Are there any wild horses left in the nature of Europe? We went looking for them in the Romanija region of eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina!
Wild horses in untouched nature, somewhere up in the mountains, far away from civilization… Ever since my cousin Faruk told me about them, I can’t stop wishing to see them. I want to feel this fairy tale come true for myself and become a part of it. He encounters them frequently. The family’s weekend home is located in the Gosina Mountains in the east of the country. The Romanija region is known for its nature and remoteness.
It is autumn and the sun is shining down from the steel blue sky. It is about a good hour’s drive from Sarajevo. Before long we are in the mountains. The road is paved and leads through several villages. “Most of the people here live in the city and work there. Today, they use their ancestors’ houses as weekend homes,” Faruk explains to me. The gardens with their fruit trees and vegetable beds, in which the ripe pumpkins glow orange at this time of year, are all well tended. Soon we are heading for the off-road track. The path is very narrow and covered with leaves. To the right, the trail is flanked by a wooden fence with rosehip bushes surrounding it. Thick deep red rose hips pull down the long branches so that they are in danger of breaking off.
The locals will soon collect them to make juices, jams or tea for the winter. Even our ancestors throughout Central Europe knew about their healthy effectiveness. In the Balkans, this ancient tradition continues to be utilized. I still remember when I was a child, I went to the mountains with my grandparents to collect these round red balls with my grandma. For me as a German city kid, it was an absolute highlight. To this day, I remember my grandma’s homemade rosehip jam, which was transported to Germany in large quantities.
While my cousin drives, I have the task of moving the prickly branches out of the way so that the car doesn’t suffer any scratches. I carefully bend the tree tentacles. None of this wonderful wild flora and fauna should take any damage.
We drive up a hill until some trees and bushes block our way. Faruk leads me to a forest. The thicket is quite intense as we enter. After that it becomes thinner. Very tall deciduous trees give a clear view over the ground covered with leaves and moss. I would prefer to walk barefoot, but it is quite fresh. We go deeper inside. Sunbeams shine through the treetops and fall on old gravestones.
They are “Stećci”, tombs built at the time of the Bosnian Kingdom in the Middle Ages between the 14th and 15th centuries. Their shape is so unusual and unique that they are now UNESCO World Heritage. Some are simply lying slabs, others upright stones. It is quiet and peaceful, while the sun is low already and the light turns to a soft orange. Only birdsong can be heard and sometimes a rustling in the leaves. Mysterious are the motives and also the inscriptions written in Bosančica, the old spelling of the country.
Although created in Christian times, some representations still date back to pre-Christian times and recall pagan customs, when Slavic gods still dominated everyday life. Much has been written and researched about them. “… Brothers and friends, mourn for me! I was like you and you will be like me.” And yet, to this day, not all of the inscriptions, tinged with profound wisdom, have revealed their secret. And the same goes for the motifs and symbols depicted, such as crescent moons, crosses, rosettes.
I walk between the gravestones and look at the representations. Occasionally I walk with my hand over the surfaces roughened by the weather, on which moss or ivy have spread. I know I am in a place of power. A medieval cemetery that speaks to us in a language we unfortunately do not always understand. My spirit feels so alive here.
“We have to go …” Faruk reluctantly interrupts my silent lingering in the forest. But we still want to find the horses. “When it gets dark, they will hide in the thicket and at that point you will miss them.” Faruk calls his family to ask if they have seen the horses. “They are there!” We continue up into an endless clearing. The sky turns into every sunset color imaginable. Faruk lets the drone take to the sky, “With it, we’ll find them for sure,” he grins. I continue driving slowly.
“There, there they are! Turn off the lights and drive up real slow.” I’m excited. A whole herd is walking slowly across the clearing in front of us. I stop and get out of the car. “You can get very close. They are shy and so they won’t let you pet them unless you have salt with you.” The wonderful creatures, mostly with deep brown coats, are of medium stature. There are also foals. Peacefully they graze and every now and then lift their heads to look at us.
The Defender does not disturb them at all. It is quiet, only their gait and grazing can be heard. Will a unicorn be there, too? Faruk rolls his eyes and laughs, “Well, none have been spotted yet. You’ll have to make do with the conventional models in wild form.” I’m happy to do that. We stay with them until they start moving again. We follow them until the clearing ends and a deep slope appears in front of us. A carport stands in front of it. This is the point from which the paragliders take off. While we were waiting for the sunset, the horses approached us. Curiously they sniff at the car. After all, we are in their territory. I enjoy the beautiful colorful sky. A unique work of art that will last only one day. Tomorrow it will look completely different.
It is pitch dark. “Come, my parents are already waiting for us with dinner. Mom made Bosnian pita with spinach, just like you love them.” I’m already looking forward to the vegetarian puff pastry dish. Bosnian cuisine is varied and often still made according to old traditions. Like the ancient tombstones themselves, the culinary arts are full of myths and legends. As we drive through the thicket in the dead of night, horses cross our path and disappear into the dark forest. Yes, Bosnia and Herzegovina is like a place made real, where the history of Europe from long ago is slowly coming back to life. And we are part of it!
– 20 inch alloy wheel with 5 spokes, Gloss Sparkle Silver (Style 5094)
– Panoramic sunroof, with electric sun visor
– Santorini Black
– 19 inch alloy wheel with 6 double spokes, Gloss Black (Style 6010)