When I was thinking about taking a few months off from work and decided that I wanted to do a hiking or biking trail, I started to search through the internet for trails. Santiago de Compostela was an option, but I actually wanted to do something different and I wanted to go to the Balkans/ former Yugoslavia. And then I found the webpage of The Sultans Trail. That fitted perfectly: hiking through countries I wanted to learn more about in combination with cultural highlights and cities!
After I gained more information from the Sultans Trail organization I booked my train ticket to Vienna. Because the trail is still quite unknown I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I knew I could get homesick after being away for a while, so I asked my boyfriend and my two best friends to join me during my trip. I also wanted to hike some parts on my own, so I could have the combination of good company and adventurous solitude 😀.
Although I knew I wouldn’t meet a lot of other hikers, I still thought I would meet a little bit more people on my way. When I was hiking alone I felt a little bit uncomfortable the first few days, because sometimes I met absolutely no one. That is something I had to get used to. Also some parts in Hungary and Serbia were a bit boring. I had hoped to see more nature, but some parts were only agriculture. That’s why I decided to skip a few parts and try to do the nicer parts, trying to judge on the maps. I worked out pretty well.
For me the combination of hiking parts with my boyfriend and friends and some parts alone was just perfect. Alone as well as together we had great experience with local people in Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria who were super nice and helped me and my friends out when we needed help. People in the small villages were very curious about us. ‘Where are you from? Can I help?’ For example when I was looking for a place to sleep someone helped me to get accomodation. Or when we asked if a bus was going to a certain place and it appeared that there wasn’t any going to that place, people just offered us a ride and picked us up the next day. And they didn’t expect anything back for it.
The most difficult parts were when I was hiking alone and the path suddenly disappeared. On the map it showed you there should be a path, but in real life it was completely overgrown. That happened a few times to me. When you are on your own, there are no other hikers and thunder and rain are on the way, it is just not the thing you are waiting for 😅. But in the end there is always a village nearby and people are always willing to help!
Another really nice experience was meeting Jagna in Sofia! Jagna appeared to have walked The Sultans Trail as well and we just met ‘by accident’ in our hostel. When we found out we decided to hike further together with an other really nice girl whom we also met in the hostel and my friend who would already join me during the next two weeks. It was really great and special that we could continue the trail with the four of us!
If you think about doing the Sultans Trail on your own (as a woman) I would definitely say it is possible! Don’t let people tell you it isn’t. The trail has its challenges, but for sure until Sofia you can hike it on your own (after that the mountains get higher and it is better to be together). For me it is an experience I will cherish the rest of my life😊.