Bosnian Biathlon (kind of)
Tobias Strahl, 18 March 2018, Sarajevo. I am having the time of my life in the Bosnian Mountains. It’s a kind of a résumé after the first six months since we have settled in Sarajevo. Whenever there is time enough I join Fikret Kahrovićs tours and I never regret it. We haven’t had a single bad experience since we came here. The opposite is the case. Beautiful nature, friendly and hospital people, it touches my heart and I feel humbled by people who really don’t have much but a great heart.
The winter sends his last greetings and we are just a few people on this hike in the mountains of Bukovik right behind Sarajevo. There is no wheather preventing me from going out into the wild. This time our guide Fikret introduces us to another Bosnian heritage. The mountain society (planinarsko društvo) is a relic of a time where an older generation of Bosnians had a closer relation to nature, especially the mountains. This attachement to nature is getting lost more and more with a younger generation but you can still experience it when you know the places. And we do know – thanks to Fikret. Grown up in the DDR, the socialist Deutsche Demokratische Republik (German Democratic Republic, GDR), which was everything but democratic, I am familiar with that kind of attachement to nature, with holidays in the mountains of the neighbourhood. If you don’t have much and you are not allowed to travel (or cannot afford to) you learn to live with what you have. And, to be honest, it is not the worst of what we have learned.
The Bosnian mountain society consists of a variety of characters. On the one hand there are the real alpinists who belonged to the mountain-elite of the former Socialist Federation of Yugoslavia. Some of them – as our guide Fikret – are still active; some dream of past glories; others hike alone. On the other hand you have the “normal” hikers as we and many other Bosnians are. Furthermore, you have the true Bosnian hiker who drives his car to the nearest possible place to a mountain hut, a cottage, a place where you can have tea, coffee, beer or rakija (the famous Bosnian liqour). He drinks and then drives home. And you have the people who run the huts and cottages; others sell their stuff as eggs, fresh cheese, herbs which they have collected and dried throughout the summer, self produced Sauerkraut (kiseli kupus) and, and, and… In my professional life I am concerned (amongst other things) mainly with heritage and its protection. This, my friends, is a heritage which has to be inscribed in the World Heritage List of the UNESCO and the list of the World Heritage in Danger alike. I can only plead on my knees that you come to Bosnia and experience it before it will vanish. And it will.
There was this moment in the Planinarski Dom Bukovik, the cottage where Fikret took us for a break, when he sat there with another alpinist and mountain guide going through some images of one of their last tours. In our back where some peole singing Yugoslav songs; the stove of the hut was warm and my head got slowly warm from the Rakija, too. You might know the feeling of being for one second only at the right place of the entire f…..g universe in a live which otherwise feels quite often confused and unintelligible. That, for sure, was such a moment. I was happy and proud that Fikret took us there. I knew why I do what I do, why I take images, travel, write and all the other stuff. God bless Fikret the guide!