Blagaj – Buna River
The region of Blagaj is characterized by the diversity of its overground and underground waters. The source of the Buna River is one of the largest and most beautiful in Europe. Buna River is the finest example of an underground karst river and flows west for approximately 9 km and joins the Neretva River near the village of Buna. Buna River flows out from he cave located under a 200 meters vertical cliff and creates the dark blue-green and magic Buna River. Unsurprisingly, the Ottoman sultan was impressed, and ordered a Blagaj tekija /Teke – Muslim Sufi Monastery/ to be built right next to the source of Buna River. This 16th century tekke – house/monastery was built for the Dervish cults and for gatherings of Dervishes – Sufi brotherhood and served as hospice for Sufi travelers. Oriental Bosnian architecture of Blagaj Tekke attracts with its beautiful bright-colored twin houses, a floor and an extended room /like balcony/ reflecting upon the surface of the dark green water of Buna River. Blagaj Tekke is still one of the most mystical places in all of Bosnia and Herzegovina as Sufi best known for their asceticism and also known as Dervish are practitioners of one of more “mystical” dimension of islam. Blagaj Tekke is open to visitors all year round and serves cold drinks, tea and Turkish coffee in a beautiful garden overlooking the source of the Buna River. The Blagaj Tekke on Buna river is located on the road from Dubrovnik and Metković towards Mostar, and makes one of the most frequented attractions of Herzegovina.
The region of Blagaj is as well known for the diversity of its flora and a number of endemic species. At lower altitude there are many evergreen plant and deciduous thicket species, while at higher altitudes in the hills there is sparse forest. Fertile cultivable land is suitable for the agriculture typical of the Mediterranean climate. Blagaj is kasaba – village-town, situated about 12 km southeast of Mostar.
The remarkable historic site of the Old Blagaj Fort /Stjepan grad/, located on the hill above town of Blagaj, was the seat of Herzegovinian nobleman, Stjepan Vukčić, and the birthplace of Bosnian Queen Katarina Kosača-Kotromanić. The town of Blagaj on Buna river was built on the site of the Roman town of Bona. Stari grad Blagaj /Bona, Stjepan-grad/ has been built on the most striking place of the elevated and hardly accessible karstic hill, at the altitude of 310 meters above sea level, and above the spring of Buna river, which is 266 meters away. It is known by locals as the Stjepan-grad or the Šćepan-grad, after the herzeg /nobleman/ Stjepan – herzeg of Saint Sava of Serbia.
The Blagaj old town where herzeg resided was actually the fortified town palace and one of the most important towns of Kosaca Family lands, surrounded with strong fortified walls with the cogged peaks and towers which are still visible today. On the territory of the present day Stjepan grad of Blagaj have been found remains from the prehistorical, Illyrian, Roman, Byzantine, Medieval periods, which has been mentioned in the Constantine Porphyrogenitus annals as Bona and part of Zahumlie. A major influence on its development was the proximity of a major route linking the Adriatic sea with the Bosnian hinterland via the Neretva valley /”via Narenti”/. Via Nerenti was the main road which connected Bosnia with the Adriatic, and besides the Drina road was a very important route along which the Bosnian trade was operated. The road led from Dubrovnik by sea or the surface via Ston to the delta of the Neretva River. From there caravans started from Drijevo along the road which led by the left bank of the Neretva Tiver to Bisce, beneath the town of Blagaj, and further via Konjic and Ivan Mountain into Bosnia, and later through Visoko and Sutjeska to Olovo. Turbulent political events, particularly after the 10th century, did not have any essential impact on the economic development of the town besides the occasional ramparts. During the early Medieval History, Herzegovina /Hum/ was part of the cultural and political issues of the Serbian zupas – principalities, together with Zeta /Montenegro/ and Raska /southwest Serbia/. Most of the Herzegowenian nobels were Orthodox during the 14th and the 15th century, as probably was the case with the population. The prince of Hum, Miroslav, held his court in Blagaj. In the late 12th century, during the rule of Stefan Nemanya /Grand Principality of Serbia/, a church dedicated to SS Cosmas and Damian was erected. In the 14th century, during the reign of Bosnian Ban Stjepan II Kotromanić, Hum /Zahumlje/ became part of the Bosnian state. In the 15th century Sandalj Hranić Kosača and his nephew Stephen Vukčić Kosača ruled the Hum and Blagaj territory until the Ottoman conquest in 1466. Blagaj is also known as a residential area of Bosnian rulers and particularly of royal families Hranić and Kosača. Stjepan grad was from 1404 the estate of the Bosnian High-duke Sandalj Hranić, his nephew Herzega Stjepan Vukčić Kosača, and the son of the Herzeg Vladislav. Stjepan grad was occupied by Ottomans in 1466 and the Turkish garrison remained there until 1835. The second phase of conservation works of the fortified walls of the Old Stjepan grad is completed, after the second part of the archaeological excavation campaign.