I’ve heard about a woman from Sweden, a friend of a friend, who returns to Sarajevo every summer to go hiking in the surrounding mountains with her local friends. Apparently, those mountains, in particular the vast terrain on Bjelašnica (2067 m), fill her heart with peace and warmth and heal her stressed out, weary soul. “This is where I seem to achieve my balance at last,” she reportedly said a couple of years ago on her first hiking “pilgrimage” to Lukomir, the remotest village of Bosnia and Herzegovina that is yet only a few dozen kilometres away from the capital.
And so she comes back to the Bosnian Dinaric Alps every summer, heads to the mountains for a dose of fresh air and exercise, not knowing how to describe what it is that actually helps her stabilize herself. Just before she flies back to Scandinavia, she pays visits to local beautician, hairdresser, nail salon – and off she goes back home happy, rested and beautified inside out.
So far, I’ve heard quite a few accounts from different people describing their experience in these mountains, or the experience they’ve heard other people talk about. I had wanted to go to these places for a long time myself and now that I did I can say there is some kind of magic at work there.
When I sum up every bit of information I’ve heard other people talk about and add my own observations and sentiments, what comes out and makes these places feel uniquely special is hard to explain in a down-to-earth language but all of it makes most sense when I say: it’s about the energy. The invisible forces seem to be shooting around like arrows dispensing not harm but the opposite: well-being.
The more commonsensical and rational approaches mention ozone and oxygen to be the beneficial factors. Be it as it may, and let’s leave it at that, the fact is I’ve never heard anybody regretted the outing so far.
All of the esoteric considerations aside, let’s see why a visitor to Bosnia and Herzegovina, in my opinion anyway, should consider going to Lukomir or Umoljani, another village that I’ve written about in my previous post, or even both of them?
1. Remote villages like these two are rare and hard to come by, especially in the West. Umoljani and Lukomir are positioned quite high in the mountains (1353 m and 1495m respectively) in a developing country that lacks funds to keep it all up. The number of residents is declining year in, year out. Those that persist are very happy to see and meet visitors and are very friendly.
2. The countryside is spectacular and the nature is more or less untouched. Think rocky terrain just above the treeline, airy plains, and crystal clear brooks. It’s a nice change from visiting an urbanized place despite the attractions of Sarajevo. The landscape, colourwise distinctly reddish with a pink tinge, is quite rough and wild but truly beautiful.
3. Many hiking possibilities from each of the villages. Anybody benefits from an occasional escape to the country to get some fresh air in his or her system. Don a pair of sturdy walking shoes and the Dinaric Alps’ beauty could be yours for a couple of pleasurable hours.
If by any chance, after reading my previous account, you should think village of Umoljani remote I would urge you to think again. Although there is a decent road from the valley leading up to the village, it basically ends there. There’s practically nowhere else to drive to from Umoljani except back. On the other hand, there’s nowhere to drive to from Lukomir as well but there’s also no road(*) to drive to Lukomir in the first place.
We drove from Sarajevo via Babin do (one of the venues of 1984 Winter Olympics) to Gradina, a small pastoral village just above Umoljani, where we left our cars. A walk from there to Lukomir is fairly easy and requires a reasonably fit individual. A trail crosses a few streams (sturdy AND waterproof shoes might come in helpful here) and leans against precipice in a couple of places.
But on the whole, it’s no more than a long hike. We took a route via the edge of the canyon of the Rakitnica and reached Lukomir in about two hours. There’s another route (marked) over the nearest summit so in fact the whole thing can be made a (circular) roundtrip (to avoid covering the same ground twice).
Views are wonderful, simply breathtaking, and the countryside in general is stunning.
It’s always a good idea to bring some water and snacks with you when you go out for a hike. But fear not to be left thirsty or hungry: there are inns in Lukomir serving homemade beverages and food. Some villagers sell their produce from their fields and gardens (onions, carrots, potatoes and stuff) and women cook jams from foraged fruits: blueberries, cranberries, rosehip berries – all of it can be bought if one doesn’t mind carrying it back.
Our hike took place in November when rosehip bushes of the mountain were laden with berries and we met a couple just before reaching Lukomir that picked them bare-fingeredly. It’s a thorny business, rosehip berries picking, the woman showed her bruised hands as markers of her devotion. She loved every minute of our encounter and chatted away about her delicious jam and bespoke knitting (very business savvy!).
Regular items for sale in the village (exhibited on the fences in front of the houses or in the inns) are also dried herbs, such as wild sage (see photo; I find it rather indispensable for tisanes during winter colds), and, of course, hand-embroidered traditional dress and hand-knitted woollen socks, jumpers, slippers. You’ll see and meet plenty sheep grazing on the mountain – they provide the prickly wool.
In an inn in Lukomir where we took a break I’ve learnt about the simplest and (contrary to my previous beliefs) tastiest method for a high-altitude dessert: finely grated carrots sprinkled with a tiny bit of sugar. A real energy replenisher and delicious at that!
(*) Disclosure: There is a bumpy gravel road winding in the hinterland that is used daily by the locals.
Nebo iznad krajolika is probably one of the most insightful Bosnian (short) movies that is set in Lukomir (plus some other mountainous loactions of the area). It’s beyond funny – especially the opening scene when a woman ‘falls’ from ‘heaven’ practically into the poor shepard’s lap.