Back Travnik - Next 

Mealtime - Interwar years in Travnik

Copyright © by Alan Grant
View from the fortress

One of the most detailed studies of peasant life in Yugoslavia between the wars was made by an English woman named Olive Lodge. She spent large amounts of time in the country between the two world wars and her book appeared at precisely the moment that much of the world she described was about to vanish forever – in 1941. Unfortunately her book is mostly forgotten and has long been out of print, although it is easy to find an original edition on the internet. Lodge paid particular attention to the lives of women, right down to a detailed account of the different types of contraception used at the time. This excerpt forms part of her description of mealtime, and includes a particular reference to Travnik. At that time many peasants still lived in zadrugas, or family compounds in which work and land were shared. The domaćin was the head-man of the zadruga and a sofra a low round table for eating off:

Before and after meals a girl goes round, pouring water from a pitcher over the hands of all, and presenting the drying towel, beginning with the domaćin. Moslem men and women usually eat separately. In many parts of Bosnia (Travnik district), among Christian peasants, the men have their meals at one sofra, the women at another, and the children at a third, sometimes in the same room, though the women and children often eat by themselves, as do sometimes the young unmarried men. They have to wait until the men have finished before they can eat up the remnants. Their table is seldom as well supplied as that of the men.

In the zadruga the mesarija was the woman in charge of the duties and chores:

At the end of meal the mesarija removes the sofra, and stacks the dishes ready for washing up in the morning. Cows have been milked as soon as they came home, after dusk, either by the mesarija or by one of the other stay-at-homes. Soon after supper each mother puts her children to sleep on rugs on the floor of her own room; and their elders do not stay up late. The peasants sleep very soundly; and seem not to need long hours of slumber. In autumn and winter the evenings are longer; and they may even be snowbound for days. The accumulated repairs and odd jobs are done; new carts and ploughs are fashioned; and they often gather round the great hearth or stove, singing songs and telling traditional tales of saints and heroes.

Peasant Life in Jugoslavia. Olive Lodge. 1941.
[p. 102 / Seeley, Service & Co]

January 2007
Tim Judah

 Back Travnik - Next 
  1. Istanbul: Pamuk's City
  2. Istanbul: Swimming across the Bosphorus
  3. Salonika and the Jews
  4. Salonica: Slaves and Trade
  5. Thessalonika: 1923
  6. Ohrid: Rise and Fall
  7. Tornado of Dust - 1944
  8. Awake Romania - 1989
  9. Novi Sad: Nest of the Serbian nation
  10. Nis: War Capital, 1915
  11. Belgrade and the Selenites
  12. 1996: Serbia Calling
  13. Belgrade Train Station - 1964
  14. Srebrenica: Vengeance
  15. Srebrenica: Blood
  16. Srebrenica: July 1995
  17. Mealtime - Interwar years in Travnik
  18. Dayton: The Napkin Shuttle
  19. London Buses in Sarajevo
  20. The Museum and Bosnian Identity
  21. Foča: The Bosniak
  22. Kosovo: The Swiss Front
  23. Mitrovica: 1908
  24. Pristina: Kosovo like Namibia?
  25. City without traffic - Pristina 1966
  26. Durham in Pristina - 1908
  27. Tirana: 1962
  28. Zog's Tirana
  29. The Kotor - Constantinople Express
  30. Kotor and the Montenegrins
  31. The Rabbi of Stolac
  32. Dubrovnik: England, Wine and Wool
  33. Cetinje: Nikola Under the Elm
  34. Cetinje: 1858
  35. Dalmatia: Ships & Grapes
  36. Prophet of Yugoslavism
  37. The head of the world
  38. 1919: Mushrooms and Lies
  39. Sofia: Bulgaria's Jews during WWII
  40. Zamfirovo: Rural livelihoods in the mid-1990s
  41. Kosovo
  42. Romania: 1914
  43. Istanbul: Food and the frugal Turks
  44. Micklagard: Surprising, cosmopolitan Constantinople
  45. Sukhumi: The history of the region became ashes
  46. Black Sea: The coming of steam and rail
  47. Mestrovic: Motherhood and the Victor
  48. Rizvanovici, Bosnia: Gnashing
  49. Down the Danube with Magris: Ruse
  50. From Pristina to Tskhinvali
  51. Serbia, Historians and Hitler's War
  52. Balkan Strongmen: Bulgaria's Zhivkov
  53. Sarajevo: The Siege Within
  54. Turkey: Osman's Dream
  55. Durres 1961: Beijing on Sea
  56. Cetinje: Eggs for the Ladies
  57. Bosnia: Land of Immigrants
  58. Ottoman Croatia
  59. Harem: All the Sultan's Women
  60. Sibiu: Regime Change, European Style
  61. 1929: The Balkans and the Great Crash
  62. Rumeli and how the Balkans became the Balkans
  63. 1948: Stalin, Kosovo and Swallowing Albania
  64. Transforming Turkey: the 1950s
  65. McMafia and the Balkans
  66. 1916: Serbia in Corfu
  67. Princes Amongst Men
  68. Limp Shevardnadze
  69. Knin: War and Suburbia
  70. In the Mountains of Poetry