Three meetings with Kusturica: what surprises tourists in Bosnia and Herzegovina

In the countries of the former Yugoslavia, the funny and the tragic are like the obverse and reverse of the same coin. This feature is best conveyed by the films of the famous director

The correspondent of “Around the World” went to Bosnia and Herzegovina to look at the world through the eyes of the director and see life as a miracle …

Republic of Srpska

One of the two entities (entities) within the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina (not to be confused with Serbia). The republic was created in early 1992 by the Bosnian Serbs, who declared the independence of their territories. It was a response to the secession of Bosnia and Herzegovina from Yugoslavia, initiated by the Muslim Bosnians.

Three meetings with Kusturica: what surprises tourists in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Republic remained unrecognized until the end of the Bosnian War, that is, until November 1995, when the Dayton Accords were signed under pressure from NATO and the UN. As a result, the common state of Bosnia and Herzegovina was formed, which included the Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The administrative center of the Republika Srpska de jure is Sarajevo, de facto Banja Luka.

Swan, crayfish and pike

From a conversation on the bus:< /em>

—This is not the first time we've crossed the border this day. I am completely confused in which part of the country I am: Orthodox or Muslim …

– I myself am constantly confused, even though I lived here for several years. But I know one trick that always allows you to quickly orient yourself! Go to the store and see what beer is on sale. If “Nectar”, then you are in the Serbian part, if Karlovačko – in the Croatian. If there is no beer on sale, then you have drifted to the Bosnians (Serbs who converted to Islam).

Three meetings with Kusturica: what surprises tourists in Bosnia and Herzegovina< /p>

Note. This is clearly visible on the map: the territory of the Republika Srpska, like a vise, compresses the Muslim part of Bosnia and Herzegovina from two sides. The tight embrace is slightly weakened in the northwest of the country, where several cantons belonging to the federation are located. Croats mostly concentrated along the border of their historical homeland, occupying about a third of the lands of the Bosnians.

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Mercantile Interest

When my colleague found out that I was going to Bosnia and Herzegovina, she asked me to change some of the local convertible marks she had left after traveling to the country for euros. On my way to the bank, I took out the money, took a quick look at it, and then, slowing down my steps, examined it more closely.

The feeling that I was played, forced me to freeze in indecision literally in front of the door of a financial organization … Completely different people looked at me from two banknotes of 50 marks. After scratching my head and waving my hand, I nevertheless went inside and, embarrassed, handed the bills to the cashier.

Three meetings with Kusturica: what surprises tourists in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Contrary to my expectations, there was no scandal: the girl calmly gave me the euros due at the exchange rate. Then I carefully drew her attention to the “financial” incident. Smiling, the bank employee explained that banknotes of the same denomination are issued in the country for circulation both in the Republika Srpska and in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina with the corresponding Bosnian and Serbian public figures. “Mine” featured Serbian nationalist poet Jovan Ducic and Bosnian nationalist poet Musa Čatic.


Having walked in Visegrad along the stone bridge over the Drina, a monument of medieval Turkish engineering art, I came to a monumental building that looked like a fortress. There, on the second floor, there was a restaurant with narrow slit windows, built under the direction of Emir Kusturica.

The incredible was waiting for me in the restaurant hall. In the corner, with his back against the wall, stood the director himself in quilted pants, a quilted jacket, worn-out boots and a cap. He kept his hands in his pockets, crossed his legs, and stared up at the vaulted ceiling. A woman was pouring water from a bucket onto the floor. A little further away from the director, sitting at a small table… Putin. I looked around and recognized a few more acquaintances: Mikhalkov, standing in thought with a chessboard under his arm, Obama, peacefully smoking by a tree, Dostoevsky, Tesla, Gandhi … All this company in a popular style was assembled on the walls of the institution by a local artist & nbsp; – commissioned Kusturica.

See also

The Lion's Share

Traveling around Bosnia and Herzegovina, I was constantly looking for gypsy motifs from the film “Time of the Gypsies”: characteristic faces, colorful catchy melodies, atmospheric shacks.

Three meetings with Kusturica: what surprises tourists Bosnia and Herzegovina

One day our group was brought to the ethnomuseum “Lyubačski Doliny”, located 17 kilometers from Banja Luka. For more than 20 years, its owner has been collecting both antiques and entire buildings in which the locals used to live and work.

After walking around the territory and seeing how the forge, school, barber's looked like, I noticed a large house located across the street from the museum. The massive fence was decorated with stone lions. “And who lives there?” – I asked the collector of antiquities, who spoke Russian. He uttered skeptically: “If you see lions near the house, it means that gypsies live in it.”

On the wave of my memory

During one of the feasts with live music and chants, which was attended by important officials from the host country, I asked if it was possible to order the performance of the Danube Waves waltz, which plays throughout Kusturica's film “Dad on a business trip”.

The translator broadcast my request. For some reason, the hosts of the event visibly tensed up and carefully specified exactly when I would like it. “Well, now the song will end – and you can”, – I said, drinking another glass of brandy. Confusion appeared on their faces.

Half an hour later, when the musicians had performed about a dozen songs, I recalled my request. A whole delegation approached me and put forward an envoy from among the highest-ranking ones. It was he who informed me that it was already late, but tomorrow morning an individual tour along the “Danube waves” with stops in all major ports would be organized for me.

The fact that the Danube does not flow through the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, I realized later. Nevertheless, to the delight of the host, the misunderstanding was immediately resolved and forgotten, and the musicians finally performed the waltz.


It is difficult to roll a suitcase along the paths built from old narrow-gauge railway sleepers in the hotel complex of Kusturica. Drvengrad, or, as it is also called, Kyustendorf, is a former scenery erected by the director 135 kilometers from Belgrade, not far from the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, for the filming of the film Life is a Miracle. The director did not dismantle the “shooting village”, deciding to use it as a hotel.

Three meetings with Kusturica: what surprises tourists in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Tired from the road, we had dinner at a local restaurant. Suddenly Kusturica entered the door. He took a picture with everyone, giving out the slogan “Travel where you are loved” in broken Russian, and sat down at the next table, where a noisy company was waiting for him.

And at night I woke up because someone loudly performed “Shaggy Bumblebee” from the film “Cruel Romance” by Mikhalkov near my number. “This is what love does,” I thought, listening to the singing and trying to catch a familiar accent…

However, they sang in pure Russian.

City of Brides

Three meetings with Kusturica: what surprises tourists in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Looking at souvenirs in a tourist shop on the main street of Banja Luka, among the images of sights in the form of the local Cathedral of Christ the Savior, the Ferhadiy Mosque, the Cathedral of St. Bonaventure, I noticed a magnet with a strange picture. It depicted seven female silhouettes and one male. “What does this mean?” & nbsp; – I asked the seller. He, winking and breaking into a toothless smile, replied: “This means that in Banja Luka, according to statistics, there are seven women for one man.”

Children of war

The territory of the fortress Kastel in Banja Luka, framed on all sides by an ancient wall, was buried in the cool shade of cypresses. The rumble of the city settled somewhere on the outskirts of the fortress fence, so the reserved silence around was broken only by birds chirping in the foliage.

Three meetings with Kusturica: what surprises tourists in Bosnia and Herzegovina

There were few people: apart from a few tourists, only a young mother with a three-year-old child was walking in the courtyard. At some point, our paths crossed, the boy looked up at me and broke into a wide smile, I smiled back at him and walked past. At the same moment, it was as if some kind of splinter pierced into consciousness, causing dissonance in it. I turned around and, looking at the baby, I understood the reason for the internal discomfort that had arisen. In his hands he held a toy mine detector painted in bright colors…

Republic of Srpska

Three meetings with Kusturica: what surprises tourists in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Republic of Srpska Square 24,532.8 km²
Population ~ 1,136,000 people
Population density 47 people/km²

Area of ​​Bosnia and Herzegovina 51,209 km² (125 1st in the world)
Population ~ 3,475,000 (135th place)
Population density 67 people/km²

ATTRACTIONSJahorina ski resort, Banja Vruchica thermal springs resort, Lyubač Dolina ethnomuseum, Kanjon rafting center.
TRADITIONAL DISHES splash (patty) , cevapcici (fried minced meat sausages), ajvar (baked pepper and eggplant appetizer).
TRADITIONAL DRINKS slivovitz and other brandy, red wine vranac.
SOUVENIRSprosciutto (cured pork ham), ceramics, woolen blankets.

DISTANCEfrom Moscow to Banja Luka ~ 1880 km (from 4 hours in flight excluding transfers)
TIMEbehind Moscow by 2 hours in winter, an hour in summer
VISARussians do not need
CURRENCYBosnian convertible mark (1 BAM ~ 0.56 USD)


Material published in Vokrug Sveta No. 5, May 2020, partially updated in June 2023

Kirill Sidorov

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