Thousands cheer on horses in Bosnia log-towing contest
SARAJEVO (Reuters) – Thousands people flocked to a private arena in northwest Bosnia to cheer on their favorite horses during a traditional pre-Easter log-towing contest.
The twice-yearly Straparijada event in which pairs of horses compete in strength hauling heavy logs along a 100-metre track draws fans from across the Balkan country and neighboring Serbia and Croatia.
“I have been working in the forest with the draft horses for the past 10 years and spend all my spare time after work training them,” said Djurac Galic from the nearby town of Bosanski Petrovac, celebrating his second victory.
The horses compete in three different categories depending on the weight they haul, with the heaviest logs weighing about two tonnes. Folk singers entertain the mainly male visitors while they enjoy roast lamb on a stick, a Bosnian specialty.
Samir Alicic, the driving force behind the organization of the first Straparijada in 2012 in Izacic near the Croatian border, said he invested his own money and effort to build the racing arena and accompanying facilities.
Authorities in the regional center have recognized Alicic for his contribution to the sport and to tourism.
But organizations for the protection of animals have called for the contests to be banned, saying the horses experience pain, injury and fear.
Alicic and Galic both dismissed their concerns, saying a law introduced several years ago has prohibited whipping or beating of the animals and introduced fines for violations. A veterinary inspector checks all the animals in each race.
“A horse who does not want to pull logs will give up,” Galic said. “There is nothing wrong with this contest.”
Migrants take new Balkan route through Bosnia
A new Balkan route through Bosnia has opened up for migrants, four years after a crisis in which more than one million people landed on Europe’s shores.
Hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, took the so-called Balkans route northwest of Greece in 2015 and 2016.
The route was effectively closed in March 2016 and until recently the few still making the journey avoided Bosnia and its mountains.
Instead they opted for a route through Serbia before dodging the Croatian and Hungarian authorities in order to make it into the European Union (EU).
But now an alternative migrants’ itinerary from Greece through Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia has emerged.
The route, according to a western diplomatic source, matches the one taken by arms and drugs traffickers, indicating that human smuggling networks have been established.