zvijezda-mountain

Zvijezda Mountain: Forest gateway, folk tales and stunning views

Zvijezda Mountain a stunning mountain in the Close Distance of Via Dinarica Green Trail in Bosnia and Herzegovina

In central Bosnia and Herzegovina between the towns of  Vares and Olovo, proudly rises Mountain Zvijezda. It’s shrouded in the forest mantle of fir and spruce trees, gift of the Slavic god of the forest. Through its thick forests takes you numerous hiking/ biking trails. Very interesting and gorgeous place to visit.

Although the Green trail of Via Dinarica mega-hiking trail doesn’t go over Zvijezda, it’s worth making a detour from Mountain Perun to visit this divine mountain. The Green trail is actually still under construction and who knows maybe there will be some changes in the route of the trail.

Mountain Zvijezda has numerous natural resources including ore, water springs, and thick coniferous forests. Also, it holds great history and culture, like the medieval tombstones stećci, Roman bridge, villages with traditional and pre-industrial manners of iron forging, and numerous folk tales and myths.

 

Origin of Zvijezda in Slavic Mythology

Zvijezda and Perun are the two mountains that are surrounding Vareš. Bogoš is the hill between these two mountains. However, in Slavic religion, they are related to the deities.

Perun is the highest god of the pantheon and is the god of lightning and thunder. He was the ruler of the world of the living: heaven, and earth. This was often symbolized by the eagle who was watching from the highest branch of the tree of life (oak). Perun is also compared to Thor of the Norse mythology. If you are reading Marvel comics or watching their movies you probably know about who am I talking.

It is assumed that mountain Zvijezda is related to the Slavic goddess Mokosh. Mokosh is the mother of nature, a fertility goddess,  and a protector of women and women’s work – spinning and weaving. Her name means moisture and this mountain is actually full of springs.

She is Perun’s wife and ruler of the Sun. Every year for six months Goddess would go to the kingdom of the death and serve as a mistress to God Veles, Perun’s enemy. Veles is the god of the land, water, forest, and the underground. Mokos unfaithfulness is one of the causes of the divine battle between two eternal rivals – Perun and Veles. Symbolically, this mythological battle represents the maintenance of the natural balance and order on the Earth.

A Folktale from Vareš: Love triangle between Slavic Deities

Velež is topographically tied to the brave god Bogos from this popular folk story. Also, the fight between Perun and Bogos is related with the mythical fight between two gods and sworn enemies, Perun and Veles.

According to the story, nobody could resist the incredible beauty of the goddess Zvijezda, not even the mighty Perun. Therefore, Perun placed himself opposite of the ravishing Zvijezda and started to seduce her. He didn’t allow other deities to approach  Zvijezda and openly admire her beauty. Perun severely punished anyone who would attempt, shooting with hundreds of thunderous arrows.

One day enthralled by Zvijezda’s beauty, a young and brave god Bogoš decided to fight for her affection. He stood opposite of Perun and started openly to seduce green-eyed goddess. Because of Perun’s harsh temperament and the fear he spread, Zvijezda began to return love to Bogoš.

When Perun noticed,  he started a war with the young god. No one has ever seen such a battle between divine beings. Years passed by and they were still fighting against each other. But nevertheless, Perun thunderous arrows began to seriously injure Bogoš and he was bleeding from numerous wounds and unable to fight back.

Snowshoeing towards Mekuse Mountain Hut
Going through Tree Tunel

The Start of Iron Forging in Vareš

Zvijezda was worried about Bogoš and went to prophet Gaša seeking help for her lover. The prophet discovered Perun’s only weakness, he was immortal. The only way to weaken his strength was to remove ore stones piece by piece from his inside, the stones stored all of his power. The green-eyed goddess decided to bring mortals (miners from far away) to dig and extract ore every day.

Perun was furious with the prophet for revealing his weakness and turned her into a rock above the valley and today’s Vareš town. The goddess received an even greater punishment. She was chained by the ice and snow. For seven years she was chained so severely that she was close to the end of her strength when Supreme God at the request of her mother released Zvijezda from the shackles of ice.

Since then, mortals have been inhabiting this area and digging ore for centuries. From time to time, Perun still succeeds to gather strength to bring heavy clouds and throw thunderous arrows at Bogoš. Stubborn in his aspiration to conquer a beautiful goddess, Bogoš strikes back. Their fights are not as intense as before, but the mortals are used to live with it.

Hike to Zvijezda's Highest Peak and Panoramic View

It’s time to return to the present. A hike on Zvijezda Mountain started from my friend’s house in Vareš, in the foothill of this mountain. As soon as, we walked above all the houses and entered into the coniferous forest we stopped to enjoy in the view of mountain Perun. It was all covered in snow and in its foothill, we could see an artificial lake of Smreka, half frozen.

The trail curved through the dense forest and small settlements, near an abandoned mine, and across vast meadows as we hiked to Zvijezda’s highest peak. The only sound breaking the silence was the murmur of water rushing down the slopes.

It’s incredible how many water springs run on this mountain. Close to every creek we saw many animal tracks in the snow. We managed to identify footprints of wild boar, rabbit, and deer. A few of the footprints were still quite fresh. Maybe we missed each other by just a few minutes.

On some sections, the snow was deeper than we thought it would be, so it took us much longer to reach the Zvijezda Peak. At the Mekuse Mountain Hut, we had a short break just to meet the host. We chatted about the trail and then hurried to hike the final hour of our walk to the peak.

On this part of the trail, there are signs of landmines. However, my local friend told us that the host of the hut was in the army and knows where the land mines are located, so after the war, he cleared this area. The trail is well marked so you don’t need to be worried. Just keep in mind that estimated time for some points of interest on the signposts isn’t quite correct.

We exited the forest and continued walking a little more uphill along the ridge. Several minutes later we arrived at the bench placed on the perfect spot, with a breathtaking view! “This is the top of Zvijezda,1349 meters of altitude“, said my friend enthusiastically.

This mountain is not that high but it has a great geographical position.  Zvijezda rewards all hikers with a stunning panorama view of many other Bosnian mountains including Romanija, Jahorina, Trebevic, Treskavica, Bjelasnica, Prenj, Cvrsnica, and Vranica.

Meet Terra, a mountain guide from Vareš
Sunset in Beautiful Coniferous Forest

 Past & Future: Industry of Iron Forging vs. Eco-Tourism

Since the medieval time, this region has been famous for its richness with beautiful thick forests and ores. Vares was a well-known mining and industrial town.

Today, before entering the town travelers will pass by abandoned ironworks, smelters and a mine in the former workers’ settlement of Vares Majdan. After the mine was closed, a mining pit was transformed into an artificial lake called Nula or Smreka (the name of the mine). Also, while hiking across Zvijezda Mountain you can see few more abandoned mines.

These remains of the former ”glory days” may look sad at first sight but once you start exploring you will see all the beauty this region has to offer. The inhabitants that are still living here, especially those who worked in ironworks and mines would tell you with pride but also sorrow in their eyes on all the great things iron ore forging industry brought to Vareš – school, hospital, post office, telephone, telegraph, plumbing, electric lighting, etc.

It was a time of great development but also a time of significant destruction to the forest wealth and overexploitation of ore. Maybe in small scales mining isn’t harmful to our environment, at least not that much, but when it develops into a big scale industry it becomes destructive. It can have a significant environmental impact on the land including erosion, formation of sinkholes,  loss of biodiversity, noise pollution, air pollution, etc.

A small village of Ocevija at Zvijezda Mountain is the only village in Europe where iron ore is still melted and processed in a pre-industrial way. The same way it was done more than 500 years ago – with water power and wedge hammer. This tradition is passed from generation to generation. The products made by the locals are purchased by foreigners and shipped all around the world.

Sustainable ecotourism is the present and future of this region and for Bosnia and Herzegovina as a whole. It’s possible for locals to earn money from selling local products such as food, souvenirs, and providing local services. Some local services include organizing hiking and biking tours, accommodation, renting mountain bikes, etc. The best way to contribute to the conservation of the natural and socio-cultural recourses.

Useful Information

  • Our hike: Vareš (altitude: 829 meters A.S.L) – Diknjici settlement- Mekuse Mountain Hut- Zvijezda Peak (altitude: 1349 meters A.S.L) – Vares, totally approx. 7h of walking with short breaks (winter hike)
    • For detailed information contact my friend from Vareš, who is also a mountain guide: Evelin Balta  or Visit Vares tourist community 
    • It’s possible to rent a mountain bike in Visit Vares tourist community

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