On the last day of the conference, an important event took place – representatives from 58 protected areas across the region signed a letter of intent to establish a Dinaric Arc Parks association!
Just to put this into perspective: three years ago there was nothing; no network and only an idea about the cooperation of national parks across the West Balkans. Now the third conference of the Dinaric Arc Parks gathered representatives from more than 100 protected areas across the region and at least a half of them signed a letter of intent to bring it one step further by establishing the association. The association will have a small secretariat, and protected areas will pay a small membership fee more as a gesture of commitment. The association will help to develop the Dinaric Arc Parks network further; it will help protected areas with funding applications, marketing and more.
Endangered frogs and expensive white truffles
And Dinaric Arc Parks have a lot to offer, we once more witnessed during the field trip to Motovun forest. This is a floodplain forest the likes of which were once found in the Po and Rhone valleys, but now this habitat is extremely endangered and is found only in a few places.
The importance of this forest was recognized already during the Venetian times. The Venetian Republic built canals to regulate water supply to the forest as they were using the massive oak trees to build many Venetian palaces and ships. Motovun forest is home to a highly endangered frog species, Italian agile frog (Rana latastei) as well as the valuable subterranean fungi – truffles including the rare white truffle, which can cost up to 2000 EUR per kilo.
When we visit the medieval town of Motovun, we can see signs “truffles” on nearly every shop – truffle cheese, olive oil with truffle flavor, even honey with truffle flavor! This is a good example how natural resources of the area can be used to help the local economy and develop a unique tourism offer. However, truffle hunt is strictly regulated and you need a license from the authorities.
Singing and supa-drinking
We go on a ride on Parenzana trail, which used to be a narrow gauge railway between Trieste and Porec. It was operating from 1902 to 1935 and was mainly used for transporting wine. Now the railway is gone, but the trail was partly revitalized and is available for cycling, walking or riding on a wheeled tourist train. We make a stop at a former station of Rakotule where the hosts of the local agroturismo place have prepared for us some local foods, of course including truffle products! The food is accompanied by Istrian music and songs.
We are also served a local specialty called supa, which is basically mulled wine, olive oil, black pepper, sugar and grilled bits of bread. The locals swear that it is the best medicine against depression, and judging by the songs on the way back it might be true. Supa-drinking is a very social event – our guide says that drinking wine by oneself is not a thing people do in Istria. It is much better to invite all your friends and neighbors for a supa party and have some fun!
During the conference we also had a Dinaric Arc Parks bazaar where different protected areas presented their traditional foods and drinks. It is such a variety – from various meats and pies to fruit preserves and fig biscuits! One protected area, Zasavica, was even presenting various products from donkey milk – cheese and liqueur. Talk about unique tourism product! So it is not only nature that is very rich and diverse in the Dinaric Arc but also tastes and culture. Definitely worth experiencing!
Om bloggeren: Zanete Andersone-Lilley er biolog og seniorrådgiver i WWF-Norge. Født og oppvokst i Latvia og har doktorgrad i biologi. Hun jobbet i mange år med rovdyr i Baltikum, særlig ulv og gaupe. Hun har jobbet i WWF siden 2008 med prosjekter på Vest Balkan, Kaukasus og Sentral Asia. I tillegg jobber hun en del med rovdyr i WWF-Norge.