For several years, mass tourism has been a significant issue in the National Park in Berchtesgaden, as well as in Naklo, causing a lot of problems. Social networking platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook are exacerbating the issue. When more tourists visit a destination, demand grows, and land is continually lost to make room for more hotels, restaurants, and interesting landmarks. Deforestation is one of the most pressing concerns, given the rise in tourism and recreational facilities. Unfortunately, this leads to unnecessary forest clearing and habitat destruction for wood collection, as well as species extinction.
Further, mass tourism, of course, means that a large number of people visit the same destination. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, since tourism is a major source of revenue in many countries around the world, and it wouldn’t be possible without people, when visitors swarm a destination, however, a lot of damage is done; residents suffer from unnecessary noise, famous landmarks become irritating to visit, and millions of locals’ way of life is heavily impacted.
Mass Tourism in Berchtesgaden
One of the most pressing problems that the Berchtesgaden Nationalpark has recently faced is traffic. Of course, with mass tourism comes a large number of cars, which is causing major problems in Berchtesgaden, particularly because we live in a valley with limited public transportation options.
You have to look at our geographical environments to fully comprehend the challenges we face as a result. Our valley is only accessible through three main roads, all of which are congested, especially at the “Bavaria Kreuzung” roundabout in Berchtesgaden’s heart.
However, not only are traffic jams a problem these days; parking is as well. Particularly at tourist hotspots like the “Königsee” and “Hintersee” lakes. Since many people come here for walks, they frequently arrive early, resulting in full parking lots by 9 a.m. Many of the visitors who arrive later park on the side of the road or in fields.
What are possible solutions?
- We could install a gate to control the amount of people who access our national park
- A checkpoint on the national park’s official website, or you can reserve your entrance and parking tickets there
- Instead of a single parking lot for a large number of cars, more parking spaces should be built near bus stops
- Putting garbage cans along the trail could help to reduce the quantity of rubbish that ends up on the ground
What has our project done about this?
Our goal was to figure out how to avoid such massive pollution and to help educate people about the environment. We believe that if they are aware of the world around them, they will pay more attention.
For our initiative on what to do about crowded parking lots we devised a traffic definition to address this issue, which is not only inconvenient for residents but also unsustainable. This concept keeps the majority of tourists’ cars out of our valley. At the key approaches, there are three big parking lots where cars can be parked. Visitors are transported to their destinations through shuttle buses. The buses will run every half-hour; the map below depicts this in greater detail.
We need to provide people with more knowledge in order to shape a sustainable future, for example, through information boards that report on the region’s animals and plants. In order to discourage tourists from messing too much with nature, tighter guidelines for visitors must be implemented.
Mass Tourism in Vintgar Gorge
The Vintgar Gorge is a natural value located in Triglav national park. The Radovna River cuts the Vintgar Gorge deep between the hills of Hom and Boršt. Steep slopes overgrown with beech forests. It is famous for its beauty and waterfalls. How could walking along a wooden planked boardwalk through a naturally carved gorge filled with rushing translucent water not be peaceful?
In recent years, the Vintgar Gorge is exposed to massive crowds. In 2015, Vintgar Gorge was visited by 121.000 tourists The price per person was 5 EUR. 4 years later, the ticket’s cost was doubled, and the number of visitors increased by at least 2,5-times!
Triglav national park, Tourist Association in Gorje, an area manager, and locals try to solve the situation. The proposed solutions are:
- limited number of visitors per day
- even higher price of tickets
- establishment of new parking lots, which enable more environmentally friendly and cheaper options for parking and the use of public transport – shuttle for transport directly to Vintgar
- establishment of the one-way alternative route through the Gorge (St. Catherine, Zasip).
We are a group of three, Sara, Ivana and Val. All members are closely related to the Vintgar Gorge. We live or work nearby, so we have decided to investigate the effects of mass tourism in the Vintgar Gorge. We have cooperated with the Tourist Association in Gorje, and its director Tomaž is helping us with the project. Solution: Design of learning path, which will reduce the effect of mass tourism. We made a survey, where we asked visitors of Vintgar Gorge questions related to natural value, mass tourism, quality of their visit. Answers confirmed that the alternative path through Vintgar Gorge is suitable for a learning path. A learning path could be devoted to plants and
trees. In Vintgar Gorge, you can find 540 taxa of moss, ferns, and flowering plants adapted to the alpine forest, river, and mountain ecosystems. Among them is 23 protected species. Frequent species of trees are beech, small-leaved linden, spruce, large-leaved willow, the sycamore maple, the European hop-hornbeam, and alpine laburnum.
We also found 13 invasive plants, for example, tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica), Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera). Due to our survey, tourists are willing to spend 2 – 3 hours and learn about the natural heritage of Vintgar Gorge. In the end, we can conclude that the learning path established at the one-way alternative route through the Gorge could be an additional tourist attraction. It will help decrease the pressure of mass tourism on endangered ecosystems in the Gorge. We helped prepare the promotional video and leaflet, presenting an alternative one-way path through the Gorge and its flora and fauna.
Waste Issue in the Mountain Huts
The current Situation
Number of visitors in the Slovenian Alps has increased over decades
In 2019 we recorded 120.000 overnight stays in mountain huts, which represent 29,39% of all Slovenian overnight stays. Furthermore, the numbers showed an increased number of tourists (more than 50%), who spend nights in mountain huts.
In line with more tourists in mountain huts, the structure of mountaineers has changed. They expect showers, heated rooms, great culinary experience. Faced with greater visitors’ demands and consequently increased waste, wastewater, and energy efficiency issues, mountain huts are forced to renovate and invest in infrastructure.
The Alpine Association of Slovenia awards certificates for environment-friendly mountain huts to promote a reduced environmental burden on the mountains. The huts see the certificates as an additional form of promotion and raise visitors’ awareness regarding environmental issues as part of their mission. For example, the Alpine Association of Slovenia has organized yearly volunteer-based clean- up activities in the Julian Alps.
A culinary experience is one of the reason for popular visits of the mountain huts?
Responsible hikers carry snacks and refreshments in their backpacks. Still, the delights found in mountain huts are frequently a superb award for ascending or climbing. You can enjoy our local cuisine because they offer our traditional dishes made of local ingredients. While you walk there, the food arrives by air (by helicopter), cars, on horses, by cable car, or, on the backs of mountaineers. Mountain huts offer hotpot dishes such as ‘jota’ and ‘ričet’. Sour milk, cheese, and various ‘žganci’ (mush) are available near mountain pastures. Certain huts are famous for their mushroom and venison dishes. In addition to ‘štruklji’, sweet delights include various strudels, scrambled pancakes, and ‘flancati’ (fried pastry). You can warm yourself up with herb tea,
with herbs picked in the area surrounding the hut.
Delicious sweet and savory ‘štruklji’, a traditional dish in all Slovenian regions, is offered in numerous mountain huts. Cooking in mountain huts is a true art. Many don’t have electricity, fridges, and freezers, some lack running water, and some prepare food on wood-fired ovens. Main ingredients thus come from the local area, and the food is prepared in the same way ancestors prepared it in the past.
You can enjoy our local cuisine because they offer our traditional dishes made of local ingredients. While you walk there, the food arrives by air (by helicopter), cars, on horses, by cable car, or, on the backs of mountaineers.
We are Primož, Žiga, Boštjan, Patrik and Petra. Due to the higher number of visitors, the waste burden in mountain huts is more and more apparent.
Volunteering is still alive
Our project work consists of a questionnaire prepared by Nina Vodnjav, promoted by Triglav national park, and is filled out by 214 mountaineers, frequent mountain huts visitors. Participants of this survey were truly committed to mountaineering (The Slovenian mountain code), so their beliefs strongly affected their answers. The analysis shows that true mountaineers expect just shelter (86,9%), tee (80,8%), and maybe hotpot dish (64,5%). They expect local food in mountain huts (73,4%) and would buy local food and products at
the hiking starting points (67,8%).
Mountain huts have produced an increased amount of waste each year. Mountain keepers in our survey exposed that plastic (bottles) and organic waste (HACCP system) are the main sources of waste in mountain huts. An additional source in higher altitude huts is single-use bet sets.
Waste is transported in the valley by helicopter, cars, vans, cable cars, and still on horseback. The transportation of waste into the valley represents an additional cost for hut keepers, especially if the hut uses a helicopter (app. 4000 EURO per month).
The result of our survey shows that 99,1% of mountaineers carry their own waste in backpacks. But 88,2% of mountaineers, who filled out the survey, would also carry waste made in huts. This way, mountain huts would reduce the cost and decrease the negative environmental impacts of waste transportation into valleys. Moreover, 93,7% of them would carry it for free. For others, the solution would be a free tee or hotpots in mountain huts.
Our Visit to Sankaška Hut
For this project, we also visited Sankaška hut (876m). The Sankaška Hut is situated in the north-western part of Kamnik- Savinja Alps, just slightly higher than St. Peter’s church near Begunje. Its features are stunning views of Lake Bled, Radovljica, and the Julian Alps mountain range. Due to low altitude and easier access, the hut is visited by families with small children and youth.
Hut keeper of the Sankaška hut said that the culinary offer is limited to a small kitchen stove. On its menu are various hotpots, which are prepared directly in the hut kitchen. Štruklji and other sweets are prepared in a hut keeper’s family restaurant in Radovljica in advance.
The waste made in a hut is separated first and then transported into the valley by a car twice a week. Therefore, he does not expect visitors to help carry firewood or waste. Still, he points out that the situation in high-altitude mountains is different. Below you can see photos we took while exploring waste in Sankaška hut.