Many of us wish for a simple life. We dream of open landscapes, fresh air, perhaps some tending to the vegetable garden, and ultimately, a quiet escape from modernity. Lukomir, a tiny village of no more than a handful of semi-nomadic inhabitants perhaps best embodies this spirit of the freedom and hunger for a connection to primal nature and the history of what’s around us and what came before us.
When someone uses the term serene – a certain image or place comes to mind. In many ways, the Blagaj Tekija or Tekke is a quintessential place of reflection and in the past, prayer and isolation.
If Sarajevo is indeed Bosnia and Herzegovina’s heart, the baščaršija (pronounced baash-char-shiya) is its shining historic, and cultural heart within a heart. Centrally located within the old city, the baščaršija is a remnant of Bosnia’s Ottoman past, but has been reclaimed as a point of national pride and living history within the country. This central market may be hundreds of years old, but its busy activity has not ceased since its construction in 1462.
Like a flock of migratory birds, Bosnians all over the world look forward to summertime with great yearning. It means the smell of cevapi and lamb over coals, the sight of family and friends that were only available over phone and computer monitors for most of the year, and the sounds of the mosque’s call to prayer mingled with church bells. It means the sight of ancient stone bridges, rolling green landscapes, and roaring waterfalls breaking the silence of the day. It means a return home. It means a return to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The academic in me writhed in pain even at the idea of writing something like this. An uncited, cliff-note style summary of hundreds of years of rich Bosnian history? To top it off, incredibly well written with a sharp sense of humor? (OK, maybe not). Don’t do it. Just don’t. It’s not worth it. It goes against everything you’ve been trained to do.
One of the earliest and most potent memories in my mind is the wafting of cigarette smoke, the smell of Turkish (or Bosnian) coffee and rakija at my grandfather’s house.