Last week we went hiking in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which was lots and lots of fun. Hard work in hot weather but just a great way to spend a week – challenging walks, my first experience of rafting, interesting food, swimming, socialising with nice people and learning more about how people in other circumstances live. We spent time with young people who had spent their childhoods in a war zone when Sarajevo was blockaded and bombarded. We saw the street where Arch Duke Ferdinand was shot, precipitating the First World War. We saw important monuments and visited beautiful Mostar and Dubrovnik and went on interesting city tours.
One of our walks took us from the 1984 Winter Olympics site to Lukomir, Bosnia’s highest village at 1,469m, with its ancient stecci (mediaeval tombstones) and unusually constructed houses. Here the villagers still follow a traditional way of life, although many spend the really cold months in the city and only farm in the summer. We joined an older couple for lunch, cooked by their daughters. This consisted of potato pie, cheese pie, home-grown tomatoes, salad, Bosnian coffee and rose flavoured locum (Turkish delight).
The older lady and her husband make things to sell to tourists and she showed us her knitting, and some wooden spoons he had made that morning. As I have a new interest in knitting, I examined her items most carefully (we bought a couple of the spoons).
Then i asked if I might have a look inside the house, which consisted of three room, each connected. The bedroom, sitting room and kitchen. We sat on low stools in the kitchen, with its unfinished walls, and talked about clothes with her (our guide translating). She wore a kind of harem trouser – as you maybe able to discern in the picture above. They were made of a rough black wool. She demonstrated how she wove the fabric herself, and how she held her socks up under the trousers (with those little hair elastics!). I like the tiny pom poms at the back and the way the foot part of the socks is made from a more “practical yarn” in less flashy colours, whereas the leg part is very colourful and embroidered on. Her husband wore the same type of socks which are warm and practical. I asked if she also knitted her own jumper and she said yes, she had knit it. I really liked her colour choices – the stong reds and deep pinks, the orange necklace and her headscarf with shades of maroon and black. She was completely charming and kept shaking my hand with enthusiasm when I told her how I made my own clothes too. Her hand shake was as strong as man’s despite being over 80. When I left she gave me a full embrace.
Meeting this lady made me think of the One Year One Outfit challenge organised by Australian blogger This is Moonlight. The idea is to make a whole outfit from locally sourced materials, including underwear, footwear and fastenings. This lady has created her outfit from things near to her, and broadly with her own labour. She dresses in a traditional way, making her own fabric through knitting and weaving. Her clothes are practical, as well as beautiful, and extremely robust and strong. I find it very inspiring to visit people, even briefly, who live more closely to nature, alongside their animals, using the same skills as their ancestors to create and recreate their way of life.