The village of Lukomir, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, stands at 1,469m and is said to be the highest permanent settlement in the country. It was only 45km from where we were staying in Sarajevo, but the journey took 2 hours, as around half of it was on a rough single-track path. Thankfully traffic both ways was light.
On our way we passed through Babin Do (which translates as Granny’s Mountain), the largest ski area around Sarajevo and located on Bjelašnica Mountain. At 2,067m, it hosted the men’s alpine skiing events during the 1984 Winter Olympics. We were told that originally the mountain had been a few meters too short to qualify for an Olympic site and so a restaurant had been built on top and the races had started from the third floor. It was the end of May, but snow was still visible on the mountain tops making a splendid vista.
Having turned off the main road, and onto the rough track we found spectacular scenery: beech clad mountains, rock-strewn hills and alpine meadows with shepherds and their flocks.
In winter, snowfall in Lukomir can be up to 4m deep with temperatures reaching as low as 30 to 40 degrees below freezing. So before the snow begins, the inhabitants and their animals leave, either for the town or lower, more accessible villages.
The 40+ houses were built from stone, with either traditional cherry tree clad wooden roofs or tin from rolled out oil drums. Some of the village ladies displayed knitting for sale in their front gardens. The village has its own cemetery with a combination of both Ottoman and newer graves.
A high viewpoint overlooked the Rakitnica Canyon which initially slopes downwards 45 degrees, before it plunges steeply down 800m: the sheer rock sides were created when the riverbed dropped down millions of years ago. It is so difficult to reach the actual canyon that only some 100 odd people have managed it or have had the inclination to do so. Some of the mountains on the opposite side were bare from either an avalanche or forest fire. In the other direction, the fields were full of wildflowers with dandelions and buttercups and an unusual but stunning, purple flower that defied our attempts to identify it.
The sheep spend their day on their surrounding hills but have to be brought into high-sided pens at night to protect them from wolves that freely roam.
We began trekking downwards along a rocky path leading to a lower village but when on encountering a small landslide, which would have meant scrambling, we turned back, heading for lunch.
As the area is popular with hikers and mountain bikers, one family has set up the Letnja Basta Guesthouse. We had the option of eating lunch inside the small room or outside on picnic benches. As the inside had two ovens working at full pelt to provide for a group who were booked in later, we plumped for outside even though we needed jackets and there was a smell of sheep.
The signature dish is called a pita pie, a coiled filo pastry dish filled with cheese. It was absolutely delicious and served with a salad. Dessert was hurmašica, a date shaped pastry soaked in a sweet syrup sauce followed by a cup of delicious mountain herb tea. The family were so hospitable, we left clutching left leftover pie and a wedge of warm bread.