Change of Scene

By Tobias Strahl, April 2023. We reach the village of Sjenokos over a forest road which began where the asphalt road ended. Not many people live here anymore. The special way of living, earning a livelihood, making plans for the future, which was the foundation of mountain villages like Sjenokos, has eroded in Bosnia as nearly everywhere in Europe. And so we walk through somewhat appearing like a blending of a museum and a graveyard.

The sun is stronger now than a few days ago. Nature is full of water. Water coming from everywhere. The ground is soaking wet from melted snow, the creeks and rivers overflow, springs everywhere in the forest and along the field margins give away their abundance. Nature awakens and sends its first brave envoys who do not fear the cold of early mornings; there are scilla (Scilla bifolia), white butterbur (Petasites albus), spring crocus (Crocus vernus) in white and blue. In a few weeks dog’s-tooth-violet (Erythronium dens-canis) and marsh orchids (Dactylorhiza majalis) will join. Like Henry David Thoreau writes in his diary: »The change from bad to fair weather, from dark, languid hours to cheerful, stretching ones, is a memorable turning point to which everything points. […] It was now no longer the end of a season, but the beginning. […] It is very easy to tell by looking at any branch of the forest whether winter is over or not«. (25 March 1846).

These are the landscapes of my childhood. Grown up in the former GDR, travelling was a tricky thing. Many countries were forbidden to travel to for a society hold captive by its »democratic representatives« – and these where not only the capitalist ones; my parents anyway had not the necessary means to travel too far. So we ended up for the most of our holidays in the neighbouring »Czechoslovakia«, a likewise socialist construct of the now separated Czech Republic and Slovakia. Its mountain landscapes are very similar to the low mountain ranges of Northern Bosnia.

So we walk through an ever changing scenery where nothing is solid – nihil firmum – from life plans and their manifestos over the floating streams to the kingdom of a worker’s religion – except the cycle of a year that permeates us in the pure forms of nature until we finally and indistinguishably merge with them again.