Avlija - the place where people enjoy being with friends

Every Bosnian understands the meaning of the word “Avlija” that represents a house courtyard. Avlija has been, is and will always be a place where people meet, a place where children make noise, a place where people meet friends until late in the evening (Bosnian word akšamluk) and a place where young couples flirt (Bosnian word ašikluk). I am writing about such courtyard. The famous Bosnian writer Bašeskija once wrote about courtyards and gardens in Sarajevo, which are decorated with blossom in spring, and day after day they are changing their physiognomy and getting more and more beautiful. After blossom, the May roses are blooming, and then the flowers called zambaci, ilduzi and African marigold. There is not any avlija without bushes of box, which are taken good care of, and which can be shaped in different ways, which depends on the gardener’s imagination, however we are not here to talk about the horticulture. Avlija (courtyard) is usually fenced with high walls in order hide it from the curious ones. This space provides the intimacy of the family life; it is usually paved with cobblestones that were brought from the nearby brook and put with the utmost care in the right place in order to create the lace structure of white rugs surrounded with green colour of grass. First layer of cobblestones were never covered with concrete but the line of grass dragged by the snow-white balls, which were scrubbed by diligent women on those days, which were not holydays. Mr. Juraj Najthart, the student and associate of the famous French architect Le- Corbusier, the excellent architect and professor, one of the greatest admirers of the Bosnian way of building , and great follower of the unwritten rule of the right to the view, told wonderful stories about avlija to his students. I was lucky and had a great pleasure to attend his lectures even though I was not studying architecture. I still remember that lecture. In one of those courtyards, situated in the Sarajevo Township Bjelave, I spent most of my youth. I remember tasting the best spinach pie ever in that particular avlija (courtyard) or as the old Bosnian would say: “that spinach pie was speaking nine languages”. Fiko´s mother used to make the spinach pie so well that even the “dead mout|h” could eat it, and I still think that. I will most probably never eat such pie again, not because the old Mena has forgotten the recipe but because nobody makes those kinds of pies any more. Nowadays we are all mad about the healthy lifestyle and nobody even tries to make the pie- filling with half- a- dozen eggs, one kilo of the homemade cream one- and-a -half pounds of sour cream. Just the thought of it makes my cholesterol level rising. We used to meet there after school, or later after the lectures at the university. We used to enjoy the smell of the roses and delicious things that Mena made for us. We also used to bring some things from our homes, which we later prepared by ourselves. There were many of people in our “gang”. Today, some of them are the most respected citizens of some of the world’s towns and some of them still live in Bosnia. We all made something of our lives, except one who is not even worth mentioning because he has sinned and broken everything that we ever believed in. Those of us who stayed here often meet at this avlija. Today, this space is simply called the “Avlija”. It has changed and has become the place where meet those who enjoy listening to the slow music, talking and good food. When the unfortunate war ended, we were sitting one day in that old avlija when Fiko told us about his idea to give the opportunity to some, to us unknown people, to enjoy the blessing of his yard, his hospitality and his cordiality. The idea itself was so strange and almost blasphemous to us. However, a couple of months later the Fiko´s idea was realized in an extraordinary creative way by Mr. Amir Vuk, who happens to be our friend, an eminent and recognizable architect, the admirer of the Zec´s personal and traditional Bosnian national architecture. Thanks to our common ideas and the aesthetic settings of the owner, the most eminent, the warmest, and the most intimate space in Sarajevo came into being.

An article written by Mladen Jeličić- Troka in the “Dnevni Avaz”