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Renting a car is the best way to explore the Balkans in terms of price and convenience. Other modes of transport are inexpensive (buses, taxis, hitchhiking, biking, walking) or easy (by plane), but rarely both. I spent the past weekend traveling through Bosnia and Montenegro by car, and although the trip itself was beautiful and relaxing, the act of getting a car during peak tourist season proved to be the true adventure.
Bosnia smells incredible. Although the burek restaurants and pekaras across the urban landscape can draw the noses of new tourists for kilometers, I prefer the sweet and delicate smell of Bosnia’s rural highlands. No, not the goats or cows. Skip over those, of course. I am talking about the abundant herbs, wildflowers, and orchards that dot the countryside. On my first trip to Lukomir, I was captivated by the small blossoming herbs clinging to gravel cliff sides and all of their medicinal qualities explained by the guides. The export of wild medicinal and aromatic herbs in BiH is becoming a serious agricultural commodity in recent years with consumers increasingly looking for 'natural' cures to pains and illnesses.
The Una River forms the natural border between Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina, meandering mostly north to south and covering a watershed area of almost 10,000 square kilometers. The river Una runs through Bosnia’s newest and largest national park, which was founded in 2008 as a conservation effort for the diverse woodlands and karst geography of northwestern BiH. When traveling to Una National Park, visitors can expect blue-green rivers and lakes reminiscent of Plitvice National Park, its Croatian cousin to the north.
Whenever I travel, my general impression of a place is based on food. The food I have encountered in the Balkans never ceases to surprise my taste buds and I. Whether its traditional Bosnian dishes or modern vegetarian twists, travelers can fill their bellies without breaking the bank.
Green Visions offers a biweekly trip to Bosnia’s highest inhabited town, Lukomir, for 40 euros a person. The town is nestled high in the hills at 1500 meters on the western slope of Bjelasnica Mountain, above the Rakitnica River Canyon, which is one of the main tributaries to the Neretva. The water of the Rakitnica cannot be seen from the cliffs alongside Lukomir, but its influence is evidenced from the winding valley scoured out from millenniums of water erosion. The dendritic pattern of the valley below inspires folk lore of dragons, and if you happen to be a fan of Game of Thrones, Lukomir and the surrounding geography has that, “north of the wall” feel.
Sutjeska National Park hides some of the most beautiful nature I have seen in my life, and I have hiked many of the major natural parks in the United States. I hope we can continue to grow the eco-tourism company here in the Balkans so these beautiful mountains become more accessible to the common citizen and anyone who wants to get out of the city and take a break. Once again, a beautiful hike among wonderful people. If you have the time, I would definitely recommend this trip.
Avery the Intern here again reporting for duty. My second walk/hike with Green Visions started at the village of Umoljani, which is a village located near Lukomir, about an hour south of Sarajevo. Both Lukomir and Umoljani are settlements on the mountain of Bjelašnica. I was participating in the Seven Watermills Definite Departure hike. We were led by Faruk Karabegovic, a 56 year old mountain guide for Green Visions who is originally from Sarajevo. Faruk, in my opinion, wins the ‘Most Interesting Man’ award for all of Sarajevo, but that is a blog post for another day.
My name is Avery Nelson and I am a sophomore undergrad at the University of Denver. I am working as an intern with Green Visions for 8 weeks this summer. As a part of my internship here, I am encouraged to participate in as many hikes and trips as possible. Here is a little bit about my experience with the Definite Departure hike to Lukomir with a group of other University of Denver students.
Day two in Herceg Novi and I'm stuck on the coast while waiting for a thunder and lightning storm to pass over. Torrential style rains accompanied by a strong wind make it almost impossible to set off. Or that's what I keep telling myself ;) There is only one thing left to do, and that is wait and share some of my impressions from my descent from Zabljak to Biogradska Gora.
Over the past week I've slowly increased the distances I biked. It felt right Yesterday's 110km from Ostrog Monastery to Herceg Novi was long, tiering and at the same time exhilarating. Long stretches with gentle inclines in an empty landscape under the scorching sun, gave me enough time to be with me. I needed to do this trip and take some time to establish my own rhythms and find out what's really important to me.
I decided to take the scenic route. Villager had told me that I only had about 7km of gravel road along the top of the canyon. Sadly or luckily I forgot to ask in what state the road was? I ended up pushing my bike up through rough gravel patches and thinking why am I doing this again? And then my thoughts ended. Here at the edge of Komarnica canyon I started noticing everything around me.
November last year I made myself a promise to walk my talk. To live from my core and follow the roads along the Dinaric Alps and the Via Dinarica route. To bike all the places I'd walked, visited before and always wanted to visit in between Sarajevo and Albania.
There's something magical about mountain ridges. Ever since I came to the region I think it's the steep and sharp karst ridges that have caught my imagination. You can't get to them immediately and most of the time you have to make a real effort get there. Once there they greet you with endless views and dizzying height from all sides. To me ridge walking naturally lends itself to planning. I Look at them from a distance and my mind automatically starts plotting out a route along the slender knife like edges leading up to a peak or into the distance.