Čavljak is one of the more frequented recreational areas near Sarajevo. It is part of Ozren Mountain, just to the North-East of the city. The Mountain’s highest peak is Bukovik at 1532 meters. The gentle slopes of this relatively low mountain are ideal for less demanding hikes and mountain biking. The proximity to Sarajevo and easy accessibility thanks to a good road and public transport make this a popular destination for Sarajevans looking to escape the busyness of the city and its pollution, especially in the winter. In the spring, the area is covered by blooming mountain flowers. Come December, and this area is transformed into a winter wonderland.
Along a number of the areas’ hiking paths you can find mountaineering houses, huts, or cabins where one can stop for a refreshment: herbal tea from local plants such as thyme, mint, St. John’s wort, yarrow, coltsfoot, rose hip, and others; rakija, strong brandy usually from plum or pear; pastry with typical dairy products; dried meat; or a juice from elderberries or spruce (juniper) berries. One modest cabin and its host caught my eye in particular. As you come out of the forest and reach a clearance, you come across a small wooden cabin with at least one dog playing or laying outside. First time I stopped here was during the summer, and the cabin’s host, who is from a nearby village of Gornja Bioska, offered us to buy some eggs or milk. We made a chat and continued hiking, deciding that carrying eggs, even though they were protectively packed, was not the wisest option. We returned to the area this winter, not really expecting to find the cabin opened considering the deep snow and temperature of minus six degrees. We were pleasantly surprised though and very happy to have found a warm shelter.
Warmed up by a few rakijas, we shared some time with the cabin’s host who is 75 years old. He built the cabin himself, telling us proudly about different carpentry skills that he employed, which I pretended to understand. Everything about the cabin is modest but functional. As you enter, you must bow – I’d like to think in awe of the craftsmanship – but in reality, it’s to avoid bumping your head on the top of the door frame, if you are somewhat taller. The cabin is separated into two rooms, divided by a door. The first one serves more like an entry space with some cupboards to store wood. In the second room there is a table and two benches, and a stove which heats it up. Above the stove are some nails, on which I hung my wet cap and gloves. Two windows make sure that the room is lit. A very cosy place indeed, and in my view a very photogenic one, as its creator.
The host offered us to try some of the dried meat he sells. He also shared a few stories. For example about politicians in the 1960s or 1970s coming to hunt in the area and how many things have changed since. He told us about the loss of his wife and other personal stories which need not be re-told here. But if you’d like to find out, go for a hike and who knows what you will uncover.