Some years ago during my college years, I decided to spend a Saturday climbing Žumberak (‘Ž’ in ‘Žumberak’ is pronounced like ‘ge’ in ‘rouge’ – ‘zh’ – and the word is pronounced like ‘zhoom-bae-raak’). Žumberak is a range of mountains and hills in Croatia, west and southwest of Samobor, reaching all the way to Slovenia where it is called Gorjanci (‘gor-yaan-tsee’).
I’ve been to three peaks on the range: Oštrc (‘osh-trts’), Plešivica (‘plae-shee-vee-tsah’) and Sveta Gera (‘svae-tah gae-ra’). The first time I only visited Oštrc. I also wanted to visit a cave which was marked on the map (which I didn’t bring with me, hoping I could buy more detailed maps in Samobor, but, alas, the stores didn’t work that Saturday), but I couldn’t find any paths to it.
In any case, this was my first solo hiking trip and being without a map, the only way I knew how to get from the bus station to the hills was as I remembered from the map – straight south.
And indeed, there was a hill straight south – one so steep and overgrown that there was no hope I could ever climb it from the road. I went a short way west (the correct path was a bit to the east, then south on the road, but when you have no clue where to go, any path is good enough) until I found a path leading up the hill. Soon enough I was walking in the countryside, which showed no hints of being very close to a fairly well developed town.
Determined to head south, where I knew my goal was, I found myself roaming what I could best describe as a deserted, overgrown orchard. Its south edge was actually a cliff, or a very steep slope. So, it was either braving the slope, or turning back. I decided to stop here and have a bite before going on, but not before finding a nice place to sit down and be able to look at the surroundings from this elevated ground. When I found it, I was stumped to see a castle in the distance, but hey, I haven’t actually checked what to see in Samobor, I came for the hills.
In order to best enjoy my meal, I undressed, sat naked in the grass (still a bit wet as it was fairly early in the morning) and chewed on my sandwich.
I decided to brave the steep slope. From my vantage point I could see that there was a road beneath me and I decided I didn’t like the idea of backtracking. So, there I went, down the slope, possibly the first person to do this in a really, really long time. I put on my clothes beforehand as I anticipated quite a few scratches and even cuts otherwise.
Eventually I burst onto the road out of the bush and looked around if anyone was looking at me in a funny way (like they once did on Medvednica, a mountain north of Zagreb), but there was nobody in the vicinity, and I continued south. Or, at least, as south as I could make it – the road wound every which way, but I eventually found my way onto the main road, which went around the hill with the castle on it (which I would have reached much sooner had I known the way from the bus station). I did actually visit the castle, but it was a ruin, with not much to see.
Soon enough, I spotted the first trail sign and followed it. Except for seeing the castle I spotted from the abandoned orchard from every imaginable angle, there wasn’t much interesting on the journey to the mountain hut (except also that I’d forgotten to take water with me, so I drank some from a spring which I was so thirsty I first found it by hearing the water flowing somewhere out of sight). When I got to the hut, I bought myself lunch and so much water I could barely carry it. The guy at the hut said that nobody went to Oštrc that day and that most people just continued from the hut in the direction of other peaks, such as Plešivica (which is an 8 hour walk from there). I had no plans to go there that weekend, so I simply went where I planned – to Oštrc.
On my way to this fairly low peak, I found that there are two trails leading up. One is shorter but more challening and the other is longer, but less challenging. I decided to take the more challenging route up, then the less challenging one in the opposite direction. I never like to go the same way back – it makes me feel like I went the wrong way. The top was surprisingly unlike any hilltop I’ve ever been to. It was as it’s name suggests – pointy (‘oštar’, or ‘oštro’ in Croatian means ‘sharp’ – it’s a word very similar to ‘Oštrc’, as you can see).
It is a very nice vantage point to the surrounding area and seeing that there was nobody around – and having met nobody on my way up, and being assured by the guy in the hut that there was nobody going this way that day, I decided to pack up my clothes and return back naked. I thought I’d just put my clothes back on once I reach the fork where the two trails separated.
To my disappointment, however, I found that the trail isn’t such an easy descent. The way up wasn’t very challenging to me – yes, it did go on the side of a steep hill and stepping in the wrong place could have sent me tumbling a long way down, but it wasn’t so easy to step in the wrong place. The other path, however, was a different story. I could barely find it, for starters. It seems not many people used it then, and it wasn’t as clearly demarcated as I had hoped. I ended up putting my clothes back on just to avoid scratches and nettle burns. I can’t say I was very happy about it.
In any case, this little trip happened way back, when I still wasn’t very comfortable walking around naked. In fact, I don’t think I’d dare walk those trails naked today – not because they are challenging, but because I’m much less comfortable now to take off my clothes in a place I don’t frequent. Places I frequent are places I know, I know when people visit them, I know where I can go so that nobody will ever find or follow me (unless they intended to follow me when they came there). A place like Žumberak is an unknown to me and I have no clue when people are there or when they aren’t. I suppose these days I’d only visit a place like that naked is with a group of other nudists.
I’m not Stephen Gough after all.