Part Two: Observations on Film in The Balkans Part Two: Observations on Film in The Balkans

Part Two: Observations on Film in The Balkans

Continuing the journey south, Sarah Pannell captures many languorous moments passing through Trebinje and Sarajevo as it comes alive for the film festival, before diving into Croatia’s turquoise waters.

Read Part One here
The landscape transitions in a dramatic fashion as we head due south, driving parallel to the Montenegrin border, passing by Belica lake to reach Trebinje, the country’s most southern city in the region of East Herzegovina. Leaving deep river gorges and imposing mountain ranges behind, the landscape flattens out around as with expansive rocky outcrops and in no time we are surrounded by olive trees and vineyards. The air feels much warmer as we approach Trebinje, a beautiful, buzzing city dating back to the middle ages nestled on the Trebišnjica river.
Known for its wine culture, Trebinje has a southern Adriatic climate, much like its very close neighbour Dubrovnik. The old town was built by the Ottomans in the 18th Century and has maintained its charm with a bustling town square and the impressive Arslanagić Bridge. It stands out as we walk up a hill overlooking the city, through winding laneways and picturesque houses draped with grapevines.
After Trebinje, we head to the famed heart of East Herzegovina; Mostar known for ‘Stari Most’; the incredible 16th Century Ottoman bridge which is suspended over the Neretva River, connecting the two sides of the city. It’s hot in Mostar and busier than expected; Ivan’s last time here was in 2004, when the city was still reeling from the aftermath of the devastating war and its destruction of many parts of the city. Almost two decades later, the city is visibly different, with a palpable energy on the streets, while still retaining its charm and historical value.
Friends of ours who we are visiting in Sarajevo recommend visiting a river on the outskirts of Mostar; a great local swimming spot. We find a fresh water pool, with very few people around and relax in the shade. The mountain water is sparkling green and still cool despite the hot summer temperatures.
The drive to Sarajevo, only a few hours away, is slow in parts, as the narrow roads wind through gorges and alongside rapid rivers. It's one of the biggest weeks of the year in Sarajevo, as the International Film Festival is on and the city is buzzing with activity and many visitors. Our friends who reside in the centre of town remark on how it’s the one week of the year when Sarajevo feels like Berlin. I’m struck by the beauty of summer in Sarajevo after my last visit during spring when it rained constantly for 5 days. Weather aside, Sarajevo is a dynamic and endlessly interesting place. Baščaršija, the old quarter, is a captivating part of the city to explore at any hour of the day. As part of the festival, there’s an enormous street party that takes over the main avenue in town on the final night, and as we wander back to our apartment at the end of the evening, we come across a massive crowd outside a local bar with a traditional balkan band playing to a very enthusiastic audience.
Leaving the capital, we head north west, stopping in Jajce, the old capital of Bosnia, and towards the Croatian border to visit more family at the edge of Una National Park in Bihac province, known for its expansive network of cascading waterfalls and fly fishing. We drink cherry rakija and eat fish by the river in Martin Brod.
After several weeks in Bosnia, we cross the border into Croatia, and it isn’t until we’re approaching the beach with the coastline in sight that we realise how excited we are to swim in the open sea. Meeting up with friends in the quiet beach town of Tisno, we take our first dip in many years in the Adriatic; a decidedly joyful experience. The tempo shift as we settle into a week by the sea is welcomed; we walk everywhere, enjoying time outside of the car, spending long mornings by the beach, swimming alongside locals and tourists alike. On our fourth day in Croatia, we hired two small motor boats for the day with five friends of ours and convoy around a few small islands, stopping to dive into the turquoise water and nap in the shade of the boat’s canopy. We find an incredible little fish restaurant by the water and eat fried calamari and octopus, which pairs perfectly with chilled white Croatian wine. The time comes all too soon, to pack up and make the journey back to Belgrade; this time via a much speedier major highway which cuts its way north towards Zagreb, before turning off due east in the direction of Belgrade, circumventing Bosnia & Herzegovina all together.