Walking and Hitch-Hiking – Trieste to Istanbul

John Pilkington with that hat

Walking Hitch-Hiking & Generally Bumbling Trieste to Istanbul – John Pilkington

John is an old friend of Rohan. Originally a travel writer and photographer, he went on to present adventure travel programmes on BBC Radio 4 and has also reported for ‘From Our Own Correspondent’. He’s described regularly as “one of Britain’s greatest tellers of travellers’ tales”.

Among other things he is president of the Globetrotters Club, and one of the judges in the annual BBC/Royal Geographical Society’s Journey of a Lifetime award. But it’s for his thought-provoking talks and photos that people know him best. He’s lectured to over 1,000 audiences in five countries, and in 2006 received the Royal Geographical Society’s Ness Award for popularising geography and the wider understanding of the world.

John’s blog

I can’t remember an expedition when I wasn’t kitted out in Rohans.

Over the last 20 years I’ve lost so many hats that they even named one after me!

On 22 May I’ll set off to walk from Trieste to Istanbul. Well, actually a combination of walking, hitch-hiking and generally bumbling, which I think will be the best way to enjoy the mountains and meet people in the remotest villages. I visited the Balkans briefly in the 1970s, since when they’ve abandoned communism, endured brutal conflicts and taken small steps towards coming together with the rest of Europe.

Route Map Trieste to Istanbul

After a few days on the Slovene High Route I’ll turn south through the forests and lakes of Croatia, then drop down to Mostar and Sarajevo in Bosnia & Herzegovina on my way to Montenegro. As part of the reconciliation process, Montenegro, Kosovo and Albania have proposed a joint Balkans Peace Park (‘B3P’), and in July my plan is to walk the spectacular two-week cross-border Peaks of the Balkans trail through this park and hopefully get them a bit of publicity for what sounds like a wonderful project.

From Albania the route will take me through Greek Macedonia and along the Bulgarian frontier to the River Evros, where migrants play cat-and-mouse with EU border guards. If all goes well, at the end of September I’ll reach Istanbul – capital of two empires each lasting 1,000 years – and finally the Bosporus, where Europe gives way to Asia.

John Pilkington reflecting on the journey

Kit list

Absolute essentials will be my trusty Vango Force Ten tent, Rab sleeping bag, Brasher Fellmaster GTX boots and Nikon D90 camera.

Among my Rohan kit I think the Ether trousers are especially amazing – featherweight but with a really heavy-duty feel to them – and the Rangefinder shorts and Icepack vest will see me through hot and cold respectively. I’ve also got an Elite jacket which I love for its total waterproofing and the way it packs down really small. For shirts I decided on a lightweight Pacific, and for the cooler mountaintops a Wayfarer with Core T base layer. All in all the perfect kit for what could be quite a challenging series of walks.

And of course I’ll be wearing a Pilkington hat.

Read the September update from John

Read the October update from John


Rohan Heritage

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