New developments on the Via Egnatia front, so time to give you an update!
The Covid epidemic has interrupted many people’s travel plans and caused a break in hiking for two years. The flame is being relighted this year. The Via Egnatia Hiking Trail was used in spring, but unfortunately the weather was quite bad for months. From the messages on VE friends and Facebook we gather that all hikers persevered heroically.
Another effect of the Covid era is the economic one. When we were in Northern Greece last year we discovered that many hotels and B&B’s have not survived this period economically. That is most unfortunate, of course for the owners themselves but also as for the hikers. At the moment the Greek economy is growing again, but this is not directly noticeable for the people. They have to see the use of the hiking path to find the courage to restart, so please let it not hinder you to go! We already found some alternatives (check the website), but for now you still may have to bring a tent with you in Northern Greece or to take a bus, taxi or hitch hike to a bigger town once in a while.
The guidebook about the second part of the VE Hiking Trail was published last year. It covers the route from Thessaloniki into Turkey.
At Feres the route splits in two parts: the direct one to Ipsala in Turkey, and a northern route through the Evros delta to Edirne. This extra route was necessary because of the problems at the southern border, due to the ‘push backs’ of refugees there.
The detour however is most advisable: we discovered the rich nature of the Evros region and the really fascinating city of Edirne.
By the way: Edirne being an important city, this northern route was often used through the ages, and also due to inundations and broken bridges.
The book is available in the better hiking shops and via our website.
VEF is developing an educational game about Via Egnatia, meant for schoolchildren of the age between 10 and 14. The purpose of the game is stimulating ‘civil society capacities’ – as is the main goal of VEF. Kids ‘travel’ along Via Egnatia as a certain character, they meet each other and have to cooperate and solve problems together, to bargain and trade, to think and discuss.
We are testing the prototype of the game in a number of schools in North Macedonia as well as in the Netherlands.
As you see on the picture of a group of children in Bitola they liked the game enormously. It was not only learning but also a lot of fun!
We do this in cooperation with a North Macedonian ngo : Macedonian Civic Education Centre and as an exchange program between North Macedonia and the Netherlands, sponsored by Erasmus funding.
The final version of the game will be produced early next year and distributed in schools in North-Macedonia and the Netherlands around May 2024. Following up on these activities the game will also be distributed in Albania.
Since the game has also an English version (next to Macedonian and Albanian) we are thinking of making the game wider available to all interested in it. You will learn more in the next Newsletter.
In a former Newsletter of 12 years ago I read that “we need a long breath” for this project. Aha! That proves to be true. But now we are really getting older.
To secure the continuation of this project we are desperately needing young people to strengthen our board and organization. Young people are much better than we in using social media and find ways to attract other youth.
Therefore we seek contact with possibly interested youth organizations and student clubs. If you have idea’s on this or want to join us yourself, please contact us!
With enthusiastic greetings,
Marietta, for VEF board.