I mentioned Shara in one of my previous posts, it is the largest mountain massif in Macedonia, and has 25 peaks higher than 2500 meters. It is also a mountain which towers over the Macedonian capital Skopje and provides it with a stunning backdrop. It is very much a part of the identity of the city and it ended up being depicted on the city’s flag.
The mountain is shared by three states, Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania and has a total area of 1600km. Snow often stays on Shara even in May, so August is an ideal time to explore it in mild conditions. But Shara has its own climate and those who know it always go prepared for rain.
I was lucky this time, although there were dark clouds forming around the three peaks Titov Vrv (2747m), Mal Turchin (2707m) and Bakardan (2704m), the rain never came. Instead I was just rewarded with stunning views. Kobilica peak (2528m) was visible in the distance and although one may think that I am bias, I would classify it as one of the most fascinating Balkan peaks.
My host on this mountain was Meto Cilimanov (you can follow him on Instagram @chilimanoff ) who spends a lot of time on the mountain both in summer and winter. His love for the mountain is catching, he knows all the shortcuts, the stunning spots, the best places to ski off-piste.
Shara mountain is the largest compact area covered with pastures on the European continent, which makes it very welcoming and pleasant.
It is also the mountain where the unique breed of dogs Sharplaninec originates from. This dog is known to be independent, reliable and devoted to its master and is used as a shepherd and a guard dog in the wider Balkan region. It has been known to fight off wolves, lynx and even bears. I have seen the breed in the mountains of Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania, Serbia, Bulgaria and Macedonia and its behaviour is always recognizable. They are aloof with outsiders, calm and protective.
Their instinct is to herd the flock, even if the “flock” is not made of sheep but hikers who need to be herded from danger or undesirable areas.
This time I stayed on the mountain for only two brief days, but it is a place that I will be coming back to, to literally look for pastures new.