Riverwalk 2016…getting wild!

In just one month…

20 young people from Austria, Albania, Slovenia and Italy will be frantically trying to stuff the last of their personal items into their backpacks.  Questions like: “can I fit one more pair of underwear in?” and “where did I put my headlamp?” will fill their heads.  But the packing will come to an end and on July 18, they will set off in the same direction: northern Albania!  To embark on the wildest Riverwalk yet!

Getting prepared for the walk

This week, Emerijta (INCA), Catherine (TOKA) and I met first in Tirana and then in Valbona to continue preparing for the great adventure.  After meeting in the capital and conducting some guerilla marketing:

20160617_101216(it reads, “Hands off Valbona”), we headed north (ca. 5 hours) to Valbona.  A long, curvy series of highways, we cut across the country almost touching on the Kosovo border.

Finally, the massive mountains of Valbona Valley appeared in the distance.  Amazingly impressive, clouds partially hid the snow covered peaks which glistened in the sun and ushered us closer.

After passing through Bajram Curri, we crossed the crystal clear waters of the Valbona River, one of THE rivers that is threatened by hydropower development in the National Park.  Imagine how lovely it would be if this was contained in a pipe.

We then wove our way up the valley, the same valley that in a little more than a month we’ll be traversing by foot, up into the heart of the National Park, and the same valley that would be forever changed if the proposed hydro-projects are allowed.

During the journey, I heard about the issues swirling around these highly controversial proposed projects.  The majority of the locals are strongly against the construction of the dams, because it threatens their economic development in the means of tourism and way of life, while a few wealthy investors and the government’s Department of Energy stand to profit mightily from it.  WWF and a host of other NGOs and local citizens are doing all they can to put a hold on the “gold rush” of building hydropower up and down Albania (and the Balkans) until a proper assessment has been completed to identify the “No Go” areas and places where it makes sense.  Protests, campaigns and negotiations are all mounting to put pressure on the government to follow their OWN rules and conduct environmental impact assessments, involve the public and respect the rules of protected areas.

Getting down to business

Arriving at one of our future campsites in Rilindja, we took a walk around the area and then pulled out the maps, plans and worked out more of the details for the Riverwalk.

We met with many people who showed a great interest and support for the Riverwalk project and the protection of the National Park.  We even came up with the idea to have a RiverFest when we arrive here on July 27!  We hope to invite some musicians, school groups, other youth and offer various activities to get them in touch with the river and the issues!


Three pages of To Do’s!

The meetings wrapped up and with a very LONG to do list, and we headed south to Tirana.  Now, it’s just making the final preparations until the first day of Riverwalk arrives, and we connect the groups for a legendary adventure to discover and protect the last wild rivers in Europe!  Follow our steps here and on our facebook page:  www.fb.com/RiverwalkEurope

Until then, happy trails!

A big thanks!

At first it seemed like disaster had hit.

We received word that our EU Erasmus+ application was turned down.

Now, what to do? Would this be the end to Riverwalk 2016? Would the “wildest Riverwalk yet” come to a complete standstill?

WWF_logo_25mm_oben_shcr_weiss_ohneTitleLuckily, that was not the case!  WWF Adria and WWF Austria came to the rescue and have committed enough base funding to cover the most basic costs of the project!  To that end, we say “Thanks!”

This means, that we now move into the next phase of the project = making it a reality!

We’ve selected the participants and are collecting their photos and “Why walk?” statements for the website – found here.

We will move forward with confirming the route through the amazing Valbona and Theth National Parks!  The planning will continue of the program, camping sites, menu, and all the other components necessary to make it an unforgetable and powerful experience.

Stay tuned to follow us as we embarck on the wildest Riverwalk ever! 

Riverwalk 2016…the next steps!

The EU funding application has been submitted…and now we’re waiting on the answer which will hopefully be soon, and a positive response!

The application phase for participants has closed and the selection is being made right now. From a quick look at the list, we received over 50 applications! Unfortunately, we can only take a total of 20 people or 5 (1 coach + 4 participants) from each country. The selection process will be VERY difficult as there are so many interested and motivated people out there.

We will notify all the applicants after we hear back from the EU about the funding proposal.

Check back for our next posting!

Happy trails,
the Riverwalk team


We are happy to announce that we are now taking applications for Riverwalk 2016*!!!

Where? Theth National Park, Valbonë Valley National Park, Albania

When? 17. July – 01. August 2016

Join 20 young adults (15-30 years old) from Austria, Albania, Italy and Slovenia as we discover and protect a spectacular river system in two national parks in northern Albania.

The goal of the project is to raise awareness for the importance of protecting free-flowing rivers and developing a personal relationship to this wild and wonderful region.

Please NOTE: each country has a limited number of spaces…5 people!

Registration deadline: 01.04.2016

Apply HERE!

* Important – The funding for this Erasmus+-Youth exchange is not yet secured, but we are optimistic that we can carry out this project.

Costs: In order to secure your place in the project, a participant fee of 50,00 EUR will be collected and must be paid within 3 weeks of being notified of your acceptance on the project team. This fee will help cover all costs (camping fees, meals, outdoor activities, etc.).

Contact: Nathan Spees (Nathan.spees@wwf.at)

Riverwalk2016 – Application submitted!

Imagine wandering through the amazing wilderness of Northern Albania.  This could be you if we get a positive response on our newest application for Riverwalk 2016.

Why Albania? 

According to a recent study by Riverwatch, over 2000 new hydropower plants are being planned in the Balkan region. The entire river system in Albania is under severe threat, stemming largely from a lack of strategic planning, inadequate impact assessments, improper public consultations and lack of transparency. In response, WWF and local partners recently issued a hydropower moratorium initiative. Riverwalk 2016 would draw attention to the situation and support the protection of wild rivers. The Valbona river (this river is the heart of Valbona Valley national park and yet, there are plans for four new hydropower plants) was selected as the perfect location for the next Riverwalk!

Due to economic difficulties, large numbers of people are emigrating from this region. Albania is one of the poorest countries in Europe, with a rising poverty rate of 17.9 percent and a youth unemployment rate of nearly 32.5 percent (2014). One-third of the population has left the country in the last 25 years leaving a resident population of 2.89 million. In the first half of 2015, thousands of Albanians sought “economic asylum” in the European Union.

Riverwalk 2016 would not only highlight local, environmentally-friendly economic development potentials by promoting ecotourism as a key concept but also attempt to break down stereotypes and prejudices, build bridges and establish new partnerships.


There is still much planning to be done, but below you’ll find a possible route for Riverwalk2016.  What do you think?






Stay tuned!

Although we won’t know about the funding until April, we will likely start the application process for the next Riverwalk in the next few weeks.

Riverwalk 2015 the Movie – World Premiere!

Riverwalk announces the release of the biggest blockbuster of 2015 – “RIVERWALK 2015 – the Movie

Bursting with legendary adventure, wild women, and stinky socks! 

Critics are going crazy…

Great Stuff.  A must see.” – Martin Huber

Love it!” Aleš Oven

“…I watched it with tears in eyes!” Nina Losej

ooohhhh my god its sooooo cooolll!!!!!!” – Dana Schwarzmann

Don’t be the last one on your block to see what’s likely to be the biggest hit of 2015* (we’ve heard that the new Star Wars is overrated)…plus, you won’t have to wait in line to get tickets!

If you like it as much as we do (and it could be that we’re just a bunch of wacko hikers, then please share it with all your friends, family members, people you meet on the bus or train, and anyone else who is really cool…they’ll thank you for it!

*Many of these statements can not be confirmed or denied based on any statistical data, nor does the EC or any other well-known or respectable institution support these statements…it was just made up by the guy who wrote this blog post, but it sounds good, doesn’t it?  (oh, except the quotes are authentic!)

Riverwalk Action Days Vol 1 “Lebendiger Kamp”

RW_Action Days 1 (10)

We are back in business!!! Some of our riverwalkers supported last weekend´s protest action against a new project by EVN at the 100-year-old power plant close to Rosenburg. The company is planning to replace the old site by a new, bigger power plant which would affect the ecology in the already protected Natura 2000 area negatively. Invited by the local citizens group “Lebendiger Kamp”, 8 people from our crew (Austrian RW Team and Generation Earth) traveled to Rosenburg am Kamp and participated in the guided tour to the existing power plant. Over 150 people took part in this hike and were even joined by the press (ORF).

After the event, we decided to explore the area around the power plant and hiked up to a massive rock called “Hängender Stein”. Only Yvonne and Stefan, our guide, dared to climb up the last boulder wall right below the top. Well done! Later, we headed back to Rosenburg and enjoyed dinner at a local restaurant. While half of our crew took the train back to Vienna, four of us stayed overnight at the well-hidden Hammerschmiede in Stiefern am Kamp. Following a never-ending gravel road, we finally made it to our residence.

After Stefan showed us our comfortable bed room, he invited us to come visit his friend Christian who has been living in a tipi for seven years now. Of course, we were all excited to meet this fantastic man! Christian welcomed us in his comfortable home, furnished with only the most important necessities: a bonfire in the middle, a bed, food, ukuleles, firewood, etc. After a long day of story-telling and happy moments we finally went to bed.

Next morning Stefan showed us the farm and its animals: chickens, geese, ducks, sheep, etc. Then, Christian tought us how to do archery like a pro 🙂 After having some tea we hit the road again, although stopping at a friend of Yvonne in Zöbing who invited us to come over for coffee and cake. Nothing more one could wish for, right?

To sum up, these first so-called “Riverwalk-Action Days” were a big success!!! Big thanks to Stefan and his family as well as Christian for such an amazing experience and their wonderful hospitality!!!

Let´s continue our story 🙂

Please, sign the petition here:




Last Day: Walk with us – Every step is a new beginning

Nobody likes Mondays, people!

Today our amazing journey has come to an end…


As daylight peered in over the mountains, four tough (crazy) guys took a last morning swim in the gorgeous Soča, as the rest of the group was emerging from the tarps. We finished the leftovers at breakfast and for one last time all of us helped out in doing the dishes, breaking down the tarps and getting ready to spread out and travel back home.






Then we had our departure ceremony. We looked back at our initial hopes and worries posters and reflected on how far we were able to fulfill our wishes and overcome our troubles.






Finally, we lined up with our sticks high up in the air and one by one we walked through this “roof” accompanied by the wolfpack’s howling. With our last wishes in our minds we poured some drops of our mixed river waters (from the 1st day’s water ceremony) into the Soča. For us, this is not a “goodbye!” but rather a “see you again!”. Stay wild ~ and keep walking!  😀

Day 12: the final steps

“Life is not so much about beginnings and endings as it is about going on and on and on. It is about muddling through the middle.”

And as the waters in the river muddle through, so did the riverwalkers through these two weeks. Together we have laughed, cried, pooped, walked and shared some most amazing things together. As you could read on our blog, you were also a part of what was happening on a daily basis.

So finally as all the good things end quickly, the riverwalk came to its end as well. And as Einstein said it;

“When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.”

The last day was similar with all the other days in Slovenia, namely, it started with rain. But as we have had the luck on our side throughout the whole journey, this day was no exception, the showers passed us by quickly.

After the breakfast, we decided to take a tour up to the Tolmin gorges. Which were gorgeous. We have seen the famous Bear Head rock and many of the tunnels and smaller rivers that make the place so special and beautiful. After a nice walk back to the campgrounds, we ate lunch and started the preparations for the final event.

The final ceremony took place at the main square in the city centre. We tried to attract the people’s attention by howling. Since Tolmin is not right the biggest city in Slovenia, and it is a Sunday, you can imagine that there were not quite that many passers-by. But, the riverwalkers we are, we cheered up those five people we meet, and we did the final symbolic 150m of the walk together.

We arrived at the square, where we had a small presentation of our project, which finished with a projection of the picture slides.

Afterwards we again proceeded to the campgrounds to make dinner.

The final night is yet to follow, and what interesting stories it will carry, you will find out in the next blog. But until then I am leaving you with a poem;


River’s waters are quite deep

In it, her flow brings us all together,

Very happy to present here our steps of a path quite steep,

Every time easy as a feather.

Really good friends by now,

With many adventurous stories ready,

All missing each other already,

Luckily, without knowing how,

Key to it all was the current that was always steady.