Enough of a Paradise

Tobias Strahl, Sarajevo, 4 October 2017. Bosnia made it really easy for us. When I roamed the country on earlier occasions I always dreamt of living here for a while. All of a sudden the dream came true. In the beginning of September we moved from the Nigerian capital Abuja to Sarajevo – the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. What we have experienced throughout our first month here has been a mixture of overwhelming friendliness, hospitality and natural beauty.

I knew already that the Bosnians are generous and hospitable people. Nevertheless, it commands my highest respect how the people of the region throughout the past two decades have responded to their situation, the war and its aftermath, the political blockades, poverty and unemployment, with dignity and fortitude.

Beside the people one of my first concerns always and everywhere is nature. It is dreams, projections – the ability to escape to another realm. And Bosnia here, too, is overwhelming. What Nigeria lacks in possibilities for outdoor activities Bosnia has in abundance. Our first hike took us to the summit of Mala Ćaba (2086 m) in the famous Treskavica Mountains approximately 40 kilometers south of Sarajevo. A breathtaking experience in every respect – about 900 meters the hike ascends over a distance of nine kilometers. The seven hours tour (forth and back) rewards you with stunning views – and a good dose of physical exhaustion.

The past is present here in more than one sense: hikes in the Treskavica region require extreme caution. During the Bosnian war from 1992 until 1996 the area was haunted by fierce battles between Serbs and Bosnians. Until today its forests, mountain meadows and ridges are full of unexploded ammunition and mines. If new to the region you should never [!] dare to hike Treskavica without an experienced guide. Ours was Fikret Kahrović, a friendly and patient climber who belonged to the first league of the alpinists of the former Yugoslav Federation and worked for nearly four decades in a mountain rescue team.

As if this was not enough of paradise friends from Zagreb on our second weekend invited us to the Island of Pašman off the coast of the Croatian city of Zadar. Starting our trip on a Friday evening in Sarajevo at an autumnal temperature of 15 degree it was summer again the next morning at the Adriatic. The water of the sea in late September still measured pleasant 23 degree. And then the legendary Dalmatian hospitality: the whole weekend came as a package with excellent white wine from the region, fresh caught giltheads, self-produced olive oil and – of course – amazing hosts.

Landscape

To conclude the September experience Fikret the guide took me the last weekend to one of the most amazing landscapes I have seen in my entire live. The summit of Džamija [=Mosque, it actually is none but was used for prayers for some time] is located approximately 12 kilometers south of the famous winter sport region Bjelašnica and therefore called “za Bjelašnica” [short for “behind Bjelašnica”]. Only five kilometers long the hike leads over a first and steep ascent to a beautiful plateau surrounded by rocky cliffs that give the place the appearance of a huge natural amphitheater. In the center of the plateau one can find a cemetery from the 15th probably even 14th century marked by some “stećci”, the famous tombstones of the medieval Bosnian Church. After another 20 minutes hike from there we reached the summit of the Džamija from where you can have an amazing view on all surrounding mountains. Some cold beers in one of Sarajevo’s countless pubs in the evening made me sleep like a baby. “[…] uvijek s tobom tu smo mi!”

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