This morning I ventured to Jajce and Travnik in northwestern Bosnia and Herzegovnia. Jajce is about a 3-hour drive from Sarajevo and has been the home of medieval Bosnian kings and the birthplace of Yugoslavia. Jajce was built in the 14th century as the capital of the independent Kingdom of Bosnia. It also became the residence of the last Bosnian king Stjepan Tomasevic where he was executed by the Ottomans. Other than the Ottomans, the Hungarians also had their eyes set on Bosnia. With the death of Tomasevic, they successfully seized Jajce making it the Banovina of Jajce. It was only until 1527 that Jajce came under Ottoman rule and was the last Bosnian town to do so. During the communist times, Jajce became one of dictator TIto’s earliest strongholds. What is special with Jajce is that it is the only city in the world with a natural waterfall, Pliva Waterfalls, flowing through its city center. This is where the River Pliva flows off a 20-meter cliff into the River Vrbas. Above the walled city is the Jajce Citadel which used to be the largest and best fortified in Bosnia hence being able to resist the Ottomans for as long as it did.
Jajce Citadel overlooking the city of Jajce
Jajce, the city above the waterfall, looks like something out of a fairy-tales. It has been the home of medieval Bosnian kings and the birthplace of Yugoslavia.
The gothic Tower of St Luke next to St Mary’s Church which was where the Bosnian kings were coronated.
St Mary’s Church was where the Bosnian kings were coronated and was converted into a mosque in 1528 under Ottoman rule and renamed Sultan Suleyamn II Mosque or Fethija’s Mosque.
The gothic Tower of St Luke was built in the 15th century in the Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance styles.
The gothic Tower of St Luke was built in the 15th century in the Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance styles. The relics of St Luke the Evangelist were said to be enshrined here as part of the dowry of the last Bosnian Queen, Mara Jelena.
Bear tower gets its name from its shape, strength and size and is the only round tower found in Jajce.
My guide tried to tell me that the Bear Tower was where they had brown bears attack prisoners with townspeople watching from above…. don’t always believe what guides tell you.
Inside the Bear Tower
The Jajace catacombs were built by the founder of Jajce, Hrvoje Vukcic Hrvatinic, and was intended as a resting place of himself and his family. This underground church is small but set across two levels with an altar with a gothic apse.
Entrance to the fortress of Jajce with the royal coat of arms dating back to the time of Tvrtko II and King Stjepan Tomasevic, who moved the royal court to Jajce in 1421.
Royal coat of arms
The fortress of Jajce was constructed over several centuries and encircles the remains of a mid-15th century castle (the large house in the middle).
View of St Luke’s Tower next to St Mary’s Church renamed Sultan Suleyman’s Mosque on the left and the Bear Tower on the right.
Interesting wooden minaret
A short drive from Jajce are the Pliva Lakes: the Great and Small Pliva Lakes. What is interesting here are 20 little huts built on top of stilts over gushing water that powers a series of mills used to grind wheat into flour back in the times of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867-1918). It is quite ingenious to use several small mills instead of one large one because the flow is quite spread out here. The mills are no longer in use but create this story-book effect where I can imagine a group of trolls living here.
Water mills of Jajce
Mechanisms to control how much water flows to each mill
From Jajce, we head to Travnik in the very center of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Travnik saw its heyday when it was the capital of the Ottoman viziers or governors of Bosnia between 1697 and 1850 and was often referred to as the “City of Viziers”. Stari Grad or Old Town of Travnik still exudes the former glory and rich history of its past when it was the official seat of the government. Nowadays the city is better remembered as the birthplace of Noble prize winner Ivo Andric and his famous novel Bridge over Drina as well as the best cevapi (Bosnian kebabs) and the world famous Vlasic of Travnik sheep cheese. Because Travnik was not much affected by the Bosnian War, most of its historical sites remain well preserved.
Sir means cheese in Bosnian and Vlasic cheese of Travnik is world famous
There are many of these cheese huts along the road selling homemade Vlasic cheese
Vlasic cheese is made of sheep milk from the mountain of Vlasic, just above the town of Travnik. Depending on the amount of brine the cheese is kept in, some are more moist and saltier than others.
This white version is softer, more moist, and quite salty.
Overlooking Travnik is the Travnik Castle dating back to the pre-Ottoman period and later expanded by the Ottomans into a fortress. Travnik Castle is one of the best preserved national monuments in Bosnia. Not far from the castle fortress is Travnik’s oldest mosque, Jeni Mosque built in 1549 in the classical Ottoman style. Even though Jeni Mosque used to be the central mosque in Travnik, most people instead visit the more famous Sulejmanija Mosque also known as the Many-Colored Mosque. Colorful murals used to cover the facade of this mosque but that color has long since faced. It is the only mosque in Bosnia with a minaret rising from the left side of the building because the ground on the right was supposedly unstable for the minaret. Sulejmanija Mosque is also the only mosque in the world having a small bazaar or Bezistan on its ground floor arched arcade below the main prayer room.
Travnik is filled with mosques and was the capital of the Ottoman viziers or governors of Bosnia between 1697 and 1850 and was often referred to as the “City of Viziers”.
Travnik Castle dates back to the pre-Ottoman times which the conquering Ottomans expanded transforming it into a fortress with watchtowers. Here you can see a minaret was built into the fortification walls.
The keep inside the fortress now houses a small museum of local history and folk costumes.
Sulejmanija Mosque is also known as the Many-Colored Mosque. Colorful murals used to cover the facade of this mosque but that color has long since faced.
Sulejmanija Mosque is also the only mosque in the world having a small bazaar or Bezistan on its ground floor arched arcade below the main prayer room.
Sulejmanija Mosque, also known as the Many-Colored Mosque
Next post will be on Mostar which is one of the most visited cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as the other pearls of Herzegovina. Stay tuned!
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