Off-Road Trip with the Landrover Defender - Part 5

Swiss Cheese Made in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The best Swiss cheese can only be found in Switzerland? Not quite! We visited a cheese dairy in the Bosnian mountains and enjoyed a culinary treat.

My Stages

Off-Road Trip with the Landrover Defender - Part 5

Swiss Cheese Made in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The best Swiss cheese can only be found in Switzerland? Not quite! We visited a cheese dairy in the Bosnian mountains and enjoyed a culinary treat.

My Stages

Tales of Cheese

“Today we’re heading to the eastern part of the country and you’ll get to eat Swiss cheese.” My cousin Faruk grins as we pack our gear into the Land Rover Defender. Sure, Swiss cheese in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The country has excellent cheeses, but not a hard cheese as we know it. Instead, we find the shepherd’s cheese variety, preferably made from sheep’s or goat’s milk, as well as a type of ricotta, only somewhat firmer and creamier.

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© Mirella Sidro

But he is serious. Well, this small country in the shape of a heart in the middle of Europe is full of surprises. It has about the area of Switzerland and around a population of 3.8 million. Most of the area is uninhabited. And there is a reason for that. Most of the country is extremely mountainous and covered with forest areas.

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© Mirella Sidro

Journey through the Country and its History

Once again we are going on an off-road trip through deep and untouched forests. We are still on the country road towards the town of Foča. It is still early and the fog hangs in the treetops. I stop to let the mystical nature take effect on me. Slowly the fog moves like transparent white cloths. It is as if we are between the normal world and the afterlife in the Slavic mythology. It is quiet. Only the light wind that wanders through the woods can be heard like a whisper.

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© Mirella Sidro

We have to keep going. The closer we get to the east of the country, the brighter it gets. Our first stop is the Sutjeska Memorial Monument in the village of Tjentište. This is where Yugoslav partisans fought Hitler’s troops during World War II. The battle became internationally known after the release of the 1973 movie ‘The Fifth Offensive’ starring Richard Burton.

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© Mirella Sidro

Today, on the site of the event stands an imposing sculpture. The modern work of art seems ageless and beautifully blends in with the natural surroundings. Many such oversized artifacts can be found in the former Yugoslavia, created by architects and artists. They are unique to this day and of such international interest that the museum MOMA in New York dedicated a whole exhibition to them in 2018 and 2019.

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© Mirella Sidro

Faruk and I are alone. Only a kitten comes to meet us and lies down under the warm car. We walk up the hill to the majestic looking object. The Sutjeska Memorial seems like a gate between two worlds. It is beautiful and yet there is also an oppressive atmosphere. Perhaps this is due to the fog that is still lingering at this time of day? I don’t know.

I drive on, buried in thought. A concrete block from which shapes have been carved so that they leave an impression. It is more than just a block – it has become an object animated by the artist.

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© Mirella Sidro

Off to Switzerland?

We leave the country road. We again enter the deep forest via the gravel paths. The forest glows intensely in all autumn colors, thanks in part to the sun’s rays hitting the earth through the trees. The forest is so dense that you can hardly see through it.

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© Mirella Sidro

The ride takes us about an hour. Yes, that’s right – it takes that long through the forest until we reach a clearing at 1250 meters above sea level. Our destination is the plateau plain above the canyon of the Tara River, the deepest in Europe, right on the border to Montenegro.

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© Mirella Sidro

A hoisted Swiss flag greets us upon our arrival. Milan, one of the employees at the farm, joyfully comes to meet us with his two Bosnian shepherd dogs of the Tornjak breed. “Very nice, you brought sunshine!” Jerry and Chikita get some cuddles right away. Three wooden huts in Swiss style are waiting there, next to them the stable, which does not emit any unpleasant smell.

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© Mirella Sidro

I may as well had been in Switzerland. Birds are chirping and it smells like wild herbs and grass. “Where are the cows?” Milan laughs, “They’re out in the pasture, but should be in for milking soon. Until then, I’ll show you our cabins!” These are available for rent. They are lovingly and spartanly furnished, as befits a hearty mountain hut. The view from the bedroom is incredibly romantic – mountains and nature as far as the eye can see.

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© Mirella Sidro
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© Mirella Sidro

"Familiar and yet different"

Milan leads us to the main building. On the first floor breakfast is served to the guests. On the upper floor there are beautiful apartments for rent. “Are you hungry? I have prepared a snack!”

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© Mirella Sidro

The cheese! Indeed! A Swiss hard cheese! I reach for it. From the consistency like a well matured Parmesan, from the taste like a well matured herb mountain cheese, which does not smell harsh! Milan still gives us cheese bites pickled in olive oil and dried porcini mushrooms from the region. The glass is half empty soon. It tastes really unique! Familiar and yet different. “It’s because of the grasses here,” Milan explains.

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© Mirella Sidro
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© Mirella Sidro

We walk to the top of the plateau. Looking down from here, it’s very steep. The sound of the Tara River can be heard. While nature here is still green, its waters, seen from a distance, shine bright blue. On the horizon, the mountains seem to have no end.” “Over there we already have Montenegro,” Milan explains as we sit on the rock, waiting for the sunset.

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© Mirella Sidro

Jerry and Chikita romp around happily and keep getting cuddles from us. “They’re always around us”, Milan laughs. He is part of one of two families who take care of the farm in two shifts. Opened by Swiss entrepreneur Tatomir Jovicic in 2014, the dairy was land he had inherited from his family. As a child, he had loved spending his vacations here with his grandparents. In 1992, he emigrated to Switzerland, but his love for his homeland remained. And so the idea for the cheese dairy was born.

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© Mirella Sidro

A Meeting with the Cows

“It’s time, our cows should be here!” Of course I want to see them, but I do not want to get too close – I am afraid of cows. About 22 cows of the Brown Swiss breed, which the owner had brought from Slovenia, are crowding into the barn, from which Queen is loudly blaring from a radio. Ok, they are very cute – actually they look like little teddy bears with their bushy big ears.

I stop in front of the barn. Milan turns to me, “Come in, then you can look at our little calves!” My cousin Faruk laughs: “She won’t come, she’s afraid of them!” Now my courage takes hold of me after all. I go inside and am amazed. It doesn’t smell like a cow! And the bull looks at me so lovingly that I pet him. The animals are very clean.

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© Mirella Sidro

“Do you groom them every day?” Milan denies. “Our cows are outside all the time, except in winter, and move freely. Besides, they eat only native grasses in nature and hay from those same pastures in winter. Therefore, they stay clean and there is no smell of stall. Also, they don’t get sick and calve on their own.” In return, they don’t give as much milk. But that’s not the point either. Here, cows are allowed to live up to 15 years and are not taken to the slaughterhouse after an average of five years, as is the case over here, just because they no longer produce the amount of milk desired. After they have been milked, they trot happily back out to the pasture. They are happy animals and you can see it in their faces. Do they have names? “Yes they do, but we hardly use them,” Milan laughs.

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© Mirella Sidro

Golden Cheese

The cheese is made by hand according to old Swiss tradition. The cheese loaves are stacked on the shelves. Each is turned by hand every four days and rubbed with salt water on top. And then there’s an oversized copper kettle over a fireplace. “This is where the milk is made warm after milking”. Here, it’s like a bygone era when food was made in harmony with nature. The cheese matures between three to 15 months.

After only three years, it has won golden prizes at fairs in the Balkans. The cheese has the beautiful name Zlatni Sir, which translates as Golden Cheese. The name is deserved.

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© Mirella Sidro

It’s time to say goodbye. I buy half a kilo in one piece and two jars with the pickled cheese bites and dried porcini mushrooms. The price: about 20 € for everything. 17 € for a kilo of cheese. That is expensive even in the country, but for us very cheap for this valuable organic product. “Wouldn’t you like to spend the night here in the hut?” We would like to. But tomorrow another tour is already waiting for us. I say a wistful goodbye to Jerry and Chikita, the farm’s two loving dogs. I have many favorite places in my home country that I took to my heart – this one is certainly among them now.

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

  • – Application on the hood in Narvik Black 
  • – 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
  • – Headlight cleaning system
  • – 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