Monday, February 24, 2020

A Bonanza Called Bosnia

The Roman Catholic Church at Neum

Never in my wildest dreams, I had imagined that one day I would land up in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I had always associated the country with many wars and very fragile peace. It remained a hotspot during the early 1990s due to the ongoing war with Croatia. The tiny nation has a border with Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia. During December 2019, while I was in Dubrovnik in Croatia, I learnt that one can make a trip to this place with a multiple entry Schengen visa. Without losing time, I looked up for the travel options and booked a trip with a local travel agency.

Early in the morning, the driver showed up at the Cable Car junction pickup point with 2 or 3 passengers already in the station wagon. The driver was an elderly fellow, very friendly and pleasant to talk to. We handed over our passports to him, as the same would be required for the border control. There was very little traffic and the drive along the Adriatic Sea coast with breathtaking locales along with the tiny towns of Zaton, Orasac, Trestno, Slano and Zaton Doli till Neum was thoroughly enjoyable. Neum is the only coastal town in Bosnia and Herzegovina with a stretch of almost 20 km of coastline on the Adriatic Sea. Less than 3000 people reside in this town. One has to go through two strict border checks which could sometimes involve long delays depending on the rush. The checkpoints are at Zaton Doli and Klek in Neum. In 1918 it joined the Republic of Yugoslavia. The place has a  Mediterranean climate. The local currency is Mark but the Croatian Kuna and Euros are accepted everywhere. The coffee shop located overlooking the sea served a fantastic brew with a chocolate croissant. The Roman Catholic Church with a tall tower and red roof is a distinct feature of the town and is visible from almost every place. The town has many tourists due to cheap accommodation and food compared to Croatia.  A new bridge is under construction here that is likely to be completed by 2022 to bypass Neum and avoid border crossing when travelling from Dubrovnik to Split both in Croatia.
Pocitelj by River Neretva
After a brief halt, we continued to Pocitelj which was at a distance of one hour fifteen-minute drive. After Neum, the terrain changed abruptly and we could no longer see the Adriatic Sea and in place vast plantation of Orange Groves, jagged hills and vast valleys emerged. The place had such a pristine look that it appeared to be untouched. Small canals and waterways appeared that were used for farming in the rich fertile area. Our driver stopped the car briefly to buy some oranges from the roadside and offered us. It was one of the juiciest oranges I had ever had and so fresh that the fragrance kept lingering for a long time even after eating the fruit. 
The Stepped Stairways of Pocitelj
The stepped medieval fortress village of Pocitelj is one of the most picture-perfect architectural settings in the country. Cupped between the steep rocky amphitheatre its warren of stairways climbing between ramshackle stone roofed houses and pomegranate bushes.
The Ramschakle Houses at Pocitelj
This village was badly hit during the Croatian Bosnian War of 1993 where it was specifically targeted to inflict damage. 
The Mosque and Minarets
The Hajji Alijia Mosque, its minarets and domes built-in 1563 suffered serious damage but the same has now been fully restored. The decorative paintwork has however been lost.
Gavrakapetan Tower and fortifications
Very near to this ais a 16m tall Clock Tower built during the Ottoman rule. There are ruins of the fortress and a further climb up brings octagonal Gavrakapetan Tower. A climb on this tower is dicey as the plaster has fallen off at many places. 

The only reward is the breathtaking views of the valley all around and the quiet flowing Neretva river at a distance. 
Atop the Gavrakapetan Tower
A number of houses were built for men and women to stay separately that exist even to date.
The significance of this little town altered during the different eras namely,
A)      Period of Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus during 1463-1471when its strategic importance arose.
B)      Under the Ottoman Empire during 1471-1698, when the mosque, Hamam, imarat, minarets and clock tower were built
C)       After Venetians conquered 1698-1876 when the strategic importance was once again restored.
A bird's eye view of {ocitelj
It is a UNESCO heritage town that has been preserved for the beauty and its long history of having witnessed many wars. The climb on the hill to explore this lovely town was every bit worth the effort. 

I will share more interesting tales of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the coming weeks

PS: All pictures are mine


  1. Visited your blog after a long time and as always got a glimpse of some part of the world which I have not heard of or seen before ... lovely :)

    1. Very happy to see you back Jayashree. Also, thanks a lot for your kind comment:) Hope to see you here again, soon