Umoljani, the hikers’ and pleasure-seekers’ haven of Bosnia and Herzegovina

When I was in a Bosnian village of Umoljani for the first time, the tiny village up in the mountainous terrain at the rear of the Olympic Bjelašnica lay tranquil in the embrace of dark red and deep golden airy woods surrounding its gentle slopes that bathed in the warm autumn sun. It was in the early stages of autumn and it was strikingly beautiful. 

We came only for lunch that day, the late afternoon back in October, deciding to flee Sarajevo for a change (my man works there as an expat and I pay a visit regularly). An artist acquaintance of ours had directed us to Koliba, a family-run restaurant in Umoljani, after I noticed her paysage of beautiful mountainous pastures hung on the wall of her husband’s gallery-cum-frame-making-shop in Baščaršija, down in Sarajevo. The painting depicted the natural beauty of the karst landscape as viewed from that same village. I was hooked. I felt I needed to go see for myself.

I had to wait for a while though; there was always something else to be done and Umoljani was not going to go away anyway. But I kept reminding my man patiently, so finally after every month of summer was gone we did eventually hit the road.

I tell you, it was a revelation. Now, I’m not a sensationalist by nature or a disturbed paranoiac seeking instant absolution – yet I tell you, Umoljani seemed like a world centre point of where the good energy accumulated. May have been the sun, may have been the good spirits, or the fleeting lack of worries, or all of the above, but somehow everything seemed right with the world. I felt as if I could just go out there and walk aimlessly in any direction and breathe and watch in awe, and climb to the top of the world instantly, singlehandedly and effortlessly.

For a village so small (less than 43 inhabitants as per 2013 census), Umoljani boasts surprisingly many inns. Koliba is just one of them. Houses are scattered along the road and higher up amid the pastures and fields. People have put signposts on their gates informing a visitor what kind of produce is sold off their homes: eggs, vegetables, honey, hand-knitted socks. At the entrance to the village there’s an intriguingly looking mosque with a stone-built minaret.

Mind you, it was just a lunch in a little more than a hut but I couldn’t stop wondering how good and pleasant it felt to be there. The food at Koliba was delicious too, everything cooked by the proprietor’s wife and all of it traditional fare. The family live next door and keep the restaurant open every day of the week. They used to live in the city but moved to the mountain once they found the urban life too stressful and hasty. Apparently, it gets really busy during summer months (there’s a huge terrace with lovely views over the plain and the surrounding mountains) and on weekends when city dwellers come for their share of fresh air. I could clearly see why. I must remember to tell Suzanne how much I appreciate her suggestion.

Since then, I kept saying we needed to return to Umoljani for any of the below:

1) a hike (there are countless options; you could go and just walk and end up in Konjic but I would think it prudent to make plans beforehand, or just take a timid walk around the village or a bit further away, whatever feels good)

2) another lunch at Koliba

3) enjoy the snow covered landscape in wintertime.

 

Then, a few weeks later, while I was staying in Sarajevo again, out of the blue a friend suggested a hike to Lukomir, another of want-to-go-and-see villages of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s mountains a bit further from Umoljani. I wanted to go to Lukomir even before I ever heard of Umoljani, so there was no saying no to a friend’s idea.

What a hike it was! What a day! Should you be intrigued please feel free to come back to this humble blog for the next instalment in which I’ll be describing one of the greatest hike I’ve ever had: from Umoljani to Lukomir.

 

Related posts:

Sarajevo revisited

Sarajevo Film Festival and more

Touring Herzegovina

Travnik

How to Make Plum Jam in 10 Easy Steps (plum is the most traditional of Bosnian fruits)

 

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