Off-Road Trip with the Landrover Defender - Part 4

Mountain Village Umoljani - In Search of the Stone Dragon

Bosnia and Herzegovina is full of legends that continue to come to life. Mountain village Umoljani with its petrified dragon is one of the most mysterious places in this world.

My Stages

Off-Road Trip with the Landrover Defender - Part 4

Mountain Village Umoljani - In Search of the Stone Dragon

Bosnia and Herzegovina is full of legends that continue to come to life. Mountain village Umoljani with its petrified dragon is one of the most mysterious places in this world.

My Stages

Landrover Defender - Off-Road Driving Made Easy

Today the time has finally come! I go on a dragon hunt and feel like Daenerys Targaryen Khaleesi from Game of Thrones. First, it’s back up to Mount Bjelasnica across the plateau. “Next comes the biggest challenge yet, for both the car and the driver. We will take the off-road trip over Crveni Klanac,” my cousin Faruk grins. Today, the Defender and I get to show off our skills.

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© Mirella Sidro

The weather is kind to us again. We are standing in front of the off-road track. First of all I get out of the car. At first glance, it looks really rough here. Deep furrows with angular stones. Otherwise it’s also partly steep upwards over a rocky path. But the view is gigantic as always. Faruk gets out and inspects the path. “It’s structured differently every time. It always depends on the weather. Today it looks pretty good.”

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© Mirella Sidro

Well, I think it’ s already looking pretty hard core. “You may have your off-road cameras running – I’ll still better be watching from the outside to make sure you get around the sharp edges.” It’s a slow climb. I can’t go faster than two to three km/h in places. Soon I reach the top. Only when I step out I see the rough underground, which would not have been very easy to traverse even on foot. On top we continue slowly over the rough gravel path.

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© Mirella Sidro

A Song of Village and Dragon

We already pass the village. An old woman is sitting outside with her two shepherd dogs, knitting the traditional woolen socks, just like the lovely ladies we met a day earlier in the mountain village of Lukomir. We stop. Immediately, the two dogs come to meet us joyfully. “Children, did you drive over the Crveni Klanac? Over this bad road?” We nod with laughter. It is always wonderful to be addressed as “child”! “Isn’t the car too precious for that?” “Don’t worry Grandma, the car is made for it,” Faruk replies with a smile. “I know, I still wouldn’t do it. With our car, it’s different …” She glances at the old station wagon, which has a few decades and dents under its belt. No matter, it drives and gets everywhere. She tells me she likes to sit here and knit. Today, she says, the weather is so beautiful and she enjoys that for now. She is always happy when guests come from out of town.

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© Mirella Sidro

And many guests come here. The village at an altitude of about 1350 meters is located approximately ten kilometers from the idyllic mountain village Lukomir, the highest in the country. It can also be reached from there by hiking across the plateau in about four hours time. However there is also a good reason why people come here on pilgrimage. Because of the old legends that are told here. The village certainly dates back to the Middle Ages. This dating is based on the medieval tombstones, called Stećci, as they are found in quite large quantity in this area.

According to a legend, a great dragon in the form of a snake came out of the Rakitnica gorge, which is about three kilometers away from the village. He flew through the plateau, which today is called Studeni Potok (translated as icy stream), to destroy the village and eat the villagers. When they noticed the danger, the people retreated to Pošiljak Mountain and began to pray to God. They asked him most earnestly to petrify the dragon. God answered their prayers. Even today you can find the figure of the petrified monster.

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© Mirella Sidro

Even Here Legends About The Dragon

We leave the gravel road and drive up the mountain. “While resting you can enjoy the view of Studeni Potok.” The endless expanse of mountain peaks is again opening up in the horizon, and on the opposite side you can wonderfully see the serpentine road to the top of Bjelašnica Mountain as well as the observatory, which is very clearly visible from here.

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© Mirella Sidro

And then there is the somewhat low-lying plateau with a watercourse that looks like a giant snake. “Legend has it that this stream was created because of the coils of the dragon’s tail during its flight to the village,” Faruk tells me as we sit in our camping chairs sipping cocoa. This plateau became internationally famous when wakeskating pioneer Brian Grubb shot his Winter Wonderland video here exactly five years ago. At that time the plateau was completely covered with snow. Only the creek with its meanders was gigantically visible in this untouched nature. This place is a feast for the eyes both in summer and winter. Sometimes, on hot summer days, it may happen that there is not enough water around.

We put our chairs together and drive on. I’m hungry. “Shall we go back to the Koliba inn while we’re here?” I’m craving the barley soup and the salty doughnuts I ate during my first trip.

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© Mirella Sidro

But first I want to see the petrified dragon. We reach the paved road leading out of the village. Faruk stops. “Do you see him?” I look at the rock in front of me. Indeed! The natural formation of the rock has created a petrified dragon over millions of years. You can properly make out the head, the body, and the long tail. In spring, I would like to hike the trail to get up close to the stone monster. In summer, I would avoid the tour on foot. For one thing, it gets very hot and for another, the European horned viper is native here. And this one is poisonous.

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© Mirella Sidro

Centuries Of History

And then we pass it again – the extraordinary mosque with the stone minaret. It, too, tells several legends. During the Balkan war in the nineties of the last century, the village of Umoljani was set on fire. However, the mosque with its stone minaret remained intact. According to the stories, shortly before the war, the child of an officer fell ill and was advised to see the imam of the mosque, as he could cure him. Shortly after the child recovered, the army attacked the population of Umoljani. Coincidentally, one of the commanders of this unit was the officer just mentioned. Reportedly, he expressly forbade setting fire to the mosque. Today it is the only architectural example of the village’s centuries-old existence.

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© Mirella Sidro

It is also said that the Sarajevo Haggadah was hidden here from the German troops during the Second World War. It was allegedly hidden in the foundation in which the medieval tombstones were built. Actually, the Haggadah, one of the oldest copies in the world and unique in its design, was in the National Museum in Sarajevo when one of the SS officers came to collect it. The Muslim librarian had bravely told him at that time that someone had already been there and had taken it. To this day it is not known whether it was hidden in the museum itself or in fact in this mosque. Whatever the case, the story illustrates how different religions have lived peacefully side by side in Bosnia-Herzegovina for centuries and have always supported each other in times of need. Today, the valuable Jewish book can be seen again in the National Museum.

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© Mirella Sidro

With relish I eat my barley soup from the clay plate. The stove provides me with a cozy warmth. The numerous legends must first be processed. So many great stories in a small village! They give enough material for a Game of Thrones alternative! It is exactly what I love so much about this little corner of the world called Bosnia and Herzegovina. There is still a lot to discover here … A lot …

Follow my impressions

My mobile companion

Land Rover Defender 110 D240 SE in Santorini Black

  • –  8-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive (AWD)
  • –  Adaptive Dynamics (Adaptive Chassis)
  • – Electronically controlled air suspension 
  • –  Terrain Response
  • –  Torque Vectoring by Braking (TVBB)–  Two-stage transfer case (on-road/off-road reduction)

    –  20 inch alloy wheel with 5 spokes, Gloss Sparkle Silver (Style 5094)

  • –  Exterior mirrors, electrically folding and unfolding
  • –  heatable, with automatic dimming and ambient lighting
  • –  Break calipers, unpainted

–  Panoramic sunroof, with electric sun visor

–  Santorini Black

–  19 inch alloy wheel with 6 double spokes, Gloss Black (Style 6010)

BLACK PACK

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  • – Radioator grille in Narvik Black
  • – Lettering on the rear in Narvik Black
  • – Lettering on the hood in Narvik Black
DRIVING ASSISTANCE PACKAGE
 
  • – Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)
  • – Rear collision warning system

OFF-ROAD-PACKAGE

  • – Active limited slip differential (rear)
  • – Roof rails in black
  • – All Terrain Tires 
  • – Domestic power outlet

OFF-ROAD-PACKAGE PLUS

  • – All Terrain Progress Control (ATPC) 
  • – Terrain Response 2 Automatic 
  • – Terrain Response, configurable

WINTER-PACKAGE

  • – Heated windshield washer nozzles
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  • – Windscreen, heatable
  • – Steering wheel, heatable

COMFORT-PACKAGE PLUS

  • – Cooler Compartment Plus in Front Center Console 
  • – Premium Interior Lighting
  • – Wireless Charging for Smartphones
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© Mirella Sidro