Discovering Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sitting on Hadjuk's Door - Bosnia and Herzegovina - by Anika Mikkelson

Our time together had come to an end. Ten days of hikes, bikes, rapids, rakia, wine, ethno villages, cevapi, pita, bruises and laughs.

In our final days, we traveled through Konjic and south to the cities of Mostar and Trebinje. We took time to observe the several cultural sides of Bosnia and Herzegovina, visiting several museums and historic sites within a short time frame.
First we wandered the tunnels of Tito’s Bunker, the structure secretly built near Konjic from 1953 to 1979 as a precautionary measure in case of atomic war. With engineering and communicative advancements far beyond its time, it’s a direct portal into history and a sample of one-sided mentality on the part of Yugoslavia’s former leader. Though his success and admirability is undeniable, it’s curious to think how a space so large and protected, a space made over a course of 27 years with a budget equivalent to 4.6 billion US dollars, was built for only 350 people.

 

Click on an image to see the photographs up-close:

 

It was built in secret, kept hidden from the public and luckily never put to use. Today, Tito’s Bunker plays host to a museum of its own liking as well as art exhibits supported by UNESCO. One art instillation in particular seems to bring the two factors together. Entitled the Iron Curtain, it was created by Artist Selma Selma whose parents used to gather garbage in order to survive. In the display she’s created, she too has collected garbage and strewn it across the floor of one of the bunker’s rooms in what appears to be a haphazard manner. She is illustrating through this  spectacle that the bunker is how the elite would survive- those lucky 350 people taken into Tito’s Bunker in the event of nuclear chaos – but this is how she would survive.: Essentially in the same manner as she’d survived previously. Garbage. Disarray. Mayhem.

The bunker is a perfectly preserved piece of Yugoslavian history, telling the story of so many . Though I’d spent a great deal of time in the Balkans, not a day goes by when I have to stop myself from asking a million and one questions about the area. This museum answered several of them with its peculiar authenticity.

 

Click on an image to see the photographs up-close:

 

From Tito’s bunker we visited three other museums depicting various cultural aspects of Konjic and surrounding areas. Several particular trades in the region are passed down from generation to generation, including woodworking and wine producing. Mulicev Rekord was the area’s first woodworker, beginning in 1929. Three generations later, the tradition continues as the family continues to cut furnitures from black walnut and delicately laces details along each object’s surface. These pieces are only afforded by the upper class, and have received not only the attention of UNESCO in an effort to preserve the handicraft, but also from both the Clintons and Obamas who are proud owners of their own Mulicev Rekord tables. Generally speaking, the items maintain an authentic, rich appearance and take their patterns from traditional designs. The museum itself is within the home of an elderly couple and offers a warm invitation to sit and observe each room, piece by ornate piece.

 

Click on an image to see the photographs up-close:

 

Near to Mulicev Rekord, another family displays their woodworkings in a much more contemporary gallery. Cement floors, stark white walls and sleek lines show an opposing side to the handicraft. Rather than stick with tradition, the owners of Zanat are looking to break into modern design by commissioning artists from Denmark, Sweden and Norway to create original patterns. Zanat opts for simplicity more than anything, and accomplishes this while continuing to celebrate the family’s heritage and once more, passing the trade down through the ages.

The two are just a short walk from one another, and help turn the small town feel of Konjic to one of high-class sophistication.

In an entirely different realm, wine production is also a skill learned and shared with generations of family members. The lands surrounding Mostar are nutrient-rich and literally covered in vines producing plump grapes perfect for picking in autumn. Between returning to the wondrous waters of both Kravice Falls and the Turkish Devish of Plugaj, as well as enjoying the views from our hikes to Hadjuk’s rock and Orjen mountain, we stopped by two family-owned wineries.

 

Click on an image to see the photographs up-close:

 

During our lengthy visit to Vinery Andrija, complete with a tour of the wine cellar and samples of their award winning wines. Voting the white Zilavca as my favorite and when paired with fresh prosciutto and cheeses direct from the family’s neighbor, it’s needless to say that our tastebuds were in their own little sweet-n-salty heaven.

The next day, we visited the family owned farm of Marica Gaj. They’ve turned their 40+ hectare lot into an Agrotourism attraction and invited us to see what makes a place like this click. With the guest houses decorated with authentic handicrafts,  animal stalls, game fields and a guest’s pool, they’ve set up the perfect environment for a family’s week away from the big city. As we awaited lunch, the owner’s son brought us around his property and surprised several of us when he pointed out their most prized harvest. Despite producing some of the region’s most succulent wines, the fields filled with short leafy plants are those that produce a different crop: a tobacco which sells at 15 euro per kilo. For those of us who don’t actively follow tobacco prices, others may sell for around 2 euro, and even Kentucky’s high quality leafs are slightly less in price.

Passing the tobacco fields, we returned to Marica Gaj dining area and sat down to Sac, wine, and an afternoon of pleasant conversation.

 

Click on an image to see the photographs up-close:

 

Ten days passed by with more adventure sports, gastrotourism, Instagram jump shots and mountains than I’d encountered in years. Returning to Bosnia and Herezegovina, I was excited – very excited – to see another side of the country than the mainly touristy side I’d seen in Sarajevo and Mostar a few months back. Others had mentioned how great the natural wonders are, but had only spoken of a few particular places.

No one had told me of Lukomir Ethno Village, nor of the possibility to go rafting or canyoning in waters clean enough to drink from. Not a single person recommended touring Konjic to explore Tito’s Bunker or the woodworking shops. I’d seen vineyards through car windows as we passed by, but hadn’t heard of agrotourism or heard mention of the comical resort’s name ‘Paradise in Paradise’.

I’ve been away from Bosnia for a little over a week now. The first few days I had serious withdrawals! I yearn to return to that adventure, fresh air, and to speak with people over and over again who genuinely enjoy what they’re doing for a living. There is a pride that fills the country, though not an arrogant one, and a love for life that we all need to take with us. We’ve got the jump-shot pictures to prove it.

We Did It! Bloggers at Hadjuk's Door - Bosnia and Herzegovina - by Anika Mikkelson - Miss Maps - www.MissMaps.com
No Jumping Here – If we’d tried, you wouldn’t be reading this today 😉

I know this is a blog and not a love letter, but I really do need to say – THANK YOU to Visit Konjic and Turistički klaster Hercegovina for inviting myself and the other bloggers on this spectacular ten day trip. In addition, we had several amazing stays, tour guides and meals provided along the way.

As readers, it might seem silly to read about so many different activities and events that feel far-off and unreachable. The great thing is though, they’re completely possible and easier than you think. This goes for every article I write and place I talk about – I will do everything I can to help get you there – find you cheap flights, help you set up tours and more – because really, you’ve got to go! This world is a magnificent place!

Here’s a kick-starter to help maximize your time in Bosnia and Herzegovina:
Stay:
Hotel Brotnjo – Click Here to Reserve Your Stay
Hajdučke vrleti: http://www.hajduckevrleti-blidinje.com/

Tour:
I house travel: http://ihouse-mostar.com/
Tourist Organization of Trebinje: http://trebinjeturizam.com/
Drink:
Cellar Anđelić: http://podrum-andjelic.com/
Eat:

 

Also, make sure to check out blogs from other participants of the trip:
Basecamp: Balkans
The Art of Tourism
Veronika’s Adventure
World of a Travelholic

Here’s to happy travels, safe adventures, and some amazing memories!
xoxAnika – Miss Maps

Advertisements

1 Comment

Leave a Reply