HERZEGOVINA & CROATIAN ISLANDS - 12 DAY GUIDED TOUR ITINERARY

DAY 3 - Herzegovina - Stolac & Počitelj - medieval villages


 


  • Stolac

Today we will visit quaint, historical, unusually beautiful and sunny medieval hamlet of Stolac where we will explore archaeological sites and antient ruins. With its unique cultural and aesthetic values, Stolac's urban core is an example of a complex cultural-historic and natural environment, comprising nine historical layers: the prehistoric, Illyrian-Roman period, the early, high and late Middle Ages, the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian periods and the time of the first and second Yugoslavia. Incorporating influences of four empires, three kingdoms, and four monotheistic religions, Stolac's urban core remains a coherent and harmonius monument testifying to unity in diversity.

  • Daorson

The ancient Illyrian town Daorson - the Stonehenge of Bosnia & Herzegovina.

  • Daorson

Only 5 km from Stolac, on the top of the hill in the Ošanići village, one can find the Daorson, an incredible megalithic site. According to some written sources, this town was built on the ruins of a prehistoric fortress from 1700/1600 BCE that lasted until the end of the Bronze Age 900/800 BCE. Daorson is one of the best-preserved towns built by Illyrians, the ancient inhabitants of the Balkans. It used to be the capital of the Hellenized Illyrian tribe Daorsi, who lived in the valley of the Neretva River from 300 BCE to 50 BCE.

  • Daorson

They used the Greek language and Hellenistic traditions, and they maintained regular trading with the Greeks. During the Roman times, Daorsi had even some kind of autonomy. Finally, the town was destroyed by the Dalmatians in 43/44 BCE, and after this invasion never again this complex was used for living.

  • Daorson

After the first excavations from 1963, archaeologists found the remains of numerous wine amphorae and parts of fine ceramics, but the most valuable find is a bronze helmet. It was decorated with a number of Greek characters – Aphrodite, Nike, Helium, Dionysus, Muse, Pegasus and others, and the inscription on it is similar to the inscription on the helmet found in Macedonia. The remains of a granite sculpture of Kadma and Harmony, as well as an Illyrian relief with 13 snakes and five pairs of eagle wings were also found. In one smaller building, a blacksmith place for making coins was found with tools, 39 different coins (29 with King Ballaios of 168 BCE, and nine with the Greek inscription ΔΑΟΡΣΩΝ and a vessel).

  • Daorson

The mysterious Daorson site was built around the main fortress, that was surrounded by cyclopean walls made of huge stones. The megalithic wall that stretches over sixty-five meters, was constructed in 400 BCE to serve defence purposes. This large complex consists of the Acropolis, the pre-Acropolis area and the residential-commercial part. The biggest part of it was built in 100 BCE. Observing the site, one can compare it to other ancient cities around the world (in Egypt or Peru) that were similarly constructed. It is interesting to see that the stones used are unequal and without binding material, but they were so well positioned that they survived millennia and earthquakes.

  • Bregava river

Down the hill we will cross beautiful Bregava river and visit old town Vidoški.

  • Stolac old town

The old town of Vidoški in Stolac was founded in the fifth and sixth centuries, during the time of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine who built a fortress in Stolac with the aim of protecting his trade caravans that went from west to east, towards the former Byzantium.

  • Stolac old town

After Emperor Constantine, the city was neglected, until the arrival of the Slavs in the eighth and ninth centuries, and in the 14th and 15th during the reign of Duke Stjepan Kosača, it experienced its medieval heyday. The city was conquered by the Ottomans in 1471 and it got its current contours with all the fortresses, walls and towers. In the 17th century, the city had 13 towers and was the best fortified city in Herzegovina.

  • Stolac old town

In 1718, Venice attempted to conquer the city and expand its republic to the east, but in its intentions it failed then, and 50 years later. During the Herzegovinian uprising in 1888, the Austro-Hungarian army took over the town by the storm and remained in it until 1918.

  • Stolac old town

It is well known that the city has been hit by a thunder twice, and because of the explosion of gunpowder, the city was heavily damaged both times. It happened for the first time in 1757 or 1758. Immediately after that, a part of the city was repaired, as can be seen from the inscription on one tower where years 1758-1759 are carved, and the rest of the repairs were done just before May 1768.

  • Stecci necropolis

Not far from Vidoški catsle there are two major 15th and 16th century stećci (carved medieval tombstones) necropolis - Radimlja and Boljuni. The tombstones are huge rocks, many with decorations carved on the sides. Strolling through the stone necropolis, you can find inscriptions of greeting figures, horsemen, cattle animals, the Moon and stars, swords, flowers, and geometric patterns. Many tombstones have the distinctive shape of a house with walls and a tilted roof, like a symbolic home in the afterlife.

  • Stecci necropolis

The stećci are an integral part of Bosnia and Herzegovina's history and culture. More than 60,000 of them can be found across the country (with a small number also found in neighbouring Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro), but it is the medieval Bosnian Kingdom to which they are closely allied. The word "stećci" (itself plural for "stećak") means "tall, standing thing", a marvellously vague way of describing limestone slabs that come in a number of shapes and sizes.

  • Stecci necropolis

Appearing in the mid 12th century, with the first phase in the 13th century, the custom of cutting and using stećci tombstones reached its peak in the 14th and 15th century, before being discontinued in the very early 16th century during the Ottoman conquest of Bosnia and Herzegovina.They were a common tradition amongst Bosnian, Catholic and Orthodox Church followers alike, and were used by both Slavic and the Vlach populations.

  • Stecci necropolis

There are epitaphs on some Bosnian stećaks. Religious phrases and moral lessons dominate, with the occasional description of a heroic death or slice of information thrown in for good measure. There is, though, a significant number of inscriptions that came to reflect personal emotions and deep thoughts from their authors, provoked by the intensity of tragic events that needed to be recorded as testimony for posterity. There are epigraphs that, with their conciseness and depth, can fascinate even the cynical reader of our times. There are also texts whose poetic nature can charm a literary connoisseur, even someone with a fashionable taste for recent and contemporary poetic forms.

Some of the inscriptions:

"Here lies a man who always stood at a crossroads in life, thinking which way to go."

"I was nothing then, I am nothing now."

"Do not topple my stone, for you are what I used to be, and I am what you will become."

"May this hand makes you think about your own hands"

"... and only those who can bear solitude discover that rivers flow upstream, while time, the seasons and waters flow downstream ... "

"If only I could rise from underneath this tombstone, every new day would be a lifetime and every night a new paradise."

"... the many mistakes I made I now call my life."


  • Boljuni greek well

Next to Boljuni necropolis there is a 2000 years old water well used for livestock. Locals call it Greek well.

  • Restaurant Old Mill

We will stop for lunch in this drop-dead gorgeous place - Old Mill restaurant where river Bregava forms a spectacular waterfall known as Provalije. Having lunch on the back deck over this grotto with hanging plants and waterfalls is just stunning. The artistry in this place is off-the-charts...starting with the amazing old mill which is actually a working, grinding mill, adding their own fish hatchery/pond so they can draw from this straight to the table. The food is top notch, and the setting unparalleled.


View from Old Mill Restaurant by Bregava river.

  • Stolac Inat cuprija

Strolling along the shores of the crystal-clear river Bregava, it is easy to see why numerous civilizations and cultures left significant traces in or around this open air musem town of Stolac: the lush Mediterranean valley surrounded by imposing pine-covered hills is a perfect environment for human settlement.

  • Bregava river

The historic center of Stolac, however, is most deeply marked by buildings originating in the Ottoman period: the čaršija or central town square spreading in front of the early 16th century Sultan Selim mosque, several other 17th and 18th century mosques, charming stone bridges and recently renovated mills on the river Bregava, and numerous private houses with avlijas or courtyards, most notably Begovina, an estate of the Ottoman-era feudal family Rizvanebgović. The Ottoman buildings are characterized by the use of roughly-hewn stone walls and white flagstone roofs, thus forming a perfect protection against the long and intense summer heats and a seamless unity with the natural environment.

  • Stolac Old Mill

Built from the 16th to the middle of the 20th century, Stolac mills look like bridges, long buildings with several arches. Each of mill was built as a ground floor building, always raised above the river level, with a stone roof on two waters. According to old books, in the 18th century there were 180 mill wheels on Bregava, which would mean that Stolac back then had 22 mills with eight wheels each.

  • Pocitelj

Just 25 minutes from Stolac, perched above the turquoise Neretva River lies one of the Herzegovina's hidden jewel - medieval village of Počitelj. This small fortified town is a window to the past with Ottoman and medieval architectual influences.

  • Pocitelj

The village is built in a natural karst amphitheater along the Neretva river during the Middle Ages. The earliest mention of or recorded reference to Počitelj is in charters of king Alfonso V and Fridrich III from 1444 to 1448. However, the village most likely predates these documents. The exact date can't be pinpointed but it is likely that fortified town along with its complementary settlements was built by Bosnian king Tvrtko I sometime in 1383.

  • Pocitelj

During the years following Ottoman conquest of Bosnian realm, between 1464 and 1471, the town was fortified by Vladislav Herzegović with a support of Dubrovnik, king Matthias Corvinus of Hungary and the Pope. From this point the walled town of Počitelj evolved in the period from the 16th to the 18th centuries. Architecturally, the stone-constructed parts of the town are a fortified complex, in which two stages of evolution are evident: medieval, and Ottoman.

  • Pocitelj

Gavrankapetanović tower, the most exposed point of Počitelj ramparts. The family of Gavrankapetanović was in charge of the Počitelj military district throughout the entire 19th century. They, as well as the other Bosnian and Herzegovinian nobility, enjoyed a privileged status. They could request absolutely anything from Sultan and Sublime Porte if they managed to successfully secure the border and Neretva river valley.

  • Pocitelj

With the establishment of Austro-Hungarian rule in BiH in 1878, Počitelj lost its strategic importance and began to deteriorate rapidly. The loss of the town's strategic role helped to safeguard the original urban architectural ensemble, so that the town has been preserved in its original form to this day.

  • Pocitelj

The well-preserved cobblestone streets and medieval buildings create an aura of a fairytale land.

  • Pocitelj

Tucked away in secluded flowery cobblestone alleyway, behind old wooden doors lies traditional stone house dating from Ottoman period. It is here that we will meet our host Sevdija. While sitting in garden, surrounded by pomegranate and cherry trees, we will sample her home made wild or organically grown pomegranate, elderflower, mint, sage and rose juices.

  • Pocitelj

A stunning view over Počitelj village and emerald green Neretva river.

  • Mogorjelo

From Počitelj we continue our journey accross Neretva river and in less than 10 minutes of driving we arrive to Mogorjelo. Mogorjelo is a unique archaeological monument from Roman times, a well-preserved old Roman villa rustica. This cultural monument is one of the most beautiful buildings of late antique architecture in the entire Herzegovina.

  • Mogorjelo

The oldest buildings date from the 1st century when the site served as an agricultural center. These original buildings burned down in the 3rd century, but already in the 4th century a magnificent Roman urban plan of a Roman castrum (fort) of regular foundation with square towers at the corners (like Diocletian's Palace in Split) was created in their place. Mogorjelo supplied the Roman city of Narona, and probably served to defend the city and its surroundings. At the end of the 4th century, the fortress was conquered and partially destroyed by the Visigoths. In the 5th century, two early Christian basilicas were built using the walls of the fort.

  • Mogorjelo

Archeological excavations of Carlo Patsch from 1899 to 1903 showed that the building complex in Mogorjelo consists of several stages. The oldest buildings date back to the 1st century when the locality was agrarian center (villa Rustica Fructuaria). There were a few buildings that were connected with corridors and in the middle was a residential building, bath and a building for agricultural production. Also, there was an oil mill, mill and a bakery. Brickyard, a workshop for making ceramic vessels and stable were built outside the complex.