Our hosts in Bosnia, Armela and Adem, apart from renting out apartments, also provided an amazing traditional Bosnian breakfast delivered to your doorstep and day tours to nearby tourist sights and places of interest. We had the Bosnian breakfast twice during our stay and the feast was delivered on time and was scrumptiously delicious!!!
We hired Armela and Adem for day excursions twice. The first day was a set tour they advertised, the second tour was one I proposed to them, ‘this is where I want to go, how much can you do it for?’ The quotes received for both trips were very reasonable and both Armela (the escort) and Adem (the driver) go with you.
Our hosts, and now tour guides, picked us up promptly at the organised time and we were off into the Bosnian countryside. The first stop on our tour was to Blagaj, a small village about 20 minutes drive from Mostar. Blagaj is where the source of the Buna River starts. At the exact spot the river springs from the mountain rock face a Tekke or a teaching Monastery has been built, literally hanging over the river source.
The Blagaj Tekke was built in the early 16th century, making it over five hundred years old. The Tekke is devoted to the Dervish cult of Islam.
The walk from the car park along the side of the fast flowing river is laced with small bridges and small cafes and restaurants.
We walked through the monastery for a small fee that was included in the tour price. The monastery was nice and each room was displayed in its original context.
Once leaving the monastery, it is when you cross one of the bridges to the other side of the river, that the true beauty of the location emerges. The cave, where the brilliant clear blue water emerges from the cliff face, is a magnificent sight on its own, then throw in the Tekke overlooking the cave and then add Di, Armela and I and the scene is simply gorgeous!!!!
The restaurants were all closed during the off-season, but in the height of summer the place is buzzing. I was so amazed by the lovely clear blue water and the wonderful reflections of the Tekke and the mountain.
The Old Blagaj Fort sits on the mountain above Blagaj Tekke. Sadly though, the fort reflects the retardation of a lot of the access to potential tourist sites. There is only an unstable footpath up the mountain to the fort and even the mountain goats would tread carefully on this ‘footpath’. It was deemed too risky for us to climb – a decent footpath or a small road would certainly open the fort up and add another reason to visit Blagaj.
We then visited a Serbian Church, the Zitomislici Monastery.
This monastery again emphasised the co-existence of several of the remnants of the old Yugoslavia; Muslim Bosnians, Catholic Croatians and now Orthodox Serbs. The church was built in 1602, but was completely destroyed during the war in 1992-95 and was rebuilt in 2005.
The inside of the monastery was the most colourful collection of religious images and wall paintings – the ceiling simply stunning. The Serbian priest gave us a small guided tour and eagerly accepted us and our Muslim Bosnian guides into the church.
Just outside the church are ruins built prior to the construction of the church in 1602 – the exact origin of these ruins stems from wine making in the area and the original church was renowned for the quality of its wine – personally I would not have minded a little wine tasting on the tour, but alas the rebuilt church has stopped wine making.
The Neretva River flows through Mostar and on to the Croatian coast. Most of our travels this day involved zigzagging across and following the river as we headed towards the Croatian border. Our next stop was at Pocitelj. Pocitelj is a small village on the bank of the Neretva River. There are several mosques here and a few cafes/restaurants but the highlight is an old fort.
The old fort controlled the Neretva River in the 16th century and, as such, it is perched high on the mountain above the village. Thus once you climb up the many old uneven stone steps to the fort you have the most magnificent views, not only up and down the river, but also of the surrounding countryside and villages.
The fort is a shell. It cost nothing to get in and it appears to be only marginally maintained – i.e, they do what they have to and no more. Thus, there are no barriers or fencing, enter at your own risk, and you basically have the freedom to roam around as you please. There are some staircases that are narrow and steep and, in some of the lookouts, it is a drop to the ground many metres below – again, provided you are not stupid, you should be okay.
The path stairs up to the fort are some wonderful little rock and stone buildings with the most amazing front doors – Di has become a regular Peeping Tom sneaking up to snap a photo of peoples’ front door, and she certainly has developed a door fetish!!! Actually, the door fetish has evolved to a door and knocker fetish!!!!
Once we climbed down from the fort and, after a wander through the grounds of a mosque, it was time for morning coffee. Of course, Bosnia being more Ottoman than American, a long white was out and a short blast of caffeine rocket fuel was in. We had Bosnian coffee, the Bosnian way, which is basically the same way as the Turkish have their coffee.
My coffee came in a small urn with a side handle. I had a small coffee cup. I also got a cube of sugar and two Turkish Delights – let the coffee experience begin. There was a ritual my hosts suggested I follow to experience all that coffee drinking could offer. Firstly place the sugar cube in the coffee cup. Then I had to scrape the skin, or froth, off the top of the coffee and pour the skin/froth on to the sugar cube. As the sugar cube started to dissolve the coffee is then poured slowly over the sugar cube – this required me perfecting my aim using the side lever – it takes two seconds to acquire the pouring skill but a lifetime to master!!!
The coffee, of course, was strong and the Turkish Delight, though complementing the coffee taste, just added more fuel to the over the top sugar and coffee high I was experiencing – I normally have coffee without sugar. When I mentioned this to my hosts, they looked at me like I had just told them I had leprosy!!!! A long story short, I bounced off the walls and spoke gibberish for the next hour or so, Di saw no difference, but I did love my Bosnian coffee experience.
We were back on the road heading to our next stop, the fourth century Roman ruins of Mogorjelo. The ruins are surrounded by a horse riding club and this adds to the scenic outlook. The ruins are interesting and the whole area is rather picturesque. The original building was a large complex used for agriculture and seeing the photos of what the complex would have looked like certainly was amazing.
Di maybe a sucker for a grand old door with a good set of knockers but she goes gaga for the sound of falling water and a spectacular waterfall is her coffee and sugar rush. We headed to Kravica Waterfalls. There is some confusion with the name of the waterfall – we thought it was Kravice and it is commonly known as this, but it is in fact Kravica – so go with whatever floats your boat!!!
The falls are surrounded by some lovely picnic areas with playgrounds and walkways. The waterfall has at least a dozen places where the water from the river Trebizat plunges down 25 metres into the clearest water imaginable. The setting is simply picture perfect!!!
Again, the area does get rather crowded in the summer months, but for us there were only half a dozen other people there and this made the whole setting so peaceful and quiet – except of course the tranquil sound of falling water hitting still water.
What was extra special was that there are several small restaurants on the far bank facing the falls. Only one of these restaurants was open and it was empty of patrons. This meant we could sit and have a glass of beautiful Bosnian red wine, watch the falling water and simply take in the ambience of this beautiful little spot – it was a special moment.
This was the end of a most enjoyable tour. The tour was different and conducted in the most relaxed way. Armela’s grasp of the English language is perfect and she can engage in the most serious of discussion through to the most light-hearted banter. Armela also demonstrated an amazing passion and knowledge for local, Bosnian and exYugoslavia history. This knowledge would certainly rise to the surface on the next tour we did with them which plunged us into the Second World War and Tito’s communist Yugoslavia.
Armela and Adem only offer their ‘tours’ to guests staying at their apartments, I certainly hope they come up with a business name and expand this service a little. You can find their apartment here.
Thus our first tour was over and the most enjoyable experience it was. The next tour was one that I planned and Armela added some truly memorable little places to complement the tour. Stay tuned.
The adventure continues…………………..