Trebinje - a city warming the soul and fondling the heart

Author: Željka Kočić

In the far south of Bosnia and Herzegovina lies a city with 260 sunny days a year, Mediterranean climate, good people and excellent wine - Trebinje. When you come to Trebinje, my suggestion is to start the tour from what I call the "postcard of Trebinje", and that is the bridge of Ivo Andrić, which is located in the city centre. From this place, you can see Leotar, the Stone Bridge, the walls of the old town, the beautiful Trebišnjica… Right then you will probably fall in love with this Herzegovinian city that has the scent of the sea and the taste of good wine. For where will you drink better wine than in Herzegovina and eat such good food? You will not remain indifferent to Herzegovinian prosciutto, cheese and olives.

I'm thinking about where to take you next because I don't know where to even start from: to monasteries, to bridges, under plane trees, to wineries, Dučić or Njegoš, old towers and fortresses, to Trebišnjica or Leotar…

PLANE TREES AND OLD TOWN

We will, however, start from the centre of Trebinje, where in the shade of plane trees you can enjoy the garden of the hotel of the same name, the well-known location of Trebinje. I don't know if I ever went through Trebinje without taking a break right here, in the heart of the city, where everything happens. There are 16 plane trees here, which were planted in the Austro-Hungarian era and they are a real symbol of Trebinje. In summer, they create shade with their branches, and the summer garden below them is always filled to the last place. From the hotel garden, you cross the street and enter the old part of the town of Trebinje, where you can find the Museum of Herzegovina and the Osman Pasha Mosque, which was renovated after the last war, a large number of coffee bars and craft shops. What draws the attention of tourists as well is Anđelka’s gate from the TV series “Ranjeni orao”. When you leave the old town, it is enough to cross the street and there you are in the beautifully landscaped city park "Jovan Dučić", where, in addition to benches and greenery, there is a monument to this great poet who, almost a century ago, began planting trees in this area, wanting to give Trebinje a green oasis, as he saw in European cities. Besides, a monument was erected in the park in honour of the fallen fighters from the Trebinje area in World War II and the victory over fascism.

CATHEDRAL TEMPLE OF HOLY TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR LORD

In addition to these monuments, in the park of Jovan Dučić is located the Temple of the Holy Transfiguration, which is a monumental building, an architectural mixture of several styles with a dominant Romanesque style or with Gothic style dominating over the Byzantine style. Its construction began in 1888 and lasted until 1908. The temple has experienced great honours throughout its existence, and one of the most significant events is the passage of the liturgy with the relics of St. Basil of Ostrog in 1996, whose miter (cap) is still kept in the Trebinje temple. The temple is adorned with a beautifully landscaped yard with a monument erected in honor of the late Serbian Patriarch Mr. Paul.

Trebinje is known for its rich spirituality and rich religious tourism, so you will find several very important monasteries, churches and mosques in its wider and narrower surroundings. The most important are certainly the monasteries Tvrdoš, Hercegovačka Gračanica, Petro-Pavlov monastery, Duži monastery, Zavala monastery, Osman-pasha’s mosque, Tsar's mosque.

TVRDOŠ MONASTERY

One late June afternoon, during the evening prayer, I went to visit Tvrdoš, which is located 5 km from the centre of Trebinje, so the surroundings of the monastery were deserted. Everything was quiet and peaceful. At the entrance to the monastery complex, we were greeted by a warning board on the dress code. To the left of the road leading to the church, we were greeted by vineyards and an olive grove to my delight. On the right side, the road leads to the river, on the bank of which you can descend, and right in front of me, the Tvrdoš monastery appeared, whose beginnings date back to the 4th century.

It was made on the foundations of a church from that time and still visible under the glass floor that is located in the current church. The monastery has been demolished and rebuilt several times over the centuries, and the hand of Jelena of Anjou is kept in it.

The monastery successfully maintains the long tradition of wine production, whose beginnings date back to the XV century, thanks to the restored vineyards, wine cellar and modern winery. To visit the wine cellars, it is necessary to make an appointment.

HERCEGOVAČKA GRAČANICA

Hercegovačka Gračanica is one of the most beautiful places in Trebinje and beyond, in my humble opinion, and I believe in the opinion of many others. It is located on the hill Crkvina above Trebinje, which offers the most beautiful view of this city. It was built in the image of Gračanica in Kosovo and Metohija, and at the last wish of Jovan Dučić. Dučić expressed his wish to make a replica of Gračanica on this hill and to be buried there after his death, in his native Trebinje, which was done in 2000 in October. The great Serbian poet was buried on the right side of the entrance to the temple.

The monastery complex consists of a church, courtyard, amphitheater, library and gallery. Below is a restaurant where you can enjoy the view with a glass of the best Herzegovinian wine, which I definitely recommend.

MONASTERY OF ST. PETER AND PAUL

Peter and Paul Monastery includes the remains of the church of St. Peter (IV century), which are located below the present church, built in 1906 and the remains of the church of St. Paul (5th century), renovated in 2007. The area around today's monastery of St. Apostles Peter and Paul, together with the necropolis of stećak tombstones, is an area that has been declared a national monument of B&H since March 2003. It is located 7 km southeast of Trebinje in Petrovo polje. On the hill above the Peter and Paul Monastery is Paul's Cave. According to the ancient tradition, in this cave, the inhabitants of the former Herzegovina were baptized by the Holy Apostle Paul.

ARSLANAGIĆ/PEROVIĆ BRIDGE

One of the three most important old bridges of Bosnia and Herzegovina is located in Trebinje and is called Arslanagić or more recently, Perović Bridge. It was built in 1574, and was built by Mehmed Pasha Sokolović to connect Central Bosnia and Novi (today's Herceg Novi, which was part of Bosnia within the Ottoman Empire). The bridge was demolished and rebuilt several times, but certainly the most interesting story is the one from 1965, when the bridge was demolished for the purpose of building a hydroelectric power plant and layed under water for a year, at the bottom of Trebišnjica. After emptying the accumulation lake, in 1966, the dismantling process started. The bridge was dismantled stone by stone, and stood in a nearby field. Although there were offers from abroad to buy the bridge, in 1970 the relocation began and after two years of stacking the stone blocks that were marked with numbers, the bridge was reopened, this time a few kilometers lower. The rule is that the relocated bridges cannot be found under the protection of UNESCO and that is why this bridge does not have such a status, but it has been declared a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

After the last war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the then mayor of Trebinje changed the name of the bridge to the Perović Bridge, claiming that the Arslanagić family came from the Perović family. However, it is better known to the people as the Arslanagić bridge, and it is named after the aga Arslanagić who collected tolls during the Ottoman rule. Together with the Old Bridge in Mostar and the Višegrad Bridge on the Drina, it is one of the most valuable architectural monuments erected in the period from the 15th to the 19th century in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

ROMAN BRIDGE IN VUČIJA

The Roman bridge in Vučija is one of my favorite "discoveries" in the vicinity of Trebinje. It is believed to date from the 13th century, and you can reach it if you go from Trebinje on the way to Nikšić and at some twenty kilometers turn right in Aranđelovo and drive to the border crossing where you leave Bosnia and Herzegovina. After our border, drive until you see the Montenegrin border, but do not cross that same border, just take the road on the right. The bridge is located some 100m from the turn, somewhat hidden by a lush nature. The place is called Vučija and you can also find it using Google Maps.

BRANKOVIĆ TOWER

Assumptions about the existence of the old town of Trebinje, in which the famous Queen Jelena of Anjou also had her own court, place it on a site today popularly known as "Brankovina", which is named after the Branković Tower. It played a very important role as a "watchtower" in old Trebinje.

There are records about the Herzegovinian origin of the Branković family, who lived at the time of the greatest rise of the Serbian state in the time of King Milutin and Stefan Dečanski and in the time of King and Emperor Dušan. The tower was built by the prefect Mladen, the ancestor of the family and the master of Trebinje and Dračevica. The family name comes from Mladen's son Branko, after whom the tower was named. The tower is located below Crkvina, the hill on which Hercegovačka Gračanica is located, and you can reach it by car if you inquire about it a little bit.

WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK IN TREBINJE?

While I was visiting Herzegovina, I had a desire to visit the vineyards and taste wine in one of the many wineries in Trebinje and the surrounding area. When I inquired, I came to know that all the wineries are mostly in the city and the vineyards on the outskirts, so I will postpone tasting the wines while enjoying the view of the vineyards for some other occasion and some other place. However, the view from the Vukoje wine gallery is no worse than the view of the vineyards, so we decided to visit and taste their wines. The entrance to the gallery itself is interesting, because instead of the classic door at the entrance, you have, symbolically, a door in the shape of a large barrel. The gallery is located on the first floor, the interior is beautifully decorated, but the terrace and the view of the whole of Trebinje is really superb. My recommendation if you are in Trebinje is to visit this wonderful gallery and enjoy one of the most beautiful views of Trebinje with a glass of fine wine.

Regarding the food and restaurants, I am sure that most people from Trebinje, if you ask them where to eat well, will recommend the restaurant Studenac. In addition to their excellent food, the restaurant is located on the shores of Trebišnjica, so in addition to food, you will also enjoy the beautiful natural environment. Apart from the Studenac restaurant, one of the recommendations for good food is the MG restaurant, which is located in the city centre, and whose interior looks the same for the last 20 years, but the food is just as good today.

For a perfect atmosphere and to enjoy good food, drinks, sunbathing and swimming in the summer, be sure to visit Jazina Club 1972, located 16km from Trebinje. Jazina also has accommodation facilities with well-equipped rooms, so this is a great choice for accommodation if it suits you to be a bit away from the city.

In the end, I want to say that my love for Trebinje dates back to my childhood, when I regularly visited the plane trees with my parents and sisters on our way to the Montenegrin coast. Even then, I fell in love with this beautiful city, which I still call my favorite city in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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