In Slovenia, our friend Nika had suggested we look into Vukov Konak, a traditional mountain house near Sarajevo where a Finnish-Bosnian couple host guests, prepare meals, and lead hikes. It sounded like the perfect solution to our difficulty getting out beyond tour group routes in Bosnia.
We took a bus back to Sarajevo from Konjic and a pre-arranged taxi to Vukov Konak. After climbing through the Sarajevo suburbs, we made our way into the mountains and across a not-well-marked border between the two sub-national entities (from Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina to Republika Srpska) where the signs changed from latin to cyrillic. The house is tucked away amidst the trees, a short walk from a beautiful clearing and about 2 kilometers from the “town,” meaning some houses near a church and logging outfit.
In addition to the owners who visit each day with their two young children, the house is home to paying guests like us, longer-term volunteers, two dogs, a goat, and two cats. Because our room was the attic and often the warmest room, if we left the hatch open, one or both of the cats would turn up on our bed.
The goat was also friendly, frequently wandering around the benches and tables to say hello to the humans.
Of course, you can’t control the weather. We were able to fit in a short walk on our first full day, but we turned back after hearing some serious thunder. I fit in a run on my second day, including being confronted by angry dogs (fortunately their owner got them to leave before I had to climb up a fence).
Later that day on our lunch excursion, the two of us, joined by visitors from Finland and England, climbed to the top of the tallest hill in the area. There was a trench at the top, just a few yards from the summit, suggesting that it was an occupied position during the war. It makes sense — from the top you can see the outskirts of Sarajevo and the hills around Pale (the Bosnian Serb capital during the war).
On our last day, the weather cleared. First, Vukov Konak hosted some local children who fingerprinted pieces of wood, and we did the same with the leftovers. Then we hiked to a waterfall and on to a late lunch on a beautiful hillside.
During the stay, I picked up a couple books from their shelves to read about the history of Bosnia. I started with the more recent parts of Noel Malcolm’s Bosnia: A Short History, followed by Misha Clenny’s The Fall of Yugoslavia and the relevant chapters of Samantha Power’s A Problem from Hell. While each book tells it slightly differently, a clear picture comes through of a war that transformed a plural society with frequent mixed marriages into a far more divided country. The literature also refreshed my memory of the Dayton Peace Accords, which I remember from watching CNN as a child. While I heard multiple Bosnians complain, perhaps rightly, that the multiple levels of government established by the Accords result in inefficiency, bureaucratic drains on the economy, and corruption, the two authors who were writing around the time of the Accords were extremely concerned that either a new war would start, or the two units of the country (Federation BiH and Republica Srpska) would become a partition like Germany or Korea. I suppose prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.
Bus schedules being difficult, after three nights at Vukov Konak we decided to head to Sarajevo for the following night, stay overnight in a hostel, and catch a morning bus to Korcula, Croatia. Of course, the direct Korcula bus was not running the next day, so we booked a ticket to Slano, a town in Croatia where the roads meet, and we would take care of our transfer later.
We spent the evening in Sarajevo with our Finnish friend from Vukov Konak, Tobi, who pushed us to find a place with good beer (although craft beer isn’t really a thing in Sarajevo, we found a place with dark German beer).
[We’re making an attempt to finally get caught up on getting our blog posts up. This post describes our visit to Vukov Konak on July 24-27, 2016.]