Hiking Titov Vrv

Shar mountain (Shara, Šar, Sharr, Sharri) has been on my list for years. Ever since I first read about the First Macedonian Transversal (Transferzala), a hiking trail that crosses the entire Shar mountain range, I had the wish to explore Shar mountain. I could try to describe what it looks like, but I suck at that. I don’t have the vocabulary and the words I make up probably won’t be much of a help. I’ll stick to sharing my personal experience and add a whole lot of photos to give you an impression. So here we go, here’s my “Exploring Shar Mountain Photo Story”.

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BLOG | How a relatively simple bus ride from Zagreb to Knin turned into a scandal

Although it’s very efficient to send your packages by bus instead of using the regular post service, travelling by bus can be challenging in Croatia. To avoid a long, complicated (maybe impossible) bus ride from Zagreb to Buško jezero, I decided to start hiking in Knin. I wanted to cross Dinara, Troglav and Kamešnica all the way through the mountains. The difficult logistics with public transport are more or less part of the adventure, but I would deal with that on my way back, I thought. That this relatively simple bus ride from Zagreb to Knin turned into a scandal is a sad, but unfortunately true story.

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BLOG Gone hiking, Dinara here I come

It’s 00.27 my backpack is packed, GPS is up to date, launched my podcast and after this blog post I’m ready too. Ready for a little hike. Tomorrow I take the bus to Knin from where I hit the trail to Dinara. Gone hiking. Although I hiked across the entire Dinaric Alps, I haven’t been on Dinara yet. Or well, I was on the mountain, but not on the peak. A peak, the peak. Something to do with bad weather. I Thought it would be a nice way to open this years hiking season. Hiking Dinara. And when already I’m there, I might as well continue on the trail to Troglav and Kamešnica.

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BLOG | What it's all about, let me explain

“Eva, what is your website about?” Isn’t that obvious? I would say. Apparently it isn’t. The more I think of it, the more I realize that perhaps it’s hard to get indeed. To get what it’s ALL about. Because I don’t know neither. A personal blog, a life and adventure journal. Inspired by Via Dinarica, I started to explore. It’s shows a journey. The journey of me, following my path. Step by step. One step at the time. Sometimes I can hardly see the path, but that’s part of the process. The process called life.

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BiH_MNE_Maglić_Prijevor_bordercrossing

Last summer I walked a new long distance trail through the Balkans, the Via Dinarica White Trail. A route that finds its way along countless different mountain ranges, ridges, cliffs, canyons, valleys, rivers, lakes and prominent peaks in the Dinaric Alps, Europe’s largest karst field. Hiking Via Dinarica. A great hike, a beautiful journey and an unforgettable adventure.

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winter_wonder_walk_vukov_konak_bosnia_herzegovina

What to do with Christmas and New Year Eve… Same question every year.. Well, since I’m not home or walking home for Christmas, I thought it would be best to escape the city and plan a little trip to the mountains. Apparently I’m not the only one who liked the idea of getting away, my oldest friend from Amsterdam, Caroline, flew to Sarajevo and accompanied me on this beautiful, but freezing cold winter holiday in the Bosnian mountains. The great thing about Sarajevo is that within thirty minutes you’re in a complete different world. Vukov Konak, a traditional Bosnian Mountain Inn, was the destination.

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GREEN KARST sLOVEnia's secrets | Hiking Via Dinarica White Trail

After I hiked more than 1200K through 4 different countries and added another 300K in Slovenia. The original Via Dinarica White Trail follows the Javorniki mountain range from Snežnik to Postojna. Although the forest up there is one of a kind, I decided to spend a bit more time in Slovenia, made a detour and set out an more ˝scenic route˝ through the beautiful Green Karst landscape. The last part of my Via Dinarica journey started in Ilirska Bistrica from where I headed back into the mountains, to Mašun, Sviščakih and Snežnik. I was blessed with fantastic weather. Cold, sunny and colorful. Autumn at its best.

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hiking_via_dinarica_croatia_balkans_white_trail

The Via Dinarica is a trail that is still in progress, only in Bosnia and Herzegovina the White Trail is officially open. In the other four countries the route is a combination of old existing trails that all together form a corridor through the Dinarides. With a distance of almost 600 kilometers, the Croatian section covers the largest part of the Via Dinarica. An absolutely beautiful stretch through the incredible Croatian karst mountains.

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Jeej, I got company! No, she is not really an hiker or outdoorsie type, but she is my oldest friend… Why is everybody asking? When are you a hiker? What is a real hiker? Are there any rules? Hmm, I think I actually don’t really care. After almost 900K of solo-hiking, my BFF Caroline joined me in Starigrad, super exiting. New company, new spirit, new challenges. New ADVENTURE. Paklenica, here we come!

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Zelena_glava_prenj_bih

Although nature does not know borders, borders are often formed by nature. Mountains, rivers and seas are natural borders between different regions, countries or continents. Within these borders, people seem to develop their own characteristic way of living full of local traditions and old customs. Along the Via Dinarica I crossed many borders. Some were natural, some were cultural and some were just lines on a map. Lines that create countries. It did surprise me that hiking through Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) felt so different from Montenegro. Different landscape, different mountain-rhythm, different weather and yes, different lives and lifestyles. I even got the impression that the way people express themselves differs from country to country.

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Planet_Prenj_view

Prenj is absolutely one of my favorites along the Via Dinarica White Trail. Not just because of its ridiculously beautiful vistas and views, mostly because Prenj was a place where I had a good dose of fun. With two guys from Tuzla who I met on Boračko campsite, I hiked from Boračko Jezero up to the mountain hut Jezerce. A great new hut on a fantastic location. Perfect place to spend the night. Or two. I really enjoyed the company of the Tuzla-boyz and the weather was extremely good. There was not really a reason to rush on, so I decided to join them on a day-hike to Zelena Glava and stay an extra night at PD Jezerce before I went further on my own.

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rakitnica_canyon_neretva_bih

Sunday I was supposed to meet some friends from Sarajevo at Boračko Jezero. Rewinding time! Instead I got wind up in thorny plants when I tried to take a short cut. Lost on the Via Dinarica. This is my story about what happened on the descent through the Rakitnica Canyon.

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wild tea

Many many wild plants were in my way. If I had known which I could eat, I perhaps would appreciate them more. I’m a city girl, but I’m getting more and more used to the wilderness. Still most of the time, the plants are in my way. Wilderness. Wild Balkans. Of course I also feel thankful that nature actually allows me here. When it’s wild and rough, completely overgrown it shows who is the boss. And that is absolutely not me!

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montenegro_durmitor_np_Via_Dinarica

Montenegro or Crna Gora in Serbian. I have to confess that I didn’t know where the name comes from, I only know that it means ˝Black Mountain˝. I didn’t really see black mountains though. The mountains of Montenegro were green. Everything was green. Green valleys, green peaks, green forests, green fields… Green, green, green in all possible shades and shapes.

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Two weeks on the trail surrounded by mountains, flowers, cattle and flies. I’m hiking on my own (da, sama). I carry everything I need in my backpack and I’m free to go where ever I feel like going. I try to stick to the white trail, but sometimes the weather, the conditions of the route or people on the Via Dinarica change my plans a bit… It’s a fantastic journey and there is much more to come!

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De geit van Vukov Konak, in Vučja Luka

A few weeks ago while I was still in Amsterdam, I saw a post on the Terra Dinarica Facebook page about a guesthouse named Vukov Konak. They were looking for volunteers to help them during the summer season. Of course my plan was (and still is) to hike the White Trail, but I couldn’t help clicking and scrolling down Vukov Konaks page.

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Maglić_marking_via_dinarica_white_trail_suha_prijevor_sutjeska_bosna_i_hercegovina

Two weeks ago I got an invitation to go to Sutjeska national park. I knew a part of the White trail was being marked again, but had no idea how that would be done. In the car on the way to Tjentište it turned out no one really knew what the idea was other than helping out with marking the trail. At the parkinglot of hotel Mladost a whole group of people gathered. No one knew exactly what they were supposed to do, but they were all very excited. And patiently waiting for instructions. Polako polako… 

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There are many reasons to write this story. It was a wonderful experience that I would like to share, not only by telling friends, but also in words written down. Maybe it’s me trying to show my gratitude, because I was overwhelmed by these warm, friendly people and I didn’t understand why I deserved that. Somehow I seem to end up in situations like this where it’s me leaving with a gift while I was the one in need of help.

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Dobro jutro! While kneeled down in front of my guest bed rummaging through my bag I suddenly feel two small arms around my shoulders and a small body pressed against my back. The eight-year-old girl whose room I’m sharing this week, has come to hug me good morning and disappears as suddenly as she came in.

When I’m left alone in the room after the hug, I feel my heart pounding, my stomach fluttering and my eyes water. Soon tears stream down my cheeks. A liquid smile through every fibre of my body. And at the same time pain, a subdued haze that I could call sadness. It is something that is hard to explain, but for me maybe the most valuable feeling there is. Experiencing extremes, let it wash over you, influence each other and reinforce. Connecting.

I’m staying at a young couple’s house in Sarajevo. For a few of days I am a part of their lives and they are a part of mine. At first their daughter looked at me with suspicion when she saw my bags next to her bed. A stranger speaking a different language and sleeping in her bed, she didn’t seem to know what to make of that.

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While cycling up a tough mountain in Una National Park last summer, I came across a group of touring Bosnians. Just like any other passers-by, they wondered why on earth I was travelling on my own, by bike. It struck me that they didn’t ask why I chose to spend my holiday in Bosnia or the Balkans, but why I didn’t just take a car. Explaining my passion for cycling and solo travelling remains difficult, and perhaps it’s a cultural difference.

Continue Reading "Sarajevo; a Concrete Gem Amidst Mighty Mountains"

After a night on an airplane, a transfer and another flight I arrived at Sarajevo airport mid morning. As forecasted it was a rainy day with low clouds so I did not see any mountains. Somewhat disappointed and tired from travelling I tried to figure out my next move, but before I could worry about where to go next I saw a girl with a sign reading: “ Eva Smeele Via Dinarica.” Smiling I went over and introduced myself.

Continue Reading "Between Two Worlds"