After barbecuing with friends last Saturday, in the haze of having stayed put for an afternoon, we decided on the spur of the moment, to join them on a one-day trip to Lika¹. They needed to check their house and pick peas, carrots and salads that have grown since they were last there.
I figured, since their place in Lika is only an hour away from the Adriatic, there would be time for a quick swim in the sea. There was not. Because we found a much more magical swimming nook on the way there – Mlinica at Korana.
You may not have heard of Korana, but surely you’ve heard of the Plitvice lakes, the famous Lika lakes arranged in cascades that are the oldest Croatian National Park as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Lika you may have heard of because it’s the region of Croatia Nikola Tesla was born in.)
Well, Korana is the 83 miles long river that forms the Plitvice lakes. And it is no less stunning in its flow before it forms them. When one travels through Lika, usually rushing to get to the sea-side, on what the natives call the “old road”, meaning the D1 and not the highway, there are many signs for room rental², not that many for interesting nooks.
Even when they are a recently renovated old mill – the only thing I could find online was this, and it’s not much. Does not do it any justice what so ever: it focuses on the walking trail rather than on the mill and the river. You need to know where they are.
Luckily, I have inquisitive friends. Who went to see what kind of camp the nearby Camp Korana is, once when they were going to their Lika place during winter. And walking along the river, they stumbled upon this small waterfall with an old mill. Now, there is even a sign, just before the turn for the Camp Korana. It has Mlinica writtten on it.
And leads to a true little oasis. Especially if you are traveling down D1, in a car without air-conditioning, at 11 am, and stuck behind a really slow driving foreigner who thinks the speed limit’s been written in stone. Then the water is not just cool, but heavenly. The spot is pristine, there are two very nicely done info point and, most importantly, almost no people. In fact, we were the only visitors that day.
Next to the swimming nook, there is a renovated mill that is also a small Ethno Museum today, open daily from 4 pm. We did not stick around long enough for it to officially open, but we were lucky enough to peek inside nonetheless. Because sometime in the afternoon, a tractor showed up and the great grandson of the guy who built the mill in 1939 was the one driving it. They still live on a nearby farm and had come to turn some corn and barley into flour. Yup, the mill still serves its original purpose, although in a diminished capacity and for private use only. My kid, under the influence of last weekend’s visit to Skradinski buk, asked if there was a power plant here, too. To my surprise, the man told him that there used to be, a small one.
It was an awesome way to spend a Sunday.
¹a three hour drive in any direction (with a presumed three hour drive back) is not something most Croatian will decide on lightly, cognitive distance for us being quite different than for Australians, as I’ve written here.
²that’s what the Zimmer frei stands for.