“What about this summer?”
This is the question everyone asks while locking their bikes in the garage to shelter them from the cold. Giovanni from Strade Montane told us about his only man adventure roaming around Europe, who knows, maybe Bosnia will also become an ambitious future project of ours.
“After the experience in Corsica, we planned to rape the frames on challenging routes as far away as possible from major traffic. Above all, we were looking for territory that had little to do with the more common landscapes of our continent. And so after endless hours on Komoot searching out collections, routes, and a myriad of pages on the Internet, we chose Bosnia, the State in which we already feel the air of the East and about which we now hear little if not very little.
A ten-hour ride in a van crammed with bikes, bags, random clothes and other undefined material thrown in bulk, brings us to Dubrovnik at the last light of day. We load everything we need into our panniers, lights on, and we start pedaling obviously uphill. Croatia is short-lived; in less than 40 minutes we are at the first border to reach Ivanica, the official start and finish of our journey along the Balkans.
If on the first day the Ciro Trail gives us a mixed-terrain route that retraces the old Austro-Hungarian railroad that connected Dubrovnik and Mostar, it is after the town of Stari Most that we find ourselves more than 1,000 meters above sea level in the Dinaric Alps, where we meet no one but two shepherds, who welcome us into their small hut nestled in a beautiful plateau.
Each day is a fun – and challenging – up and down high altitude trails and forest roads devoid of human footprint for miles.
Those who then want to look for confirmation in the tedious narrative of a country hovering between East and West will soon be disappointed: nothing Western comes to us here; rather, we are quite happy to be dealing with people, places and ways of interpreting the world quite different from our own. Of the two, we perceive a world balanced between a desire for modernity on one hand and full rurality on the other. We notice this after a long and enjoyable dirt section in Babin Do, the Bjelasnica ski resort created for the ’84 Olympics, where a certain brutalist style is meant to communicate a momentum to the modern, abruptly interrupted by the conflict of the 1990s, while in Kalinovik we find farms and pastures; a genuine rural world crossed by the Via Dinarica.
Much of the journey travels over wide valleys surrounded by greenery and dominated by the high alpine peaks that dominate the landscapes of the great plateaus toward Lukomir or the forested roads of Sutjeska National Park, which proudly display the many Spomenik: the concrete monuments of the former Yugoslavia dedicated to the great events of the Slavic people. In Tjentište, the Valley of Heroes is home to one of the most beautiful and impressive.
In general, we find the only inhabited centers only at the beginning and end of our route, while along the way, are really rare the small villages where we can take a break while enjoying a warm kafa domaći.
The return to Dubrovnik really makes us regret these endless scenery of mountains and valleys as far as the eye can see. We will greatly miss the nonverbal conversations and spontaneous gestures of hospitality we received along the way. In short: not even half an hour in the nonsensical chaos of the Croatian city and we’ve already been ripped off at the first tourist-catching ice cream vendor along the boulevard.
And on the conflict? The signs of war can be seen of course, but we are not reporters, nor do we want to lapse into a narrative that boasts experts far better trained than we are. We gladly leave that task to others; for us, the Balkans was a roaring discovery on a bicycle, poised in the most unexpected mountains of the East.”
Follow Strade Montane on Instagram, you just have click here