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Professor Can hiking the BiH mountains with his students for the past 15 years

SARAJEVO, July 26 (FENA) - I was born in a mountain village at an altitude of 1,200 meters above sea level, 90 kilometers away from Izmir. The nearest town, Tire was 14 km away. The villagers went to the city twice a week, which means a walk of 28 km. This is how I have been a mountaineer since birth, says Professor Mehmet Can, PhD, who has been living in BiH since 2005 where he works as a lecturer at the Faculty of Engineering and the Faculty of Natural Sciences at the International University Sarajevo (IUS).

Interviewer: Bisera Džidić

The reason for talking to Professor Can is his commitment to nature and mountains, which is generally known not only among his students who go on trips with him, but also among mountaineers and nature lovers in BiH, who gave him the nickname the 'Professor'.

"I've always loved nature. I also loved the sea, I swam and dived. But as the seashore became crowded with people, I turned to the mountains. When I came to Istanbul Technical University, I went to a mountaineering association. There was a lecture about Mount Toros, which is above 3,000 meters above sea level. The lecturer, the guide, said that each mountain has its own character, the same as with people. Mountains can be happy or angry, due to the behavior of hikers. Hikers can take a beautiful colorful stone in the mountain to see it, to enjoy it, but they have to bring it back to the same place. If mountaineers get angry with the mountain, it can send them an avalanche or cover them with stones in a narrow passage," explains Professor Can speaking about his attitude towards nature.

Immediately after arriving in Sarajevo in 2005, he founded the hiking association "Hurry up, but slowly" (Požuri polako) at the IUS.

"The symbol of our society is a turtle. We also have our own flag. The society is open to students, professors, administrative staff, and their friends. We started with simpler tours, Bukovik, Skakavac, Trebević, Igman, and moved on to more demanding ones such as Bjelašnica, Visočica, Treskavica, Čvrsnica.

Today, I have recorded 200 routes on seven mountains. Most of our tours are about 30 km long. We divide them into three groups, heavy, medium, light. Students join according to their abilities. We are not looking for any special equipment other than good shoes. All tours are free for students. They go mostly by car, and students are not required to participate in the cost of gasoline. I always pay for tea or coffee at the mountain lodge. It costs 1 KM, so it is easy to be generous in BiH," says 77-year-old Professor Can.

Thousands of students from 50 countries became members of the mountaineering association he founded when he came to Sarajevo. Most of them were BiH students, and some of them visited the mountains in their country for the first time with Professor Can. Even the Skakavac waterfall.

When asked whether, as a professor, he noticed the difference between Turkish, Bosnian and students from other countries who study at IUS, he answered in the affirmative.

"There is a difference because they belong to different cultures and that is normal. I have noticed that Bosnian students talk a lot, do not close their mouths even when hiking and climbing. The Turks are silent. When Arab students started to join us, I saw that they were talking even more than Bosnians," says the professor.

He also presented his views on the difference between the mountains in BiH and Turkey.

"I come from western Turkey. There is not much nature there, everything is inhabited. Bosnia is full of wild mountains, Evliya Celebi long time ago described Bosnia as an ocean of trees. In Josip Broz Tito's time, there was a strong tradition of hiking, people went to the mountains and it was free of charge. It seems that now in BiH people are busy making money, so they don't have time for the mountains. My message to people in BiH is to return to the mountains and enjoy hiking," says at the end of the conversation with FENA Professor Mehmet Can, who will soon retire and return to Turkey.