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Panda family snow-sculptures become hot-spot in Bosnian ski resort

Xinhua | Updated: 2021-02-25 14:59

Pandas live only on a few high and damp mountains in Southwest China, where they feast mainly on bamboo leaves and shoots. They bear loads of symbolic meaning in the Chinese culture and pretty much everyone in the world agrees that they are adorably cute.

"Their natural habitat is far away, and we can't all enjoy their beauty here. But we can now enjoy looking at the giant snow-sculptures of those gorges creatures," said Goran Knezevic, a ski lift operator at the Olympic Center (OC) Jahorina near Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).

Knezevic and his colleague Jelena Stanisic, who joined the finance sector of the OC Jahorina three years ago, is the creative duo behind the project. Both in their early 30s, they did not just come up with the idea but have also built the five-meter-tall sculpture of a panda and four adorable cubs.

Knezevic works for the OC Jahorina for 15 years, and he is locally known for his skill of making snow-sculptures such as penguins, swans, and gorillas, but he never built anything on this scale.

He said that the construction of the "Panda family" took almost a week as the weather did not play along.

"The weather changes caused the snow mass to settle and compress, losing almost two meters of its original height. We then had to give up on the original idea to shape panda in a sitting position and had to improvise instead," Goran said and explained that the most challenging parts were climbing the slippery snow pile and shaping, as the snow was of a "poor-quality" due to the weather changes.

The "Panda family" became an instant hit on Jahorina Mountain, one of four Olympic Mountains surrounding Sarajevo, where the 1984 Winter Olympics were held.

The OC Jahorina is one of the most popular ski centers in the region with its highest peak at 1,916 meters above sea level. Its 46 km of alpine ski slopes with the artificial snow system and 10 km of Nordic ski trails draw up to 150,000 visitors per season.

"Visitors are overjoyed, and I am especially thrilled because all the children are so excited and happy around the sculptures," said Knezevic, explaining that the Panda Family became the hot-spot for taking selfies and family photos.

He added that in the era of modern technology, virtual hangouts, and now social distancing, it is more than ever important to spend more time in nature and work creatively.

"To me, a panda is a symbol of peace, victory, and friendship. They are unique, adorable, cute, and to us, exotic animals," said Knezevic, explaining that a recent online search took him to the Harbin International Ice Snow Sculpture Festival in China. He became fascinated with the photos of giant snow and ice sculptures which sparked the idea of building big snow sculptures in Jahorina.

Knezevic used acrylic quick-drying paint for the black spots on his sculpture.

Pandas have become one of the symbols of China. They are perceived as warriors and as strong as tigers. They also symbolize peace and friendship because of their gentle temperament. Their black and white color is seen as the physical representation of Yin and Yang, and how the balance between the two bring harmony and peace.

Stanisic said that everyone knows that the panda is an immensely charming creature but the excitement of the visitors of the OC Jahorina exceeded all their expectations. "Nature provided us with an abundance of snow, and we allowed ourselves to be childish for a moment," said Stanisic.

"Our goal is to grow into an adult and a good person. But the happiness is to uphold that inner child after we grow up," said Stanisic.

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