Welcome back to Beautiful Spaces—a series of posts in which I talk about the apartments, hotels, hostels, & B&Bs I stay in during my travels. It all started in 2013 when I realized that my contentment on the road is directly connected to how much I love where I’m living…and so made a commitment to find beautiful spaces to call home along the way. The owner of this amazing farm stay was kind enough to extend a complimentary stay in exchange for this review. As always, opinions are my own.
There are so many reasons that I travel.
For food. For connection. For creativity’s sake. For newness and change.
And, perhaps above all, for nature—for Alpine hikes and quirky forest hideaways, cross-country cycle adventures and weekends tucked away in the wilderness with nary an internet signal to be found.
Which is why when a new friend who runs an adventurous travel company for those visiting the Balkans offered to set up a weekend in a Bosnian farm stay, I said hell yes.
And so on a Friday in June we found ourselves in a car zipping through Bosnian gorges and up switchbacks to the top of a mountain just a short way from Mostar where two fairytale stone houses stand overlooking rolling, forested hills and bright blue sky.
Instantly, our summer stresses—of starting new businesses and researching traditional book publishing, of wondering when we’ll find a European home base, a place to call home—melted away.
We were in the wilderness.
And even a teeny tiny bit of wilderness significantly reduces stress.
For the next two days, far away from the noise and demands of even small cities, we rested and explored.
We hiked up the ridge for views over the nearest village.
We strolled down to the pond to watch frogs float on the surface.
Chad took up residence on the outdoor couch on the second-floor balcony with its sweeping views. I sat cross-legged on the bed, gazing out the open double doors while listening to podcasts.
And in between, we cooked and ate with our lovely, soulful hostess, Zejna, who stayed in the smaller house just a short way from our own.
You know when you just know instantly that someone is a good person, a truly kind heart?
That’s Zejna, who owns the property.
Her life here in Bosnia has taken so many unexpected turns. She’s lived through a brutal, terrible war. Raised a child mostly on her own. Lost the love of her life too young. And despite every setback, every heartbreak, she’s made her own way, landing jobs that women normally didn’t even apply for, growing food in her own gardens, rescuing turtles and raising her own chickens, and, now, running her own farm stay.
The place. Her story. Both had a way of widening our perspectives, reminding us what really matters, why we work hard at the businesses we’re building, why we’ve chosen the life we have.
It also reminded us of why we love things like farm stays.
Because they aren’t just another way to travel. They’re a way to connect with the people who live in the place you want to visit. They’re a way right into the heart of the place.
And they’re a way to support those people, to take the money that would go into that chain hotel’s pocket and instead put it into the pockets of the people.
I left that farm stay feeling expansive, rested, reminded of what matters. And also feeling very much like I’d made a new friend, someone who I’ll always remember, no matter how miles away I end up.
And speaking of the heart of a place, we also did a lot of eating up on that mountain.
Zejna is not only a brilliant, exceptional human being, she’s also a brilliant, exceptional cook. And so every meal we feasted, exploring the intricacies of real Bosnian food and how very different that home-cooked food was to the meals we’d had in restaurants so far.
We made burek—a traditional spiral pastry filled with meat or cheese and greens. Zejna’s was made with real butter, fresh greens from the garden, and handmade dough rolled so thin you could see through it. It was baked in a wood-burning oven and served with a tangy dairy sauce with hints of garlic and lemon.
It was, in short, far better than the fast-food style bureks we’d tried in town. It was the real-food version of something that had been reduced to quick takeaway. We took half a burek home with us and Chad ate it in a single day.
Burek wasn’t the only thing worth eating up on the mountain. We both tried our first-ever fresh figs, with their surprising, light, honeyed sweetness, our first-ever duck eggs, which could only be described as rich and golden, homemade jams, rich red local wine, and wood-oven-cooked bone-in chicken legs spiced perfectly and roasted over potatoes, garlic, and onions.
Even better, Zejna taught me to make each dish, letting me jot down notes and take photos as she thinned the burek dough and mixed the cheese filling, as she salted the potatoes and spiced the chicken legs.
And so we walked away with full bellies, and the knowledge of how to make our own Bosnian dishes along the way.
It was the first time in a long time I heard Chad say he didn’t want to leave a place.
The first time in a long time that we had a whole weekend off the grid, without work or internet or distraction. The first time in a long time that we were surrounded by nothing but trees and hills, rocks and wildlife.
Mornings and evenings brought us plenty of that: the three deer that crossed the hills our first morning, the rowdy family of boars that crossed into the trees and caused a ruckus, the single fox zipping from tree to tree one evening, the curious water snake poking her head up to see what we were doing, the thousand colorful butterflies zig-zagging from wildflower to wildflower.
That weekend was the most amazing experience of our first two months in Bosnia. And one of the top two things we’ve done all year so far (our weekend in Assisi is the other favorite).
If you’re looking to experience a Europe that’s off the beaten path, surrounded by nature, connective, restorative, and beautiful, this is it.
To book your own nights at this magical mountaintop farm stay just outside Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, visit Meanderbug. Pricing starts at 85 euros per night, but I recommend splurging on the authentic Bosnian meals if you can (an additional 20 euros per day for two meals). Transportation from Mostar is included (so don’t fret about car rentals and rocky mountain roads). And I advise booking at least two nights. One just isn’t enough.
And if you’re traveling all over the Balkans? Meanderbug also offers farm stays and adventures throughout Montenegro. The others look pretty amazing as well.
A romantic countryside with green hills and cute sheep. Through your sharing, I miss my hometown