Nature did its best: rivers, lakes, mountains, caves, air… The real hosts invest all they have to spoil the world. World travelers would change many blessings of their lives for only one day longer in a fairytale they are living up here. Welcome to Sipovo, a place divided to people who have not been here yet and those who will come back here for sure.
Water babble is louder than any other sound heard in Janjske otoke (Janj’s islets), a place four kilometers far from the spring of the River Janj. Its rich fauna and karst cascades form a picture pleasant for both eye and ear. Family house of Piljics is situated in this environment and its members have dealt with rural tourism for nine years actively. Piljic family does not live from profits gained from rural tourism only – their core family business is agriculture. Still, they certainly benefit from investments in rural tourism. Everything is homemade in this household and all family members are equally engaged. Mother is charge of food offered to the guests. Everything is prepared with domestic ingredients, prepared by traditional ancestors’ recipes. If the guests wished for something else, they could try offers of the local restaurants. But, a small number of them decide to miss homemade gastronomic pleasure.
Dule Piljic is serious about development but also thinks of generational transfer of the family business. He would like his son to be involved in professional business within this type of tourism. He says they have space for improvement but a thing he should take in consideration is additional facilities.
“Guests who come to stay for a day or a weekend mostly are from Banja Luka. Foreign guests stay longer as well as our ‘national foreigners’, i.e. people who were born here but moved to Serbia and come here for holidays”, says Mr. Piljic, the host. He adds it would be very good if one could find finances to invest in infrastructure that would help development of tourism – lightening, common municipal facilities, taps, toilets etc.
“I wish we could, at least in summer and weekend, enlighten these surreal small waterfalls and create a fairytale”, says Dule Piljic.
Janj’s islets are only a part of beauties in Sipovo Municipality. Nature was generous in creating this area. It gave the place river Pliva and Janj, rainforest of the same name, Janj, lakes named Olicko and Dol, caves named Sokolacka and Vagansa and mountain Vitorog, which provides you with “in sight” view or landscapes and countryside.
Vitorog, the mountain range 1,906 m high, is situated 30 km from the centre of Sipovo. The Vitorog’s peak is a crossroad of municipalities: Sipovo, Glamoc and Kupres. There is an underground facility on it, which was built by Yugoslav People’s Army and is not in function today.
It is not hard to think quality organized active holiday in this environment, suitable for many activities. There are climbing, cycling, photo-safari, hunting, as well as fishing offered in fly fishing style. This type of fishing makes this region very popular in the world of fishermen, a significant number of guests. The River Pliva with its right tributary Janj represents a rare pleasure for fishing, since its fly fishing range is eight kilometers long.
Fishermen from all over the world come here, and those coming from Sweden every year come to Radoja’s household, which have dealt with rural tourism for six years. Members of the Radoja family started with unconstructed part, which was adapted for staying overnight in the first place. Today, they have 18 beds and a restaurant. Food, of course, is homemade. And not only food – guests of the house are offered “plivovica”, a brandy made by hardworking host. At the opening of the bottle, there is a pleasant aroma and these come from mint, thyme, chamomile, rosemary, a bit of vanillin sugar, bay-leaf… It is very clear why, in only one season – from May to September – people drink up to 400 liters of this drink. They say it actually is a “medicinal alcohol” since it kills all bacteria in body. Grandfather grandmother, mother, father, and children … they all welcome guests.
“I always say that it is important for me to have someone for the first time as a guest. If they do not come back, then it is because of me and not the guest. Swedish came first, and today they are our guest in 60 per cent. Now we also have Englishmen, Frenchmen, Czech, Bulgarians, Romanians and the rest of them from all over. People from Banja Luka mostly come here for the weekend. Nature is the reason to come back, but hospitality itself is very important and good food”, say Mirka Radoja.
It takes five minutes by car and ten minutes by foot to get to the River Pliva spring, the biggest source of drinking water in Europe. Water is very clear so that in reflection one cannot tell difference between sky and stone. Spring and old mills are often visited by tourists. The mill is maintained by Mico Doslov, the host who cuts grass and cleans accessing roads to the springs – for free, just because he wants it. In his yard, at the wooden barn, there is a notice for voluntary donations. Those who have money, throw some of it in the old post box.
Today, there are over twenty households registered for accommodation and food services in Sipovo. Their total capacity is about 200 beds. The Tourist Organization of the Sipovo Municipality says households do not have to pay any taxes, they only have o fill in forms in the Agency for Intermediary, IT and financial services (APIF) and this is the procedure – they do not have to pay sojourn tax either. However, for further development of tourism, they have to organize promotion and they cannot afford it.
FROM PREHISTORY TO TODAY
Sipovo is Krajina region town, located at the far West of Republic of Srpska. It is located on pearly, mountain rivers Pliva and Janj, as well as smaller rivers Sokocnica, Lubovica and Volarica. This small town with 10,000 inhabitants is surrounded by mountains Vitorog, Plazenica, Ravna Gora, Gorica, Lisina and Cardak. It is covered by forest. In lower parts, we can find beech and hornbeam, and on higher parts there is a rich wood of spruce and fir tree.
People have lived in these areas for years. This is witnessed by remains of mediaeval fortresses and we would like to especially mention Sokograd and stecci (medieval tomb stones). Sokograd was mentioned for the first time in 1363, when Bosnian Governor Tvrtko I Kotromanic defeated Hungarian army. After the breakdown of Bosnian kingdom in 1463, the Sokograd was in hands of Hungarians up to 1527 when, Turkish Empire definitely conquered it. Since then up to 1833, the fortress was held by Turkish army. After the last Turkish guardians left in 1833, the famous fortress was forgotten. Medieval stecci take us back to Bogomil times, and people here call them “mramorja”.
Here, a curious traveler can also find remains of prehistoric settlements. One of them is called Gromile and represents prehistoric settlement and Roman fortress. This is one of the biggest antic localities in Republic of Srpska and BiH. Today, substruptions of Roman buildings, architectural fragments, and ceramic fragments could be found and in the past researches the following was found: various inscriptions, remains of hypocaust, ceramic terra sigillata, as well as money of Tzar Constantin (306-337). Researches also determined existence of prehistoric-bronze age layer under the one containing antic materials.
This place most certainly is worth of research. Maybe Ilija Grahovac, self-called “Dragon from Sipovo” is Sipovo’s most famous inhabitant. All this before they meet Sipovo’s hardworking people, healing people and realistic rural pastoral fairytale.