Galichica

MACEDONIA
May 2019

A short day-hike over the Galichica mountain with views of the Ohrid lake. The hike ended in Ohrid city.

8th of May: KONJSKO – TRI MAZHI – VELESTOVO – OHRID

This is a lower part of the Galichica mountain, but it has very nice nature and is situated right next to Ohrid city. Here you find vast natural forests, alpine meadows and views over the Ohrid lake. It’s a superb day-hike if you want something within easy reach from Ohrid.


I took a taxi from Ohrid to the village Konjsko. At the entry of the village was a very nice guesthouse, with a restaurang terrace where you have a fantastic view of Ohrid lake from above. Konjsko felt rural still, but with many houses in bad shape or even deserted.


Nice morning light outside Konjsko.


The path ascended through the forest, and passed a couple of nice meadows before reaching the high ridge.


To the left is the snow-capped mountain of Magaro (2255 m) which I and Sara climbed in 2009. To the right Ohrid city.


I was amazed by the variety of flowers on the alpine meadows.


View from Tri Mazhi peak (1629 m). The ridge was really fun to walk, and the views were stunning. I saw a chamois here.


These droppings were about 1 cm thick and 10 cm long, had a very orange-red colour and contained no traces of hairs, only seeds, so not from a predator. Please send me a message if you know what animal it is, thanks! :)


The trail markings were a bit old, and sometimes far between. There were some new, nice wooden signboards, but most signboards were old with faded text. Sometimes the text was completely faded away…


Descending through the forest again.


Funny road just outside Velestovo village.


Velestovo


Most of Velestovo had new or renovated houses, probably not many farmers live here still. This goat farm at the outskirts of the village was an exception.


Leaving Velestovo, a lush unbroken forest covers the mountain slopes. The building in the valley is a small church.


I filled up my water bottle by the church and continued towards Ohrid.


Wonderful walking on a path with lake views and tranquil forests.


This dog followed me from Velestovo until the road near the lake. Ohrid city is seen in the background.


Back in Ohrid. The red lines shows my approximate route.

PLEASE DO NOT BUILD A SKI-RESORT HERE
Today I read with great sadness about the plans of constructing a ski-resort in Galicica. It is “aimed at making this traditional summer destination an all-year-round tourist resort so that we can use Ohrid’s full potential” they say.

Macedonia is full of mountains, so why choose to build a ski-resort inside a national park with extraordinary natural values? The project says that the resort will offer a “unique experience of unspoiled mountain nature overlooking magnificent Ohrid Riviera” – Now how idiotic is that? The nature will not be unspoilt anymore once the ski-resort is built… The Ohrid region will for sure become less unique with the resort, and much less attractive for nature lovers.

You can read on the ski-project website the following text:
Galichica is also a unique environment with well-preserved natural flora. Due to the exceptional natural beauty and specific flora and fauna in the forests of Galichica Mountain, a great part of it was declared as National Park in 1958. Today Galichica Mountain has several international nominations: “UNESCO World Heritage Site”, “Emerald Area”, “Significant Plant Area” and “Primary Area for Butterflies“.
So how are they thinking? Perhaps like this:
Wow, that sounds like a great place! Let’s demolish the forests, build a bunch of ski-slopes, ski-lifts and hotels there! I’m sure the flora and fauna won’t mind the roads, pollution and lack of habitat.

The real opportunity for the Ohrid region is that they have what more and more people are looking for: unspoilt nature. There are plenty of mountains nearby with less valuable nature, better possibilities for skiing, and that would be in greater need of investments and visitors.

Nemerckë

ALBANIA
May 2019

A short day-hike through a lovely valley to a nice waterfall, and a 1000 meters high rockwall.

3/5: STRAMBËC VILLAGE & SOPOTIT WATERFALL

Driving south from Permet, you get some amazing views of the Nemerckë mountain.


The valley with the steep wall is where our hike will be.


The rock wall at the end of the valley is about 1000 meters high.


In Strambëc village.


After half an hour walking or so, we had a break on this meadow. Note the “split” peak in the distance.


We passed an area with several large trees.


Suddenly we thought that we heard thunder. But it was actually the sound of snow falling down from above the high rock wall.


Sopotit waterfall. All its water comes from one single large spring, just above the waterfall.


Me & Ingmar ascended above the waterfall to get closer to the 1000 m wall. We saw this nice halo (circular rainbow around the sun).


The upper part of the valley was amazing. Photos don’t do it justice.


This dog kept us company on the way back.


Sopotit waterfall from a distance


We took an unmarked route back. The first part, getting to a water reservoir, was a bit tricky. But after that the path was perfect. Nice views the whole way.


Just outside Strambec village


Huge walnut tree


Back in Strambëc

4/5: BENJË HOT SPRINGS & LENGARICA CANYON

The next day we did some swimming in these hot springs near Permet.


There is an old ottoman bridge across the river, right by the hot spring pools.


The water was warm but not hot, and they didn’t smell much like sulphur.


The water was clear and nice.


If you follow the river upstreams, you will enter the Lengarica canyon. We just walk in 100 meters or so to visit some small caves. If you walk further, the gorge will become more narrow and deep, probably quite impressive. We will do that next time we visit :)

Zagoria

ALBANIA
April/May 2019

Walking with the kids between highland villages in the green and beautiful “hidden” valley of Zagoria.

DAY 1 (29/4): GJIROKASTER & HOSHTEVË


View from the terrace of our hostel in Gjirokaster. The big building on top of the hill is the castle.


View over the old town from the Gjirokaster castle.


On our way to the guesthouse in Hoshtevë village. Our host picked us up in his jeep. Finn was very happy to sit in the front seat.


The road was very scenic. It crossed over a mountain pass and through this gorge.


During a short break, the man told us that this pit was the result of someone searching for gold.


Plenty of flowers and trees with pink flowers during this time of the year.


View of the Zagoria valley from Hoshtevë.


Nice lunch in the home of our hosts.


Interesting bird’s nest.


Their rakia destillation equpment.


The house we stayed in, located further down in the village.


Groundfloor was a bar.


View from the balcony.


Our neighbor.


Next to our house was this nice church.


Inside the church.


A lane in Hoshteve.


Cool tyre staircase.

DAY 2 (30/4): DOSHNICA


We cheated, and got a ride to Doshnica instead of walking. The large tree is of a species that does not exist anywhere else in the world than the Zagoria valley.


Entering Doshnica village.


A helmet on a wall. Looked like it was from the first or second world war. If you know the answer, please tell me :)


The door on the right is where our hosts live.


At out host’s house. Luckily, his family was on a visit. It was a lot of fun hanging out with them. All the children and grandchildren live in Greece.


A portrait of Enver Hoxha in the house.


The neighbor was having a BBQ.


The village school was abandoned.


It was sad to see the school falling apart like this.


The school closed when communism fell. Perhaps a clue to why they had a portrait of Enver Hoxha in their house… Most villages here (and in many other parts of Albania) got depopulated very fast when communism fell.


Old teaching material. The remaining items should be taken care of before they decay further. I would suggest to put them in a village museum.


Also fit for a museum (I guess it’s communist propaganda that they taught the pupils?)


The tiny church was still in good condition. And our kids enjoyed ringing the bell :)


The son of our host followed us down to the waterfall, about a kilometer below the village.


The waterfall from above.


The last climb down to the waterfal was steep and with loose ground. He chopped out cavities in the ground that we could put our feet in.


The waterfall was really nice. We spent a long time there, swimming, playing and eating lunch.


Back at the house we visited their cows.


Dinner. The milk in the mugs was still warm…


They showed us some of their old tools. These were accessories for sharpening scythes.


They showed us this old saw and said “kommunismus!”, then they showed a motorsaw and said “demokratia!” :)


For making butter

DAY 3 (1/5): HIKE FROM DOSHNICA TO LIMAR


Early morning at the house. The sound of birds singing was amazing. It is so peaceful here, many miles from traffic and pollution.


There were clearly several Golden Oreoles (Swedish: Sommargylling) in the trees around the garden. And we even got a clear view of one! In Sweden it is very rare to see this beautiful bird.


First breakfast: rakia, gezuar!


Second breakfast: food :)


Time to say goodbye and walk on to Limar. Thanks for wonderful hospitality! I truly hope to visit these guys again.


Lunch by a stream.


Reaching Leskaj village.


Invited by a local for coffee :)


A short section of the trail between Leskaj and Limar had eroded, and was a little bit tricky to pass.


Better not fall… :)


Natural bath tubs. We just had to stop for a swim!


Zagoria landscape.


Close to Limar.


The first house in Limar village.


Limar


Sheep on their way home from grazing in the mountains, passing the church.


Our house.


Across the yard was this house where we had our meals.

DAY 4 (2/5): LIMAR VILLAGE


Feeding the baby goats.


Our kids loved climbing on the sandy hills.


Morning sun shining on Limar.


Our host’s mother riding (she’s well over 80 years old :))


All over the village, sheep were leaving their houses and headed up the mountain.


Small bridge in the upper part of the village.


Typical gate.


An old couple invited us for coffee, rakia and sweets. They were 84 years old, but live here all year and still grow food etc. Strong people!


Their house.


Time to leave Zagoria. We really enjoyed the valley. Our host drove us with his jeep down the mountain. It was a scenic drive, passing Maleshove village and reaching Kelcyre town. The photo shows a mountain above the Kelcyre gorge.


Above Kelcyre stands the ruins of an old castle.


In the town of Permet.

Korab villages

ALBANIA
September 2018

Walking between highland villages on the slopes of Korab mountain, and enjoying the hospitality of the friendly locals.

DAY 1 (19/9): PESHKOPI


The Peshkopi Backpackers Hostel. Perfect location in the middle of Peshkopi, with nice views over the town and surrounding mountains. The house was used by the former dictator Enver Hoxha when he visited Peshkopi, and much of the furniture inside is preserved from that era.


The view from the hostel terrace.

DAY 2 (20/9): RABDISHT

The son of the guest house we were going to stay at picked us up with his car.


View from the car, on the way to Rabdisht village.


Our wonderful hosts, Festa and Sabri.


Sabri showing us 180 years old doctor’s equipment from his ancestors, while we enjoyed the tasty fruits from their garden and nuts from the surrounding nature.


Oragnic food. Bean stew, nettle pie, stuffed cabbage rolls etc. A paradise for vegetarians! And all the ingredients were 100% organic and produced by themselves.


Making byrek the proper way.


Sabri showed us the way to some caves outside the village. They were constructed during communism to function as bomb shelters.


Scary caves can also be a lot of fun :)


600 years old pine trees clinging to the rocks above Rabdisht.


We were told that this woman was 100 years old. She sure looked strong and healthy!


Bringing back some firewood from the forest.

DAY 3 (21/9): MORE RABDISHT

This day we walked on our own. We took the path towards Zagrad village, but only to the top of the ridge to get some nice views. We then returned the same way back to the village. This section is part of the High Scardus Trail, but it still not marked or signposted. Finding the way was easy anyway.


View over Rabdisht


Lunch on the top of the ridge


View into the next valley to the north, with the villages Bellovë and Cerjan. The red dot shows where we walked the following two days.


Bellovë village


A small glimpse of Zagrad village (below to the right). This was all we saw of Zagrad, since the guesthouse we planned to stay in had to cancel because of a funeral. We look forward to go there some other trip :)


We returned to Rabdisht. We said hello to someone on the street, and next thing we knew we were sitting in their living room eating snacks, fruits and drinking coffee and yogurt.


In the evening I went for a small run above Rabdisht.

DAY 4 (22/9): BELLOVË TO CERJAN


We shared a car with Sabri and Festa, before the car dropped us of by the school in Bellovë village.


The bridge in Bellovë.


Hazelnut season. The standard snack among the locals, it seems.


“Thana” berries were in season, very tasty.


Colorful rocks


Lunch on a meadow


Bear droppings


Cerjan village


Potatoe harvest


A friendly local showed us the way, and Simon got to ride the horse :)


Here we just arrived at the guesthouse. Our host Hassan (white t-shirt) and his family were very friendly and hospitable. Finn & Simon had a lot of fun playing with their kids too.


Super-delicious pears.


Using wild herbs for tea (and medicine) is very common here. Hassan told me that he once went up to the mountains by horse to spend a whole month up there riding and picking herbs.


Making cheese


We went for a walk with Hassan & his sons, around the village.


Most inhabitants have left Cerjan. There are only about ten permanent families, but a few decades ago there were a couple of thousand inhabitants.


Many houses are in ruins. But the remaining houses are very rustic and nice.
There is no sound of motors whatsoever. Most streets look more like paths. Very pieceful and charming!


A wonderful peak of the Korab massif


“Thana” berries


Tired legs? Then you get to ride on the horse :)

DAY 5 (23/9): CERJAN TO BELLOVË


We said goodbye to our nice hosts and walked down to Bellovë by a different path.


Cerjan


Colorful rocks


View of Cerjan and the Korab ridge.


Snacks break


We just said “hello” to these ladies in Bellovë and asked if there was a bus or taxi in the village. “No bus, no taxi” they said, but gave us a big bag of walnuts and hazelnuts :)



The man in the red t-shirt came down the street towards us, waving some car keys and asking “Taxi?”. Perhaps the ladies had spoken to him. We replied “Po!” (=yes)


Then man drove us back to Peshkopi. On the way we made a short stop by the natural hot springs, where locals bathe in the hot sulfur-smelling water to relieve their joint pains.

To summarize, Albania is a wonderful country. Diber is a wonderful region. And Rabdisht, Cerjan and Bellovë are super-picturesque villages whose friendly inhabitants we will never forget.

Stara planina

BULGARIA
May 2015

Walking from Kalofer to Karlovo, along the Byala Reka river via Rai hut and the Stara Reka reserve.

10/5, day 1: KALOFER – BYALA REKA


We took a morning train from Burgas to Kalofer. There were several nice old buildings around the central square in Kalofer.


A cool and impressive monument near the central square of Kalofer.


Already from the central square we could see our destination for tomorrow’s hike: the Rai waterfall. The snowy peak behind the waterfall is Botev (2376 meters) which is the highest peak of Stara Planina.


Here we met Lalyu, a very friendly and helpful guy who runs thewww.kalofer.com website. He had fixed a jeep taxi for us. The taxi drove us to a monastery, where Lalyu had booked a room for us to stay in. Thank you very much, Lalyu! :)


The courtyard of the monastery. Our room was on the upper floor of the building to the right.


View from our room towards the valley that we will walk tomorrow.
Outside the monastery we saw a very rare and beautiful bird, called Golden Oriole (Sommargylling in Swedish and Oriolus oriolus in Latin).


In the afternoon we walked the Byala Reka ecotrail, which is a circuit route into a wild canyon. The trail was beautiful, and we were impressed by all the bridges, ladders etc – it must have been hard work to construct this trail! It was very well maintained as well, and with nice information boards (though mostly in Bulgarian).


One of seven(!) fire salamanders that we saw on the ecotrail.


Restaurant near the entrance of the ecotrail. I was surprised to see this, since you can’t really drive here with a normal car. The road really requires a jeep…


Playground on a meadow behind the restaurant. You can camp here too (the place is called Bivak Byala Reka).


11/5, DAY 2: BYALA REKA – RAI HUT


Walking north along the green-marked trail.


The trail zigzagged up through the forest. It just rained a little bit, but the ground was wet enough for the fire salamanders to appear. We saw five of them during this day.


When we reached the Paradzhika meadows the green trail markings were quite poor. We had to search for the trail a couple of times, but eventually found the correct route. Once we reached the blue-marked trail at the upper part of Paradzhika, the markings were good again.


It started to rain so we missed some of the views along this trail. But on the other hand, the forest became very beautiful in the mist.


The Rai hut


Inside the Rai hut


And now the rain stopped, revealing the beautiful surroundings. A few hundred meters from the hut is the Rai waterfall. It is 125 meters high, one of the highest in the Balkans.

12/5, DAY 3: RAI HUT – LEVSKI HUT


This day was sunny, so we started out by enjoying the magnificent views around the Rai hut.


View from the Malkiya Kupen hill, a short walk from the hut.

We followed the blue trail, passing below the waterfall again.


Last view of the waterfall…


Last view of the hut. The Malkiya Kupen viewpoint is the one nearest to the hut.


Chamois

The snow-covered peak Botev (2376 m) in the background.

Chamois again


Crocus flowers

Entering Stara Reka valley

The Vasil Levski hut. A very nice hut. Clean bathrooms with hot showers, and nice lentil soup. Here we met other hikers, a group of three men from Plovdiv. They were the very first other people we met so far on the hike, except for the hut staff and a couple of shepherds. The next day we met one other hiker, and that was it… We watched the news in the hut on TV. It showed that armed people had entered Macedonia from Kosovo, and they discussed how this would affect Bulgaria, and if it could lead to a war involving Bulgaria. The event is known as the Kumanovo clashes.


13/5, DAY 4: LEVSKI HUT – KARLOVO

We spent this hole day in nice forest along the Stara Reka river. Very easy and enjoyable walking!

A break at the Balkanski Rozi hut


Trowing rocks in the river – a game that never gets old :)


We stopped at the Hubavets hut for a nice meal.


Bulgarian yoghurt with blueberries


White-throated dipper (Strömstare in Swedish)

Stara Reka canyon

Karlovo in the distance


Having a superb meal in our favorite restaruant in Karlovo: Mehana Vodopad


Vasil Levski street in Karlovo, between the center and the railway station.

 

 

Kotor-Lovcen

MONTENEGRO
April-May 2013

A hike above the fjord-like Kotor bay via the Lovcen mountains to the fairytale village of Svety Stefan.

DAY 0: Dubrovnik

Before the hike we spent a night in Dubrovnik. This is a good basepoint since there are daily buses from here to Kotor.


The old town was super-beautiful but packed with tourists on the main streets. The backstreets were quiet though, and we found a superb vegetarian restaurant called Nishta.

DAY 1: Perast – Svety Andrija fort


We started the hike in the small town of Perast. It is a very beautiful small town of old venetian houses along steep, narrow streets. There are several churches and old palaces. It is listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO.

We followed a poorly marked trail, that zigzagged up the mountain. Great views of the Boka Kotorska “fjord”. The small strait on the photo is all that connects the bay with the Adriatic.


At the end of the bay is the town Kotor and the snowy peak in the background is Štirovnik (1769 m).

First view of the Svety Andrija fort, built by the Austrian army in the 19th century.


Fortified campsite

DAY 2: SVETY ANDRIJA FORT – VALISTE VILLAGE

Mt Orjen (1894 m) covered by snow. This is the highest peak by the coast in Montenegro. It is said to be the rainiest place in Europe (not that it rains very often, but when it rains it REALLY rains).


European green lizard

The trail followed the old Austrian army road, and passed several deserted villages.

The steep part on the left is about 1000 meters high.


An old, ruined chapel

A deserted village next to Graz peak. The terraces would have been a nice place to pitch a tent :)

DAY 3: VALISTE VILLAGE – VUCNI DO


Water is not easy to find along this trail. This well in a village had a small amount of water. It was the first water we found since the cistern under the floor of the Sveti Andrija fort.

I find it amazing that there has been villages in this rugged place

Another dream-site for camping

Shortly before Mali Zalazi village. We walked over the twin peak (Luk) to the left.

Velji Zalazi village


Third water-place on the hike so far: a deep well where we had to use a rope and our pot (with a stone inside) to get to the water. (My friend Micke who walked here the following year found this well to have very smelly water, so don’t rely on it…)

The church was preserved, but most of the village in ruins.


The ruined village is visible to the right. What a spectacular location!

The peaks belong to the Lovcen national park, Sitrovnik (1789 m) to the right and Jizerski vrh to the left.

Finally some fresh food and beer, at a restaurant near the Krstac pass.

View from the Krstac viewpoint above Kotor, 1000 meters down


Old house at Vucni Do.

Our campsite in Vucni Do. The tranquility was disturbed when a car came driving over the meadows and parked less than 100 meters away. Two men started a very noisy petrol-powered generator that powered a large lamp and loud music. So much for enjoying the peaceful nature…

DAY 4: VUCNI DO – IVANOVA KORITA

The trail followed a snowy track through the beech forest.

We had to cross several places where avalanches had destroyed the forest. It was very tiring to cross, and quite dangerous too.

Avalanche area. A wilderness right next to the Mediterranean Sea :)

Relieved after crossing the last avalanche area.

Looking back to the saddle between the peaks, where we had walked earlier the same day.

Dinner at a fancy hotel in Invanova Korita. We could have stayed in the fancy hotel but chose to camp in the forest instead as real hikers :)


There were lots of people here having picknick. Mainly families with kids but also some guys that were here to party. We were offered a beer from their fridge :)

DAY 5: IVANOVA KORITA – KOSMAC FORTRESS

More snowy tracks with many fallen branches, quite tiring to walk here…
A nice view of Sitrovnik and Jizerski vrh peaks. The building on top of the latter peak (on the right) is a famous mausoleum dedicated to the country’s national poet called Njegos.


Another view of the Lovcen wilderness from Babia Glava


Walking on the ridge after Babia Glava was really nice. The tiny island that is vagely visible on the coast to the left is Svety Stefan, where we will end our hike.


The area was full of sinkholes, and reminded us a bit of Galicica in Macedonia.

Brajici village

Kosmac fortress above Brajici village, also built by the Austrians.


We pitched our tent right in front of the fort, with a view of the ocean. The island is Sveti Stefan, the goal of our hike.

Enjoying the sunset in the evening

DAY 6: KOSMAC FORTRESS – SVETY STEFAN

A lovery trail, very easy walking and excellent ocean views


From the Ogradenice church, which is up on the ridge, we descended on a jeep road. In the forest we found this old van that had been converted into a monastery :)


A monastery above Sveti Stefan.

Sveti Stefan. This used to be a fishing village until the Jugoslav government turned it into one big resort. It is still a stunning view :)