Hiking the Bay Leaf Forest
Above the bay of Kotor , just south of Dubrovnik, a mountainous ridge line runs from Mount Orijen to join the Montenegrin Coastal Transversal range, where high mountains fringe the sea. The coastal cuisine blends Mediterranean sea dishes with mountain meats and vegetables. Use of native wild plants in traditional cookery also reflects the incredible diversity of wild habitats.
Authentic Balkans cuisine should not only be prepared, ingredients must first be gathered following tradition as old as the landscape. The wild hillsides are a source of herbs and spices to create the most distinctive of local flavours. Depending upon the season it is possible to collect all manner from the hills: olives, wild asparagus, wild garlic, mushrooms, figs, pomegranite, lemon, sweet oranges, sage, copriva, shaffran and more than 100 other types of medicinal plants and herbs.
Guests will be guided by knowledgable guides and with a shopping list of seasonal items to collect, for use in their dishes.
An example hike, close to the farm is the impressive ‘forest of bay trees’ – an evergreen and ever fragrant forest comprised of only one tree species, the Bay tree. Balkan Lore sets a limit of 3 bay leaves used, maximum for any dish, the bay is a popular ingredient in so much Balkan cooking.
The way to walk through the bay forest is barefoot, the evergreen leaves have a short life so the forest floor is buried beneath a layer of bay leaves – said to have medicinal properties, certainly one cure for foot odour, I am guessing.
A walk through the forest with out shoes was said to be a good deterrent to the Tenjac (Vampires from hereabouts).
After we leave ‘the last house in the village,’ along this road at least, the path becomes a forest track again . Only the church is still to be reached, sitting on the peak above us. Before we departed we had to stop and sample Zova Juice (Sok), chilled, a gift from the family who live here – We would be collecting some to make and use in our recipes. At this last house we were entrusted with the key to the village church and invited to go in and if needed take a drink from the many left there, for passing walkers in the hills.
Below the church is the large forest clearing – the church lawn – long the picnic and party place for villages, for weddings and saints days, dances and important gatherings.
There are several established fire cooking sites here which guests can use to cook outdoor and festive dishes – reviving a tradition of meals that were cooked here for village gatherings.
The woodland enclosed green is a perfect venue for yoga – which can also be arranged, (and will be included as an option in our package).
The climb to the church is a steep but short one, until suddenly the bay trees give out and you have reached the summit – enjoy the view!
RECIPE FOR ZOVA SOK
Equal measures of sugar and Zova flowers by weight.
Add 2 litres of warm water for KG of Flowers/Sugar mix.
Stand, stirring often , for two days until the sugar disappears.
Strain the flowers and serve – chilled if you can wait for it to cool – never easy.
Also: http://vojvodjanskakuhinja.blogspot.com/2009/05/sok-od-zove.html (na srpskom)
Why not nominate your travel ideas to National Geographic Western Balkans Geotourism Mapguide. Where tourism can help . thankyou