Wilderness Diary

Diary of Wilderness Volunteers

Volunteering at European Wilderness Society

Hi! We are writing from Tamsweg, Austria, where the European Wilderness Society is based. While Rebecca was the first volunteer, who wrote the earlier blog posts, the rest of us volunteers have taken up her mantle to keep this blog going. Here we write about the personal aspects of volunteering life and the adventures we get up to. In the office we each have differing roles but as a team we are all focused in helping each other, in order to meet the mission of making Europe wild again. Here you’ll read about our adventures in the mountains alongside office work and trips further afield.

Our destinations

WILD times in Majella

After getting settled in Tamsweg and exploring the surroundings with my great new colleagues, it was time for my first wild adventure with the European Wilderness Society. At first, I only knew that after two months in the Lungau (and a short trip to Triglav) I would go back home to Frankfurt for the first time to attend my friend´s wedding. I had no idea that the week after that would be one of the most memorable in my life. Before the wild As an IVY volunteer, I have the possibility to organize a so-called Citizens Engagement Activity, an event to raise awareness for the European Cohesion....

A wolf adventure in Slovenia

Biff, Hanna and me spent the last week in Slovenia in the search for wolves. While we were working hard during the day for European Wilderness Society, we worked even harder each night, driving around on dirt roads in deep forests in hope to hear a wolf. All this was a part of the annual wolf monitoring where we volunteered for four nights in a row. I’ve done it last year and was lucky enough to hear an entire wolf pack with pups, so I thought I’d try out my luck once again. Sightseeing on the way On the first evening we drove to Postojna to meet the other volunteers and the....

A swim, a pizza and a farewell

Our last adventure brought all the volunteers together as we said goodbye to the first of us, Rebecca. On Monday the 5th we finished a little early and cycled up the valley along a beautiful cycle path, which meanders along the river Taurach to Mauterndorf. Here we enjoyed the last few hours of sunlight at Schwimmbad Mauterndorf where Ziva tried, with varying success, to teach us how to somersault into the water. While non of us will make the next Olympics, we did get some good splashes. All in all its a nice way to celebrate someone moving on to new green pastures. After swimming we visited....

Back to Eberswalde

What for a time! The training period with EWS is going well so far. For me, it is really exciting to get an insight of project work. And furthermore my mountain shoes are already broken in. After a great first month working with EWS with and superb team I was visiting Eberswalde for a meeting with the BEECH POWER project team. I met Marcus (who was that day alone) in their beautiful office near the forest and botanical garden. I had a great time, an interesting talk with him and was getting helpful information. Even though I like living in Tamsweg it was also great seeing the city of....

A trip to Wilderness

Last week I was super excited for the first team trip to discover some Wilderness out of the office. This time, we didn’t go very far from home – I mean my own home, Ljubljana. We went to Soča river valley, one of the jewels of Slovenia. As the area is rather far and inaccessible from Ljubljana, I have wanted to go there on a trip for a few years now and never quite managed (two hours of driving one way is a veeeery long distance in Slovenia, as the country is so small that you get to Croatia, Austria or Italy in a bit over an hour from Ljubljana). So, on Thursday morning I got up....

A rough arrival, but smooth start

My name is Jonas, I am one of the many new volunteers of the European Wilderness Society. I had my arrival in Tamsweg on the 30th of June to start my volunteer period here one day later. I chose one of the hottest days of the year to travel to Tamsweg from my parents’ place in Frankfurt, Germany. So instead of a smooth train ride, I had to endure a cancelled train, a broken AC and the concern not to arrive in Tamsweg the same day. Luckily the EWS was kind enough to pick me up in Bischofshofen and I made it to my room at 11pm. Smooth start During the first days after arrival my main task was....

Medieval festival

One weekend I was greeted with glorious sunshine and the prospect of medieval shenanigans and steam trains. Snacks packed and a bottle of water I made my way down to Sankt Andrä im Lungau. Along the way I met one of my other colleagues Hanna. She walked the last stretch with me and soon we found ourselves at the steam train. While I was busy marvelling at the train Hanna got a phone call, and in a bit of turmoil she shot off. Later I would discover that her best friend had arrived in Tamsweg to surprise her. So while Hanna disappeared, I bundled onto one of the old wooden coaches of the steam....

Amphibians, Reptiles and Medieval people

Amphibians in Mariapfarr As the snow began to melt and the signs of spring started to emerge, so did the herps. On one of my walks I found myself around the lake of the Der Outdoorparc Lungau. It was the breeding season of the common toad, Bufo bufo. Thousands (or so it seemed to excited me) of them had gathered to call and find mates. Heaven for a herpetologist and I spent hours marvelling at them all and seeing their eye shine with my torch. Reptiles in Tamsweg After finding toads I wanted to find reptiles. With spring well underway and the sun burning brightly in the sky, I set forth to....

Learning to ski

As a passionate and amateur herpetologist I was very keen to start exploring of Austria to see the various snakes, lizards and amphibians the country has to offer. But with the largest dump of snow the Lungau had had in many years… it meant I had a long time to wait and a lot of time to kill. So what to do in the snow laden mountains of the Alps? Learn to ski! So after a quick visit to the local Intersport to rent ski boots (and get them fitted), skis and poles while buying the all important helmet, vital when you’re an enthusiastic idiot, we hit the slopes. But first I had to....

Getting to Austria

My time here in Austria started officially in February but first I would need to get there. Volunteers before me moved with a suitcase and backpack; taking only the essentials and necessities. With a year ahead of me, a want to visit friends old and new along the way and having always wanted do a long road trip, I decided to move to Austria by car. A casual 1,014 miles; 1,631 kilometres to our continental friends. I packed the things I needed, then things I thought might be useful and then filled the rest of the car with the things I wanted, comprising mostly of tea.(This is no joke I have....

The WILDArt Exhibition

Within my first few weeks at the European Wilderness Society we displayed some of the artwork produced during last year’s WILDArt project in Synevyr Wilderness in Ukraine. Together with the team we had a short time to frame and hang up what felt like hundreds of prints, pictures and paintings. But with the whole team pitching in, from framers to carriers shuttling it all to the Rathaus and a few long nights behind us we got it all set up and ready with a day to spare. With everything nearly ready for the big night, the team went home to don our swanky orange shirts and camo trousers and....

European Wilderness Academy Days 2019

Academy days

Soon after the WILDArt exhibition we rolled straight into the Academy Days; 3 days of talking and listening to experts in the respective fields. From honoured guests John Hausdoerffer the founding Dean of the School of Environmental & Sustainability and Gary Oye, the former chief of the US National Park Service and US Forestry Service. We also heard from rangers of National Parks, managers of Wilderness Areas and tour guides about how they help contribute to conservation through their work. It was fascinating to hear about some of the challenges faced. Typically, you hear about things on....

Time for river fun!

Sunday was sadly the last day of our trip, but we made a good use of it. In the morning we went rafting on the Soca river which was great fun despite the very cold water (apparently it had 11°C). Arguably one of the best moments of the entire trip was when Nick fell out of the raft, but his leg was stuck, so he was just kind of hanging out of the raft drowning. It took me and the rest of the team a few seconds to figure out what was going on and to pull him back in.

A Wild Video

Hello world. We just published a video about our wild adventures in Ukraine this summer, which I wrote about briefly here. But a picture speaks a thousand words, and a video must speak exponentially more, so here I’m going to leave a video produced by two young filmmakers about our WILDArt trip. Nature, art, friendship, culture… it was a bang of a week and this video is a little glimpse into our time there. Please enjoy!

Winter is coming

This week was a special one, I experienced the first snow of the year! We’ve had snowfall on the mountains a few times, but this time I got to feel the snow, and make a celebratory snowball and snow angel. Winter is coming! That morning Nick and I were heading to Salzburg for an Erasmus workshop, so that meant… driving over the mountains! My face was pressed against the window in awe, the higher we rose the more snow appeared, until we were driving through the snowfall. I was experiencing random surges of Christmassy feelings with the snow, held in check only by the bass on the radio. And of....

Becoming one with the European Wilderness Society

Popping in to mark the passing of seasons Hello world. I’m dropping by to post a little update on volunteering. Life is busy in the office, we’re in the throes of selecting our next volunteer (super exciting), and I’m working on publications, the Wilderness Academy and a few follow up details from Ukraine. For me, busy is good! I like to keep myself occupied, and I enjoy the buzz that comes from knowing that I’m contributing. So I’m happy in this little corner of the world. Of course, being me, I balance the brainwork out with bike rides, a bucket of tea, and lots of reading. Autumn is slowly....

Let’s get wild at the Zoo!

300 wolves in the zoo Sunday morning dawned misty, and we left Tamsweg early in the morning with our backseat full of large carnivores, sheep and dogs… Our destination? Salzburg Zoo! The zoo was celebrating its 10 year anniversary of ‘OZO Artenschutztag’ (Species Conservation Day), so Nick and I were there representing the European Wilderness Society. Decked in our bright orange shirts we stood out from a mile away straight from the start, lugging life size animals and blue fences past all the enclosures and visitors to reach our stand. Especially as I stopped every few minutes to rearrange....

A good-for-the-soul, adventurous hike in the Alps

Happy hiking There are lots of good points to living here in Austria; my team, wild and enthusiastic. My work, because I love knowing that I’m contributing to saving Europe’s wildest places… but the third great thing here is the mountains. Yes I talk and write about them a lot, but that’s only because I think they’re marvellous. Recently I went hiking in the Alps, an adventurous, good for the soul hike that made me extraordinarily happy, and if you want to hear more about it then please read on… To set the scene, Verena is driving her jeep, and I’m along for the ride with two other friends....

Ready, Set, Ukraine!

Ukraine. We drove through Austria, Hungary and crossed the border into Ukraine, saying goodbye to the EU for ten days. It was like we entered a whole new world when we got to the Carpathian Mountains. We drove past forested hills and clear rivers; I stuck my head out the car window and dubbed it the ‘Ukrainian Shire’.

Are you our next volunteer? FAQs

The European Wilderness Society is currently looking for another volunteer to start in Jan/Feb 2019. We’re excited to welcome another wolf into our pack, and put the call out on our website and social media. There’s been a lot of interest (hello to you all!) and we get a lot of questions. I’ve started to repeat myself so enter my solution… a short Q&A. These are all the questions I keep getting asked, and that other candidates may be interested to know about before submitting an application. Is this a funded position? Yes! The volunteer is funded by Erasmus+. Accommodation is covered, and....

Excuse me whilst I mention the weather

An Irish murder and Ukraine on the horizon As an English person, I’d like to open up here with talking about the weather. Because it is HOT in Tamsweg and I am delighted. We’re hitting the point where people are beginning to mumble ‘too hot’, but for me there’s no such thing and I’m just marvelling in how I can leave the house without a coat this week. So surprisingly it’s hot hot hot here. Unsurprisingly, I took my bike out all weekend and cycled the countryside. Since it was sunny I’d find a good spot and read – my book is being extra interesting so this week my subconscious has lived....

A Tale of Two Bike Rides

A race against Dutch legs and the magic of peanut butter ice cream. Tamsweg is surround by miles of bike trails, glorious paths that take you through valleys, through mountains if you’re ambitious, and always through beautiful scenery. I’ve been enjoying these paths since my bicycle graced my life, and this weekend I set my eye on the Mittebergrunde. It’s a circular route that I can start from Tamsweg, and Nick told me about it. He had cycled it and tracked his ride with an app, and showed me the route, his statistics, and his time. Well, Nick wasn’t here this weekend and the little voice in....

Eat Sleep Wilderness Repeat

So slow mornings with coffee, followed by a bicycle ride and a dash of sunshine. Dreamy, no? And it was, I did all my favourite things. I cooked and listened to podcasts and talked to friends and family and watched the sky turn pink. But I have a habit of thinking too much when I slow down, and things felt a little bit lonely. Those big questions popped up; what am I doing here? And then imposter syndrome raised its head, and I began to wonder if I even should be here. Because surely there are many others that would be doing a better job than me? A Sunday well spent brings a week of content....

Hello Salzburg

So Monday dawned and I parked myself back in the office, ready for whatever the week wanted to throw at me. I wasn’t at my desk for long before Anni called and asked if I wanted to go back to the Wilderness Camps for more pictures with different school classes, and then pick up a visitor at the station. I didn’t have to be asked twice. A scenic drive, and then over the mountains to Salzburg where we picked up Garry Oye, retired-wilderness director from America, who would be visiting for the next 10 days. Whilst waiting for Garry to arrive I had time to squeeze in a (very) quick walk along the....

A dose of time travel

Medieval festival, an unconventional workout and an electric fence. Saturday was a case in point of why I love my team, and their wild spontaneity. I woke up to a text from Max asking if I wanted to join them on a trip to Mauterndorf Medieval Festival. I didn’t have to think twice, my answer was a solid yes. Mauterndorf is perhaps the prettiest village in the Lungau, with a castle in the centreof the village. I had been there briefly a few weeks ago when the team all went out for pizza (second reason to love my team, we go out for pizza!) The opportunity to go back was not something I wanted....

Oh Vienna

A grand library, new friends and 383 billion seconds. It’s been another whirlwind of a week – this time mostly in Vienna. Part of being an EVS volunteer includes arrival training, which is in Austria’s capital of Vienna. The training is useful to help volunteers understand and make the most of their time in Austria, but it’s also an opportunity to meet other volunteers in the country. Also, Vienna. I was rather excited to see and explore the city. The training was Sunday – Wednesday, but I travelled up on Saturday morning to make the most of being in the city. I’d decided not to make a plan....

Throwing myself into the unknown

Flying Fox and a Quest for a Bicycle One of the biggest changes that I’ve had to accommodate into life in Austria, is to let go of routines and planning. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had to learn to embrace a more spontaneous life because the weather makes planning a hopeless task, but I’ve also come to accept that even without considering the weather, I need to wake up and be ready for anything. Saturday morning is a case in point. I had no idea when I woke up that I would be quite literally flinging myself into the unknown. I woke to an invitation from Max to join them at an end of....

Let’s Get Wild

Wednesday was a long day but definitely the highlight of the week – basically a road trip. The Let’s Get Wild project is a school residential project running in Kalkalpen National Park, that allows children to reconnect with and observe the natural environment, and learn about national parks, wildlife, wilderness and skills such as orienteering. It’s an EWS project, and we needed photos for our reports and funding applications, so Verena and I jumped in her jeep and set off for the mountains with a ‘let’s get wild’ banner and our orange EWS shirts. We set off early to arrive before the kids....

Smoking with the kids

Kangaroo-dog, cloudberries and a road trip. My weekend followed the theme of previous weekends – predominantly nature, which I am loving. It involved a long ramble up the Lasaberg, a hill just outside my front door, and a hike in Wießpriach with the EVS volunteers from Salzburg, who had all piled into a bus to visit the Lungau. Nature and good spirits So the Lasaberg is gentle, and covered in pine forest. I headed out in the afternoon up a country lane that followed a stream, zigzagging up the path to inspect everything that drew my eye, before cutting into the hill on a forestry path....

Fresh air in my lungs

Untrammelled land, positive thoughts and the Sound of Music. It was a busy week (as they are all turning out to be!) I spent my days in the office, a combination of reading, writing and odd jobs, such as creating an inventory for the fencing kits I mentioned last week, and making envelopes for Wilderness certificates (I discovered industrial Sellotape dispensers and my fingers are not a match made in heaven). I also learnt the basics of google earth, and how to create a map with a river path drawn on – in this case a Romanian river, which has been nominated for the designation of WILDRiver....

  • 6 Volunteers so far
  • 7 Countries visited
  • 120 km Kilometres hiked
  • 30 + Diary entries