Take a half-day trip to Blagaj
If you stay in Mostar for more than one day, then I would recommend you to also take a half-day trip to Blagaj, just about 10 km southeast of Mostar.
It is famous for the source of the river Buna, which is located in a cave at the bottom of a steep cliff.
Just next to it is a Dervish Monastery (Tekke) whose history dates back to the 15th century. Several large restaurants with outdoor terraces are lined up the river banks.
In the centre of Blagaj the 16th century Careva Mosque and an old Muslim cemetery are well worth seeing. The castle Stepjan Grad overlooks the area, but we didn't have the time to climb up the hill.
Blagaj can be reached by local bus from Mostar. The trip takes about 45 minutes. Buses #10 and #11 serve the route a few times per day. We asked at the Tourist Information for the timetable.
A convenient stop to get on the bus is the Spanish Square (Spanski trg) in Mostar. Tickets for 1,80 KM can be bought from the driver, who can also tell you where to get off.
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Lying 25km south of Mostar, clinging to the steep slopes above the Neretva River, the little town of Pocitelj, a tumble of old stone houses, domes and the tall minaret of its mosque all overlooked by a mediaeval fortress (photo 1), is a picture book scene - which makes it all the more poignant when you learn that this village saw one of the last acts of brutal ethnic cleansing and destruction of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The last few years have seen the restoration of some of the the village's major buildings, the 16th century mosque and medressa and one of its beautiful old Ottoman houses (photo 2) - all of which are open to visitors.
First mention of the fortress here dates from 1444. Built by Hungarians as a defense against Ottoman raids, it fell to the invading Turks in 1471 and the town then remained under Turkish rule until 1888. The town's strategic importance faded when the region became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the next few decades saw its population decline and many of its buildings fall into ruin. The establishment of an artist's colony (photo 3) in the 1960s brought artists, writers and poets here from all over Europe - until war came to this lovely place (photo 4).
Moves to restore the artist's colony were made in 1999 and the first artists came in 2003. Since then several houses have been rebuilt, a primary school has been established and more buildings are set for restoration.
We didn't buy a painting but we did buy some fruit from a basket (photo 5) that was a picture in itself in the way the fruit was wrapped and displayed.
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Pocitelj's Hajji Alija Mosque is a beautiful, serene building. Looking at it now, it's hard to realize that, not so very long ago, it was a total ruin, its dome a shattered shell and its minaret snapped like a pencil, yet another victim of the war that raged through Bosnia-Herzegovina during the 1990s.
Built in 1562, the mosque is considered a very fine example of classical Ottoman style, perhaps the finest in BiH. As yet the restoration has only restored the fabric of the building, the delicate decoration that once adorned it has yet to come, but it is once again a functioning mosque and the cool cream interior of unplastered stone has its own appeal.
Visitors are welcome, with or without their shoes, though respect for Muslim observance should see them left by the door.
Blagaj - Tekija
I don't think this is as off the beaten track as it once was but people visiting Mostar still miss out on this interesting place. Blagaj is located around 12km away from Mostar and can be reached using local transport. Thre are various interesting things to see in Blagaj including the town itself and it's mosque and the Old Town of Blagaj...which we didn't have time to visit unfortunately. (The Old Town is sits on top of a steep rocky bluff overlooking the new town below.)
However, there is really two things people come to see in Blagaj, The Buna River Spring and the Dervish House or Tekija as it is properly referred to.
Tekija is a Muslim Monastery of sorts and dates from the end of the 15th century. the house serves as a prayer house and university for spiritual studies of this branch of Islam. Inside the monastery you can see the carpeted prayer rooms. (The one directly in front of you as you come around the top of the stairs has an ancient and beautifully carved wooden ceiling) Upstairs is also a stunning Turkish style bath house.
On the lower levels of the house is an interesting romm housing the graves of two famous Sheikhs of the house, Sari-Saltuk and Acik-Pasha. Not much is known of the contents of the graves and if indeed there are more graves underneath as it is forbidden to interrupt or excavate the grave site.
Please remember this is a very special and sacred place for this branch of Muslims. Visitors must be dressed appropriately...no shorts above the knees or sleeveless shirts. Women will be required to cover their heads and legs...Scarves and shawls will be provided for vistors...see my pic of Denise all decked out before entering the house :)
Very interesting trip to this spiritual and mystic place...Thanks to Holger (HORSCHECK) for the original tip. Until I read his informative tips I wouldn't have thought of coming here.
When driving or taking the bus along the Croatian coast between Split and Dubrovnik, you'll have to pass through the Neum Corridor. Other than Mostar, this is the only other part of BiH that I touched foot on the soil. This shot was actually taken from the bus as we passed through the resort town of Neum located about an hour and fifteen minutes from Mostar.
The Spectacular Kravice Waterfalls are not entirely off the beaten track especially for visitors staying in Medjugorje, which is located nearby and from where you can catch a tour. Not a lot of people take this tour anyway so the falls are really only visited by locals. We did pass a small tour from Medjugorje but as they were mostly elderly they were happy enough to just enjoy the view from above and didn't actually go down to the falls.
However, for visitors staying in Mostar it is not as easy to reach and so people who visit Mostar often don't get a chance to get here. We were lucky enough, that the hostel (Majdas Hostel) we stayed in offered a great trip for guests of the hostel which included a visit to the falls. We were even luckier still that, although visiting on a beautifully warm day, we had the falls almost entirely to ourselves.
The stunning falls are located around 7 km from the small town of Ljubuski and are an amazing sight. The blue-green colour of the Neretva are mirrored in the water of the falls, where Trebizat River is broken into seperate channels which cascade overe a drop of over 30 metres in a semi circle of rock 140 metres wide. There are various walks behind the cascading water and small caves which can also be explored.
A little cold for swimming in April but that didn't stop us taking a dip to cool off from the hot sun. One of the highlights of our trip to the Herzegovina region.
Monolithic stone grave monuments, called stecci (sing. stecak), are very impressive standing tombstones. Some of them are rather heavy. Bosnia and Herzegovina has some 66,000 stecaks. The most impresive collection is located in Radimlja, Herzegovina. Radimlja is approximately a half hour ride away from Mostar. It is located 2 km west of the city of Stolac. At Radimlja, you can see a stecak with the image of the man with his right hand raised and many other tombstones with intricate pictures and details. The stecaks at Radimlja date back to the 15th and 16th centuries.
One hour drive from Mostar: Kravice waterfall. No entry. Mainly local people go there, only a few tourist. Enjoy the great view, nice sound and smooth, warm water! You can climb on the rocks, just be careful some of them are slippery due to humidity. Take natural shower and use the natural jacuzzi, too!
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Trip to blagai
If you happen to stay overnight in Mostar... a very recommendable day trip would be to visit Blagai, home of a dervish shrine of a branch of Sufi Islam and also source of a spring with several restaurents by it. Good for fish dish. There are buses several times a day. Check the schedule beforehand.
Kravice Waterfalls - Rope!!!
This is a well kept local secret. Walking away from the waterfalls through the wooden building on the river bank, you come to a small grassy clearing. Walk to the opposite side of the this clearing to the river bank and there you will find, hanging from a tree, a rope which locals have tied to a overreaching branch. Great fun to be had for all swinging from the rope and jumoing into the beautiful water below!!!!
A long branch is also left by the tree to retrieve the rope afterwards...just remember to leave the rope tied where you found it when finished.
In the Croatian edition of Playboy, number 72 from November 2003, I found interesting text. I'll try to translate the first part.
DRAGON OF BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
Monument of Little Dragon doesn't exit anywhere in the world. Injustice will be correct in Mostar. The biggest kung-fu star ever soon will occupy a pert of the square in the city which, even if it's tired of the collision of hard ideologies, didn't forget to smile yet.
Text: Gordan Zecic
Photos: Mio Vesovic
Interesting, isn't it?
It's the Turkish House (built in 1635), a reminiscence of Mostar's glorious Turkish past. There are signs leading to it everywhere in town, so by definition it ought to fit in the tourist-traps list (and it is). The town of Mostar is owning it now, so I really encourage you to go visit it, if nothing else because they badly need every penny, franc, euro, KM, whatever they can get: you can be sure they'll spend it on something necessary. Think of your visit as charity if you are not particularily interested. I found the house pretty enough, to be fair... even if not exactly mind-blowing. Remember one rule: take off your shoes at the entrance.
Blagaj - Tekija na vrelu Bune
Tekke on the river Buna spring is a cultural monument from the early Ottoman era. Worth noting that the medieval Bosnia, until the Ottoman conquest in 1463, was Croatian kingdom. Winning the fortress Bobovac (central part of Bosnia), where the seat of King Stjepan Tomašević was, Ottomans conquered Bosnia. Since then has started an unprecedented pogrom of Croatian population in Bosnia. All Croatian noblemen had to cross over to Islam, over one hundred thousand people were taken into captivity and 30,000 youths in the Janissaries. Bosnia has been converted into Pashaluk, which is divided into districts (sanjak). The head of Sanjak were Islamized Bosnians, whos last names are reminiscent of their Catholic (Croatian) origin.
In the next 300 years, the number of Croats in Bosnia was halved, and the reason was the displacement, war losses, bringing in Turkish captivity and mass forcible islamization. The mass loss of the local Croatian population Ottomans were offset by the settlement of orthodox Vlachs.
But worst of all was the institution of "devsirme", also known as blood tax. It was annual practice by which the Ottoman Empire sent military to abduct boys, sons of their Christian subjects who were then converted to islam, with the primary objective of selecting and training the ablest children for the military service, notably into the Janissaries. Janissaries were an elite military formation, always deployed in the front combat lines, known for their bravery and cruelty against the Christian enemies. It is irony of the faith that former childern, now Janissaries, in the Balkans fighting have killed own parents and brothers.
Blagaj - Tekija na vrelu Bune
Tekke is a sacred place where dervishes, in a special ritual, performed "zikir" (the worship of God.). Through its long and turbulent history, Tekke on the Buna River belonged to various dervishes orders. First it was school of Bektashi order, then Khalwati, Qadiri and today it belongs to Naqshbandi order.
It is not known the exact date when the Tekke was established, therefore is assumed that it was between 1446 and 1520. Throughout its entire history Tekke was used as a school of Sufi Islam.
Bektashi are comparable with the Knights Templar because they were not only religious order but also soldiers. They are known for their tolerance and religious generosity, which is why they were the first by the Ottoman Empire sent to the newly conquered areas in order to spread islam. On the outside of "turbet" (mausoleum) can be seen in relief carved sword and mace, symbolizing the Bektashi order.
In the front of the Tekke there are two "musafirhanas" (charitable guest houses) that are using for receiving travelers, and in front of them, below of the riverbed, is small mill for grind grain.
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