Still no snow. Still the bears are awake. The weather here is a good example for the climate change. Everybody talks about it in the village (onions are already growing, meat in getting bad…) and us as well as we keep exploring the 6 topics we mentioned last time: climate justice, our relation with wilderness, ecological footprint, culture of peace, activism and volunteering, permaculture. The sunlight is hot and at the same time there’s an old wind blowing, dark clouds but no rain or snow. Some people are even inspired enough to do yoga outside in the early morning 🙂
Besides these obvious problems we enjoy our time spent here. We learn more about the way the local community lives here in Kuterevo, visiting many families in the last few days. Close to nature, working with nature, we have so much to learn from them. Most of the men in the village work with wood – they make chairs, tables, benches, spoons, buckets and all kind of things used in the kitchen. Also there are only 4 men who make ”tamburica” – a local traditional string instrument produced only in this region of Croatia. Unfortunately there’s almost no young people who learns how to make it, so keeping the tradition of making ”tamburica” is in danger.
We also visited old ladies who make ”coklje” – traditional shoes you can wear outside – made from wool, old clothes and an inner tire. In the past they used leather instead of the tire but now they try to recycle things and turn them into something useful.
Some of us managed to check out the local bar, which is really nice and simple and where volunteers and foreigners are always welcome. It is as well a place where to meet local young people and to learn about their life. One of them, Matej, who is only 19, started an organization in which young people take part singing, dancing and playing the ‘’tamburica’’ traditional songs.
These last days we’ve learned as well a lot about their traditional food. On Thursday, separated in groups, we went to some of the families who help the bear refuge. We cooked with them and had dinner together. We actually survived the day without getting drunk because in every house they gave us ‘’rakija’’ – the well-known strong Balkan alcohol drink. The only thing we couldn’t escape was being stuffed all day long. The people here don’t leave your glass or bottle empty. They don’t have to argue if the glass is half full or half empty, because for them is always full! But we all managed this evening very well, thanks to air with is mixture of pure forest and karst, rakija doesn’t have such a strong effect 🙂
And the next morning, although some of us had sleepy eyes, we were all waiting for the bus which took us for one day of excursion in the local area. After a quick side-trip to the market of Gospič we went to the memorial of a pioneer of our modern lifestyle: Nikola Tesla. Inside of two buildings, his life, work and greatest inventions are presented. After we finished looking at Tesla’s work with all kinds of electricity, we moved on to visit the “Linden Tree” retreat ranch to learn about this project and its goals, ideas and values. We met other international volunteers, had the change to ride horses looking at the valley’s nature and also get to know each other a bit more doing some sort of meditation. But the conjuncture with this spiritual culture was not the last part of the excursion. The last part led the group to learn more about local traditions visiting the cultural center in Otočac where elder ladies teach young people how to make wool, carpets, socks, clothes and ropes like their own grandmother used to. Between the products of an almost forgotten time, three women and their granddaughters showed how become perfect wives knitting for our husbands and for the whole family 🙂
Once back home, we kept discovering our different cultures and after Bulgarians and Croatians, it was time for German group to finish the day by cooking and presenting the landscapes and traditions of their home-country.
Boryana, Siggi, Amelie
Pictures: Dennis, Lea, Amelie