Saturday, 29 June 2013

The Via Dinarica and a new Balkan Crossroads for Adventure in Bosnia-Herzegovina

In an hour I leave for Sarajevo. It's not a short flight. Sadly, we have to fly to Belgrade and then wait four hours before our short hop to Sarajevo. I'm working with Green Visions, one of the major tour companies in Bosnia, and USAID to help promote hiking, trekking and adventure travel in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It's not a surprise designation for me. The former Yugoslavia sits uncomfortably in my family history. A lot has happened, as has been well documented, in that area and for many reasons - some professional and academic, some personal - I took a keen interest in the area in the 1990's. Also, National Geographic listed Bosnia-Herzegovina as one of its Best Adventure Destinations for 2012.

For centuries, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Sarajevo in particular, has been a crossroads for European, middle-Eastern and near-Eastern Oriental culture. Even before that, ancient civilisations have been at its heart. With mountain ranges across the country every bit as spectacular as any in Europe outside of the Alps, rivers offering access to superb whitewater and breathtaking mountain biking singletrack along ancient caravan routes linking mountain settlements, it is little wonder. Yet, try as it might, BiH cannot escape the conflict in its recent past. Nor should it. Sarajevo has a great deal to offer those seeking cultural enlightenment whether it be Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian or, of course, that involving the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. Religious Mostar was a focal point for much of the conflict, placing side-by-side as it does Eastern Orthodox and Islamic traditions. And there is still a great deal to discover beyond that. 

So I am looking forward to the trip. I want to see work on the new Via Dinarica, a long distance path which will unite former war-torn areas. And visit Sarajevo and Mostar, to see how those major centres in the country have moved on and cultures have been united. There'll be some white-water rafting too. I'll be climbing some of the highest peaks including the legendary Maglić. In all, we'll be trekking for 4 or 5 days as well as other adventure travel activities. I'll be speaking to some of the local guides to see what work they do and what the area has to offer.

And when I get back, there'll be some photography and words to come.