Marko Posavec Photography

Papuk: Early Spring

Papuk is a mountain in Slavonia, eastern Croatia. It’s quite vast, though not particularly tall – the highest (eponymous) peak stands at 953 meters above sea level. The western part of Papuk, near Daruvar, is a well-preserved forest area and also rich in water, which makes it a great destination for some light hiking. The entire area of Papuk was proclaimed a Nature Park in 1999. It also has some incredible geology – all kinds of rocks can be found there.

So, anyway, April was long past time to open the hiking season, but things-to-do and poor weather interfered with earlier weekends. Fortunately, this Saturday was warm, sunny, and in many ways perfect for some wandering through the forest in the sun. A bit too much sun, actually, as bare trees provided no shelter.

Our destinations were Crni vrh (865 m) and Petrov vrh (614 m). In total, about five-something hours of walking.

We start in the morning on a forest road not far from Đulovac. A local hiker briefs us on the route ahead.

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Immediate obstacles.

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A large part of the hike actually takes us on the roads.

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We climb about 400 meters up in a short time. Good for waking up.

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There was still snow up there, in the shades of the northern slopes.

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Here we had a close encounter with a young doe. There was a sudden rustling in the forest (a sound you definitely do not want to hear up in the mountain) and the creature swooped by us, disappearing in a matter of seconds. We just stood there in shock for a while.

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Not long afterwards, we got atop the ridge and from there it was a short walk to Crni vrh. A simple shelter was built up there in case hikers get caught up in a storm or something.

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Resting. The route is far from difficult, but for most of us this was the first serious walk of the year.

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There are reptiles lurking in the cracks.

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Whatever this trumpety thing may be. A moss or something.

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This is us. Actually it’s them as I’m behind the camera.

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Crni vrh is translated as Black Peak.

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The route now takes to the lower altitudes, as the next peak is 250 meters lower than the first one.

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A forest… thing. Actually an uprooted tree. The wind was really strong up there several days earlier, so scenes like this were common.

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While the forest on the 800-meter ridge was mostly barren, here in the lower parts, better protected from the wind and cold, signs of spring are much more obvious.

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This is, of course, ramsons (also known as bear garlic – in Croatia, we call it bear onion).

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You really can’t ignore its smell. I don’t mind it.

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Forest springtime 101.

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On we go.

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Lots of ramsons everywhere.

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It’s a beautiful path, really.

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A geodetic mark or something, probably of military origin back in the days of Yugoslavia.

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It’s a funny thing to see in the middle of the forest.

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The trees are waking up from the long winter’s sleep.

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The famous primroses of Papuk.

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The rest was an uneventful walk to Petrov vrh and a brief visit to Daruvar.