High Scardus Trail
The first impression on site

12. Aug. 2021

In late fall 2020, we launched a public-private partnership (PPP) with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) for the further development of the High Scardus Trail in the Western Balkans.

In late fall 2020, we launched a public-private partnership (PPP) with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) for the further development of the High Scardus Trail in the Western Balkans. COVID-19-related travel restrictions kept us from visiting the region sooner, but now in July 2021, we finally did. Here is our blog post about it.

High Scardus Trail powered by Trail Angels: Yes, we can! ©Trail Angels

The High Scardus Trail is a long-distance hiking trail whose route the countries of Kosovo, Northern Macedonia and Albania connects and was initiated by the GIZ. Inspired by the remarkable success of its neighboring long-distance hiking project “Peaks of the Balkans,” GIZ also aims to contribute to regional development in this mountainous region of the Western Balkans through sustainable tourism.

The project was launched 4 years ago and many important preparatory work could already be implemented by GIZ, together with hiking experts, in the area. The PPP between Trail Angels and GIZ is to build on these interim results, to further develop the High Scardus Trail into a real hiking product. On the one hand, potential customers will have easy access to the product, and on the other hand, the trail will have better access to the market.

Scardus means “colorful” in Latin. Now we know why! At the High Scardus Trail in Sharr National Park in Kosovo ©Trail Angels

The travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic helped the online video meetings to their final breakthrough. And without this tool, the first six months of our PPP would have been almost impossible to manage. With the active support of the GIZ team (Anica Palazzo, Ekrem Hyseni and Benjamin Mohr), we worked out a project structure in several video meetings, which will serve as a guideline for our further implementation.

At the end of the day it was clear that without taking a closer look at the project on site and exchanging ideas with the local experts, it would be almost impossible to take the next, necessary steps. In July 2021, however, the time had finally come!

Trail Angels Field Trip – a Tour de Force
A team of three Trail Angels (Nathalie Reichhold, Stefan Lieb-Lind and me) immersed for a week in the world of the High Scardus Trail and worked through an intensive week program:

  • Three trail workshops with local experts (one each in Northern Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo)
  • .

  • Two hikes on the High Scardus Trail
  • .

  • Excursions to potential stage locations and visits of potential accommodations
  • .

  • Visit to mountain rescue in Ohrid (northern Macedonia)
  • Visit to the administration of the Sharr National Park (Kosovo)
  • And in between many kilometers with the rental car on the roads of the Western Balkans
  • .

Natural & cultural treasures everywhere: For example, Lake Ohrid and and the Old Town of Ohrid (North Macedonia) are UNESCO World Heritage Sites ©Trail Angels

Our conclusion: The High Scardus Trail is a fascinating long-distance hiking trail in the culturally diverse border triangle of Kosovo, Northern Macedonia and Albania. The landscape that is hiked through is breathtaking and many culturally fascinating valley towns or stage towns in between, such as Ohrid or Prizren, invite you to stay longer. During the workshops in all three countries, we met many motivated and inspired fellow campaigners from the most diverse fields, who are willing to continue working with us on this extraordinary project.

A trail accommodation as one would wish: In the so hospitable guesthouse of the idyllic world-forgotten mountain village Rabdisht (Albanian section of the High Scardus Trail) ©Trail Angels

At this point we also want to thank the organizers of our workshops quite warmly:

  • Anica Palazzo (GIZ North Macedonia): workshop in Ohrid
  • .

  • Rezarta Bare (GIZ Albania): workshop in Peshkopia
  • Ekrem Hyseni (GIZ Kosovo): workshop at Prevalla Pass
  • .

Thanks also to Benjamin Mohr (GIZ; Program Manager SEDRA) for his visit to Ohrid and the stimulating discussions.

Panorama trail Southern Alps Panorama on the high plateau

Shiny happy people: Die TeilnehmerInnen unseres Trail Workshops am Prevalla Pass (Kosovo) ® Trail Angels

The vision to develop the High Scardus Trail region into a transnational flagship for sustainable tourism, which will later include other products such as mountain biking or ski touring in addition to the long-distance trail, make any effort, no matter how challenging, worthwhile!

The next field trip.
Still, our work has just begun. In order to truly assess the most urgent interventions on the High Scardus Trail, a complete walk of the trail has proven indispensable. Therefore, Stefan Lieb-Lind and I will explore the long-distance trail by means of intensive trail scouting in September. Stefan will dedicate himself to the northern and I to the southern half. We will be accompanied by several local experts – and are particularly pleased about this. Of course, we will report on the results of the trail scouting on this page.

Panorama trail Southern Alps Panorama on the high plateau

Thanks to GIZ already branded on High Scardus Trail: The Trail Angels trail scouting team, here at the trail section in Korab Nature Park ®Trail Angels

The High Scardus Trail project is co-financed within the framework of a private-public partnership with funds from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ, German Society for International Cooperation).

Das Projekt High Scardus Trail wird im Rahmen einer Private Public Partnership aus Mitteln der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit kofinanziert

Author

Günter Mussnig

The graduate geographer is one of the founders and managing directors of Trail Angels, which is responsible for the Bookyourtrail.com platform. As a trekking & outdoor freak, he is one of the fathers of the Alpe-Adria Trail and has been exploring the Nepalese Himalayas for more than 25 years.

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