Let me start by saying that I now scream “Gorski!!!” when I get really pissed off and frustrated with the trail. Unfortunately this happens often here in northern Croatia. Here’s a little background on Gorski Kotar…
Gorski Kotar is a region in northern Croatia known as the “green heart of Croatia.” It’s absolutely beautiful and covered in tons of different hiking trails, all marked by a bullseye of red and white paint, sometimes with a capital “G” in red below. Usually the marks are painted on the tree trunks, but often they’re on a rock, buried underneath the overgrown vegetation—impossible to find.
For most of the past few stages the Via Dinarica has followed this trail system. Unfortunately it seems that the country has long forgotten about these trails and they have seen little to no use in probably the past 20 years. They are a mess. I’m pretty sure no one from the Via Dinarica alliance has stepped foot on them. The website will tempt us with a “well-marked and beautiful trail in the Gorski Kotar”. Ummm…actually it’s the complete opposite. I’ve never seen worse trails in my life. We’re definitely spoiled in the states by our trail systems and I understand that there are likely no resources available to maintain a lot of the trails here, but it’s frustrating that the organization promoting the Via Dinarica is being so misleading about the conditions. It’s insane—trail markers that suddenly disappear for several kilometers, downed trees, chest-high stinging nettles, weeds over your head hiding the logs and rocks underfoot waiting to trip you or twist your ankle, thick vines that wrap around your legs and ankles, trail signs that literally point straight up a steep bank choked with vegetation. The inclines are so steep and slick with mud and leaves, one misstep and you’re sliding all the way to the bottom.
It’s become so ridiculous that we laugh about it now—what else can you do? We groan whenever we read about the upcoming stages that mention Gorski Kotar. And now every time the trail gets bad I shake my trekking pole in the air and angrily yell “Gorski!!!!”