(Trebinje, Bosnia & Herzegovina)
After a wacky bus ride from Mostar, I’m staying briefly in the small city of Trebinje. It’s located very close to the borders of both Croatia and Montenegro. However, it’s also located in the “Republika Srpska” (“RS” for short) and I should briefly explain that.
The country of Bosnia and Herzegovina is actually comprised of two entities: (1) the “Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina”, which is largely made up of Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats, and (2) the “Republika Srpska”, which is largely made up of Bosnian Serbs. Furthermore, there is one small region that belongs to both the Federation and RS, as no satisfactory division could be made. Sarajevo and Mostar are both in the Federation, while Trebinje is in the RS. The borders correspond more or less to the front lines at the time of the ceasefire in 1995.
It’s quite different here: the Cyrillic alphabet dominates and there are many signs, etc., reminding people that they are in the RS. As Trebinje is a smaller city and does not attract as many tourists, I seem to be more of a curiosity here. Many people speak only Serbian. There also isn’t much war damage here as the front lines were farther to the west.
There are at least three major sights in Trebinje: the “monastery” of Hercegovacka Gracanica, the Arslanagic bridge, and the walled old town.
I first visited Hercegovacka Gracanica, a small monastery located at the top of a small mountain called Crkvina. I made the 2km walk in record time due to the heavy rain. The walk was worth it, though, as there are fabulous views from the top. The monastery is also fascinating: it is an exact replica of a monastery in Gracanica, Kosovo that is very important to Orthodox Serbs. A wealthy Bosnian Serb expat financed the construction of this replica (and you can even see his picture in the artwork that covers the interior walls). I’ve never seen such a colourful interior, even in other Orthodox churches. Alas, because it is quite small, it was almost impossible to take a photograph that properly captured the interior. The photo at the top of this post shows one small part, while I’m also posting a more expansive picture from a larger downtown Orthodox church that shares some of the basic colour themes (although the style is actually quite different).
From the top of Crkvina, I descended to the Trebinsnica River and the Arslanagic Bridge. This bridge also dates back to the Ottoman period (1574), but it has little else in common with the old bridge in Mostar. The Arslanagic Bridge was not harmed in the war but it was relocated in the 1970s from its original location in the downtown core. I should mention that I narrowly missed stepping on a (presumably) dead hedgehog as I neared the bridge. I have a photo if anybody wants to see it.
Finally, I wandered through the walled old town. It’s quaint but not as prettied up as some other old towns: many people still live within the walls and I discovered that it attracts attention if you take photographs.
As for the “wacky” bus ride…it was normal for the first hour or so. The driver then seemed to be running a lot of personal errands, so he made up for lost time by driving exceptionally fast on narrow mountain roads. He also smoked, made phone calls, did paperwork, drank water, snacked and repeatedly spit out the window while driving. Strangely, I preferred it when he did these other tasks, as it seemed to slow him down a bit.
I was the only passenger who actually crossed the Federation/RS border. There were a lot of other passengers on either side but they only travelled within their own entity. Even though the two entities belong to the same country, there appears to be little interaction between them.
I’m leaving Bosnia & Herzegovina tomorrow morning. I hear that the weather will improve…just in time for me to appreciate the legendary Dalmatian coast!