The last millers from the Balkan region
In past centuries, there were dozens of active river mills in the Balkans. Every river and deeper wide stream had watermills. Water-men worked hard day and night. They ground grain that they would sell to the population of that region. Watermills have deteriorated over time and are slowly disappearing. Nevertheless, in some places today there are preserved active old mills and mills-tourist attractions. In active mills, millers are still working and grinding flour. They defiantly bear witness to the past and some other times. Admittedly, some water mills could still be repaired and renovated today (although they remain only in the memories of the locals of a specific climate). The last active millers (they are mostly elderly people) pour grain into a basket every morning and before dawn in the mill. The millers then rest to the sounds of the “cecketalo” (clatter) while the millstone turns grinding the grain. The stone must never be “empty” turned.
Visiting the last millers and tourist attractions of mills has become popular in recent decades
This beautiful, difficult and interesting craft is dying because some people still grind grain in mills (which are still working and which are the legacy of their fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers). Mountaineers visit mills if they want to enjoy the natural beauty of the landscape around the river and conquer a mountain peak along the way. Scientists and biologists visit Watermills because the natural beauty of every landscape is worth seeing and visiting. In some places, rafting enthusiasts and photographers visit watermills to capture the whole experience, but also families with children, and all other tourists for their own reasons. Not infrequently, the millers offer simple meals (homemade bread with homemade cheese, etc.) along with interesting conversation.
Watermills are usually more difficult to reach for ordinary visitors. Thus, modern visitors take the main road for part of the way and then walk a few kilometers through natural landscapes to reach the somewhat hidden (and secluded) water mill.
The watermill usually works by separating a gap from the river that leads to the watermill and to the point (with feathers connected to the upper stone). The upper stone rotates while the lower stone is permanently stationary and does not rotate. That’s how the folk proverb was created for slower people:
“As fast as the bottom millstone”.
Flour ground under a stone wheel is incomparably tastier and of better quality than flour from an electric mill. Thus, tourists prefer to choose millet flour, wheat flour and corn flour.
It is always semi-dark in the mill, so it takes time for the eyes to get used to the semi-darkness. The whitish cobweb is always somewhere in the corners of the mill. The cobwebs are not touched or destroyed because with cobwebs there are fewer insects in the mill.
Watermills were built on and above water. Thus, in the human archaic consciousness, they are marked as a joint creation of God and the devil. The belief says that God made the mill, but the mill started working because of the devil who knows the secret of the “cheketalo” (part of the mill mechanism by which the grains are squeezed out of the basket under the top stone). That’s how the bee found out the secret of the devil, says the legend, and the bee stole the secret from the devil.
Milling is a tradition that has always been passed down from father to son. There is still hope that this beautiful tradition will never disappear completely. It is a dream that the active millers still dream while they are awake.
The last millers and mills are still in the town of Krupa on the Vrbas river, the tourist attraction-mills on the Pliva river (the town of Jajce) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, etc.
There are 20 water mills located a few kilometers from the center of Jajce. The waterworks are located on the travertine barrier between the Great and Small Plivsko lakes. They were renovated in 2005. Today, 6 mills are still in operation and you can buy freshly ground flour here. The other water mills have only tourist symbolism or monument symbolism.