Ashley begins her epic road trip through Croatia in the region of Lika, steering her classic Zastava minivan along lesser-known byways to meet the locals and make a few amazing discoveries.
Aiming for the stunning national park of Plitvice Lakes, Ashley first drops into Rastoke, a picture-postcard old mill town with two fast-flowing rivers and traditional waterside guesthouses.
She then goes spelunking with Filip Špehar as they explore Baraćeva Caves, dating back more than five million years. Home to hibernating horseshoe bats, the caves are filled with dramatic stalactites and stalagmites, as pointed out by underground expert Špehar.
Then comes Plitvice, Croatia’s number one tourist attraction but a destination the much-travelled Ashley has never visited in winter. Pleased to find no crowds out of season, cheaper admission prices and free parking, Ashley is shown around the snowy cascades and waterfalls of this outstanding natural wonder by Ivica Špoljavić, Plitvice born and bred. We find out that Plitvice has 92 waterfalls and covers some 30,000 hectares, about the size of 30,000 football fields. The water’s so pure, it’s drinkable, as Ivica can prove.
Opting to spend the night in a luxurious treehouse lodging nearby, Ashley sets off the next morning for the Stilanova Lika. Here in a traditional family-run distillery where five generations have produced quality spirits, she knocks back fine rakija with the best of them.
Ashley’s final stop on the first leg of the tour is to the Nikola Tesla Memorial Centre in the hamlet of Smiljan. Here the great inventor was born in 1856, before the family moved to nearby Gospić. According to local guide Nikolina Trpan, however, Tesla, who later achieved worldwide fame for his work on electrical currents and telephony, got his first idea for a water turbine when observing a little brook by his house in Smiljan. The museum is full of fascinating curios, such as an interactive map that shows modern-day Manhattan, and how it would be lit up with Tesla’s alternating current and with the one invented by his great rival, Thomas Edison.
Ashley signs off amid the rolling landscapes of Lika. See you on the back roads!
Watch the first episode on RTLPlay now.