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HIKING IN A WORLD HERITAGE SITE

DURMITOR NATIONAL PARK, MONTENEGRO
Written by Klas Tigerström

There I am suddenly, in a foreign country with (if truth be told) very little prior knowledge. The guidebook says that "the Word MAGIC comes up more than once when describing Montenegro". I agree. It really is a magical, beautiful country. Mountains stand like grassy sugary peaks straight up into the sky. I wonder what it is that, even though you are in the middle of the summer, makes you still dream of other seasons and other adventures? But rock formations invite you to ski and go off-piste, I have to check it out!!

But let's start at the beginning. After a stopover in Vienna with the obligatory wienerschnitzel, I find myself in Podgorica - Montenegro's capital. 90 (!!) degrees and a quick change of clothes shows my fellow passengers how fast GORE-TEX can be replaced with flip-flops, shorts and a t-shirt. This takes place on the stretch between the aircraft and the arrival hall!

I take the drive up to Durmitor National Park and discover that it is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. That alone makes the destination even more interesting. I myself actually live in a world heritage site. Perhaps not the most romantic, but still. The Östanfors area in the industrial landscape of Falun including the Falu copper mine, attracts visitors from all over the world for that reason. The picturesque small miners' homes are small but unique. I will soon notice that the Durmitor National Park is also unique.

The walk is nice, or should I say amazingly beautiful. A proper trail system and proper maps make the trek enjoyable, you can focus more on looking up and enjoying the mountains, not just staring at the map and standing on your tiptoes. The walk is also very varied. If I compare it with hiking in Sweden, which is also very grand, here you are thrown into different situations much quicker. Over a stretch of a few kilometers you will have time to cross several peaks, valleys and ridges, which means that the views constantly change. I walk over limestone terrain which puts both my legs and boots to the test. It is a barren yet fertile landscape. You can see that the flora has taken every opportunity to bloom. We hike at a height of over 2,000 meters in 80 degree heat, and yet I recognize many flowers and herbs from our Swedish mountains. A sense of security that comes with feeling at home, mixed with an appetite for discovery from being in a foreign place.
 

Suddenly, a stone building like one from the Lord of the Rings appears. ”Pl. Dom Skrka 1723” is painted in Falun red above the door. The door is open and a man looks out -"Da li zelite kafu?" - Would you like some coffee? The next question is -"Da li imate ulaznice za park?" - Do you have a park ticket? Here things are neat and tidy; it costs 2 euros to walk in the park per day. "The coffee will take a few minutes", he says. I sit down and take a piece of chocolate. It takes effort to walk around this beautiful landscape in these temperatures. The park ranger says I should carry on for one kilometer to where there is a small lake. "It's cold! But refreshing," he says. So be it. I'm passionate about swimming, and I have to say that the memory of that swim won't fade in a hurry. I'm in the 60 degree water surrounded by limestone peaks. Small trout circulate around my feet, and now and then they surface to capture an insect. As the water cools my body down, a happy feeling comes over me!
 

With a refreshed body and reenergized legs, I choose a different route back. I got a tip that the "Samar" mountain pass is something special. There is a lot of scrambling on the way up. On the steepest traversals, someone has installed steel cables to hold on to. The pass lives up to expectations. It's getting late in the afternoon with the sun low in the sky, and that special light you also get in a Swedish mountain range appears. That slightly cold light with long and somewhat twisted shadows that cast upon the ground and on the mountain sides. Once at the end of the trail, i linger for a long time. In fact, such a long time that I experience my first sunset in Montenegro, sitting on a mountain shed with sheep and goats grazing around my feet. They don't seem to care much that I'm sitting there, and I feel the joy and happiness of experiencing a sunset in what is for me a totally unknown country.