If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few years as a vagablonde, it’s that life really does work in mysterious ways. Mysterious ways that always lead you to where you are supposed to be and what you are supposed to be doing regardless of how long it takes and how far off track you think you get. You will always arrive at the destination you are meant to and for me on this particular day that happens to be Bosnia.
It all started with a single blog post. Almost exactly one year ago today I was sitting in Faro, Portugal when I received an email from a gentleman who had read my musings on why you shouldn’t miss Sarajevo on your next trip to Europe. An American named Tim who had found his way to Bosnia 20 years prior as a humanitarian aid worker, he was now an established travel writer and tourism development consultant working on putting together a press trip to Bosnia and wanted me to join.
Long story short, this press trip got to the final stages of coming to fruition and we pretty much had our bags packed, but it all fell through at the very last minute because of funding (in these parts money for tourism projects mostly comes from outside the country, not from within, so more hoops to jump through). I/we were pretty bummed but such is life and I did eventually make my way to the Balkans not too long thereafter. I also had a strong feeling that it wasn’t the end of the story…
Fast forward 6 months and I am sitting on top of the BBI Center in Sarajevo with Tim having a cappuccino. It was the final stop on my Blonde Gypsy Ambition Tour and he wanted to meet me while I was in town and talk about this project he had in the works called Via Dinarica. It sounded amazing and I was 100% on board, but as I am half Eastern European, I never believe anything until I see it so I didn’t hold my breath. At least not until I got a message from him again 3 weeks ago asking if I was ready. Of course I was ready, I was born ready. Just send me a ticket, yo.
Three days ago I finally received that ticket and now here I am, sitting in Sarajevo mentally preparing for the unbelievable trek that lies ahead.
What is Via Dinarica?
Via Dinarica is a concept created with the intention of naturally connecting, or “connecting naturally”, the countries and communities of the Dinaric Alps via a multinational hiking trail that extends from Slovenia to Albania. Similar to Via Alpina that connects the Alps from France to the edge of Slovenia, one of the main goals of the project is to promote and develop the local mountain communities and small businesses that are active on local, national, and international level in the field of hospitality, service and tourism, as well as agriculture and cultural heritage. Sustainable tourism at its finest in the last true wilderness frontier in Europe.
What will I be doing for Via Dinarica?
Um, brace yourselves. The Blonde Gypsy is about to go Green Gypsy/Nature Gypsy/hardcore.
I’m being brought on for the Bosnia and Herzegovina leg, the physical heart of the Dinaric Alps. Between Slovenia, Croatia, Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro and Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina has perhaps the most diverse landscapes in a concentrated area. The most challenging part of the week that I will spend on the trail comes tomorrow, my first day, when I hike from 300m above sea level up to 2,000 on Cvrsnica Mountain – the highest peak in Herzegovina. After that, all other scheduled hikes (of which there are many) outta be like a walk in the park, a nature park, and maybe even a remote forest with a Franciscan monastery. Also on the agenda is some rock-climbing, probably more like stone-climbing in my case, lakes, waterfalls, maybe some rafting, and a special grand finale that will remain a surprise.
Via Dinarica is not just something I am going to help promote, Via Dinarica is something I am going to help develop as this initiative is in the very early stages and part of the motivations behind this trip is to determine the strengths and the weaknesses of the trail as a world-class tourism attraction. This is a special project that extends far beyond press trips and tourism boards and in a way I’ve been invited to make tourism history here which is such a magical feeling given my love for the region. I am truly honored to be involved and I hope you will follow along here, on Facebook, on Instagram…you know the drill. Lots of good stuff to come.
Wish me luck.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qm8ClRnVxtE]
The Via Dinarica project has been made possible by the generous support of USAID and UNDP BiH.
To read how this entire adventure played out, click here.