Kolo event, 1914, described

An excerpt from the highly recommended The Bridge on the Drina, Ivo Andrić’s Nobel Prize-winning novel.

1911 map showing where the Rzav river meets the Drina in the town of Višegrad, Bosnia-Herzegovina; the location of the 1914 scene described below. The famous Bridge on the Drina is on the left.

On Vidovdan* the Serbs held their regular outing at Mezalin. Under the dense walnut trees, at the meeting of the two rivers Drina and Rzav, on the high green banks, tents were put up in which drinks were on sale and before which lambs were turning on spits over slow fires. Families who had brought their lunch with them sat in the shade. Below a canopy of fresh branches an orchestra was already playing. On the well beaten open space there had been kolo since morning. Only the youngest and idlest were dancing, those who had come here directly after morning service, straight from the church. The real general outing only began in the afternoon. But the kolo was already lively and enthusiastic, better and more vigorous than it would be later on when the crowd came, and married women, unsatisfied widows and young children began to take part and when everything was transformed into a single long and gay, but haphazard and disconnected, garland. That shorter kolo in which more young men than girls were taking part was fast and furious, like a thrown lasso. Everything around it seemed to be moving, swaying to the rhythm of the music, the air, the thick crowns of the trees, the white summer clouds and the swift waters of the two rivers. The earth trembled under it and around it and seemed only to be trying to adapt its movements to the movements of the young bodies. Young men ran in from the main road to to take their places in the kolo, but the girls restrained themselves and stood for a time watching the dancing as if counting the beats and waiting for some secret impulse in themselves; when they would suddenly leap in to the kolo with lowered heads and slightly bended knees as if eagerly leaping in to cold water. The powerful current passed from the warm earth into the dancing feet and spread along the chain of warm hands; on that chain the kolo pulsed like a single living thing, warmed by the same blood and carried away by the same rhythm. The young men danced with heads thrown back, pale and with quivering nostrils, while the young girls danced with reddish cheeks and modestly downcast eyes, lest their glances betray the passion with which the dance had filled them.

*According to Wikipedia “Vidovdan (Serbian Cyrillic: Видовдан, “St. Vitus Day”) is a Serbian national and religious holiday, a slava (feast day) celebrated on 28 June (Gregorian calendar), or 15 June according to the Julian calendar, in use by the Serbian Orthodox Church to venerate St. Vitus. The Serbian Church designates it as the memorial day to Saint Prince Lazar and the Serbian holy martyrs who fell during the epic Battle of Kosovo against the Ottoman Empire on 15 June 1389 (according to the Julian calendar). It is an important part of Serb ethnic and Serbian national identity.[1]

The author, Ivo Andrić, spent his youth in Visegrad, and would have been 22 at the time this scene takes place. His book was written 20 years later, during World War 2, and received the Nobel Prize in 1961.

The bridge on the Drina, completed 1577.


John Uhlemann wrote: I am not sure about the quivering nostrils, but it all sounds good to me. By the way my wife and i visited the Bridge over the Drina At Visegrad (in your photo) and it is a marvel. It lasted through several Balkan wars, earthquakes, and almost WWII. The Nazis drove tanks across it , and the Allies drove them back across it, afterward blowing up one span to be sure they couldn’t come back. That one span is the only “restored” part. It was designed by the great Turkish architect Sinan, who also stabilized Aya Sophia so it wouldn’t fall down, and designed the largest mosques the Turks ever built, all of which survived earthquakes. he was the greatest Architect of his age. His family was either Greek or Armenian (both claim him), and was a product of the so-called “boy tax” – brought up as Moslem, to be a soldier, but when he showed great skill in mathematics, they “fast tracked” him into the sciences. Amazing man. His students made sure his mausoleum was built according to his wishes, across the street from what he considered his masterpiece in Istanbul (he did a larger one in Edeirne, but is is not as graceful, according to some).

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