A short introduction
Nestled in the heart of the Balkans, Herzegovina stands as one of Europe's last hidden gems, waiting to be uncovered. Serving as a crossroads between East and West, the fusion of cultures is palpable, creating a tapestry of diversity at every turn.
The richness of history in this region is unparalleled. Dive into the ancient world of Illyria, marvel at the remnants of Rome's grandeur, witness the Slavic ascendancy during the medieval era, feel the enduring impact of Ottoman conquest, trace the footsteps of Austro-Hungarian emperors, and navigate the complexities of Yugoslavian rule.
Snuggled between the majestic peaks of the Dinaric Alps and the crystal-clear waters of the Adriatic, Herzegovina showcases some of the nation's most enchanting landscapes and boasts a reputation for producing some of its finest wines. Join us in rediscovering echoes of Europe's distant past, where centuries-old traditions are meticulously preserved, and hospitality stands as a revered hallmark of time.
Herzegovina has been inhabited since Neolithic times. In the late Bronze Age, the Neolithic population was replaced by more warlike Indo-European tribes known as the Illyrians. Called Illyricum in ancient times, the area now called Bosnia and Herzegovina was conquered by the Romans in the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. and folded into the Roman province of Dalmatia. In the 4th and 5th centuries A.D., Goths overran that portion of the declining Roman Empire and occupied the area until the 6th century, when the Byzantine Empire claimed it. Slavs began settling the region during the 7th century. Around 1200, Bosnia won independence from Hungary and endured as an independent Christian state for some 260 years.
The expansion of the Ottoman Empire into the Balkans introduced another cultural, political, and religious framework. The Turks defeated the Serbs at the famous battle of Kosovo in 1389. They conquered Bosnia in 1463. During the roughly 450 years Bosnia and Herzegovina were under Ottoman rule, many Christian Slavs became Muslim. A Bosnian Islamic elite gradually developed and ruled the country on behalf of the Turkish overlords. As the borders of the Ottoman Empire began to shrink in the 19th century, Muslims from elsewhere in the Balkans migrated to Bosnia. Bosnia also developed a sizable Jewish population, with many Jews settling in Sarajevo after their expulsion from Spain in 1492. However, through the 19th century the term Bosnian commonly included residents of all faiths. A relatively secular society, intermarriage among religious groups was not uncommon.
Neighboring Serbia and Montenegro fought against the Ottoman Empire in 1876 and were aided by the Russians, their fellow Slavs. At the Congress of Berlin in 1878, following the end of the Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878), Austria-Hungary was given a mandate to occupy and govern Bosnia and Herzegovina, in an effort by Europe to ensure that Russia did not dominate the Balkans. Although the provinces were still officially part of the Ottoman Empire, they were annexed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire on Oct. 7, 1908. As a result, relations with Serbia, which had claims on Bosnia and Herzegovina, became embittered. The hostility between the two countries climaxed in the assassination of Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, by a Serbian nationalist. This event precipitated the start of World War I (1914-1918). Bosnia and Herzegovina were annexed to Serbia as part of the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes on Oct. 26, 1918. The name was later changed to Yugoslavia in 1929.
When Germany invaded Yugoslavia in 1941, Bosnia and Herzegovina were made part of Nazi-controlled Croatia. During the German and Italian occupation, Bosnian and Herzegovinian resistance fighters fought a fierce guerrilla war. At the end of World War II, Bosnia and Herzegovina were reunited into a single state as one of the six republics of the newly reestablished Communist Yugoslavia under Marshall Tito. Tito died in 1980, and with growing economic dissatisfaction and the fall of the iron curtain over the next decade, Yugoslavia began to splinter. In Dec. 1991, Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia.
Nature and Geology
Bosnia and Herzegovina are two regions geographically divided by the towering Dinaric Alps, which stretches from northwest Croatia through Bosnia and Herzegovina and into Montenegro finishing on the Albanian border. In the heart of the central Dinaric Alps Herzegovina host the most imposing set of mountains ranges in the country - Prenj (2155m), Čabulja (1789m), Čvrsnica (2228m) and Velež (1969m) mountains. This area is known for its numerous endemic species of wild flowers. Dinaric Alps exhibits three types of climate: Mediterranean at the base of the mountain, central European on hillsides and alpine on summits and plateaus.The warm Adriatic temperatures clash with the harsher alpine ones, producing one of the most diverse and unique ecosystems in all of Europe. These mountain ranges are divided by 1000m-deep canyon valleys carved by Neretva river and its tributaries offering picturesque views.
Farther south where mountains give way to hills and plains Neretva slows down and loses character of rapid river. It slowly meanders and expands into a wide and vast wetland valley. In the south of Herzegovina, protected on all sides by arid hills and mountains is the wetland bird reserve of Hutovo Blato. Further down it crosses in Croatia and creates vast fertile delta. Delta lakes, fed by underground springs, narrow river valleys, forests of reeds, lagoons, lush common land pastures, sand banks, riparian forests and river branches covered in aquatic plants together create a veritable bird paradise here. In the 20 thousand hectares of the delta spreading from Bosnia Herzegovina over the Croatian border to the Adriatic, 300 bird species live and rest.
Almost all of Herzegovina is made up of arid limestone, known as karst. In this area, the only land suitable for cultivation are small depressions, karst fields, between barren mountains. The limestone karst fields of Herzegovina are amongst the largest in the world, creating amazing water sources and underground aquifer systems and caves. With over 6 km of passageways, the Vjetrenica Caves are the largest in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They are located in the Popovo Polje valley, and are named for the cold air which blows from the entrance in the warmer parts of the year (Vjetrenica means "wind hole"). The cave houses the large subterranean biodiversity with over 200 species ranging from cave-dwelling fish and insects to shellfish that only survive in underground systems. Vjetrenica also has ancient cave drawings of bears and leopards estimated to be over 10,000 years old.
Herzegovina is the southern region of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It never had strictly defined geographical or cultural borders and it is not an administrative division in modern Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is generally taken to border larger Bosnia to the north, Dalmatia to the southwest and Montenegro to the southeast.
The name "Herzegovina" itself stems from the archaic Serbo-Croatian term inherited from German, "hercegovina", a land ruled by a herzog (German term for a duke) thus literally meaning "duchy" or "dukedom".