that almost euphoric feeling of being truly overwhelmed, by the mixture of outside light, colours and sounds, with the scent of nature intertwining with the moisture of inside…

bocina (1)Picture 5.  A misty morning


The whole of speleology is actually rewarding. It’s not just the school and people you meet, it’s more than simple climbing down and up. Caves are a new world, full of new situations and experiences. And it’s all worth it, if for nothing more, to push yourselves a bit more. I would recommend speleology school to everyone, even if you might not want to repeat this kind of event ever again.

Longest climb: 80 meters down and up
Degree of freezing in my sleeping bag during the nights: 6/10
Best experience: first real climb (30 meters, Gorsko zrcalo), with broken ribs
Favourite memory: climbing out of “Devil’s pit” (70 meters deep) with almost no assistance
Special thanks: Mia, Irena, Luka, Zvonimir (cavers); Bruno, my mom, Rudolf, Sara (outside support)

Do you think caving is a bit scary? Are you going to try speleology? Are you perhaps a caver already? Feel free to comment and let me know!

National Park – Plitvice Lakes

Since it is winter and exam season is closing in, I am not spending a lot of time in the lab (or anywhere interesting). Because of that, I wanted to write a short throwback post about last time I visited one Croatian National Park. Despite being a very small country, Croatia is rich in intact nature and preserved areas. The most famous of those areas are National Parks, and Croatia has eight! I also must mention, that in spite of popular belief, there are two areas more protected than National Parks – “strict reserves.”

The National Park I’ve paid a visit more than a year ago (November 2017) is called Plitvice Lakes, or simply Plitvice. The area is a National Park since 1949 and it’s Croatia’s biggest and oldest Park. It consists of 16 lakes that are connected by many waterfalls and cascades. The specificity of the Park is tufa – yes, I checked, that’s the word! 🙂 Tufa is a calcareous rock (meaning it is mostly made of calcium carbonate) and is porous. It is generated by precipitation of carbonate minerals out of water, and generally this type of rock is very sensitive to changes in pH. Why is it so special? Tufa forms barriers between the lakes! Those barriers are the reason why Plitvice are also part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.

dsc_0011_
Picture 1. A famous view on Plitvice Lakes

dsc_0040_Picture 2. Amazing waterfall in Plitvice

For the Chemistry lovers, here is a chemical formula of tufa formation:

Ca2+ +2HCO3 ↔CO2 + H2O + CaCO3

Apart from environmental factors, small organisms play very important role in the formation as well. There are bacteria, small multi-cellular organisms, blue-green algae (not algae at all) and diatoms (actual algae). Mosses are part of this ecosystem as well, together with many other smaller organisms, both animals and plants.

As I already mentioned, there are several factors important for the formation of tufa rocks, and pH of the water is the one you have probably heard about. The reason why is it almost exclusively mentioned is pollution that changes pH of the lakes. One of the main problems? Tourism. Yes, tourism. I won’t get in the detail about not-so-well-made sewer system in the whole area, but Plitvice are one of the most famous places in Croatia, and as such, receptible to huge numbers of visitors every summer. And sometimes, that people don’t follow basic rules of spending their time in nature, so a lot of littering and wild-life disturbance occurs. Don’t get me wrong, this National Park is open to the public and meant to be enjoyed, but sometimes it seems more emphasis is put on money, rather on educations. Because of that, I would sincerely like to ask all of you, to take care of our environment, especially when visiting a foreign country.

dsc_0068_Picture 3. Calm lake and some rocks. And trees.

dsc_0109_Picture 4.  View of a lake, before the boat drive

Anyway, back to my excursion! I was part of the group from my Department, as a part of the field trip for subject “National Parks.” It was a one-day trip, and we walked approximately 10 km around the lakes. The biggest lake is called Kozjak, and it is also a deepest lake. All lakes are beautiful blue-green colour and surrounded with walking paths and breath-taking views. The weather was a bit cold-ish, since it was November, but enough to walk around in a jacket and winter hat. And a camera of course! I tried to picture most of the nature and wildlife around me, but we didn’t see as much (again, because it was almost winter). However, Plitvice are rich in both flora and fauna – its symbol is a brown bear! Grey wolves and lynxes are also natural to the habitat, as well as many bird species – I’ve seen robins (Erithacus rubecula), some sparrows (Passer domesticus), and mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), but falcons (Falco peregrinus) and pygmy owls (Glaucidium passerinum) are regularly sighted. From other flying creatures, the Parks is full of butterflies (Phengaris alcon), bees (Apis mellifera), and similar (Calopteryx virgo), as well as bats (Barbastella barbastellus; there are also many caves in the Park!). There are many salamanders (Salamandra atra), otters (Lutra lutra; that I very sadly haven’t spotted), and fish. A lot of fish. I would also like to mention, that an endemic species was found in this area, in one of the caves – a small bug, Machaerites udrzali, which belongs in order Coleoptera. Forest(s) around the Lakes are full of common beech (Fagus sylvatica), but there are also firs (Abies alba), pines (Pinus sylvestris), and Ostryas. In fact, when it comes to flora, there are more than one thousand registered plant species, including dead-nettles and orchids. Mushrooms also have an important presence in Croatian forests, and Plitvice forest is famous for being a home to another rare species – saprophytic fungi Camarops tubulina.

dsc_0080_Picture 5. Mallards humbly asking for bread

So, what do you think? Did you know that this National Park is so full of life? Because I honestly didn’t, despite living in Croatia, well, my whole life. Of course, we were taught about some general facts during our schooling, but I was really surprised to learn how many different species live here.
Apart from such an important biological aspect, Plitvice Lakes are important in Croatian history as well, but I might talk about that next time!

Did you visit Plitvice, what were your experiences? How about some other Croatian National Park? Which one should I visit&write about next? 🙂

P.s. Yes, the header picture of my blog was also taken during this trip!