Stipe Pleić welcomes us in a Viking house in the village of Stipanići near Tomislavgrad. He sits on a wooden throne dressed in a Viking suit and welcomes us. Just entering the house takes you far back in time, among the people who lived in Scandinavia many centuries ago. Everything is in that spirit – axes, shields, swords, bows and arrows, flags…
They call him the Bosnian Viking, the Herzegovinian Viking, the Viking from Tomislavgrad, and he likes it the most when they tell him he is a Viking of Duvno. Be that as it may, after living in Germany he returned to his native village. He turned an old building in the yard of the family house into a Viking house and started making axes. He says that the love of axes is older than the Viking idea.
Visits to fairs
– I was born in this village and as a child I looked after cattle in these areas. At that time, we all had a knife or a small axe, played with wood, threw them. That’s how the love for ax throwing was born – Stipe tells us.
On the other hand, the love for Vikings appeared after the series “Vikings“.
-The opening scene, before the beginning of each episode, when the ax falls into the water, pushed me to try to make the same ax. After several attempts I succeeded, but I was overcome by an overwhelming desire to continue making axes and other weapons that appear in that series. The series was the trigger for me to get into this story, but I never thought it would go this far. The series made me so crazy that I watched it at least 20 times – he says while laughing.
The love of axes fit perfectly with the Viking past and mythology.
– I started making axes seven years ago and I’m sorry I didn’t count how many I made, but more than 1,000 for sure. The first ax I made holds a special place in my house. I make various forms of axes, especially decorating them with pyrography – he points out.
The very beginning was not approved by the environment and family. People looked at him strangely, laughed at him.
– The most common comments were how people fly to the moon, and I make axes. However, I have a neighbor, an academic painter, Ante Braovac Antić. He once asked me if he could look at my work. I was glad that someone showed interest. He looked at the axes for a long time without saying a word. I was nervous, I was afraid of bad comments. When he finished, he said to me: “From this moment on, don’t do anything in your life except making axes.” I was so happy – says Stipe.
Ante persuaded him to go to the Christmas fair held in Tomislavgrad and present his works.
– I was surprised by the great interest of the visitors. After that, with my axes and Viking equipment, I went to medieval fairs, and number of those in Bosnia and Herzegovina is increasing. I also visit craft fairs, but also all others that I am invited to – emphasizes Stipe.
He didn’t have much knowledge about Vikings at the time, so he had to do more research.
– What I knew at first was that it had similarities with German mythology, but it was extremely limited information. Then I started researching in the literature, via the Internet, but also through the series. I learned a lot – he says.
His love for Vikings has never taken him to Scandinavia, but he says he has a desire to visit Norway and Denmark. However, his plan is to first visit the largest gathering of Vikings, which, as he says, is not happening in Scandinavia, but in Poland.
– I will fulfill this wish just as I fulfilled my wish to build a Viking ship. Three years ago I did that and the boat had to be launched in Lake Buško. That was the realization of a Viking dream – he points out.
In addition to axes, Stipe also makes bows, chairs, shields with which he decorated the ship. He says the axes are for sale, except for the few he keeps for himself.
– The price of the ax is not fixed and depends on many factors. It’s hard for me to tell the price when there are different sizes and shapes. Everything is a matter of agreement – says Stipe.
Given that this is also a tourist story, visitors come, throw axes, enjoy a touch of the Viking past.
– People from our area come to me, there are many of them from Sarajevo. There are also mountaineers who go to Čvrsnica, and Dalmatians are also my frequent guests. There are also our people who live in Western Europe. Basically, the entrance is free and everyone who wants to throw axes and learn how to do it is welcome. I immediately tell them that they will not leave the place until they learn how to throw – says Stipe.
All this forced him to “get serious” about the whole story. He always had a desire to build a nice wooden house in the yard. At the time of our visit, the cottage was under construction.
– People come to me, have fun and often ask if they have a place to sleep. With this house, I will offer them that possibility – he says.
Ax throwing is a very popular sport in America, Canada and Western Europe. Stipe says that doctors recommend it as an anti-stress therapy.
– I was the first in BiH to establish the Association and Club of Ax Throwers. I am trying to popularize this sport in our country. Unfortunately, there are currently no other clubs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and as far as I know, there is one in Croatia – says Stipe.