Built with the initiative of the Institute for Territorial Economic Development (InTER) and improved with services from trained staff, this location has become important for local economic development. As of 2020, it is expected to reach the strategic goal of 20,000 tourist visits and two million EUR in revenue from tourism in the Zubin Potok municipality.
This article is part of the TACSO Storytelling Capacity Building Activity in which InTER participated from March to May 2017.
What nature could not create, man built instead. And today one can enjoy the beauty of a unique tourism product in the northern part of Kosovo – Via Ferrata Berim. Secured climbing paths, free adrenaline and pure fun is what you can expect if you dare to climb one of the most attractive Via Ferratas in the Balkans.
What is Via Ferrata and what makes this tourist attraction special?
Via Ferrata Berim was built as a part of the initiative Outdoor In - Tourism Development in the Ibarski Kolasin Region, launched in 2013 by InTER in partnership with the Municipality of Zubin Potok. The initiative aims to contribute to local socio-economic development and environmental protection. With donor support from the Embassy of Finland Kosovo, the EU Office in Kosovo, the Canada Fund and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), InTER implemented several projects within this initiative, where different tourism products were developed. One of the most successful projects was the construction of Via Ferrata Berim.
It is located on the Berim rocks of Mokra Gora Mountain (1733m), 25 km from the Zubin Potok municipality in the region traditionally named Ibarski Kolasin. Mokra Gora is known for interesting phenomena such as caves, potholes and sinkholes. While you climb in this locality you can also enjoy a breath-taking view of Gazivode Lake.
Via Ferrata is an Italian expression for “steel road”: a secured steel-climbing path fixed to the rock making accessible peaks for both beginners and experienced climbers. The beautiful panorama of Berim cliffs is the perfect place for this way of climbing with a total vertical length of 500m. After 80m of the first vertical section, you can enjoy a stunning view from a bench placed in a cave, which is a favourite place for all tourists. The second part of the climb includes a horizontal cliff over 100m high.
In the southern part of Kosovo, Via Ferratas Ari and Mat were built with the initiative of the NGO Marimangat and the Municipality of Pec. In order to contribute to multi-ethnic cooperation and the promotion of this type of climbing, InTER established a partnership with this organisation. Thus, tourists who come to Kosovo with a desire to experience a climbing adventure have the opportunity to visit all Via Ferratas in Kosovo in a unique tourist package.
More tourists want to experience climbing
“I was a beginner when I climbed Via Ferrata Berim for the first time. It is not physically demanding and the feeling is amazing. While you climb you only see the rock you want to conquer. But only when you turn around you realise on which height you are, while beautiful nature lies in front of you. At that moment I thought - if I can do this then I can do anything,” says Sanja Sovrlić from Leposavic, one of the first and most frequent climbers on Via Ferrata Berim.
The attraction of Via Ferrata Berim is indicated by the fact that about 200 tourists have experienced this type of climbing in 2016. Tourists from all around Europe come to experience new adventures and enjoy the magnificence of Mokra Gora Mountain.
Ritva Naumanen from Finland is happy to share her experience: “Via Ferrata Berim was an eye-opening first experience for me. The feeling when you overcome the fear of heights and when you learn to trust your strength and instructor right behind you is awesome! When you hang against the solid rock, mother nature is speaking directly to you if you dare to listen.”
Ten certified climb and rescue guides and improved services
In order to ensure maximum safety, in 2016 InTER organised several trainings for guide and rescue services on Via Ferrata Berim. As a result, ten young people from northern Kosovo were certified.
"The training consisted of five modules: basic and advanced climbing courses, a first aid course, a guide and a rescue course on the Via Ferrata. As a final activity, a rescue drill was organised, where the rescue of injured persons, transport to medical vehicles and coordination with the competent authorities was simulated,“ noted Dragiša Mijačić, the director of InTER.
The organisation of these trainings was important for young people who are lovers of mountains, extreme sports and adrenaline. One of the participants, Vesna Cosic, said with a smile:
“Training for guide and rescue services was a unique opportunity to learn all about climbing and to be able to provide guide and rescue services to people with whom I share the same passions. This was an extraordinary experience.”
Dragiša Mijačić added that participants who completed the course will soon have commercial engagements in managing groups and rescuing on the Via Ferrata, which will enhance the security of the tourism product and promote economic stability in northern Kosovo.
Tourism related activities as a significant contribution to local economic development
Besides Via Ferrata Berim there are many other attractive outdoor activities such as hiking, paragliding, kayaking, biking, diving and rafting. Tourism in the Zubin Potok municipality is recognised as a priority sector for development, which can have a significant contribution to the local economy.
“So far, organisation of tourism related activities have had an approximate contribution to local economy of 150,000 to 200,000 EUR” emphasised Mijacic, who added: “This year we are expecting around 400 to 500 tourists on Via Ferrata Berim, and around 1000 tourists who will experience other tourism products. Thus, we are expecting to significantly increase revenues from the tourism sector.”
Together with the local community, InTER designed the 2015-2020 Zubin Potok Tourism Development Strategy, which was later adopted by the Zubin Potok Municipal Assembly. Based on this strategy, the municipality has invested about two million EUR in tourism-related projects and, until 2020, it is expected to invest another three million EUR. With this, it is expected to reach the strategic goal of 20,000 tourist visits and two million EUR in revenue from tourism in the Zubin Potok municipality.
As for future plans, InTER will make efforts to finish the construction of Via Ferrata on the third Berim peak, which has not been possible earlier due to budget constraints. With support from the municipality, InTER will work on fundraising for completion of Via Ferrata, and for the introduction of new tourism products, which will improve the quality of life in this municipality.
Get ready for the adventure!
This article is a part of the TACSO Project Storytelling Capacity Building Activity in which InTER participated from May to July 2017. The TACSO Regional Office in Sarajevo organised the Storytelling Capacity Building Activity for CSOs interested in additionally improving their communication and storytelling skills. The activity included one-on-one coaching and mentoring through online channels such as Skype, Facebook and e-mail, during which time a number of topics were discussed and approached through various practical exercises.