(English) Journey to the Heart of Dandara

While working on the Upper Egypt Local Development Project…

Journey to the Heart of Dandara

Ancient Egyptian sights have been attracting visitors from all over the world for centuries. However, true and sustainable treasures of this land are revealed in authentic encounters with its people in places out of sight.​

A two hour drive from the famous Luxor brought us to a less known gem among Ancient Egyptian temples, the Temple Complex in Dandara. First temples there date back to 2250 BC, but most of them were built in 360–343 BC. They are devoted to the Goddess Hathor who personifies the principles of joy, celebration, love, and motherhood. She is associated with the Greek Goddess Aphrodite and the Roman Goddess Venus. Historians say that more festivals were honoring her than any other Egyptian deity.

The Sacred Temple of Hathor

The Sacred Temple of Hathor

One of the major festivals took place every summer when the Goddess Hathor went on a journey from Dandara to Edfu to meet with Horus. The people of Ancient Egypt celebrated their reunion, symbolizing all that is good in life, abundance, creativity and wholeness.

Interior of the Temple

Interior of the Temple

Worshiping Hathor was popular both among the poor working class of Egypt, as well as the ruling elite. As the bringer of life and comforter in death, Hathor embodied the heavenly Nile as she brought the best kind of gifts from the gods to the people of earth*. She was also a goddess of poetry and dance. No wonder that Qena and Dandara are known to be the cradle of storytelling in Egypt.

Upon arriving at the temple’s entry, we were welcomed by poetic confessions of joy and pain by some local musicians. Having experienced this performance, I am only imagining how magical a storytelling festival, organized in Qena, must have been even to the visitors not familiar with the Arabic poetry.

Simple life can be experienced in Dandara village with children running around, traders of snacks, offering their products around the corner, and old men with donkeys, carrying their grandchildren.

Donkeys are a very important mode of transportation

Donkeys are a very important mode of transportation

A small community of women has been trained and provided with seed capital to sustain jewelry making. Their necklaces, bracelets and rings are shown in local exhibitions, however meeting these women is as rewarding as appreciating their products.

IMG_1884

The ladies behind Dandara jewelry

Back home these beautiful turquoise artisanal pieces will remain a tangible memory of my day spent with them.

bracelets

My favorite Dandara jewelry seems to be inspired by Hathor, known to be ‘the Lady of Turquoise Country’

Pottery makers kindly introduced us into their production process. A simple pottery kiln is positioned in the first line of the village, overlooking the Nile. Yes, the amazing river of life deserves special attention for it significantly fills the area with an unusual sense of peace. Numerous birds, overflying its shores, speak of abundant supply for life to all species.

IMG_1844

The River of Life

Dandara has given me the gift of authenticity, the one whose colors and fragrances stay with you for a long long time. It is the people, who uncover the character of places and there is a certain camaraderie in such encounters which transcend our cultures.

A Moment to Remember

A Moment to Remember

*Sources: J. J. Mark: Hathor, 2009; and D. B. Redford: Oxford Guide to Egyptian Mythology, 2003.

Piva Lake Pearls

Piva Lake Pearls

Embraced by mountains and enchanted by legends, Piva lake area in Northwestern Monenegro is often neglected, but well worth visiting. Piva pearls are attractive on their own and they are also a good place to make home base for exploring Durmitor and Tara.

Piva Lake

Piva Lake; Photo: Žiga Jenko

Welcome to the Silence

We escaped the crowds and distractions of civilization by taking a half an hour boat trip from Plužine to a little lakeshore camp with appealing name ‘Ajmo u tišinu’. Talking about the trend of ‘silence tourism’, here we truly experienced it. A marked trail through the woods led us to a lookout point with a beautiful view of the lake, resembling a big star.

Do You See the Star? Photo: Žiga Jenko

Do You See the Star? Photo: Žiga Jenko

Later on, in the shade of oak and hornbeam trees, we enjoyed coffee and a crackling fire while our hosts prepared lunch. Trout from Piva lake, grilled together with zucchini, peppers, tomato, and onions with home-made bread and cheese – a meal to remember!

'Welcome to the Silence' on the Banks of Piva Lake

‘Welcome to the Silence’ on the Banks of Piva Lake

Medovina, the Mead

Quests in the Piva mountains are inspiring and fun. They brought us to monumental medieval tombstones, called ‘stecak’. There are more than 600 registered ‘stecaks’ in natural condition in this area.

The town of Plužine is famous for tasty medovina, the mead, and Zvono’s specialities cooked in it. Legends say that the mead used to be the drink of the Gods and was considered to be the elixir of youth and immortality, the source of spiritual power and physical strength of ancient heroes.

The Mead at Zvono

The Mead at Zvono

Piva Monastery and Secluded Villages

An early morning stop at the remarkable Piva Monastery filled us with peace and reverence. The Monastery was built in 16th century at the spring of Piva river and although it was Christian religious center, its construction was approved by the Ottoman rulers. As a result, the church in the monastery contains a fresco depicting Savatije Sokolović (the Serbian Orthodox patriarch) and Sokollu Mehmed Pasha (Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire), which is an unusual rarity.

In 1982, The Piva Hydro Electric Project created a vast water reservoir. The water covered the old Plužine village, two thirds of the area’s agricultural land, and several natural hot and cold springs. Only the Piva Monastery was saved, as it was moved to a new location stone by stone together with 1,500 square meters of frescoes. Preserving this monastery was a huge undertaking for ex-Yugoslav historical conservationists.

Piva Monastery

Piva Monastery

We continued our journey to the nearby farm of Željko Mitrić, the renowned honey producer, for a delicious breakfast. His farm is overgrown with fragrant flowers and embraced by aromatic meadows. His special pear orchard contains an endemic variety of pears, called “mrkaljuša.” Some of the trees are over 100 years old. The “Mrkaljuša” is a small fruit that can be eaten fresh, but is primarily used for the production of high quality brandy and “pear water” made by a process of dipping the fresh fruit into water and aging the liquid. This bitter “pear water” is believed to be very healthy.

Hiking Durmitor Ring: Thrilling Legends and Amazing Vistas

A new day in the Piva region started with preparations for our hiking escapade in the Durmitor mountains. While approaching our starting point in the mountains, our legendary guide Mirko revealed the legend of Todor whose unfortunate love for Ružica caused the jealousy of fairies and eventually gave name to the mountain Prutaš (2.393 m.a.s.l.) – the highest peak on our hiking expedition whose rock formations resemble “fairies’ hair.”

image1Prutas

Prutaš

Experienced local mountaineering guides share deep respect for the mountain, never underestimating its power and always admiring its breath-taking beauty. Beautiful vistas filled our spirits, but we certainly deserved a good breakfast at the top of Prutaš. For most of us, breakfast at the 2.393 m doesn’t happen very often in our lives.

On our way back to the valley we crossed the border between the regions of Piva and Drobnjak and heard about another legend of a wise old lady Baba Kruna who put an end to the endless fights about where the border should be placed. She performed a ritual with stones and said that she is standing with one foot on the Piva territory and with the other one on the Drobnjak soil. On that place people put a stone wall which still exists and is called Prespa.

Our next stop was Nedajno village, a hidden gem often neglected by tourists heading towards the regional tourist centre of Žabljak. This picturesque village has maintained its traditional appearance with houses with steep roofs and small entrances. Though we visited the village several times before, we never miss a legendary local dish, called ‘cicvara’, made of wheat, corn flour and ‘skorup’ cheese. Our host’s mother used to be the most famous shepherdess and cheese maker in the Piva region.

More Pearls to be Discovered…

We heard so much about Nevidio canyon. Tucked away and hidden in inaccessible terrain, the canyon had attracted attention and curiosity for decades. Endless strange and fantastic stories used to circulate about the last unconquered canyon in Europe. Finally, in August 1965 a band of poorly equipped adventurers from the Javorak Mounteneering and Skiing Club of Niksic successfully passed through the canyon and became the first to introduce the world to the canyon’s long hidden, wild and stunning beauty.

At the end of the Komarnica river valley at an altitude of 935 m.a.s.l. begins the canyon Nevidio or Nevidjbog as is called by locals (which means “God didn’t see” in Montenegrin). As it enters the canyon, the Komarnica river suddenly disappears through a strangely carved entrance and becomes invisible to human eye. Most of the canyon is in a perpetual shadow – due to the height of its vertical cliffs, sunlight does not reach the bottom. The canyon is a gem of rugged nature that has fascinated visitors since its discovery and this is where we are headed on our next trip to Piva region.

(English) Crkvice: Embraced by Nature

Crkvice: Embraced by Nature

Aromatic fragrances of the Mediterranean wild herbs are in the air as we are rising up the fragile stony stairs of an old Austro-Hungarian cinema in abandoned village of Crkvice on Orjen mountain in Montenegro. It’s amazing how nature takes over after human activities cease. Birds and other animals dwell in magnificent stony ruins.

Old horse stall in Crkvice

Old horse stall in Crkvice

When I was working in Suriname I first heard of so called ‘secondary forest’. I remember my imagination soaring as I was observing how the jungle overgrew old cotton plantations.

Something similar happened here, on Orjen. Except that there are no annoying mosquitoes around and the area continues to be partially cultivated by some farmers that are still growing potatoes in tiny karst fields.

Blending history with pristine nature

Some 100 years ago, Crkvice, a vivid military settlement above Risan, has been established to protect and expand the Austro-Hungarian reign in the areas, predominantly ruled by the Turks. In its peak, Crkvice had up to 10,000 inhabitants, mainly families of Austro-Hungarian soldiers. They had all the luxury one could imagine: hotel, tennis court, bowling alley, football field with stands for 1,000 spectators, cinema, brothel, church, bakery, hospital, horse stalls, funicular to drag tree trunks from the woods etc. Altogether over 150 solid buildings were built in a relatively short period.

Path, leading to the water reservoir

Path, leading to the water reservoir

The most outstanding are the ruins of the old bakery which used to be the largest bakery in the Balkans and the second largest in Europe. It provided bread for whole of Boka Kotor bay. Records show that over 24 tons were produced daily, using automated baking system and electricity created in a very sophisticated generator.

Nowadays, only stony ruins speak of the magnificence of Crkvice. Wildlife expanded, original vegetation regenerated along with old fruit trees, providing abundant food for birds and other animals.

Once the largest bakery in the Balkans, taken back by nature

Once the largest bakery in the Balkans, taken back by nature

Wildlife- and bird-watching in Crkvice is something unique

Our fellow traveller, Rok Rozman, ornithologist, immediately recognized some characteristic birds for Orjen and later on, along the walk, also some quite rare species. The region of Orjen is known for the biggest precipitation in Europe with the peak of it ranging from autumn to spring. Despite all, the region is surprisingly dry due to the karst surface. Limestone here reaches one of the deepest layers in the world, permitting these huge amounts of rain and snow simply vanish down into crevasses, caves and abysses only to get back to the surface, or even under the sea, in springs 1,500 meters lower in the Boka Kotor bay. This phenomenon leads to unique conditions that create very rare habitats and when combined with the forest-cowered ruins of one of the biggest settlements of its kind, you get an experience like no other.

Trying to spot birds in the bushes

Trying to spot birds in the bushes

Wildlife is abundant and especially birds are to be noticed at every step. Nuthatches, tree creepers and tits accompanied us at every step; we spotted many Mediterranean weathers, rock buntings and even black woodpecker. The place is also known to be incredible site for observing birds of prey in the nesting season as well as in migration. We saw a sparrow hawk, but golden eagle and short-toed eagle are to be expected and seen easily for someone, spending more time in Crkvice. The potential for birdwatching is simply amazing.

Non-governmental organisation Center for Protection and Research of Birds of Montenegro is raising awareness about exceptional richness of bird species in the area and about protection of their habitat.

Bullets near Crkvice

Bullets near Crkvice

However, local hunters do not always respect hunting regulations and bullets can be noticed around. I trust that this will change in time with the increased awareness of local people and more and more nature lovers, visiting Boka Kotor bay, admiring its magnificent nature.

Ideas for hiking in the area

Ideas for hiking in the area

Crkvice is great for hiking as well. Though easily accessible by car – less than half an hour drive from Herceg Novi – the site is a very suitable starting point for several walking trails that lead to spectacular views and are getting very popular. Local mountaineering clubs Niskogorci and Subra are maintaining mountaineering trails on Orjen and do great job in promoting outdoor activities in the area.

I certainly don’t qualify for a professional birder. But birdwatching can be such fun! Especially, if not taken too seriously. Hours pass by listening to the sounds of nature, something that can rarely be experienced in our everyday lives. And as I had been trying my best to spot nuthatches and tree creepers, another joke from our Montenegrin guides came across. Days spent in laughter!

Upon my return home, I learned that these same enthusiasts from Niskogorci club introduced a new climbing route, called ‘nuthatch’ (brgljez), named after the only European bird that can climb head down. I just love this dedication and Montenegrin sense of humour!

New climbing route by Niskogorci

New climbing route by Niskogorci

Special thanks to Nativa Institute and Rok Rozman!

Strateški razvojni načrt Ortopedske bolnišnice Valdoltra

Ankaran, Marec 2016

Strateški razvojni načrt Ortopedske bolnišnice Valdoltra

Inoini svetovalci soustvarjajo pripravo Strateškega razvojnega načrta Ortopedske bolnišnice Valdoltra za obdobje 2016-2020. Gre za interaktiven proces priprave strategije, v katerega je vključenih več kot 30 zaposlenih bolnišnice.

Razvoj eko turizma in turizma opazovanja ptic na območju južnega Jadrana

Baška Voda, 17. in 18. februar 2016

Inoa aktivno soustvarja razvoj eko turizma in turizma opazovanja ptic na širšem območju južnega Jadrana, vse od Biokova, preko doline Neretve do Boke Kotorske. V Baški Vodi se je s tem namenom sestalo okoli 50 turističnih ponudnikov, ki so na strateški delavnici pod vodstvom Inoine svetovalke, dogovorili skupne strateške usmeritve in opredelili konkretne iniciative na tem področju.

Več na:

PROJEKT BETSA

http://www.czip.me/aktuelno/468-zajednickim-radom-do-prekogranicne-turisticke-ponude-zasnovane-na-posmatranju-ptica

 

 

Študija biotske raznovrstnosti Orjena in Sniježnice

Kotor, 15.12.2015

Študija biotske raznovrstnosti Orjena in Sniježnice

Inoa s sodelavci izvaja “Študijo biotske raznovrstnosti Orjena in Sniježnice”, kar bo med drugim podlaga za pripravo čezmejne “Strategije eko turizma in turizma opazovanja ptic Južnega Jadrana”. Gre za slikovito območje od parka Biokovo, doline Neretve, Konavelj do Boke Kotorske, znano po jadranski selitveni poti ptic. Projekt vodita Center za zaščito in preučevanje ptic Črne gore (CZIP) in Občina Baška Voda.