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Balkans, Trepca & Mezica


GO TO: Part II


    We just returned from Scotland and England and after a quick re-packing we set off for the south-east Europe. As Tom wrote in the last report we were originally planning to go to Madagascar but finally we did not manage to do it so we decided to travel through Europe.
    I was happy to drive at the right side of the road this time! Our first stop was Ksiaz Castle where Tom`s sister organizes the music festival – it is located in the old huge coal mining area. All the mines were closed there in the 90ties which resulted in a very difficult economic situation and a giant unemployment. Till this day there are people who work in so called "biedaszyby" which means "the poors` shafts" and is a illegal mining in the coal surface deposits.
    From Ksiaz we moved in the direction of Prague, where we got in the afternoon. We spent a very nice time in this beautiful castle – there was of course no mines and no minerals but we wanted to have also a bit of non-mineralogical holidays so this time we were not disappointed by this fact.
    However we did not manage to spend too long time without minerals… on the next day we met with our friend – Ivo from KARP minerals – and visited his home and magazine that is located not far from Prague. It was very nice to meet him and he showed us some really great specimens, recent acquisitions mainly from Burma, China, Dalnegorsk, Kazakhstan.
    We bought a few specimens to our collection and a few big spectacular specimens to the museum that we are planning to open. From there we got back to our road – in the direction of Budapest. It was quite a long way and we arrived to the capital of Hungary at 11 PM – unfortunately we spent another 2 hours looking for a hotel because everything was full...
    Eventually at 1 AM we started sightseeing, Budapest is a really monumental city completely different from the cosy and friendly Prague. To our dissatisfaction it turned out that all the night illuminations of monuments, historical buildings and bridges is turned off about 2 AM so we do not recommend sightseeing in Budapest too late. We spend the next morning in Budapest and set off for our main goal – Trepca!
    To enter Kosovo you have to buy a special car insurance at the border (apart from the „green card” that we had to buy in Serbia – if you are lucky you can avoid that but I would not recommend doing it because later when you are caught by police for some reason you have to pay extremely high fine).  After a long and exhausting trip we finally arrived to Kosovo in the middle of the night. The roads in Kosovo are really unfriendly and the traffic was incredibly high. What is interesting there are petrol stations every few hundred meters! As always we stayed in the same hotel in the mountains not far from Trepca. On the next day we woke up ready to explore and look for minerals! First we went to Kosovska Mitrovica – the biggest city in the neighborhood of Trepca. We visited the people who deal minerals there – they stand on the streets and sell specimens from refrigerators! Unfortunately they do not treat them very well and most of them are very damaged, I suppose that a lot of people from the city buy them just to put them on TV so the dealers do not know what collectors` specimens mean. We bought a few pieces from the „refrigerators-sellers” and I also bough myself a great souvenir - an emblem of Albania (eagle with two heads) made of crumbled galena and pyrite with rhodochrosite as eyes. This is a very popular souvenir here, and it looks really interesting. After that we visited some more serious dealers and miners we knew from our previous trips there.
    It is worth to mention that almost nobody speaks English in Kosovo... and believe me Albanian language has nothing to do with any other language... A lot of people speak German because they used to work in Germany or they have some families that moved there years ago. When they are really desperate to communicate they also might use Serbian language which is of course the last lifeline for them but it is similar to other slavic languages so it is much easier to understand for us. The other interesting thing is that in Kosovo there are portraits of president Clinton and maps of Kosovo everywhere which is quite funny. Almost all the buildings are either rebuilt or in construction. Kosovo citizens are very proud of Kosovo and also of their mine – Trepca. There is even a taxi company called Trepca taxi – with a logo with two crossed hammers.
    We bought quite a lot of specimens from the dealers and miners that day – there must have been an interesting find of calcites covered with pyrite recently – very aesthetic specimens. The most interesting dealer we went run his sale in the shop with fruits and detergents etc. Sphalerites and pyrites scattered in the midst of soaps, shampoos, bread and watermelons looked very funny.
    The next day we went to the Stari Trg where the mine and the museum is located.
We wrote in the last report about the mineral museum... it was a real disaster – trees inside the building water leaking from the ceiling, broken windows etc. - now the old museum is closed and there is a new one in construction!
    Trepca mine is one of the most famous sources of sulphides in Europe. The mining in Trepca dates back to the Roman times and was very active in the Middle ages. The Trepca mine has been working incessantly since the 20ties of XX century, in spite of the military actions and war between Albanians and Serbs and the changes of owners. In the times of armed conflict the mine was taken over by the United Mission for Kosovo. Trepca mine is situated near Kosovska Mitrovica and village Stari Trg in the north Kosovo, in Dinarides Alpine Belt. The region is built by Paleozoic basement, Jurassic sedimentary deposits and Cretaceous ophiolites. The mineralization is connected with "Tertiary" age intrusions and volcanic rocks. The ore veins developed within limestones and schists. There are the geodes of two different types - karstic vugs in skarns and typical hydrothermal pockets in ore veins. The first ones although are very big in size (often over 10 m) do not contain any good quality crystals – usually only calcite. The most interesting geodes occur in the ore veins, their sizes usually reach up to 0,5 meters but sometimes reach even a few meters. The best know minerals from Trepca are - arsenopyrite (often forming interesting twins), boulangerite, galena, rhodochrosite, sphalerite, quartz, ludlamite, pyrothite, vivianite, dolomite, calcite. Probably the most interesting and valued feature of Trepca specimens is the common occurrence of multi-mineral specimens and    curious forms - such as big pseudomorphoses of arsenopyrite, pyrite and galena after pyrothite.
    Specimens from Trepca have not appeared on the marked for many years and the tradition of mineral collecting died after the change of the owners – for this reason, as I said before, not many people know what the specimens are and how to collect them.
    We have visited Trepca many times but going underground here is always a great experience. This time we had an opportunity to see karstic cavities that make an incredible impression because of their sizes – unfortunately (as mentioned before) they do not contain good quality crystals. We visited a few stopes where thousands of cleavage surfaces of galena and sphalerite sparkle, shimmer and glitter looking like a magical chamber with treasures!
    At the end we went to the other part of the mine where we found a few miners working in the zone with boulangerite – they had just found a pocket in the ceiling with masses of boulangerite "hairs" sparkling and shining – the miners were not very happy to see us (or rather their supervisors that were with us) because instead of collecting the specimens they had to blast there and work. Fortunately we managed to have a look at this great geode and save a few specimens. Miners used a long metal stick and were just smashing the rock waiting for the specimens to fall down – this kind of „collecting methods” is one of the reasons why so many specimens from Trepca are damaged. As I said we did not have too much time to collect there because of the forthcoming blasting, so we took all we could with us and went back to the lift... Finally we get out to the surface happy and exhausted – it was quite a long walk in a high temperature up and down in a wellingtons that were 5 numbers too big for me, and holding the number of heavy boulangertites in our hands so they are not damaged in the backpack.
    The next goal of our trip was Mezica mine, but we wanted to spend some time by the sea so we chose the long road through Montenegro and Croatia instead of the highway to Belgrade.
    The landscapes were really beautiful. It was not very easy to travel in the narrow winding mountain roads together with lorries in Montenegro but the highland views were worth it. What is interesting the currency in Montenegro is also euro... and what was very funny when we travelled though the roads in the mountains and valleys we saw advertisements of the roadside assistance literally everywhere – each 50 meters there was a new one! All done with spray on the surrounding rocks. I guess there must be a lot of accidents there – not very surprising. Finally we got to the coast of Montenegro which is very short, but nice. We were planning to get to Dubrovnik the same day but... it turned out that the queue at the borderline of Croatia and Montenegro was a bit long... We spent 7 ours there and it was only about 3 km long, so it moved extremely slowly, it was surprising and very annoying. I remember the long lines we had to stand in, when we used to go to Romania, but it was nothing compared to this one.
    Anyway – we eventually arrived to Dubrovnik about 2 AM – the good site of this was that it was really incredible to see this city in the middle of night, so silent, everything was illuminated, completely no cars and almost no people. Especially the panoramic view was stunning. We spent the next hour looking for the place to sleep. We spent the next day on sightseeing in Dubrovnik. It is a lovely city with hounders of narrow little streets, small shops, old churches, interesting history. Red roofs and the blue Adriatic see in the background looked really nice. The only disadvantage was the number of tourists during the day – there were thousands of them. From Dubrovnik we moved to the north of Croatia and spent one more night by the see near Zadar – in Novi Vindolski. The towns of north Croatia are much less interesting than the south, but there is still this nice atmosphere of holidays that we liked so much.
    On the way from Novi Vindolski to Mezica we deviated a little bit from the road to see the Plitvice Lakes (Plitvickie Jeziera). Plitvice Lakes National Park lies in the Plitvice plateau which is surrounded by mountains.
    The National Park is underlain by karstic rock – mainly dolomites and limestones – with associated lakes and caves. The lakes – which are the main attraction of Park – are so interesting because they are situated on different levels and separated with "barriers" built thanks to plants, algas and bacteria that were encrusted with calcium carbonate. The color of water is incredibly turquoise thanks to the surrounding limestones. There are also a lot of waterfalls. 
    Later we set off to Mezica, where we arrived in the evening. The town is located in the north Slovenia, just near the boarder of Austria.
    This used to be a very well known mining region with numerous mines for zinc, lead and molybdenum. The mines were closed in 1994 however you can still see a lot of signs of the mining times and mining tradition. The mining buildings were changed into hotels, shops, the ore trams are exhibited on the streets, the old mine`s ore separation and smeltery is now changed into a huge recycling institution, a lot of dumps and forgotten entrances to the mines are scattered in the region. There are about 800 km of corridors underground and 300 entrances to the mines! There is also a great museum near Mezica which organizes the tours underground (see here) – you can even go for a bicycle trip in the mine! Apart from that there is a very interesting exhibition of Mezica wulfenites, old photographs, plans, reconstruction of a typical miner`s house from the times that the exploitation was in progress, a office of a mining engineer – it is worth seeing. Thanks to the kindness of the local geologists we could go to the mine and visit the levels with mineralization. First we got in the mine train- it took us to the Union district where we got off after about 15 minutes, then we had to walk on foot. Finally we got to a few hounders meters deep „shaft”. What is interesting it was not vertical but angled 45 degrees – something between incline and shaft. In Mezica they used to have a system of ore carts pulled with the rope on the mentioned incline. We took the stairs that run along it, they were very rusty, narrow and disappearing in the darkness. Of course we did not see the end of the stairs but surely it would not be good to slip there... We went down to the 11th level. The corridors were quite well preserved, even though some of them were partly collapsed, there were also the remains of the railways in some of them. The stopes were small with a lot of corridors entering from each side. The small wulfenite crystals occurred everywhere in cracks, faults, cavities in the surrounding rocks. They were of different colors – from light yellow to deep orange. In the places where crystals were bigger and looked better the signs of mineral collecting were clearly visible. In some places the collectors dug even the whole tunnels and small chambers. We spent the majority of time walking through the labyrinth of workings and examining the zones with mineralization. In a few places we stopped for a longer while and tried our luck collecting, it was not easy, mainly because of the lack of the place in the very narrow corridors dug by the previous collectors – all the easy-accessible zones were already empty. However we found a few places where it was quite easy to collect, because the rock was strongly weathered, but because of the same fact the specimens were rather very small and falling apart. Of course Tom as always did not care at all where he put his head. When he sees specimens nothing else matters, so I was stressed that something would collapse on his head when he put it in the pockets with numerous cracks and bang with hammer just above his eyes… Fortunately he escaped unharmed. Later when we went back to the beginning of this horizon Tom found a zone with un-eroded limestone and thin tabular bright yellow wulfentites up to 1 cm big. We collected there about 20 specimens. Next we moved one horizon up. The way up was much more exhausting then the way down... The upper level was in much worse condition than the previous one – the stopes were full of old tires, wooden boards, newspapers, old mining documents  (unfortunately very wet and musty), metal scraps and was partly collapsed. We arrived to the zone where in highly weathered limestones we found nice wulfenite crystals in very small cracks. The wulfenites were formed as small but very lustrous, thick, tabular, well saturated orange crystals.
This was the last point of our underground trip.
    For those who are interested in the Mezica mines, there just was a book on this topic written by the expert on it - Alexander Recnik and published by Bode Verlag (see here).
    We set off for home the next day, but on the way, we visited our friend Robert Brandstetter – well known fluorite collector living in Austria. He has published a lot of articles mainly on fluorites and fluorite localities. He is also the happy owner of one of the best alpine fluorite from the Mt Blanc massive.
    Robert showed us his collection, which is really amazing – not only the specimens are top quality, but also the exhibition itself is very professionally done. Apart from minerals Robert has also some very interesting mining memorabilia.
    Concluding, it is a world class "home museum" - thank you Robert for letting us see your collection!
    Our next goal was Warsaw – our home – we arrived in the middle of the night thanks to the great polish roads... This was the end of our holidays. We hope to be back in Trepca and Mezica soon!

Asia Gajowniczek

See Trepca specimens in our store.
See Trepca specimens on our ebay.

See Mezica specimens in our store.
See Mezica specimens on our ebay.



Map showing the area we visited during the trip. Map from Google Earth.

Our first goal was Ksiaz Castle where Tomek`s sister and her husband organize a music festival every year.


Tom, me, Tom`s sister - Kasia -  and her husband - Marcin - with Ksiaz Castle in the background.


The interior of Ksiaz Castle. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Next we moved to Prague. Google Earth.


The famous Charles Bridge in the sunset. Prague. A. Gajowniczek photo.


The famous Charles Bridge in the sunset. Prague. A. Gajowniczek photo.


The famous Charles Bridge in the sunset. Prague. A. Gajowniczek photo.


The old town at dusk. Prague. A. Gajowniczek photo.


The old town at dusk. Prague. A. Gajowniczek photo.


The old town at dusk. Prague. A. Gajowniczek photo.


The old town. Prague. A. Gajowniczek photo.


The old town. Prague. A. Gajowniczek photo.


The old town. Prague. A. Gajowniczek photo.


The old city. Prague. A. Gajowniczek photo.


The next day we visited our friend Ivo who livs near Prague, he showed us some very nice specimens - here a specimen of crystalline copper from Rubtsovskoe, Russia. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Unusual big and gem crystal of phenakite with quartz from Buruma. Ivo`s collection. A. Gajowniczek photo.


"Star" of green quartz from Sinayarechka, Russia. Ivo`s collection. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Super, big and sharp twinned crystal of native copper, Kazakchstan. Ivo`s collection. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Quartz, Dalnegorsk, Russia. Ivo`s collection. A. Gajowniczek photo.


"Mushroom" tourmaline from Burma. KARP specimen. A. Gajowniczek photo.


From Prague we moved to another big capital - Budapest. Google Earth.


Budapest by night. Fot. A. Gajowniczek.


Budapest by night. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Budapest by night. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Budapest. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Budapest. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Budapest - the parliament. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Budapest. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Me and the Hungarian parliament in the background. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Budapest. A. Gajowniczek photo.


From Budapest we drove directly to one of two main goals - Kosovo. Fot. A. Gajowniczek.


Center of Kosovska Mitrovica - the mosk and unfinished buildings. A. Gajowniczek photo.


The region of Kosovska Mitrovica - looks a bit like India... A. Gajowniczek photo.


The people from Kosovska Mitrovica and the serroundings are very proud of the Trepca mine - there is even a taxi company called Trepca with logo with the crossed hammers. A. Gajowniczek photo.


The people from Kosovska Mitrovica and the serroundings are very proud of the Trepca mine - there is even a taxi company called Trepca with logo with the crossed hammers. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Tom examining the specimens from the ``refrigerators-sellers``, Kosovska Mitrovica. A. Gajowniczek photo.


One of the refrigerators - specimens are inside. Kosovska Mitrovica. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Souvenirs from Kosovska Mitrovica – figurines covered in powdered galena and other minerals from the Trepca mine. A. Gajowniczek photo.


A very popular patriotic souvenir - the emblem of Albania made of galena and pyrite with rhodochrosites as eyes.A. Gajowniczek photo.


An interesting ``mineral shop`` - the specimens are scattered between fruits, dairy products, soaps, shampoos and many other goods... A. Gajowniczek photo.


The inside of the shop pictured above. A. Gajowniczek photo.


The inside of the shop pictured above. A. Gajowniczek photo.


The inside of the shop pictured above - you can have ice-creams as well as galenas. A. Gajowniczek photo.


The inside of the shop pictured above - a very innovative display. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Another interesting shop - specimens mixed with jeans. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Visiting the miners` houses. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Visiting the miners` houses. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Visiting the miners` houses. A. Gajowniczek photo.


The old museum of the Trepca minerals - a real disaster. A. Gajowniczek photo.


And the new one - hope it will be finished some day. A. Gajowniczek photo.


The view to the mine from the surrounding hills. A. Gajowniczek photo.


The tower shaft of the Trepca Mine. A. Gajowniczek photo.


The entrance to the Trepca Mine. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Cross section of the deposit. A. Gajowniczek photo.


When the miners go underground they hung their things and lock the rope with a padlock - it is the alternative for lockers used in some mines. A. Gajowniczek photo.


The mine adit and me. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Already underground - at the 10th horizon. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Tom and one of the mine`s geologists surrounded by the machines. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Underground in Trepca Mine. A. Gajowniczek photo.


The miners. Trepca Mine. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Tom and one of the mine`s geologists who was our guide. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Mineralization and the metasomathic changes on fault. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Well visible front of metasomatisation in the limestones. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Big scale breccia built by bloscks of limestones and shales. A. Gajowniczek photo.


One of the big, karstic origin, pockets. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Big stope where a number of pockets occured. A. Gajowniczek photo.


In the stope. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Tom trying to reach a gigant geode with calcite. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Tom trying to get to know if the shiny thing above his head might be marcasite/pyrite or just a sparkling dust. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Tom and the mine`s engeenier examining the geode with calcite. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Tom and the mine`s engeenier examining the geode with calcite. A. Gajowniczek photo.


The geode from the picture above. A. Gajowniczek photo.


The same geode. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Happy Tom in the geode. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Tom collected a little souvenir. A. Gajowniczek photo.


The miners drilling the holes for blasting. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Asia with the miners at the underground meeting. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Zone rich in sparkling galena. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Stope with sparkling galena. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Geodes with boulangerite and calcite with pyrite in the ceiling. A. Gajowniczek photo.


A geode with boulangerite hanging from the ceiling. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Trying to find the pieces of boulangerite thrown from the ceiling by the miners with the use of a metal stick. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Boulangerites from the geode pictured above. A. Gajowniczek photo.


The best specimen we found. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Recent mineralization - iron oxides growing on the walls of the tunnel. A. Gajowniczek photo.


A place were miners wait for the lift. A. Gajowniczek photo.


I am waiting for the lift and trying to grab all the boulangerites without destroying them. T. Praszkier photo.


And we are back to the surface. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Our car in the quarry where the vein was mined previousely. Ore is highly oxidised and changed into gossans. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Nice lanscapes in Kosovo, on the way to Croatia. A. Gajowniczek photo.


A National Park Skadarsko Lake in Montenegro. A. Gajowniczek photo.


The coast of Montenegro. A. Gajowniczek photo.


Sveti Stefan, Montenegro.A. Gajowniczek photo.


Finally after a long, but beautiful journey we arrived to Dubrovnik in the middle of the night.


Dubrovnik by night. A. Gajowniczek photo.


GO TO: Part II


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