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Terra Zone

Once a key component of the Roman, Ottoman, and Habsburg empires, the nation of Croatia was formed in 1991, when it broke away from the former Yugoslavia. The civil war that followed the split was long and bloody, and resulted in the destruction of many of the nation's most historic landmarks and even affected Plitvice (see Eco-Alert.)

A view of Plitvice Croatia, a 22,000-square-mile, wishbone-shaped nation, sits astride the Adriatic Sea, and has nearly 1,200 miles of coastline and nearly 1,000 scenic islands. The Croatian land mass is roughly divided by the Dinaric Alps, which boast peaks of up to 6,000 feet, and several smaller mountain ranges.

More than 4.3 million people live in Croatia, although nearly as many have emigrated and now live in other nations. Its capital city, Zagreb, has a population of nearly one million. They enjoy relatively mild summers and sometimes cold, snowy winters.

Stalactites in a cave Plitvice Lakes National Park sits in northwestern Croatia, near the apex of the nation's two "legs," about 87 miles southwest of Zagreb. Millions of years ago, vast blocks of limestone were formed on the floors of ancient seas by the minute shells of dying plankton. Then, the blocks were cracked by faults and some were thrust high above the surrounding landscape. Water began to cut through the relatively soft limestone, molding it into hills and valleys. Today, geologists call the Plitvice region a "karst" zone, where water has dissolved away the bedrock to create a variety of caves, canyons, and sinkholes. Together, water and rock have collaborated to form one of Europe's most beautiful and popular parks.







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