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Slow life in Bosnian villages

Posted: 2008-08-07 21:21:50, Categories: Travel, Ecology, Bosnia, Hitchhiking, 808 words (permalink)

Main building of the eco village Zelenkovac, Bosnia. During one week I got an introduction to life in Bosnian countryside by visiting a couple of villages and the ecological community Zelenkovac. Work on the fields was more modernized than for example in Romania, but far from large high tech farms in Western Europe. People had time, nearly everybody smoked cigarettes constantly and guests were received by offering them shots of homemade rakia, a strong alcohol usually made of plums.

In Zagreb, Croatia, I took a train to Karlovac and started hitchhiking from there towards the Bosnian border. A man who built swimming pools for a living took me to the crossroads near Plitvice and a truck driver picked me up from there. It was my first ride ever in a large truck — cool to see the road from high up in the cabin. At the customs the truck had to stop and wait in line. I hopped off, crossed the border by foot and decided to walk to the first village, Izacic, and see what happens.

Hasan was sitting on the terrace of his house and waved me to have a seat beside him and take break. Soon his English speaking son Adis arrived and it didn't take long until I had met some of his friends and been invited to stay overnight. In fact I ended up staying two nights.

Life was slow, especially for the young people who were on holidays from school or university. They killed time sitting outside, smoking, sipping some coffee or beer, chatting and playing with their mobile phones. Inside they had TVs and Playstations but Internet was not common yet. Actually there was an Internet cafe in the village but the connection was broken. Nearest town was Bihac, where we had a picnic by the Una river. Quite a few people had friends or family members who were working in Austria or Germany. They came back in their home villages in the summer to hang around and show off their cars.

From Izacic I moved on to Zelenkovac in central Bosnia. It's a community founded 25 years ago by a painter called Borislav Jankovic, more commonly known as Boro. He moved out of the nearby village to near some old water mills, built a house and started inviting people to visit while working on his paintings at the same time.

Zelenkovac was a lovely place. A small river flowed in several parallel streams through a forest with wooden buildings scattered around. The water mills had stopped long ago but the funky and twisted main building was full of life, with both tourists and villagers coming and going, Boro and his son Alex welcoming the visitors and a few other regulars taking care of the bar. I stayed with some other guests on the second floor of the main building, which had a bunch of old beds and mattresses tucked in different corners of the oddly shaped open space. There was one more room still above the second floor, accessible by stairs outside in the open air like in a treehouse.

Zelenkovac advertised itself as an eco-village, although many typical features of ecologial communities, such as recycling, vegetarianism or environmental campaigning were missing. I saw it mainly as a place to be surrounded by beautiful nature, meet people and enjoy life. The eco aspect was to keep the area at least relatively untouched, live modestly and maintain an open-minded and friendly atmosphere, instead of destroying the site or turning it into a luxury holiday resort. However, Boro had wishes for enlargement and increased visibility. He was planning to organize international volunteer camps in Zelenkovac during summer 2009, which will hopefully succeed in developing the place further in a sustainable way.

In Zelenkovac I met also David and Gareth, two Englishmen who had arrived a couple of days earlier in a 1966 Volkswagen Beetle, or VW Buba in Bosnian. Together with them and Alex we went to the nearby village to help Boro's brother to collect hay. The brother had hurt his hand falling off his tractor so he was happy to get some help. Rakia had probably something to do with the accident — we had already learned that rakia was the fuel for people just as diesel was for the tractor. We managed to collect one and a half small fields worth before a thunderstorm came and made all the rest wet again. Boro's brother didn't seem to worry too much, we just went inside his house for coffee and more rakia.

Zelenkovac was a place I could have stayed in for weeks. However, Gareth was leaving towards the east and I decided to join him. David fetched two French friends from a town 40 km away. Then we packed the bags of all five of us and ourselves in the Buba and drove off towards Sarajevo.

(Slightly edited on 2008-08-09.)


Comment from: Dalia [Visitor]
To walk and see what happens - wonderfull plan, I need to remember it. How did you know about Zelenkovac? Did you learn about it from internet and put it to your travel plan, or that was something, what just has happened to you? Should I say, that I enjoy reading your travel blog? I really do! Thank you for sharing.
2008-08-08 @ 03:03
Comment from: [Member]
Sami Itkonen, a good friend of mine, gave me the link to Zelenkovac. I don’t know how he found it, maybe just by searching for CouchSurfing hosts on the way. Sami is currently cycling around the Balkans and also has a blog.
2008-08-09 @ 18:27
Comment from: Gucha4Life [Visitor]
Hey man,I saw you in Guca in internet caffe,you were writing this…:)
2008-08-22 @ 22:53
Comment from: [Member]
Yes, I posted this in Guca. The Internet cafe there was overpriced but I wanted to get online before disappearing to the Eastern Serbian mountains for two weeks, taking part in Rainbow Gathering. :) Will write more about Guca and Rainbow in a few days.
2008-08-26 @ 22:26

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