If you want to get better acquainted with Sardinia and people from there, you should go to the mountains. Although Sardinia has the most beautiful, wild, white-sand beaches, which I enjoyed swimming in middle of September without any tourist crowds, my wistful and curious gaze was attached to mysterious hills that friendly initiated me into the magic nature of this Mediterranean island and it’s people.
Somewhere in-between the east coast and Lago del Torpé, where ancient megalithic edifices remember of old Nuragic civilization, one women with wise eyes and youthful, indestructible smile offered me every morning a cup of delightful tea, made from herbs she had collected and dried. The whole Sardinian landscape became apparent in the expressive visage of this hospitable woman. There was no need for me to travel further. Her smile was the warm morning sun, her eyes a dark sea, her long, strong and black hair a dense forrest. Her hands were industrious, and every time when she moved an aromatic breeze was filling the room and made me close my eyes. The whole impression- melancholy. I was not there accidentally.
But, what Marina most often used was here nose.
As an owner of a small, charming and nature-adapted guesthouse in which we’ve stayed, she uses the flowers- and herbs-full environment of Sardinia in the best possible way- by collecting drying, distillating materials and transforming them into the exquisite natural essential oils. One cup of herbal tea and one drop of juniper essential oil. With it, the traditional crisp and flat bread carasau, rolled and filled with warm ricotta, freshly crated lemon zest and drizzle of an organic honey. Again, I wasn’t there accidentally.
Barbagia is the name of the region I was trying to discover for myself. The land of the barbarians. Those, so called barbarians from the hills, were always more interesting for me than the jet set tourists and yacht owners down there from the coast. I would rather be a barbarian than a neo-capitalist. The way of barbarian violence seems to be more natural and necessary. While we were driving around the barbarian hills I thought of the words of the Italian director Pasolini: “The word barbarism- I confess- it is the word to the world that I love more (…). Simply, in the logic of my ethics, because the barbarity is the state that precedes the civilization, our civilization: that of common sense, security, a sense of the future. It’s simply the expression of a rejection, anguish ahead authentic decadence generated by binomial Reason-Pragma, the two-face god of bourgeoise.” Then I think on Bosnia, my homeland, but only for a second or two. Melancholia yes. Nostalgia no.
The food was simple. Strong. Food for hard working people, for shepherds, field- and mine-workers. Meat. Cheese everywhere and for everyone. Grapes, peaches and figs. Pasta and bread. Honey. Pranza stands for lunch that usually takes time around noon. Every day at that time we ate homemade cheese (pecorino or ricotta), local tomatoes, bread, fruits and olives. The food we bought from a local farmer who was regularly complaining about the hard work he must invest into his farm. I was starring at his garden and was jealous.
Autumn in Barbagia is a cultural event wich aim is to showcase Sardinia’s rural heritage and attract visitors during what is usually a low season for tourism. Every weekend throughout the autumn, towns and villages take turns to open their cortes i.e. the courtyards of the traditional houses. Visitors are able to gain a first-hand experience of the local country life, discover its scents, savour its tastes, learn about its traditions, handicrafts and art work, all of which has been jealously nurtured for centuries in the Barbagia area.
We went to the village Austis and were the only tourists there. Tourists that were fed on every corner. The total atmosphere of this happening was warm, but not in a “too-friendly-hospitality” way. I was there, obviously a stranger, but as soon I tasted a freshly baked bread, piece of homemade cheese or local wine I was incorporated into the small village community that was trapped in the heart of Sardinia. “Bosniaaaa” they loudly sang in the famous Italian manner when I revealed my place of birth. And then again this barbarian smile.
Times of barbarians are already over in Barbagia. But every year on one particular day allinhabitants turn back into their old tribes, trying to reconcile humans, animals and gods. Carnival is a heartbeat of Barbagia, a mixture of holy and profane rituals. Masks, differ in shape and name from town to town, freaky disguises, dance around big bonfires, procession and songs characterize celebrations. A feast is the highlight of the ceremony. Fava beans and lard, fritters and wine are the guaranteed.
Piccinna, bella piccinna Little girl, beautiful little girl,
cantu mi si s’aggradada. How much you pleased me.
Suli ni si andende a linna, I’m going to cut the wood,
esa dominica mudada. In my Sunday clothes.
With this old serenade from Sardinia I thank this island for all the beauty it showed me.