And so it was time for us, on the eighth day of our holiday, to descend upon the town of Trebinje in search of decent grub and (in Cedric’s case) a respite from all the driving. As we made our way down the long and winding path to our destination it was fair to say there was a healthy amount of scepticism regarding the spot for lunch selected that day. The road was not exactly uncluttered with detritus and it was rather narrow in places. But when we eventually arrived at Motel Studenac all doubts were immediately caste aside as the magnificence of the place dawned on us.
Motel Studenac is a restaurant, spa and hotel situated by the cooling banks of the river Trebišnjica. The photos will tell the story better than any words I might be able to marshal into place, but, nevertheless, I should say this was a truly picturesque setting. Complete with a farm for fresh fish within the beer garden. One does not always appreciate the chance to ogle at a dish alive and swimming before eating it, but this time I did, realising just how fresh the fish would be.
Before we go onto to discuss the food, I think a short aside regarding the geographical location is warranted. Trebinje is a small town in the Republika Srpska, the autonomous region of Bosnia and Hercegovina controlled by the Serbs. Bosnia is one of Europe’s poorest countries, with the world’s highest youth unemployment rate, burdened with memories of the violent ethnic conflict of the 1990s, and struggling with the societal illnesses of widespread corruption and nepotism. Yet it is also a country with tremendous natural beauty (mountains, rivers, forests and waterfalls), and a people who are charming in their own mad and wonderful way. It is well worth visiting, but not for the driving!
Now back to the restaurant. To start with, I ordered the veal broth (called a čorba in Serbian). This was exquisite and I was provided with a healthy amount of it, with the option of topping it up. Louise opted for the fish soup which was also tasty. I cannot for the life of me, remember now what Cedric ordered. Perhaps he will forgive me. The table was provided with a large supply of fresh bread, which I always think is the mark of a fine establishment.
For my main course, I went for the trout. It was superb, and although I was unable to remove Schubert’s “die Forelle” from my head or perhaps in part because, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Cedric opted for the smocked neck with soft cheese instead. His excuse was that he did not like fish! I must say I was shocked to find that the man who had driven me with astonishing levels of care and skill across three countries (through some of the most shocking conditions for driving known in Europe, I might add), had, despite all his manifold talents and virtues, the mind of a fussy four year-old. But then again it was his loss. He was fortunate that the smoked neck was also excellent.
I’m afraid I’m not going to discuss the food anymore. This is partly because my meagre descriptive abilities will always fail to capture accurately the pre-eminent qualities of the food, but mostly because I have forgotten what else we ordered. I’m pretty sure we all had three courses. That will put into context the next fact, the meal cost us 90,80 Bosnian Convertible Marks. In other words, just under 40 squid. I’ll give you a few moments to recover from that extraordinary piece of information.
At the start of the holiday, our friend, and intellect, Louise, quoted from Keats, saying ‘Oh for a life of Sensations rather than thoughts’. I cannot say that this sentiment sits terribly well with me, having been brought up since early childhood to praise above all the intellectual life and mistrust all sensual indulgences. Still it must be said that the sensations enjoyed at Studenac were superb, and my thoughts were few in number, as I relaxed on that sunny spring afternoon beside that cooling river.