A festival in the mountains of Bosnia — August 2006
Manning Leonard Krull

This is one of my favorite things I've ever seen in all my travels. Alexis drove to Bosnia from France, and then he and Lada and Tami and I drove around in the Bosnian countryside for hours on a rainy afternoon. We were really and truly more in-the-middle-of-nowhere than I'd ever been in my life; the roads were super narrow, and there were no people around for miles and miles, except the occasional old woman leading her flock of sheep along a mountainside. After a while, a car — the first we'd seen in dozens of miles — came our way, and the road was so narrow we had to pull over and let them pass. And then a minute later, another car. And another. We figured something must be going on up ahead, but we didn't know what. And then we pulled into a tiny village and saw...

... A festival was going on! Despite the rain and mud. And it looked like everybody from every village in the area all had all come out for the occasion.

I've been to plenty of places where foreigners are kind of rare, but this is probably the only place I've been in my life where I knew my group were the only non-locals there. There's one way people stare when they don't see strangers very often, and there's an entirely different way they stare when they've basically never seen strangers in this place at all.

Some awesome Bosnian line-dancing was going on. I took a short video to capture a little piece of the repetitive music the guy was playing on the keyboard. It's here (2.74 mb).

Everybody, including us, was covered up to their ankles in mud by the time we got out of there. There were young girls all over the place with theor hair done perfectly, wearing makeup, nice jeans, and heels, wandering around shivering without jackets. Lada offered, "They've probably been waiting for this day for a long time. If they don't dress nice today, when will they get to dress nice?"

Another thing I really wish I'd gotten a picture of: dozens and dozens of young boys, ranging from about ages 5 to 10, running around shooting each other with extremely realistic toy guns. I kept my camera ready, but they were just too fast. Probably almost all of these kids' fathers were in the war in one way or another, and guns are clearly still a part of their culture, even though these kids were born after the war was over. One thing I thought about a lot when I traveled in this entire region was that, whenever I saw a guy around my age, I realized that there was a very good chance he'd been a soldier and no doubt saw and did and experienced things I can't possibly imagine.

Alexis surveys the scene. I wonder what the villagers would have thought if they'd been told a French rock star was visiting for the festival?

I tried to get a picture of as much of the fairgrounds as I could fit in one shot. That's pretty much all of it. Maybe three hundred people or so, all having a great time on this farm. Note the cemetery on the far left.

Those puffs of smoke are the various tents that were cooking up cevapi and other good stuff.

After this incredible experience, we went back to Sarajevo, which suddenly felt like the biggest city I'd ever been in. The next day, Alexis drove us to a breathtaking virgin forest...

- Manning Leonard Krull

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