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Plitvice Lakes National Park encompasses 16
turquoise, azure, blue and green lakes between mountains of Lička
Plješevica and Mala Kapela. Plitvice Lakes get their coloration from
the minerals, mainly dolomite and limestone, that the water washes
out yet it is incredibly clear and supports many forms of aquatic
life. The full length of cascades is 8 km (5 mi) which you can reach
by walking wooden footbridge. The twelfth upper lakes end with in
Velike Slap (Big Waterfall) that spills its water in a canyon 70
meters (230 feet) deep. Canyon has another four lakes that
eventually flow into the Korana River. The barriers and dams of
lakes are made of travertine which is deposited by moss, algae and
bacteria. They grow about 1 cm per year.
Despite its beauty Plitvice Lakes National Park has always been the site of conflicts. Illyrians, Thracians, Celts, Japods, Romans, Avars, Goths, Slavs and Turks fought for this land over a long history. In March 1991 Plitvice Lakes National Park became the place where the first shots were fired between Serbs and Croats. Since the war ended in 1995 and the regions was retaken by the Croatian army mines were removed from this UNESCO World Heritage site, however be advised that areas outside of the park might still have mines left. The best way to avoid them is keep close to cities and villages and don’t walk in the woods off trail.
Plitvice Lakes consists of 16 lakes located in the area between Mala Kapela and Plješivica in Lika. This whole area is still called the Devil's Garden on some maps, because of its location and history. According to the legend, Plitvice Lakes were formed after a great drought. People, animals and plants, longed for a drop of water. The people prayed and prayed. Then the Black Queen appears in the valley with her majestic entourage; she took pity on the people and with a strong wind and thunder the rain finally fell on the ground. The rain fell so long, until the water level rose enough, to form lakes.
The total area is 29,685 hectares, of which lakes make up 200 ha, forests 13,320 ha, and the rest are grasslands and other areas. The average altitude is 600 m. The lowest point is 367 m on the Koran Bridge, and the highest 1279 m on Seliški vrh. In 2006, there were 866,218 visitors. It is located in two counties, 91% of the park is in Lika-Senj County, and 9% in Karlovac County. The park is divided into a narrower and a wider zone according to the degree of protection.
Dominik Vukasović, a parish priest from Otočac, first mentions the name "Plitvice" in a written document from 1777. The name comes from the word "shallow" or "shallow". For centuries, water has deposited limestone and shallow pools (shallows or shallows) have formed.
Some scientists believe that the name of the Park comes from the river Plitvice, which flows into the Plitvice Lakes at the bottom and end of the lake. The nearby village bears the same name.
Plitvice Lakes are located between the mountains of Mala Kapela in the west and Plješivica in the east in the middle of the Dinaric mountain massif. The national park is located along the state road D1 Zagreb - Split between Slunj and Korenica in the immediate vicinity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Larger places nearby are: Ogulin, Rakovica, Otočac, Gospić in Croatia and Bihać in BiH.
The shortest distance between the Adriatic coast and the Park is 55 km. It is about 60 km away by road to the coastal town of Senj.
From the A1 motorway to the Park, you can get out at the Otočac junction from the north or at the Gornja Ploča junction from the south.
The nearest airports are: Zadar, Zagreb and Rijeka. The nearest railway stations are Josipdol g transport can be easily reached by the Park, direct lines from Zagreb, Karlovac, Zadar or Split.
The average annual rainfall is 1500 mm. The greatest amount of rain usually falls in spring and autumn. The average relative humidity is 81.8%. In January, the average temperature is 2.2 ° C. During the summer months in July and August, the temperature rises to 17.4 ° C. The average annual temperature is 7.9 ° C. Snow falls from November to March. The lakes are usually frozen during December and January.
The water temperature at the springs is usually below 10 ° C. In rivers and lakes, the water temperature rises to 20 ° C. Water temperature can fluctuate greatly. Thus, on July 7, 1954, in Lake Kozjak at a depth of 4 m, the temperature was 18.9 ° C. At a depth of 20 m, a temperature of 5 ° C was measured. At a depth of 44 m, almost at the bottom of the lake, a temperature of 4.1 ° C was measured.
The national park consists of 16 lakes, which gradually overflow and descend into each other in a series of 5460 m as the crow flies. The lakes are divided into Upper and Lower Lakes. The upper lakes are: Prošćansko Lake, Ciginovac, Okrugljak, Batinovac, Veliko jezero, Malo jezero, Vir, Galovac, Milino jezero, Gradinsko jezero, Veliki Burget and Kozjak. The lower lakes are: Milanovac, Gavanovac, Kaludjerovac and Novakovica Brod.
The lakes are watered by the waters of the Black and White rivers from their tributaries and the Rječica and its tributaries. There are many springs, where water springs abundantly. These are typical karst springs formed on faults of permeable and impermeable geological formations.
The largest lake is Kozjak with 81.5 hectares, and the deepest with 47 m. Prošćansko Lake is the second largest and stretches from south to north in the length of 2.5 km.
The Upper Lakes are mostly dolomite geological material, and the Lower Limestone. The cave has about 30. The travertine barriers, which separate one lake from another are made of limestone deposited from the water. The structure of travertine barriers is very sensitive and fragile, so it requires a high degree of protection. The three main elements are: abundance of water, tufa and tufa. Without water there would be no lakes or waterfalls or lush vegetation. Tufa-forming plants are plants that create travertine rocks and change the shape of lakes and lake beds. Travertine barriers are a biological phenomenon of extraordinary beauty.
One of the most beautiful waterfalls in Plitvice - the waterfall between Milanovac and Gavanovac is named "Milka Trnina waterfall" after the Croatian opera prima donna.
The special geographical position and specific climatic features have contributed to the emergence of many natural phenomena and the rich biodiversity in the Park area. Despite the proximity of the Mediterranean climate region, a moderate mountain climate prevails due to Velebit, which acts as a climate separator between the coastal region and the Lika plateau.
Water availability, influenced by the terrain
configuration has a major impact on the biodiversity of this area.
The national park is located in the Plitvice Plateau, which is
surrounded by three mountains that are part of the Dinarides:
Plješivica (peak Gornja Plješevica 1640 m), Mala Kapela (Seliški vrh
at 1280 m) and Medveđak (884 m).
Forested hills serve as reservoirs of water. They are also a refuge for many animal species. The large difference in altitude in the narrow space between the mountains in the south and the Korana River in the north is also a significant reason for biodiversity in this region. The total difference in altitude in the area of the national park is 912 m (the highest altitude is Seliški vrh at 1279 m, and the lowest is 367 m on the bridge over the river Korana).
Travertine sediments have been formed from the Pleistocene to the present day in sinkholes and depressions between the surrounding mountains. The Upper Lakes in the south are predominantly composed of dolomite, and the Lower Lakes in the north of limestone rocks. Dolomite rocks have lower water permeability. In contrast, limestone rocks are compact and massive, but also more permeable.
From an aerial perspective, significant differences can be seen between the landscapes of the Upper and Lower Lakes. On the Upper Lakes there are several small lakes arranged in parallel and a small flow of water. The lower lakes are much larger and have formed the canyon of the river Korana, which continues to flow towards Slunj and Karlovac.
To the south of the park there is the confluence of two small rivers: the White and Black rivers. These rivers flow south of Plitvice Ljeskovac and unite on one of the bridges in that village. Furthermore, they form a small river together, which is called Matica. Another river flows into the lakes in Liman Bay, part of Prošćansko Lake. Water is obtained from permanent sources, but the amount of water varies. Temporarily, water from other, most often dead streams reaches Prošćansko Lake from the west.
The river Plitvice reaches the chain of Plitvice Lakes at the northern end over the Great Waterfall. This place is called Compositions. The water mass of Plitvice Lakes and the river Plitvice flows into the Koran.
Underground and karst world
The underground configuration of Plitvice Lakes consists of various geological features. The entire area of the National Park belongs to the karst areas of Southeast Europe. A typical feature are brittle and porous rocks, mainly limestone and dolomite. This configuration is rich in various geomorphological phenomena, such as abysses, karst fields, bays, sinkholes, ravines, etc.
So far little is known about this and scientific research has yet to follow. Most of the karst natural phenomena take place underground, where there is an abundance of water, mostly in the form of developed systems of subterranean underground rivers. When water encounters impermeable rocks, it comes to the surface.
The national park is rich in karst rocks (mainly dolomite and limestone). Of the several caves, the Golubnjača (145 m) and Šupljara (68 m) caves above Lake Kaluđerovac are open to visitors. Other caves are Mračna špilja (160 m), Vila Jezerkinje (104 m) and Golubnjača na Homoljačko polje (153 m). Within the national park, there are several caves, such as Čudinka (-203 m) or Cave on Vršić (-154 m, length 110 m). The bones of a cave bear were found in the Rodić Cave on Sertić Poljana and in the Dark Cave on the Lower Lakes.
The phenomena of Plitvice Lakes are the result of centuries-old processes and deposition of limestone, which is abundantly present in the waters of this karst area. Sedimentation of limestone formed tufa.
The peculiarity of Plitvice Lakes is the fact that the lakes are connected. Due to constant changes, it is not possible to analyze individual lakes individually. The water masses of the upper and lower part of the lake system continuously change the lakes and the surrounding landscape. New sediments and new waterfalls are continuously forming. On the whole, the lake complex represents a very sensitive and unstable ecosystem.
In geological terms, the formation phenomena of Plitvice Lakes are very young. Complex processes of limestone decomposition and deposition require special climatic conditions. They have existed since the end of the Ice Age (about 12,000 to 15,000 years).
Important factors for the occurrence of Plitvice natural phenomena are weather and temperature conditions, water quality and other natural factors. Calcite saturation is very high. The water is highly mineralized, super-saturated with calcium and magnesium bicarbonates.
Limestone decomposition is related to carbonic
acid processes. In the natural environment, carbonic acid (H2CO3)
consists of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and rainwater (H2O).
Limestone and dolomite consist mainly of calcite (CaCO3), which is
poorly soluble in water. By the action of carbonic acid, calcium
bicarbonate (Ca (HCO3) 2) is formed from calcite. This is shown in
the following formulas:
H2O + CO2 ↔ H2CO3 ↔ H + + HCO3- ↔ 2 H + + CO32-
CaCO3 + H2CO3 → Ca (HCO3) 2
CaCO3 + H + + HCO3- ↔ Ca2 + + 2 HCO3- ↔ Ca (HCO3) 2
A unique process occurs in Plitvice Lakes with
regard to other similar phenomena in the world. Here, limestone
deposition and tufa formation is a dynamic process, not a static
one, occurring in only one place.
Another special feature is the influence of vegetation in the deposition process. Vegetation barriers slow down water flow. The water foams considerably, making waterfalls and cascades more attractive. At Plitvice, this interaction between water, air, rocks and vegetation is constantly dynamic and changing.
About 30 km north of the Park, there are Rastoke in the center of Slunj, which are also called "small Plitvice Lakes" because they have similar phenomena. The rivers Korana and Slunjčica intertwine here.
Measurements of the amount of carbon dioxide in the water show that they correspond to the continuous deposition processes in the area of Plitvice Lakes. The amount of carbon dioxide at the sources is about twenty times higher than in the atmosphere. It decreases downstream. The Plitvice River thus loses up to 97% of the initial amount of carbon dioxide over time.
Travertine occurs on the Korana River only for the first 10 to 15 km, even if the conditions for pH measurements are favorable for further kilometers. At the bottom of Lake Kozjak, a constant annual deposition of 0.8 mm has been established over the last 3,000 years. Annually, the obstacles grow up to 13 mm in height. The processes of tufa formation thus overcome erosion, which would destroy the sensitive barriers of the lake. It is estimated that there are tufa deposits at the bottom of the lake that are 6000 or even 7000 years old.
Calcium carbonate deposition does not occur immediately at the sources of rivers, which flow into Plitvice Lakes. A certain level of mineral saturation is required for precipitation. At sources, the saturated level is below 1. For precipitation, the saturation level must be greater than 3, the pH of the water must be above 8.0 (slightly alkaline), and the dissolved organic carbon concentration must be less than 10 mg / l.
Travertine barriers are the result of a continuous deposition process. As water flows in thin layers over the barriers, carbonate precipitates from the water. The amount of carbon dioxide CO2 is increasing. Calcium carbonate is excreted in the form of precipitated microcrystals, in the form of CaCO3 tufa deposits. This phenomenon occurs especially where there is moss, which allows better adhesion of crystals.
Over time, older barriers can be overwhelmed by rising water levels as new barriers outgrow old ones. 400 years ago, there were two lakes on the site of today's Lake Kozjak. In the lowest part of the lake, near Matijašević-draga, underwater barriers are 40 m high and extend 4 m below the water surface. These barriers have shaped a magnificent waterfall in the past.
Influence of vegetation on travertine barriers
Moss, algae and aquatic plants play an important role in shaping the unique landscape of Plitvice Lakes and travertine barriers. Plants bind carbon dioxide from water in the process of photosynthesis and produce oxygen. Hydrogen carbonate precipitates along the way.
The Croatian scientist Ivo Pevalek had the most research on Plitvice. Thanks to him, Plitvice Lakes received national and world protection. Recent scientific research shows that vegetation is not primarily responsible for the excretion of carbonates from running water. However, plants indirectly contribute to the formation of tufa. The key factors for deposition are: water deceleration, aeration and spraying. Moss serves as a substrate for deposition. Millions of microscopically small bacteria and algae, which grow on moss, are also important. They secrete mucus, which is important in the microcrystallization of calcite. The most significant are mosses from the genera Bryum and Cratoneuron.
The young shoots of moss are green and soft and mostly tufa-free, while the older shoots are completely covered and petrified. Moss not only encourages the formation of travertine barriers, but also becomes part of the barrier. Older travertine barriers are filled with fossilized algae and mosses. This type of tufa is typical for Plitvice Lakes.
Although vegetation has positive effects on tufa formation, excessive concentrations of organic matter in water have negative effects on these processes. If there are too many plants, there are negative effects on mineral deposition. The Korana downstream of the Korana Bridge has a very short travertine deposition process, despite the supersaturation of calcium bicarbonate, due to the excessive concentration of organic matter in the water. The Park Authority has systematically begun to remove excess vegetation along travertine barriers. The purity of the water is a decisive factor in the formation of tufa. The value of dissolved carbon in the water barely exceeds 2.5 mg / L in the Upper Lakes (Matica). Concentrations of 5.15 mg / L are higher in the Lower Lakes. Similar concentrations have been found at the sources of other Croatian rivers in the karst area.
The former wastewater from the hotel and agricultural activities
in the vicinity of the lake were harmful. This led to an increase in
eutrophication in the lakes (increased concentration of organic
matter in the water). For the future formation of tufa, it is
necessary to protect this extremely sensitive area from the harmful
effects of man. Since 2006, swimming in lakes has been strictly
forbidden. Previously, swimming on Lake Kozjak was allowed.
Forests and other flora
As early as 1883, the forest belt surrounding the lakes and springs was declared a separate zone, where logging was prohibited. About 2/3 of the Park is covered with forest. They are part of the National Ecological Network and the European project for the protection of natural heritage NATURA 2000.
Forests and water are interconnected and cannot survive without each other. The forest retains, stores and purifies large amounts of water. In the Park area there is a large area of high quality forests, including rainforests, which are a top habitat for wildlife. The forests of Plitvice Lakes are home to three large European carnivores: the brown bear, the wolf and the lynx. Numerous species of woodpeckers and forest owls testify to the high quality and naturalness of the habitat.
The most common tree species is beech, which grows in forest communities of mountain beech forest with dead nettle (Lamio orvale-Fagetum) and beech with white sedge (Carici albae-Fagetum). The next most numerous species is the fir, which grows in the Dinaric beech-fir forests (Omphalodo-Fagetum). Both species are sciophytes, and can grow in shady habitats. Forest communities of spruce with corn on dolomite (Helleborus niger-Piceetum) and forest communities of white pine with corn on dolomite (Helleborus niger-Pinetum sylvestris) also appear. In the lake zone and in the Korana canyon, a forest community of black hornbeam with autumn sedge (Seslerio autumnalis-Ostryetum) grows. Other significant species of forest trees are: hornbeam, black alder and black pine.
As many as 1267 different plant species have been registered in the Park, of which as many as 50 species of orchids.
The forest is an integral part of the life of the local population. Wood is used as a building material and for firewood. In the past, some forests have been cleared and replaced by meadows, grasslands and arable land, inadvertently contributing to biodiversity. By reducing the population, part was abandoned and the forest grew again. One of the values of the Park is the fir-beech rainforest Čorkova uvala, declared a special reserve of forest vegetation in 1965.
Among the rare plant species are: yellow lady's foot (Cypripedium calceolus), one of the most beautiful European orchids and one of the 55 species of orchids in the Park, then the species Gentiana pneumonanthe, Ligularia sibirica and Spiraea cana.
Of the fungi, the saprophytic fungus Camarops tubulin stands out, which lives on rotten trees in the rainforest of Čorkova uvala. It is found only in Croatia, and has been found in only a few European countries as an endangered and protected species.
The animal world
In the area of the Park there is a great biodiversity and many different habitats for animals: lakes, forests, grasslands, rocks, caves and others.
The most attractive part of Plitvice Lakes are waterfalls and travertine barriers. It is also a special habitat, where mosses and a diverse microscopic world grow: algae, bacteria, insect larvae and the like. They also participate in the formation of travertine barriers.
Forests are a habitat for many wildlife. The leaf layer is one of the richest microhabitats for wildlife on a global scale. It is home to lizards, insects, various fungi and bacteria. An interesting endemic insect is Molops plitvicensis, which lives in birch forests only on Plitvice. 321 species of butterflies, 157 species of birds, and 20 species of bats have been registered in the Park.
In the Park area, a black salamander (Salamandra atra) was found, a very rare species that lives in the Alps above 1200 m and can very rarely be found at altitudes below 1000 m. In the area of Plitvice there is a stable population of broad-eared bats (Barbastella barbastellus), which is very sensitive to disturbances and lack of food. The little hawk (Glaucidium passerinum) is the smallest European hawk, living in coniferous and mixed forests in the Park area.
The gray falcon (Falco peregrinus), one of the fastest birds in the world, nests on the rocks in the Korana canyon. While catching prey, it can reach speeds of up to 230 km / h. It can be found on all continents except Antarctica.
Waters make up only 1% of the national park, but they represent
one of its most interesting parts. Dragonflies and mosquitoes breed
in the water. There are about 35 species of dragonflies, which is a
quarter of all European species of dragonflies. The water on
Plitvice is rich in limestone and oxygen, so trout and crabs can
also be found. They can also find species, which are very demanding
of ecological conditions such as otters. She is a nocturnal animal
and lives alone so she is rarely seen.
The caves on Plitvice are a karst habitat, with a stable temperature, high humidity and complete darkness. Cave animals adapted to such living conditions as bats live here. A new species of insect Machaerites udrzali was found in Rodić's cave, which is endemic and has not been found anywhere else in the world.
Three species of blue butterflies of the genus Maculinea can be found in the meadows, which are among the most endangered butterflies in Europe: marsh blue (Phengaris alcon), Great Thyme (Phengaris arion) and mountain blue (Phengaris rebeli). The mower bird lives on wet grasslands, pastures and meadows. It nests in meadows on Homoljac and Brezovac.
Plitvice Lakes have been exposed to human influence throughout history. They do not represent an abandoned or lonely nature reserve. They are located along an important traffic route, they are a meeting place of various cultural influences.
Early history and the Middle AgesPeople have inhabited the Plitvice Lakes area for thousands of years. There were: Illyrians, Thracians, Celts, Japods, Romans, Avars, Slavs and Turks. During the reign of Julius Caesar, Plitvice Lakes were part of the province of Illyricum in the Roman Empire. Later, after the fall of the Romans, the Ostrogoths and Avars settled.
In the 7th century, Croats settled permanently in this area. In the Middle Ages, Mongol attacks were frequent. The lakes were part of the medieval Croatian kingdoms, until Croatia entered into a personal union with Hungary in 1102.
Good management of the noble families of the Zrinskis and Frankopans led to economic recovery in the wider area. A monastery on the Plitvice Lakes was built on the remains of the ancient settlement of Japod and the Romans. It probably belonged to the Paulines or Templars. Today, only the remains of the walls remain. The foundations were of travertine rock.
Ottoman Wars and the Habsburgs
In 1493, not far from Plitvice Lakes, an important battle took place on the Krbavsko field in which the Bosnian Sandžak-beg Hadum Jakub-pasha defeated the Croatian feudal army under the command of Ban Emerik Derenčin. The Ottomans later advanced far west into the depths of the territories of Croatia and Hungary.
In 1527, the Croatian nobility elected Ferdinand I king of Croatia at a council in Cetingrad. The Croatian nobility was mostly guided by practical reasons when choosing. Namely, he expected that Ferdinand would defend Croatia, then severely endangered by the Turks. In 1538, King Ferdinand I ordered the establishment of the Croatian Military Frontier on the border of the Habsburg Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire. This affected the lives of the local people.
In addition to the local Croats, members of other nations also moved to the area of the Military Frontier to take part in military service. Among them, the most numerous were Serbs, who fled from the Turks and were given refuge in abandoned areas in exchange for military service. The entire population of the Military Frontier, especially the frontiersmen, had a duty to protect this area from constant unrest and terrible destruction.
The Ottomans controlled the Plitvice Lakes area several times. From 1788, Plitvice was under Habsburg rule and no longer fell into Turkish hands. When the Ottoman threat weakened, the Military Frontier returned under the civilian control of the Croatian ban.
In 1805, the area of Plitvice was under the rule of Napoleon, who founded the Illyrian provinces. After 1814, the Plitvice Lakes area returned to Habsburg rule. Since 1850, only professional soldiers have served in the Military Frontier. It is also a time of national awakening in Croatia. In 1871, the famous Croatian politician Eugen Kvaternik died north of Plitvice Lakes in Rakovica.
The area was part of the Banovina of Croatia in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and then part of the FR of Croatia within the SFRY. Today it is part of the Republic of Croatia.
Bloody Easter 1991
Serbian rebels held a rally on March 25, 1991, with the aim of
making Plitvice Lakes part of the so-called SAO Krajina. A day
later, the management of the National Park was changed, and the
so-called flag. The SAO of Krajina appeared on the Koran bridge.
Fifteen armed Knin police officers broke into the administrative
building of the National Park, in order to implement the decision of
the Korenica municipal assembly to merge the so-called Krajina.
Several hundred members of the Rakitje MUP special unit, commanded by Josip Lucić (later general of the corps and chief of the General Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces), the Kumrovec MUP special unit and the Lučko anti-terrorist unit set out for Plitvice the night before Easter. In the early morning hours of March 31, on the main route, a convoy of vehicles with Croatian special forces was ambushed on the main road not far from Plitvice hotels and ancillary facilities. The driver of the bus in which the members of the anti-terrorist unit Lucko were, was Ljubo Cesic-Rojs. Although the operation was a complete success after several hours of fighting and order was restored in Plitvice and 29 rebels were arrested, including Goran Hadzic, it will be remembered for the first Croatian victim - Croatian policeman Josip Jovic (22) and seven members of the special forces were killed. the police were wounded. A memorial was erected at the place where Josip Jović was killed.
The first serious beginnings of tourism in Plitvice Lakes date back to 1861. That year, the officers of the Military Border built the first tourist house called the "imperial house" on Velika Poljana with a capacity of only 3 rooms. In 1894, Plitvice Lakes were visited by 1000 tourists and travelers. The 28-room hotel was built in 1896. In 1922 there were 250 rooms. The development of tourism was greatly influenced by the construction of the Lika railway in 1927. In 1937, there were 668 accommodations, 24,000 overnight stays of which 18,000 were domestic and 6,000 foreign tourists. The hotel burned down in 1938, and in the Second World War it was destroyed and was built until then.
After the Second World War, the hotel "Jezero" with 500 beds, the tourist resort Medveđak, the restaurant "Lička kuća" with traditional dishes and unique Lika architecture, the residential area Mukinje for staff with a kindergarten and library were built. Roads were also built. The state road from Zagreb to Split passes through Plitvice Lakes. Gas and transmission lines were also built, pedestrian paths were arranged, transport by smaller ships was introduced and further scientific research was conducted. In 1971, there were about 1,000 beds in the National Park and about 200 near the park and a campground with about 15,500 accommodations in tents. The declaration of Plitvice Lakes as a world heritage site under the protection of UNESCO in 1979 continued the accelerated development of tourism in the national park itself, which reached its peak in the pre-war years. During the Homeland War, the area of Plitvice Lakes was occupied, and did not record any tourist results. It was only after Operation Storm and the liberation of Plitvice Lakes that they again experienced a real rise in the number of visitors, which reached pre-war figures over several years.