A short interview on a man who live in a countryside in Cazin, northern part of Bosnia & Herzegovina… revealing the daily life in the countryside, rebuilding life 20 years after the Yugoslavia war. Out here, they value quality time more than money. They talk slower, the walk slower… really living the here and now…
Sorry for the bad audio since I didn’t plan to make film here in Bosnia, it was just coincidence. Didn’t take the audio recorder with me, no additional audio equipments, no extra rig for my camera… nothing, my camera was completely naked.
Filmed & edited by me
Music by Tony Anderson – Dwell (Snowfall Remix). Courtesy ofmusicbed.com
The long drive from Cazin in the north of Bosnia back to its capital in Sarajevo supposed to take me only a day… probably around 6-7 hours drive. But it took me two days to reach back to Sarajevo, I was driving slowly and steady until I was about 2 hours away from Jajce city…. I was interrupted. While driving in the wild approaching a small village, all out of a sudden, a stray dog came crossing the run right in front of my car. I managed to brake but I hit the dog anyway. Luckily the dog still alive and kept running away back to the forest. I kept driving another 2-3 kilometers until I found a safe place to stop at the roadside. Shockingly, the planet number of the car was missing, probably from hitting the dog.
I then called the car rental company to inform them about the incident and was quite shocked that it might cost a lot more than I expected. It was a mistake that I didn’t stop right away after hitting the dog. I thought it is probably just like in Malaysia, where I can just go to some car workshop to get a new piece of plate number which probably costs a bit expensive than a meal in McDonalds. I then learned that only the police can release the plate number and if I lost it, it can get complicated since its gonna be a police case and involving a lot of paperwork. I then rushed back to the same place where I hit the dog and… the plate number was gone.. probably someone has taken it away.
Since I spent a long time looking for it, I didn’t make it to Sarajevo so I went back to Jajce to stay overnight in the same place that I stayed a few days before. Only the next morning I continued the journey, which took another 3 hours to Sarajevo and I stopped by in a small city called Visoko, just north of Sarajevo. It was there where some ancient pyramids are located, which are older than the one in Al-Fayoum, Egypt. Historians are doing research on it and their findings might change the history of mankind. By the look at it, its just look like a normal hill. I didn’t spend much time there since I need to return back the car and settle the problem with the plate number back in Sarajevo.
Once I got back to Sarajevo, I took the first step to settle to problem with the car before taking a good rest there. The next day I crossed path with a solo Malaysian traveller who are currently travelling around the Balkan areas for a few months. It is always good to meet my own people, who speaks the same language with the same tempo and melody, and have totally the same sense of humor. We used to keep in touch of Facebook but didn’t really plan to meet… but it seems that our path just crossed. The timing was just nice, I was already done exploring and in the mood to relax so we spent hours over a few cups of coffee exchanging experiences. The weather was quite bad in Sarajevo, the sky kept crying so I just spent most of the time in my room reading books and met with the Malaysian girl for a drink.
It was totally a good experience being here in this country for 2 weeks. It was a good break and my mind felt fresh from my long journey of Central Asia. Sure I didn’t see much of Bosnia, being here for 2 weeks is good enough to see the surface of this country but too short to be able to blend with its culture… to really know its inhabitants. Seeing the beauty of both its cities and nature… with the friendliness of the people, I think this country is really doing well recovering from the Yugoslavia war in the last 20 years. I always try to look at the good side in everything, trying to find beauty inside ugliness… trying to find the good effect within every bad action and the benefits on every tragedy. This is one way to help me understand everything that happen within the realm of space and time… everything that happen under the sun… to understand reasons… The tragedy of the World War II for example, took many lives, creating tears to many and turned cities into dust and ashes. But to think of it, that unavoidable catastrophe gave birth to many useful technology that we use today such as the Internet technology, radar, cryptography and other technologies used in communication on battlefield. Along with that, the war also pushed the development of medicine and also surprising, business administration. I see the same here, the current generation here is experiencing building their country from destruction… they’re experiencing the struggle of waking up from defeat. Actions happen.. its unavoidable… but whether the effect is good or bad.. is up to us… depending on which angle we look at things.
After a day driving around visiting nice places along the Una river with Redzo, we then drove back to Cazin village to take a rest. I plan not to drive anymore for a few days but to just stay in this beautiful countryside of Cazin. It feels a bit like a countryside in northern Scotland… reminding my old sweet memory when I was cycling around Scotland almost 3 years ago… when the raindrops hit my face while riding through the narrow Scottish roads, then the rainclouds left… giving ways to the sun to shine proudly, giving its light to brighten and give colours to the landscape, turning the whole scenery looks surreal… with rainbows… countless rainbows!
The life here, like any other small villages… is moving at a slower pace compared to life in busy cities. People here walk slower and they talk slower without rushing. Life isn’t dictated by how many tasks need to be completed by the end of the office hours… but its dictated by the weather and the position of the sun in the sky. They wake up and start going to the field with their herds or to nurture their fruits and vegetables when the sun appears in the eastern horizon giving its first light to illuminate the land. They keep working and finally take a break when the sun reaches the zenith… then back to work until the sun goes down slowly, changing its colour into reddish yellow… and head back to their homes when the sun reaches the western horizon… hiding behind those hills and the sound of azan (muslim call of prayers) dominates the air… vibrating the unseen particles in the air from the nearby mosque.
I tried to move at a slower phase than theirs… watching them closely… trying to study them… to learn something from them. After all, I believe there must be a reason why I cross path with these people. There must be a reason why god made me chose Bosnia as my destination, decided to rent a car and finally drive all the way here in the northern part of Bosnia. I personally believe wholeheartedly that everything happen for a reason, even the smallest thing that we usually don’t pay attention, like spilling a drink on our pants… or the falling of leaves… or even when we decided to choose coke over a pepsi on a shelf in a supermarket… the grand design and the masterplan of the creator of all. Sometimes we dont understand things when it happen during the present time… sometimes we only understand it once it become history… nothing more than a memory. Maybe I meet these people so that I can learn something… something useful that I can share with all. Maybe they will inspire me.. as well as me to them.
I keep looking at them while they’re talking to each other… talking in a strange language that I don’t understand, but I tried to learn them not from the language they speak… but from their facial expression and body language… which can unlock the secret of their emotion that came from their heart.. their batin… the unseen. Studying their faces, it seems that they have a lot of experiences in life, experiences learned from countless victories and defeats in life. Rebuilding life from defeats… is almost like starting a new business without any funds… from zero. Their only ingredients to build back life are courage, motivation, focus and hardwork. I started to find my motivation just by observing these countryside people. This is one thing I love about travelling… I’m always surrounded by people who speak strange languages that I never encounter before and from there, I started to get the ability to learn something from a totally different angle that I never came across before. Redzo told me that more people are leaving these places, away to different countries mainly in western Europe, since there are nothing to do here… not much available job here. I see that perhaps they dont have much money… but they have something very valuable here that most of us are looking for… quality time. Some people spend their entire life to earn a lot of money… so that one day they will have enough money to buy quality time before they depart this world. But these people in the countryside.. they already got it. They spend their daily life with their family… watching their kids grow up.
Living my life as a nomad, calling the road as my home and my teacher… I learned so many things even by observing kids. Kids taught me so many valuable things. They are the only creature I know that can be happy without any reason, they can smile and laugh without any reason… they really inspire me. Sometimes it made me think for hours… days and months.. to think how these kids can easily become happy. It is so difficult for me to find the answer… even though I myself was a kid once… but the memory left without any trace. Finally one moment in my life I found out some of the answer… that they are too young to have a past life unlike us adults who has been through many. They dont suffer the past life like a fail relationship or any major mistakes we made in the past like us. They don’t think about the future like how to earn more money so that we can drive a better car to impress others or to move to a bigger house or to get the latest smartphone in the market. They are totally living the now… the present time… and they’re good at it. Small kids.. they don’t only melt my heart by their look.. but they’re also one of my source of inspiration.
Besides observing these country people, with the help of my friend Redzo, I managed to interview a man who live here in the village. He grows raspberry here, living with his wife and daughter, a man who has many experiences and stories in his life. I was glad that he agreed to appear and talk in his language in front of my lens, sharing some of life stories living here in the countryside of Bosnia. Staying a few days here in Cazin might be the best experience for me so far since I’m in this country. I realized, usually the best experience while travelling is not when you are in tourist spots… but in some rural place where you meet a complete stranger, learning how to pronounce each other’s name, and finally becoming brothers just from one handshake. After a few days, it is finally time to say good bye to each other, I need to move forward, to drive back to Sarajevo to return the car since the clock is ticking and the day I should fly crossing back into the realm of Asia is getting nearer. I felt quite sad when leaving this village, Redzo and his parents kept watching me driving slowly out of their house and finally away from the street, probably they’re praying for my safety on the road in their heart. Me too while igniting the engine of the car, praying silently inside my heart for these people who has been kind to me, praying for them to have a happy life, for their flocks to grow larger, for their fruits and vegetables to grow fresh and delicious, and for their hearts filled with wonderful thoughts and the smiles grow more noticeable in their faces. I then changed the gear of the car, pushing it faster and faster leaving this beautiful countryside of Cazin…
Driving up north towards Bihac… I drove along the grand majestic Una river in the north, a giant shiny snake that has a total length of over 200km. It flows from a mountain in Croatia but flows mostly on Bosnian soil. It brings not only fresh water to the locals, but it also brings tourists to admire its beauty especially during the summer season. The water is so fresh and clean… the colour is blue and sometimes green… melting the heart of anyone who come to admire its beauty. Just by looking at it, I felt like the creator of all is telling me in a strange language, wait until you see the heaven… this is just a small preview. I reached the small city of Bihac in the north and walked around the city. The Una river flows through this city. It is shockingly clean here even though the river flows through this city… seems that the river is too beautiful perhaps nobody here wants to pollute it.
While in Bihac, I met a local guy, Redzo, who live nearby in a village of Cazin, not so far from Bihac city. We never met before but knew each other on Facebook since almost 3 years ago. At first I thought he just added me as a friend to follow my cycling adventure since there were so many people I never know from many countries been adding me on FB and I just accepted everyone’s requests. But after we met I learned that he knew me from an old friend of mine, who studied together in the same school back in KL long time ago. Sometimes I think its amazing to think about the impact of the Internet to our lives. Many generations ago, this would be very rare but now its a normal thing to have friends all over the world and keeping in touch with everyone no matter where we are in the planet.
I then drove and followed him back to his place in the village of Cazin and once I reached his neighbourhood in Cazin village, I started the experience the hospitality of Bosnian people. I was greeted by his parents, it was a really warm welcome especially by his mother. They were expecting me for days since I started driving out of Sarajevo. And they were so happy that I finally made it here to Cazin village and to my surprise, my room was ready and I can stay in their house as long as I want. They prepared my room really well and it looks like a 5 star hotel. This level of hospitality reminds me of the Nordic people, in Sweden, Finland and Norway. It seems that they have learned the ancient rule of hospitality and understand it well. Many generations before us, they really cherish musafir people (travellers). Most believe that whatever way they treat the musafir people… it will get back to them and their children. So if they give them the best food and the best place to sleep in the house, they believe that god will treat them back exactly how they treat the musafir… and the same to their sons once they are gone… and to their grandsons once their sons are gone…
We then spent time together visiting beautiful places along the river of Una and to my surprise, we were the only one there. There are no tourists… none! If these same places are in China, I would imagine thousands of tourists all over these places everyday… and there might be tons of hawkers along the river selling fruits and drinks and souvenirs. Redzo told me that these places will be full only during summer. I realized that majority of tourists come to Bosnia are drawn to visit historical places…castles, tunnels, towers and bridges that are mostly have stories from the war in the past 20 years or even way before. This maybe the result of their country’s tourism marketing, who sees it as their main potential. It is surely interesting to learn about their historical places but it seems to me that Bosnia Herzegovina has another potential which I believe will shine soon… their natural beauty. I learned that they just recently opened the Una National Park… which is only the 3rd National Park in the country. There is much more can be done here… nature here are mostly untouched.
After a good stay in Jajce, I left the beautiful city early in the morning to enjoy the sceneries under the magical morning light. Only after a few minutes driving out of Jajce, I was awed by the surrounding landscape. I always love the sunny early morning. It is fresh and it smells new! Usually when I buy new things, I like to smell it once I opened the box, I just love the new smell. And sometimes I find it the same early in the morning, the air is fresh and it smells new… the smell of a new day. And the sun rays shining through the woods and leaves from the far horizon gives magic to the landscape. It makes the landscape here on earth feels heavenly, reminds me of beautiful things in heaven.
I drove to a smaller path that leads me to a beautiful small lake where there were some tourists, cafes and hotel in one side and almost empty on the other side. I love the calmness of this place. The sound of water, sound of birds chirping and the beautiful morning light making me wanna stay long here. I walked slowly enjoying the moment. It is so clean and the water is always blue and green. There is a small waterfall at the other side of the lake. There is also a small neighbourhood on the hillside near the lake and everyone here greeted me in their local language and a smile. Some even asked me if I need any help. People here are kind… perhaps the environment and beautiful landscape here helps shaping their good characteristic.
It was a cloudy day but once in a while when the clouds were letting the sun to shine directly at my face for a few minutes, I stopped walking, closed my eyes and think about beautiful things and enjoyed the heat that the shining sun provides me. Me too want to be like the kind people here who live their almost entire life here in a peaceful place, so I let the calmness of this place to shape my characteristic while I’m still here in this beautiful place. Just like us living in big cities to earn money to feed our physical body with food, people live here in a beautiful place to earn calmness and peace of mind to feed and nourish their soul.
After a while I had to call it enough and get back to my car to continue the journey. I wish to stay longer but this is just a short visit and I wanted to see more things, perhaps there are more beautiful things to be discovered in front of me. I drove really slowly, sometimes I thought that maybe its better just to take my bicycle here and cycle through the country as I was driving at the speed a bit faster than cycling. At least I can save much money from the daily car rent and petrol cost. But then again this is just a short visit and my plan was to take a rest from my bicycle or my skis. I planned to get to a city in the north called Bihac on that same day, at first I thought I should go really early in the morning since the distance is about 140km and it usually takes me a full day to cover that distance on a bicycle and I’m so used to calculate distance by days on a bicycle. Then a moment later I realized that I’m driving and it only takes two hours to cover that distance. So I moved slower. Sometimes after almost an hour drive I will stop somewhere safe at the roadside to park my car and started climbing the hills… since driving makes my body lazy.
Navigating the roads here in Bosnia is really easy. Signboards are clear but sometimes, I still get lost. The roads are narrow and I usually get lost when entering through small towns where sometimes I turned into a wrong junction and realized something went wrong when the road is getting smaller and smaller and finally the road turned into dirt road. Only then I will turned back since I realized this is Bosnia.. not Mongolia… so unpaved roads will usually leads to some houses or farms. There was once I got lost even deeper when I asked a local guy the road to Bihac.. he pointed straight so I drove straight to some farm. But once I got out from towns and villages, the navigation is easy. The view along the way to Bihac tells me that summer is coming soon to this land, plants are turning green but it is still quite cold… the typical spring season. People here loves the summer season, it will not only bring the heat and green trees and grass to the land but will also bring a lot of tourists to this land… so the locals here who are involved in tourism industry will earn more money.