Set high on a remote mountainside, inaccessible for most of the year, the villagers of Lukomir, continue to live life much as their forebears did for centuries before them.
Some places are like time machines. They take you back to long forgotten times when everything was much simpler, but harder. They erase the city noise from your head and surround you with unimaginable silence. They offer you hospitality as it once was: sincere and free-of-charge.
Lukomir is one of those places.
It is also one of the last mountain villages in Eastern Europe, where a traditional way of life is still preserved. And, as it’s isolated 1,495 metres up on the slopes of Mount Bjelasnica, the highest village in Bosnia & Herzegovina, perhaps this is to be expected.
Lukomir is less than 50 kilometers away from Sarajevo, but the roads seem to wind forever upwards and it takes an hour and a half to reach. As you approach the village, little stone houses roofed with cherry tree battens, hove into view and you can not help but notice how perfectly they fit into the mountain scenery.
And if you stroll around the village you can not help but feel that with every step you are just one poorly-considered footfall away from the Rakitnica river canyon 800 metres below. Here in Lukomir, mount Bjelasnica is at its most beautiful and rugged.
Nobody knows how long the village has been inhabited. But there are tombstones dating from 14th and 15th century nearby, and it is likely that people lived here for hundreds of years before then.
And, although the name of the village means “Peaceful Refuge”, for the people of Lukomir, life has never been easy. Their village is virtually cut off from the rest of the world for the most of the year, the only road to and from is impassable for nine months, with winter snows and spring mud. Even in summer only four wheel drive vehicles can make the climb.
Most of the villagers leave their houses as early as October and head to the lower slopes to spend winter with their family.
Sevda Comor is one of them. “It is just too cold to stay in Lukomir during the winter. One winter the snow was so deep we couldn’t even get out of the house,” Sevda says.
She took us inside her house to show us the handmade woolen socks she sells to the rare tourists that come to visit the village. Her husband spends his time in the nearby pastures guarding their sheep.
As we continue our walk through the empty village we encounter 65-year old Rahima Comor. She is sitting in front of her house, knitting a pair of woolen socks that she hopes to sell for 20 KM (EUR 10).
Rahima comes from one of the five families that stay in their houses in Lukomir throughout the year.
When we asked her how she survives the winters, she looked into the distance and started to list the things she does to prepare.
“How do I survive? Well in the summer, we just go to the city and buy groceries. Lots of them. We buy 50 kg’s of sugar, 60 kg’s of salt, 100 kg’s of flour, and so on…. then we stock up the house and that’s how we survive” says Rahima.
The story was first published by Balkan Insight.