Sarajevo Farewell and Isa-begov Hamam

Isa Begov Hamam Hotel – Getaroom India

I spent my last day in Sarajevo walking around enjoying the beautiful city. Late afternoon I had a hamam at Isa Beg Hamam Hotel in the Bistrik neighborhood. The process was invigorating but a little different from Turkish hamams.

Isa Begov Hamam Entrance to Stone Sitting Area

Isa Beg Hamam Process

The hamam had a large Jacuzzi and steam room divided by a warm stone sitting area. Before the bath process began, I loosened up by going back and forth between the Jacuzzi and steam room. There was no göbek taşı – a central, raised marble platform above the heating source or “kurna stone”. Laying on the göbek taşı is the first step in most Turkish hamams. It’s meditative and special, especially if you’re looking up at a beautiful dome.

Jacuzzi Isa Begov Hamam – Destination Sarajevo

The thorough bath process included four different washings, scrubbings, and exfoliation. At the end I was literally squeaky clean! After the scrubbing I had an aromatherapy massage with rosemary and rose oil.

Steam Room Isa Begov Hamam Hotel – A-HOTEL.com

Hamam has been the “meaning of clean” through history. The old Arabic word means the “spreader of warmth” and dates back to ancient Rome.

Isa-begov Hamam Sarajevo – sarajevo.co.ba

Isa-beg Ishakovic – BNN.ba

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The main idea of the hamam is “using steam and hot water to cleanse and relax the body”.

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Old Town Flags Bosnian Independence Day March 1

Šeher Ćehaja Bridge Sarajevo

Depending on the culture, hamams have different structures. Earlier blog posts describe the Turkish bath process I experienced in Istanbul and Cappadocia.

Pomegranate Juice Stand

Sarajevo from Mt. Trebević

Hamams consist of three parts. The first step is heating your body and relaxing. The second part is opening your pores and sweating. After these steps, the “tellak” (masseuse) massages and washes you vigorously with a traditional olive paste soap and thin cloth. Bowls of water poured over the body wash away the dead skin cells.

Mostar Bridge

Jajce Waterfall

The next step is an “intensive scrubbing with a rough mitten called a kese” followed by another extensive rinse with alternating hot and cold water. My tellak was a Bosnian woman who spoke little English but enough to tell me she had a degree in physical therapy, a common occupation in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Latin Bridge Sarajevo – Wikimedia Commons

The whole process lasted 3 hours leaving me rejuvenated but feeling like rubber. The cost, including a 60-minute massage, was $50.

Travnik Bridge

History Isa Beg Hamam

Isa Beg Hamam is Sarajevo’s first and oldest bath. It has over 500 years of history and was an old Waqf building donated by Isa-beg Ishakovic. His family came from Saruhan in western Turkey. In the first half of the 15th century the Ishakovic family “played a significant role in Macedonia, Serbia, and Bosnia”.

Abandoned Building Near Isa Beg Hamam Hotel

Sarajevo City Hall Vijećnica – Sarajevo Times

Isa-beg Ishakovic built the Sarajevo hamam in 1462 during the era of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. The building is of “great importance and symbolizes the transition between the rule of the Bosnian Kingdom and Ottoman Empire”.

Kriva Ćuprija Bridge Mostar

Lašva River Travnik

Isa-beg Ishakovic

Isa-beg Ishakovic – known as the “founder of Sarajevo” – was a successful Ottoman General and the Beg (Governor) of Bosna Sandzak. He’s credited with Sarajevo’s urbanization and creating many “magnificent buildings”.

Orthodox Congregational Church of the Holy Mother Old Town Sarajevo

Mt. Trebević Balkan Vista

Isa Beg Hamam is next to Careva (Sultan’s) Mosque which Ishakovic founded and gifted to the Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. The Mosque and hamam were built at the same time.

Careva Mosque Bistrik Sarajevo

Old Town Clock Tower and Mosque

Damage During the War

The Hamam suffered serious damage during the war 1992-1995. After renovation by architect Ferhad Mulabegovic it became the Isa Begov Hamam Boutique Hotel. The hotel is protected and preserved as an important cultural heritage icon.

Modern Art Sarajevo

I’ll miss Bosnia-Herzegovina and Sarajevo – a special place! Photo memories are attached. More later from Belgrade Serbia.

Old Town Building

Sacred Heart Cathedral

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 – 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. A native and former history professor, Samir was a phenomenal guide!

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 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 competition 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 part of 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 visibility.

Travnik Tree

For years 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 horrible ethnic cleansing crimes occurred during the Bosnian War 1992-1995. Although Samir was a child then, 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 has protected cultural and historical buildings and is the birth place of Yugoslav novelist, poet, and short story writer Ivo Andrić. Andrić won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961. His Bosnian Trilogy includes – The Woman from Sarajevo, Bosnian Chronicle, and The Bridge on the Drina. Later a collection of his short stories Tales of Sarajevo was published. They present a “comprehensive picture of Sarajevo during the turbulence in 1878, social turmoil of 1906, and WW II 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 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. We climbed to the top marveling at views of the valley and villages from the 15th century Ottoman period. Some historic buildings in the fortress include Sulejmanija Mosque, Our Lady Vrilo Jesuit grammar school, and Elči Ibrahim-Pasha madrassa which is still used today. 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 candidate. 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 catacombs in the fortress as a “last residence” for his family. In 1943 Josip Broz Tito hid there. During 1945, the conference establishing the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was held in the catacombs. The Commission for the Protection of National Monuments of Bosnia-Herzegovina registered the catacombs as a national monument in 2003.

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. In 2009 they were declared National Monuments of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

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 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 a church and mosque. There are “visible reminders of different religions within the church”. The Bell Tower of St. Luke is on the northeast side of the church walls. It represents the “only surviving medieval bell tower in the continental 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

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 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 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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Pearls of Herzegovina

Blagaj Tekija Sufi Monastery River Buna Pocitelj

Monday the weather was warm and beautiful so I took a long day tour of Herzegovina – 8 am until 9 pm. There were three of us – me, a German tourist from Frankfurt, and Adnan, our Meet Bosnia Guide.

Ducks River Bruna Pocitel

It’s hard to say which places were favorites because everything was exceptional. The main points included:

  • Konjic
  • Jablanica
  • Mostar
  • Blagaj
  • Počitelj 
  • Kravice Falls
  • Wine Cellar Begić

Dome Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque

Guides from Meet Bosnia are very good. They’re gracious and provide clear and thorough information. Without taking sides or injecting personal beliefs, our guide filled a few gaps in my understanding of Balkan history and politics – a complicated subject!

Konjic Stone Bridge

Konjic – Stone Bridge, Tito’s Bunker

Our first stop was Konjic’s beautiful Ottoman Stone Bridge on the emerald-green Neretva River. Built in 1682, the bridge was destroyed during World War II, eventually reconstructed, and reopened in 2009. It’s known as a “point where Herzegovina joins Bosnia” and is on the list of National Monuments.

Konjic

Konjic and the Neretva River Canyon are surrounded by spectacular Balkan mountains rich in cobalt, minerals, agriculture, and forests. Although we didn’t visit Tito’s Bunker, our guide provided information about it. Josip Broz Tito, president of The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, built a bunker near Konjic that could “withstand a nuclear attack of 20 – 25 kilotons” – not sure exactly what that means.

Tito’s Nuclear Bunker – Hit Booker Mostar

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Tito’s Bunker was “the biggest secret of former Yugoslavia”. Between 1953 and 1979 it was built under Zlatar Mountain and cost $4.6 billion U.S. dollars!!”

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Hajji Alija Mosque Počitelj

It had eight alternative exits, one hundred rooms, and Tito’s luxurious private residence and office. In case of a nuclear attack it “was to be used by 350 people from Yugoslavia’s political and state leadership”. They could live in the bunker for six months without contact from the outside world.

Sunny View Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque Minaret

I’m pretty sure Tito alone is a whole chapter of Balkan history. Although he looks mean and evil in photos, many of his countrymen consider him “one of the most benevolent dictators in modern history”. He led the Yugoslav partisan forces to liberation from Nazi occupation without help from the Soviet Red Army.

View from Tower Kula Fort Počitelj

After the war, Tito was the unifying figure in his country and led Yugoslavia from 1943 until his death in 1980. He maintained a “highly favorable reputation abroad in both Eastern and Western Cold War blocs”.

Church of St. John the Baptist Konjic

Minaret Steps Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque

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“Josip Broz Tito, president of The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, received 98 foreign decorations, including the Légion d’Honneur and Order of Bath.”

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Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque Mostar

Jablanica

“Tucked into the peaks of the Cvrsnica and Prenj Mountains” along the Neretva River, Jablanica has a mild climate between Mediterranean and Continental. It’s a small town known for the destruction of a railway bridge during the Battle of Neretva.

Jablanica Battle Spot Near Neretva Bridge

During WW II, Jablanica was the site of the battle “where Yugoslav Partisans won an unlikely battle against the Axis forces”. Today, the remains of the destroyed bridge are a “symbol of wartime difficulties and sacrifice”.

Battlefield Jablanica

Jablanica Railway Bridge Neretva River Destroyed by Yugoslav Partisans WW II – Wikivoyage

Mostar

This was my second trip to Mostar. The first visit from Dubrovnik wasn’t ideal for many reasons including heavy rain. This time the city at the foot of Velez Mountain was a delightful feast for my eyes! I wrote about Mostar in an earlier blog post but this time really saw the beautiful historic city!

Kravice Waterfalls – earthpron.org

The Old Bridge is Mostar’s most famous attraction. Built by a Turkish builder in 1566  it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We also enjoyed beautiful Kriva Ćuprija, the oldest arch bridge in Mostar.

Mostar’s Old Bazaar Kujundžiluk

Best of all I climbed the minaret of Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque, the second largest mosque in Mostar. I’ve always wanted to climb a minaret! The inside was interesting but after climbing the narrow tower, the spectacular panoramas on top were indescribable! Sadly the sun wasn’t at a good angle for photos.

Kriva Ćuprija Arch Bridge Mostar

Kujundžiluk, Mostar’s Old Bazaar looks better in sunshine. Vendors, crafts, cafés, and tourists lined the buzzing cobbled streets.

Mostar Bridge

Blagaj

Blagaj, a “haven of peace and natural harmony”, was a special part of the tour. It’s the location of Tekija – the Sufi Dervish Monastery. Built around 1520, the monastery is an important monument of the early Ottoman period in Bosnia-Herzegovina. On special occasions Dervishes perform rituals there, including Sufi Dhikr (praise to God).

Blagaj Tekija Dervish Monastery

The Blagaj Tekija is on River Buna, cooled by the water and surrounded by spectacular mountain views. It’s easy to understand why visitors enjoy the fresh water, warm sun, and blue skies. It’s truly a peaceful place. You can tour the inside of the monastery.

View Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque

We had a leisurely lunch at Restaurant Vrelo on the river bank across from the monastery. Since it’s off-season it wasn’t crowded.

Restoran Vrelo Blagaj

Steps Počitelj Tower

Počitelj

After lunch we headed to Počitelj, a stepped Ottoman-Era Fortress village. It’s a magic place. We climbed the stone steps past medieval houses and pomegranate bushes to Počitelj Fortress. At the top, we scrambled up the narrow tower to unbelievable views across the village and River Neretva!

Neretva River – commons wikimedia.org

The view is “dominated by Hajji Alija’s Mosque, the mekteb (primary school), imaret (kitchen), medresa (high school), hamam (public baths), han (public inn), and sahat-kula (clock-tower)”. The most “dominant residential structure in the village is Gavrakanpetanović House, which has hosted thousands of artists and cultural actors from all over the world at the International Art Colony”. Sadly, many of the artists moved away.

Pocitelj Citadel

Kravice Falls, Trebižat River

Next stop was Kravice Falls on the Trebižat River. Hidden in the Balkans southwest of Mostar, Kravice Falls forms a “natural amphitheater”. For its “amazing beauty and untouched nature, it’s protected by Bosnia-Herzegovina as a natural rarity”. In the summer the waterfalls are a popular swimming hole and picnic area. They’re at their best in early spring.

Wine Cellar Begić

Our last stop was not part of the itinerary but the day had gone so well our guide asked if we’d like to stop by a small family winery – Wine Cellar Begić in Ljubuški Herzegovina on the way back to Sarajevo. We agreed and arrived shortly before sunset.

Winery Spread

It’s a lovely isolated vineyard started by a man who made wine for his family and friends and slowly got involved in the commercial market. Some of their wines are made from plavac mali grapes indigenous to the area. As the winery grows, they plan to expand and add a larger wine cellar and small restaurant. The Plavac Mali is fantastic!

Wine Cellar Begić in Ljubuški Herzegovina – wine-cellar-begic.com

We went on a tour of the grounds and wine cellar and listened to interesting wine making notes. At that point my brain was already saturated with details of the long day, so I don’t remember much. It was a pleasant experience watching the sunset, enjoying a full moon rising, and sampling local figs, cheese, and other products made and grown on the winery. A true Bosnian experience, it was time well spent with gracious hosts. We stayed longer than planned and didn’t begin our drive back to Sarajevo until late.

Winery Presentation

Dubrovnik’s Fortresses

Fortress of St. John – Dubrovnik Guide

Dubrovnik’s Old City has endless treasures and yesterday I took a guided tour of the five major fortresses around its walls. I’ve been waiting for the right time to take the two-hour “wall walk” and wanted to learn more about the medieval city first.

With various changes throughout their history, Dubrovnik’s forts are some of the greatest fortification systems of the Middle Ages. Old City became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

Gradska Kavana Arsenal Restaurant Near Fortress of St. John – Nautika Restaurants

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“Dubrovnik’s spectacular fortresses were never breached by a hostile army.”

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There are four defensive stone fortresses around the wall – north tower, east side harbor, southeast side, and at the western entrance. The fifth fort – Lovrijenac – is outside the wall.

  1. Minčeta
  2. Revelin
  3. St. John
  4. Bokar
  5. Lovrijenac

Minčeta Fortress – Dubrovnik Jetliner Games

Minčeta Fortress

Minčeta was built in 1319 along the north wall facing land. It’s the highest point in the city wall and is a large round tower topped with a Gothic crown. The Menčetić family owned the land where the tower was built. Croatian builder and architect Ničifor Ranjina designed Minčeta.

In 1461, Italian architect Michelozzo di Bartolomeo Michelozzi enhanced the round tower making it “adapt to new techniques of warfare”. The walls of the new tower were 6 meters (20 feet) thick with a series of protected gun ports.

Minčeta Fortress – The Dubrovnik Times

Croatian builder Juraj of Dalmatia designed the bottom portion of the fortress and created the fort’s recognizable Gothic crown. When active, Minčeta had 9 guns including a cannon designed by Ivan Rabljanin, Croatian Renaissance master of bronze bells and cannons. Rabljanin also designed the bell in Dubrovnik’s Bell Tower.

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“Minčeta Fortress stands high above the rest of Dubrovnik as a symbol of the unconquerable City. It tells the story of Dubrovnik’s love for its precious, sweet liberty.”

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Revelin Fortress – dubrovnikdigest.com

Revelin Fortress

Revelin is a massive irregular quadrilateral fortress outside Pile Gate in the eastern part of the City. The fortress was built for protection in 1463 after the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople and began occupying nearby Bosnia.

Revelin was built as a “detached fortress to provide more protection for the eastern land approach to the City Gate”. The name comes from the word ravelin, a “term in fortification architecture referring to forts built opposite the weakest points in a city’s defense system to reinforce a defensive position”.

Revelin Fortress – dubrovnik-travel.net

Revelin protected the City from Venetian attackers. Dubrovnik hired Antonio Ferramolino, an expert Spanish fortress builder, to strengthen this eastern point in the fortification complex. In 1549, after 11 years of construction, an enhanced Revelin became Dubrovnik’s strongest fortress for safeguarding the eastern land approach. “Perfectly constructed,” Revelin wasn’t harmed during the 1667 earthquake.

Culture Club Revelin – dubroivniktoday.net

The top of Revelin features a huge stone-paved terrace sometimes used as a stage for Dubrovnik’s Summer Festival events. The inside of the fortress has a popular nightclub – Culture Club Revelin. Different night life “happenings” take place there, including rock concerts and techno displays.

Fortress of St. John – ExPoAus Planner

Fortress of St. John

The Fortress of St. John was a key defense complex on the south-eastern side of the old city. It controlled and protected the port entrance.

Aquarium and Maritime Museum Fortress of St. John – Go Dubrovnik

Initial construction began in 1346, when Dubrovnik connected an existing defensive wall and its gates – Dock Gates – with an old quadrilateral fort called Fort Gundulić, named for Croatian poet Ivan Gundulić. In 1500, the city decided to upgrade the old fort and build one with a semicircular form and a pentagonal bastion in front.

Statue of Croatian Poet Ivan Gundulić at Green Market – tzdubrovnik.hr

Master Croatian builder and architect Paskoje Miličević designed the improved fortress merging existing forts into a single building named The Fortress of St John at the Dock. Construction completed in 1557. Today the large interior of St. John fortress houses Dubrovnik’s Maritime Museum and Aquarium.

Bokar Fortress – MyTravelAffairs

Bokar Fortress

Bokar Fortress is at the top of a steep cliff on the south-western corner of Dubrovnik’s city walls. Bokar and Minčeta were the key points in the defense of the city’s western land approach.

Bokar Fortress – theimmagine.eu

Built in the 1500s as a “two-story casemate fortress”, Bokar’s purpose was defending the town’s main western entrance – Pile Gate and its bridge and moat. One part of the fort is on a detached rock. Arched supports were built to bridge the gap. The sea still passes beneath the fort as it did when it was first built.

Florentine architect Michelozzo di Bartolomeo designed Bokar fortress. Construction began in 1461 but wasn’t completed for a long time. Upgrades occurred in 1555 and 1570. Bokar is a popular Game of Thrones filming location.

Lovrijenac Fortress – Flickr

Lovrijenac Fortress

Lovrijenac Fortress is built on a 37 meter (121 ft.) high sheer rock overlooking the Adriatic Sea! It’s the most dramatic fortresses in Dubrovnik. Lovrijenac was important for defending both land and sea attacks. The fortress has a triangular plan that follows the contour of the rock where it was built. It faces the western suburbs and opens toward Bokar Tower and the western wall, protecting Kolorina Bay. Today Kolorina Bay is a clam location for launching kayak tours. It was the location for filming the “bloody Battle of Blackwater scene in season two of Game of Thrones.

Kolorina Port

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During its service Lovrijenac Fortress was a 25 man garrison with 10 cannons and a fort Commander appointed by the government.

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Bell Tower Old Town Dubrovnik – Wikimedia Commons

Chronologists date the fort to 1018 or 1038 but first records are from 1301 when the city council voted on Commander of the Fort. According to legend, in the 11th century Venice planned to conquer Dubrovnik by building a fortress on the rock. When Dubrovnik learned of the plan, its citizens rushed to build their own fortress, thwarting the Venetians before they arrived with ships carrying troops and supplies.

The fortress received upgrades during the 15th and 16th centuries and after the 1667 earthquake when builder I. K. Zanchi repaired parapets and buildings throughout the city. The fortress has a quadrilateral court with mighty arches and three terraces looking south towards the Adriatic Sea.

Lovrijenac Fortress – Flickr

Lovrijenac had 10 large cannons designed and cast in 1537 by Renaissance bronze master Ivan Rabljanin. Rabljanin also designed the cannons at Minčeta Fortress. One cannon, known as “Lizard” (Gušter in Croatianwas “marvelously carved and decorated”. Lizard never fired a single shot and is now sadly lost at the bottom of the Adriatic Sea below Lovrijenac .

Ivan Gundulić Croatian Poet

Austrian troops disarmed Lovrijenac in the 19th century. While hoisting and transporting the cannon, a rope broke and it fell into the Adriatic and was never recovered.

Michelozzo di Bartolomeo Florentine Architect and Sculptor – intranet.pogmacva.com –

Lovrijenac was a “dominant fortress'”. Its capture would threaten Dubrovnik’s defensive position, so a “fail-safe mechanism was designed into the fortress”. The walls exposed to the sea and possible enemy fire are almost 12 meters thick (40 feet). However, the large wall facing the City doesn’t exceed 60 centimeters (2 feet).

This was because the Republic was not only cautious about attacks from foreign enemies but also a potential rebellion of the Commander in charge of the fort. Nobility replaced the Commander each month. In case of trouble, the thin wall facing the city could never hold against the firepower of mighty Bokar Fortress facing Lovrijenac.

Cannon Lovrijenac Fortress

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An ancient inscription at the entrance to Lovrijenac Fortress reads – NON BENE PRO TOTO LIBERTAS VENDITUR AURO – Freedom is Not Sold for All the Gold in the World.

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Lovrijenac was the stage for a memorable production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and it’s a popular Game of Thrones filming location. I explored this fortress during a Game of Thrones Walking Tour. It’s magnificent!

Bathed in light at night, this massive fortress is visible for miles. My apartment looks down on Old City and massive Lovrijenac is the most prominent building from that vantage point. It’s known as the “Gibraltar of Dubrovnik”.

Topkapi Palace Istanbul

Chamber Sacred Relics

During a previous visit to Istanbul I slighted Topkapi Palace, but made up for it by spending the better part of a day exploring the massive complex. The palace chambers are as entertaining to see as views of the Golden Horn are difficult to describe! Musical compositions have been written to praise the beauty of Topkapi Palace and its extraordinary views of Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait.

Theodosian Wall of Constantinople

It rained late in the afternoon, and I got soaked. While it was raining hard, a Turkish man let me share his umbrella to walk between pavilions. I haven’t learned to read Istanbul clouds, but clearly the ones yesterday meant business. The blustery weather created dramatic skies and a great backdrop for Istanbul’s famous skyline.

Bosphorous from Topkapi

Topkapi History and Ottoman Sultans

Construction of the Topkapi Palace complex completed in 1478. The complex sits at the tip of the peninsula between the Bosphorus and Golden Horn.

“For almost four hundred years, from the time of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror until the thirtieth Sultan Abdulmecid, Topkapi Palace was the residence, administrative, educational, and art center of the Ottoman Dynasty.” In the mid 19th century, the Ottomans moved to the Dolmabahçe Palace, but Topkapi preserved its importance in Turkish history.

“The Ottoman dynasty ruled the Ottoman Empire from c. 1299 to 1922. During the Empire’s history, the sultan was the absolute regent and head of state. At times power shifted to other officials such as the Grand Vizier, the Prime Minister.”

Abdulmecid I

Sultan Othman Khan I

Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror

After the Republic of Turkey formed in 1924, Topkapı Palace became a museum. The first museum of the Turkish Republic and one of the biggest palace-museums of the world, Topkapi Museum covers about 300,000 square meters (3,229,173 sq. ft.). It includes Turkish baths, mosques, schools, and a hospital! The complex has a Roman Wall – known as the Theodosian Wall of Constantinople – separating it from the city.

Topkapi Grounds

An array of gardens, chambers, courtyards, pavilions, architecture, and collections surround Topkapi Palace, including:

  • Hagia Irini Church
  • Alay Square – first palace courtyard
  • Justice Square – place for the state administration meetings
  • Gate of Felicity – entrance into the Sultan’s private quarters
  • Chamber of Treasury
  • Pavilion of the Holy Mantle and Relics
  • Tower of Justice
  • Inner court – wards and structures belonging to the Palace School

The interiors of some of the rooms and mansions in the palace complex are exquisite examples of the “classical mosque architecture of Ottoman art”!

  • Marble Sofa
  • Sofa Mosque and Pavilion
  • Chamber of Sacred Relics
  • Baghdad Pavilion
  • Revan Pavilion
  • Mecidiye Mansion and Esvab Chamber – last buildings constructed

I had a map and audio guide – but it was still confusing following everything.  The Portleri Section with Sultan portraits was one of my favorites. The ornate domes throughout the complex were fascinating. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Culture and Tourism Minister Nabi Avci, recently welcomed a new oil painting depicting the fascinating Osmans.

Bodrum’s Medieval Castle

Bodrum Castle

Bodrum Castle

Bodrum’s medieval Castle of St Peter is on every tourist’s “must-see” list. The castle’s courtyards, turrets, galleries, and gardens are magnificent! Its stone walls dominate the Bodrum waterfront from land and sea, and its history is impressive.

Chapel

Chapel

“The castle was a monumental symbol of Christian Europe’s unity against Ottoman power.” The Knights Hospitaller of Rhodes began building Bodrum Castle in 1402. Each group from the order had their own tower including – French, German, English, and Italian.

“At one time Bodrum castle’s location was an island known as Zefirya where King Mausolus (377-353 BC) had his palace. The Knights pillaged the stones used to build the castle from the nearby Mausoleum of King Mausolus – one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Mausoleum survived for centuries but an earthquake brought it down in medieval times.”

Flag Between Towers

Flag Between Towers

In 1962, Professor George Bass and his Institute of Nautical Archaeology designed the Castle’s Museum of Underwater Archeology. It’s one of the world’s most distinguished underwater archaeology museums.

Mural

Mural

The Museum has hundreds of remarkable artifacts recovered from shipwrecks on Turkey’s southern shores. The items recovered include “goods from shipwrecks spread over 32 centuries – from the 16th century BC to the 16th century AD. Cargo amphorae, gold jewelry, ships’ tools and equipment, and two of the ships themselves are on display.”

Enjoying Castle

Selfie Enjoying Castle

One entire exhibition is devoted to the tomb of a Carian princess. In 1989 archeologists discovered a burial chamber with an intact sarcophagus containing the remains of a human female surrounded by gold jewelry. Experts believe the well-preserved skeleton is Ada, the last Hecatomnid ruler of Caria.

Carian Princess

Carian Princess Ada

“After Constantinople fell to the armies of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror in 1453, the sultan’s armies attacked the castle, but it withstood attacks then and again in 1480. In the 1500s strengthening with more stones from the Mausoleum was insufficient to protect it from the forces of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. In 1522 the castle fell, the knights departed, and the sultan’s standard flew on the English Tower.”

Past history includes the Russian fleet bombarding the castle in 1770. During World War I, the French demolished one side of the English Tower. Also during WWI the Italians rebuilt the Italian Tower and used Bodrum Castle as a military base.

Whirling Dervishes

Dervishes Bowing

Dervishes Bowing

Whirling Dervishes

Whirling Dervishes

Was it a dance performance, a spiritual ceremony, or both – not sure what to think about the Whirling Dervishes performance last night? It was mildly hypnotic but not what I expected.

The proper name for a Whirling Dervishes performance is – Mevlevi Sema Ceremony. Founded in 1273, the Mevleviye are a Sufi order that spread throughout the Ottoman Empire. The group began in Konya in the Central Anatolia Region of Turkey. “Mevleviye are known for their famous practice of whirling dances. Today, Mevleviye live in many Turkish communities throughout the world but the most active and famous places for their activity are Konya and Istanbul.”

Mevlana – a 13th century Muslim saint and Anatolian mystic – became one of the greatest philosophers of all time. He laid the foundation for modern existentialism. “Divine love is the sole aim of spiritual life. Everything in the universe is spinning and the dervishes seek true love of the divine by spinning themselves. Whirling to the enchanting sound of the ney, a type of reed flute, they attain the consciousness of God.”

Yayli Tambur

Yayli Tambur

The performance was at the Hodjapasha Dance Center, a restored 550 year old Turkish bath. In addition to the Whirling Dervishes Ceremony the center presents a dance show called Turkish Dance Night. Accompanied by live music the Hamam Dance Troupe performs dances from different regions of Anatolia.

I don’t have a very deep understanding of Sufism and after the performance last night need to do some research. Surely everything in the room was symbolic. Five Dervishes interacted among themselves and danced for about 30 minutes. Before they entered the room two sets of singers and musicians sang and played music on exotic looking traditional instruments.

Kanun

Kanun

Belly Dancers

Belly Dancers

“A musical repertoire called ayin is played at their dancing ceremonies, or Sema. The repertoire has four sections of vocal and instrumental compositions using contrasting rhythmic cycles performed by a singer, a flute-player, a kettledrummer, and a cymbal player. The oldest musical compositions stem from the mid-sixteenth century combining Persian and Turkish musical traditions.”

Ney

Ney

Whirling Dervishe

Whirling Dervishe

Whirlers fast for several hours before their performance. They rotate on their left feet in short twists, using the right foot to drive their bodies around the left foot.

“The body of the whirler is supple with eyes open but unfocused so images become blurred and flowing. The Sema takes place in a large circular-shaped room that is part of a mevlevihane building.”

If you haven’t seen a Mevlevi Sema Ceremony – it’s fascinating and worth the time. Seeing the performance in exotic Istanbul was a treat!