Wednesday, August 9, 2017

EUROTRIP 2016 - Part 6: Visocica, an adventure on Bosnian mountains

"The fresh mountain breeze brings the sinfony of scents around us. This sinfony is made from fresh green grass, soothing notes of wild lavendel, mint, thyme and moist pine cones. The view on the other hand is - at the same time - a soothing lullaby for the restless soul and the most powerfull burst of enjoyment and excitement to the beating living heart."

Those words were my exact thoughts on the top of the Vito peak, while I was surrounded by the ancient mountains. Towards the summer, the surrounding springtime lakes tend to dry out loosing their wild souls and turning into the blossoming greenlands. However, some smaller streams source from these majestetic mountains as tributaries to its bordering jade-coloured rivers; Neretva, Ljuta and Rakitnica, which srteams along one of the deepest canyons in Europe - the 32 km long Rakitnica canyon. Surrounding mountains, the Visocica range with its ridges (Kaoca, Crveni Kuk and Toholj) and their notable peaks (Džamija (1974 m.), Vito (1960 m.), Veliko Ljeljen (1963 m.), Crveni Kuk (1733 m.) and Veliko Toholj (1837 m.) are attractive destinatios for hikers, tour seakers, ski fanatics, nature and history lovers. Visocica has two necropoli located at high altitude amidst the mountains, which have no trace of contemporary or historical habitation. One of the necropolis at Poljice features two stećaks - bosnian medieval thomb stones with inscriptions in Bosančica (which can be translated as Bosnian script.) and the other located in high deserted valley called Jezera, features several ornamented stećaks. Notably, stećaks are currently also under the UNESCOs list of world heritage sites! 

If you want to experience something extra special like we did, you can rely on these great, charmy and happy chaps, true gentlemen, who will offer you great tours in great destinations you will not forget. That is how I would describe your guides-to-be Kenan, Adi and Hikmet from Highlander Adventures. They are well educated young men who know what they are doing, thus making every tour unique and tailored for your needs and according to your personal interests. Theme based tours (war, architecture,...), city tours, hiking tours (where ever your heart desires) - you name it, they got it. They are great to hang out with, relaxed and well organized (+ can speak many languages!). With Highlander Adventures, history will meet up with nature and culture, while laugh and relaxed athmosphere will accompany your journey. Don't miss out the beauty of the cities, villages, mountains and wild rivers. We loved it and we bet, you will too!

Me and my sister Sabina had been planning a hiking trip in the Balkans also previously (our mini-hike in Kozara National Park does not count since we are from there). However, it was always a bit too hard to organize something alone without good company and gears (if we fly, we cannot pack all the necessities for everything) so we have had to postpone our plans. Luckily this summer, we knew we will meet up with our cousin Zana (she also writes a blog, check out World of a Travelholic), who lives in Denmark and knew that with her we could share some special moments since she was as outgoing as we are - I mean we love her! It was too bad that our other cousin Elma (lives in Finland), an outgoing soul as well, was not able to join us on our hike because of the ongoing construction work on their house, since she really loves the pace of life outdoors. There was also our friend, who had never been in Sarajevo, to whom we showed the city round for a week gladly but who we knew could not get through the very demanding hike. Therefore, we had to say goodbye and then catch up with our other friends, who were more than eager to see us too (Psst. Sabina I will never forget that moment with our ice creams on the station.) 

So finally, the morning of our hike started with us going to one of the stores of Maison Coco bakery, my favourite bakery in Sarajevo for some delicious breakfast. After that we packed our bags, filled our water bottles with normal water as well as with naturally mineralized spring water Sarajevski Kiseljak (something everyone should drink when it is hot or when they are excercising!). Zana, Kenan, Adi and one of Zanas friends from Pakistan picked us up from our home and oh boy, the adventure really started that moment! First 30 minutes of climbing up were the most intense, but after our bodies adjusted it was much easier to climb and descend for the next 9 hours that were ahead of us. 

We were all happy and topics for talking bursted almost as if they were handed out from the endles mountain springs. We were sweatty as kittens who have fallen into their too big water bowls and most of all - serene. Hugged by all that sunshine and surrounded by the nature itself in its best and most beautiful costume this day was even better than an amusement park as a child (and that is something!). We had few lunch breaks, where Zana took out a bag full of pitas in front of us! Chocolate drink, still warm pitas, bananas nuts and raisins, peaches and dark chocolate - that is what our mountain lunch was all about, not to forget to mention the incredible views and a possibility to take your shoes off to feel the grass between your toes... In the end, we ended up blowing up some mushrooms, dancing some macarena, sitting on spiky plants and getting our butts sore, climbing up to four different peaks, seeing a herd of freely roaming horses, squeezing our bodies along the really steep paths, laughing a lot and running around, listening to the traditional music echoing from the mountain village Lukomir on the opposite side of the canyon, talking to a lonely frog and admiring colourful butterflies flying around us. This day ended with us gathering around the nargila back in the city, all together. I mean, what could you possibly not like about all this?

If you are interested, there is also a bit demanding hiking trail along the ridge from the beautiful Rakitnica canyon, which drops 800m below, all the way to famous village of Lukomir. You can also reach the village by an easy (but still amazingly beautiful) hike from Umoljani (car/taxi in also possible but not recommended, since you absolutely need to spend more time hugged by this nature!) Lukomir is the only remaining traditional semi-nomadic mountain village in the region. At almost 1,500m, the village with its unique lifestyle, fresh mountain air, homes made of stones with cherry-wood roof tiles, is the highest and most isolated mountain village in the country. You can enjoy the beautiful views and order bosnian specialities, such as bosnian coffee, herbal tea and many delicious pitas (all explained in my previous posts), locally produced drinks, dried meat and cheese. Here you can even buy yourself a nice pair of woollen socks with traditional bosnian pattern "the tortoise" to warm your feet and to remind you of this incredible moment you have experienced, while sitting in your own cozy chair at home during the next winter. 

My last question to you is: Why wouldn't this be your next winter?

- Herminica

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