Travnik and Jajce Central Bosnia-Herzegovina


Jajce Pliva Waterfall Bosnia-Herzegovina

Wednesday was another warm, beautiful day in Sarajevo. We’ve had a run of “false spring” weather which was perfect for a tour of Travnik and Jajce in Central Bosnia-Herzegovina. The two towns are historically significant and known for their national monuments.

Map Central Bosnia-Herzegovina
Travnik Clock Tower

Again, the group was small – me, Kathryn from Frankfurt, and Samir our Meet Bosnia guide. Samir is a native, history professor, and a phenomenal guide!

Travnik from Medieval Fortress

Kathryn is traveling with Germany’s team for Sarajevo’s 2019 European Youth Olympics Festival (EYOF) held February 9 – 16. The EYOF is the largest sport festival for young athletes between 14 and 18. It’s organized by the European Olympic Committee and occurs every two years in Sarajevo. After the Olympics, she decided to stay on for a few days to explore Sarajevo and nearby areas.

Fortress Stari Grad Travnik – visitmycountry.net
Lašva River Valley, Travnik, Ethnic Cleansing

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 valley shrouded in fog, Samir adjusted the route to improve our visibility.

Travnik Tree

Travnik was known as the Vizier City and “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

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

Samir and Kathryn Travnik Medieval Fortress

On a lighter note, Travnik is the best preserved city from Ottoman times. It’s the birth place of Yugoslav novelist, poet, and short story writer Ivo Andrić and has interesting cultural and historical buildings. In 1961, Andrić won the Nobel Prize for Literature. His Bosnian Trilogy includes – The Woman from Sarajevo, The Bridge on the Drina, and Bosnian Chronicle. 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 of 1906, and WWII violence and destruction 1939-1945“.

View Restaurant – Konoba Plava Voda Travnik

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“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.”

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Travnik Sulejmanija Mosque

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

Travnik from Medieval Fortress
Plava Voda River

Travnik is known for its small river Plava Voda (blue water). The source runs right 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 a leisurely lunch of traditional Bosnian food at riverside restaurant Konoba Plava Voda.

Najbrži Uštipci
Travnik (Vlašićki) Cheese – Turisttotal
Stari Grad Medieval Fortress

Stari Grad Fortress is Travnik’s most significant historical landmark. We climbed to the top marveling at panoramic views of the valley and villages 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. There are two 18th century clock towers and a sundial.

Jajce

After Travnik we continued to Jajce, the capital of the Kingdom of Bosnia – a medieval “city of stone, light, and water”. The old city 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 – elenarts.ch
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

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“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.”

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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. In 2003, the Commission for the Protection of National Monuments of Bosnia-Herzegovina registered the catacombs as a national monument.

Jajce Catacombs – Bosnia-Herzegovina
Traditional Bosnian Architecture – Alterural
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. 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 the church and bell tower cultural heritage icons.

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 during the outing. 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 experience!

Plava Voda Travnik – ahlanbosna

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“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 Andric

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