Travnik and Jajce Bosnia-Herzegovina

Jajce Pliva Waterfall Bosnia-Herzegovina
Central Bosnia-Herzegovina

Wednesday was another warm, beautiful day in Sarajevo. We’ve had a run of “false spring” weather – perfect for touring Travnik and Jajce, unique towns of historical significance known for their national monuments.

Map Central Bosnia-Herzegovina
Travnik Clock Tower

The group was small – me, Kathryn from Frankfurt, and Samir, our guide from Meet Bosnia. Samir is a Bosnian native and history professor.

Travnik from Medieval Fortress

Kathryn is traveling with the German team for Sarajevo’s 2019 European Youth Olympics Festival (EYOF) held February 9 – 16. The EYOF is Europe’s largest sport festival for athletes between 14 and 18. It’s organized by the European Olympic Committee and occurs every two years in Sarajevo. Kathryn stayed on after the festival to explore the area.

Fortress Stari Grad Travnik –
Vlasic Mountain Travnik
Lašva River Valley and Travnik

Travnik is in the Lašva River Valley surrounded by two mountains – Vlašić to the north and Vilenica in the south. Both mountains have great hiking trails. As we headed west through a fog-shrouded valley, Samir adjusted the route to improve visibility.

Vilenica Mountain – SummitPost
Travnik Tree

Travnik was known as the Vizier City, “capital of the Eyalet of Bosnia”. In the Ottoman Empire the powerful Grand Vizier was the Sultan’s prime minister.

Vlašić Mountain – Feel Bosnia
Ethnic Cleansing

The Lašva Valley is where ethnic cleansing crimes occurred during the Bosnian War 1992-1995. Although he was a child then, Samir told us about the torture and imprisonment of his father and grandfather who survived. They both witnessed the horrific murder of most people in their village.

Jajce Pliva Waterfall Bosnia-Herzegovina – Kathmandu & Beyond
Samir and Kathryn Travnik Medieval Fortress

On a lighter note, Travnik is the best preserved city from Ottoman times. It has has interesting historical buildings and is the birth place of Yugoslav novelist, poet, and short story writer Ivo Andrić. In 1961, Andrić won the Nobel Prize for Literature. His Bosnian Trilogy includes Bosnian Chronicle, The Woman from Sarajevo, and The Bridge on the Drina. A collection of Andrić’s short stories entitled Tales of Sarajevo was also published. The stories provide a “picture of Sarajevo during unrest in 1878, social turmoil in 1906, and WWII violence and destruction from 1939 to 1945“.

View Restaurant – Konoba Plava Voda Travnik


“Ivo Andric’s masterwork is imbued with the richness and complexity of a region that has brought so much tragedy to our century and known so little peace.”


Travnik Sulejmanija Mosque

Along the way we passed mountains, valleys, farms, rivers, and traditional Bosnian houses. Many of the buildings we saw were damaged or abandoned.

Travnik from Medieval Fortress
Plava Voda River

Travnik is known for river Plava Voda (blue water). The small river’s source runs through the center of town. We ate uštipci – a doughnut-like pastry – and sampled Travnik or Vlašićki cheese made in the nearby mountains. On the way back to Sarajevo, we enjoyed lunch at Konoba Plava Voda, a riverside restaurant.

Najbrži Uštipci
Travnik (Vlašićki) Cheese – Turisttotal

Stari Grad Medieval Fortress

Stari Grad Fortress is Travnik’s most significant historical landmark. There are two eighteenth century clock towers and a sundial. We climbed to the top marveling at panoramic views of the valley and villages in existence from the 15th century Ottoman period. Some historic buildings in the fortress include Our Lady Vrilo Jesuit grammar school, Elči Ibrahim Pasha’s madrassa, and Sulejmanija Mosque.


After Travnik we continued to Jajce, the capital of the Kingdom of Bosnia – a medieval “city of stone, light, and water”. Jajce is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The fortress, castle, and open air museum are on the banks of the brisk Pliva and Vrbas Rivers – a significant source of hydropower in the area.

Jajce Fortress –
Waterfall, Fortress, Catacombs

Jajce Waterfall appears at the point where the “Pliva River tumbles abruptly into the Vrbas”. The formidable waterfall dominates Jajce Old Town.

Jajce Pliva Waterfall


“In one glance, Jajce Fortress “captures the architecture of four empires – Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, three kingdoms – Bosnian, Hungarian, Yugoslav, and three world monotheistic religions – Christianity (Orthodoxy and Catholicism), Islam, Judaism.”


Pliva Lakes – Come Enjoy Bosnia

During the 14th century, a Bosnian duke built a “last residence” for his family, catacombs in the fortress. In 1943 Josip Broz Tito hid there. During 1945, the conference that established the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was held in the catacombs. The Commission for Protection of National Monuments declared the catacombs a national monument in 2003.

Jajce Catacombs – Bosnia-Herzegovina
Traditional Bosnian Architecture – Alterural
Elči Ibrahim Pasha Medresa –
Pliva Lakes and Watermills

Pliva Lakes and Watermills are near Jajce. They’re a popular picnic spot and great for fishing, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, volleyball, biking, and hiking. During the Middle Ages the watermills provided power for grinding seeds and grain to produce flour. They were declared National Monuments of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2009.

Church of St. Mary or the Sultan Suleyman II Mosque

Another important national monument is the Church of St. Mary or the Sultan Suleyman II Mosque, considered Jajce’s “symbol of coexistence”. It burned down in the mid-19th century, and today only the stone walls remain.

Symbol of Coexistence Church of St. Mary or the Sultan Suleyman II Mosque – Sarajevo Times

Throughout history it was used as both church and mosque. There are “visible reminders of different religions within the church”. The Bell Tower of St. Luke represents the “only surviving medieval bell tower in the Balkans”. In 1892, the Austro-Hungarian government declared both the church and bell tower icons of cultural heritage.

Jajce Historical St. Mary Church Ruins and St. Luke Bell Tower – 123RF

At the end of the day we drove back to Sarajevo reflecting on the history and nature of Travnik and Jajce. I’m still processing what I learned. Of course the longer you remain in a country the better you understand and appreciate its history and culture. I plan to stay in Sarajevo until early March.

Bosnian Chronicle Ivo Andric
The Bridge on the Drina Ivo Andric
The Woman from Sarajevo Ivo Andric

Last night I attended a Sarajevo Philharmonic concert at the National Theater. It was a fantastic evening!

Plava Voda Travnik – ahlanbosna


“Underneath us in the purple dusk old Sarajevo is sinking more and more, with its buildings of all time and styles, its churches – old and new – synagogues and mosques along which apple trees that grow, lean and tall as a minaret… But the veil of dusk, who lives all the more denser, all the more equals them and merges into the unreading story of a common night, which now covers the history, legends, and accomplishments of foreign invaders and domestic small and great tyrants and oligarchies, the movements of the masses, long and complicated accounts and accounts between those who have and not, are given by those who have nothing to their needs.”  Ivo Andrić


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