Blagaj – Buna River

The region of Blagaj is characterized by the wealth of cultural and historical heritage sites and richnes 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 tiny 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.

The region of Blagaj is also 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-small town, situated about 12 km southeast of Mostar.

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 – Bona was the later medieval city of Blagaj, which is the Slav denomination from Lat. bona. A major influence on its development was the proximity of a major route linking the Adriatic coast 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 River 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 River 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 zhupas – principalities, together with Zeta /Montenegro/ and Raska /southwest Serbia/. The Blagaj old town where herzeg resided was actually the fortified town palace and one of the most important feudal towns of Kosaca Family lands, surrounded with strong fortified walls with the toothed peaks and towers which are still visible today. Most of the Herzegowenian nobles were Orthodox Christians during the 14th and the 15th century, as probably was the case with the population. The prince of Hum, Miroslav held his court here 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.

The remarkable historic site of the Old Blagaj Fort /Sćepan-grad or Stjepan grad/, located on the inaccessible rocky hill above town of Blagaj, was in the 12th century seat of the Prince Miroslav of Herzegovina, brother of the Serbian ruler Stefan Nemanja. Prince Miroslav erected the Church dedicated to SS Cosmas and Damian within the town of Blagaj. After rule of the Nemanjic Dynasty, in the 14th century here ruled lords of the Serbian noble families of Kosaca and Kotromanic of Herzegovina area – Sandalj Hranic Kosača /1370-1435/, and nobleman Stefan Vukcic Kosaca /1435-1465/and here was born the Bosnian Queen Katarina Kosača-Kotromanić /1424/. The Medieval 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 magic spring of Buna river, which is 266 meters away. This historical fortified site is known by locals as the Stjepan-grad or the Šćepan-grad, after the herzeg /nobleman/ Stjepan – herzeg of Saint Sava of Serbia. This Blagaj town of herceg was actually the town palace and the ruler court and one of the most important towns in the lands of Kosaca Family, reinforced with strong walls and protected with jaggy peaks that are visible today. In 1465 the town of Blagaj was conquered by the Turks.

Pilgrimages are related to all religions, they are an important part of them, and as such, they existed in all times, countries and religions, which means they existed also before the appearance of biblical religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Symbolically, in all the religious traditions, these are the places of the most effective communication or encounter  with the divine (either by a prayer or liturgical music or by offering sacrifice). Blagaj Tekke is the largest dovišteplace of worship, from dova “prayer” in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Unsurprisingly, the Ottoman sultan was impressed and ordered a Blagaj tekija /Teke – Muslim Sufi Monastery/ to be built right next to the magic 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. The tekke was renovated for the first time in 1851 at the request of the then sheikh Ačik Pasha. Up to that time, the Blagaj tekke was of modest infrastructure and in a very deteriorating state. It was renovated by Omar Pasha Latas and since then it belonged to the Quadiri Order. Oriental architecture of the Blagaj Tekke impresses everyone attracting him-her with its beautiful bright-colored twin houses, a floor and an extended room /like balcony/ reflecting upon the surface of the wonderful dark green water of Buna River. The 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 one of the best attractions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, open to welcome visitors all year round. The Blagaj Tekke serves cold drinks, tea and Turkish coffee in a beautiful garden overlooking the magnificent 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.

Tito’s Partisans Trails 

Balkan Tour Serbia – Montenegro – Bosnia and Herzegovina