Hercegovina’s got a hold on RHOB
Commenters on my Mostar post have rightly pointed out that Mostar is in Hercegovina, not Bosnia. Westerners often refer to the country as simply “Bosnia” not Bosnia and Hercegovina (BiH), and I fell right into the Yankee trap myself. Speaking of traps, Hercegovina snared us for longer than we intended. After a couple “hey, let’s see that” moments and wrong turns, we were able to see a good bit of this often-overlooked region of BiH.
We didn’t plan to spend much time in Hercegovina beyond a short stop in Mostar, but then I read about a Dervish Monastery in nearby Blagaj. All I know about the Dervish order is that it explores the mystical side of Islam, but that sounded groovy and Muz agreed that it would make a perfect side trip/Church on Sunday post. Though the drive was gorgeous, the monastery wasn’t: the entrance was under major construction and access past the stone wall was forbidden.
The only way to reach the building was by an inflatable boat for an undetermined price. Since we were already running late thanks to an unruly GPS and confusion about where to park, we skipped the boat ride (and greater exploration of Blagaj’s old town) to head back to the highway.
Once again, Hercegovina thought we were making a mistake. She somehow tricked our GPS to take us through Podvelez, a series of villages along a mountainous road. This area is isolated, wild and beautiful. The road, however, turned less beautiful as we continued. After miles of dirt road failed to turn into a paved highway, we stopped at a turbe to make a u-turn. The turbe (I believe) commemorates the deaths of local men who died in the war during the 1990s.
This part of BiH is often called a moonscape, but I think it’s more of a Mars-scape. The rocky landscape and isolation reminded me more of Total Recall than Apollo 13. Of course, my impression might have something to do with the 100 degree temperatures.
To complete our Hercegovina tour, we stopped for pizza in Trebinje. Trebinje is part of the Republika Srpska that lies in Hercegovina. Though the highway seems a bit dusty and neglected, Trebinje is like a green oasis with its central park and leafy main square. A recently renovated mosque lies in the center of the main square, and a church dedicated to Hercegovinian Jovan Dučić sits on the large hill over town. We ate at a local Italian restaurant in the square and watched locals lounge in cafés.
Though we didn’t spend much time in Hercegovina, it was an opportunity to see a side of BiH that I didn’t know existed; one that had pomegranates, “alien” terrain, and an identity worth recognizing.