Our misadventures of the previous day had put us in catch up mode, and we decided we should get up early to try and make the most of the day. Unfortunately we had no coffee with us, and I am barely a functioning human when I don’t have coffee. I’d like to pretend I’m working on that, but I’m not. We set out to find some but instead found ourselves distracted by the amount of damage visible on the neighboring buildings now that it was daylight. You could see with the naked eye the pockmarks of old bullet wounds on the apartments across the street and the roughly patched holes scarring the nearby minaret.
We are incredibly fortunate to have never lived in any sort of military zone, so to see these remnants of recent destruction was shocking. Instead of finding coffee we found ourselves wandering around the nearby ruins and repaired buildings. The only way to describe the experience was somber. The juxtaposition between the repaired areas and the blown away ruins was surreal, you could easily imagine standing there during the fighting and how horrible it would have been. Until you see even a glimpse of the aftermath of war you can’t appreciate how terrible it must have been, and to be a part of the violence must be utterly devastating.
After a bit we decided we needed to get moving, so we took one last tour around the old bazaar and it was off to the Blagaj Tekke. The Blagaj Tekke is a Sufi monastery located outside Mostar near the little village of Blagaj. Set on the banks of the Buna River, the monastery has a long and mysterious past. There is no recorded date of when it was first opened, but it is first mentioned in 1664 by a traveling Ottoman. At which point it was established and known throughout the empire. The Tekke flourished in the days of the Ottomans and continued to be used for the Zikr praise chanting up until the 1920’s. Its location at the head of the Buna River was always an important site for locals, even before the Sufis or Ottomans, as there is archeological evidence of a structure there dating back to the 1400’s.
The drive from Mostar to the Tekke is only about 20mins, and we arrived during the peak heat of the day. Far from the coast now we had no onshore breeze to break the heat, and we could imagine how hot this area must get in actual summer. There is no parking directly at the monastery as it lies at the end of a one lane road, so be prepared to be accosted by local merchants as you walk to the Tekke. The monastery is open to visitors from 0800-2200 and costs a little less than $5 USD if you buy your ticket at the main entrance. While the building itself is rather small, we found it worth visiting. As a place of worship there is a strict dress code to enter inside the monastery, but they have loaner headscarves and cover ups in case you didn’t plan ahead (I didn’t and needed a headscarf).
Neither of us had ever visited a Tekke, or mosque for that matter, before and didn’t know what to expect. The modest building was the polar opposite of the grand mosques we would see during our upcoming visit to Turkey. The Tekke felt more like a small country church in its simplicity. It was insightful to see how similar, but how subtly different, an Islamic place of worship was. Being only a handful of rooms, in all it takes maybe 30 mins to see the monastery. The most beautiful room was the reading area with the carved ceilings that you can see in our Gallery. There weren’t many other visitors there so it had a very quiet and tranquil feel. After a quick peek at the river and we were back on the road. By that time of day we had to get a move on as we were trying to make it to Krka National Park that afternoon.
This is where I have to pause a minute and say that we were both extremely disappointed in ourselves for only staying roughly a day and a half in Bosnia. Prior to our visit we weren’t really sure what to expect, and after getting to see the tip of the iceberg I wish we had stayed longer. The countryside of Bosnia is a dreamland for people who want good food at good prices as there are farms all over the place. We lucked out to visit during cherry season and got probably a pound of the most beautifully red, fresh cherries of my life for $1. The country is pushing their culinary and farm heritage by starting to create “culinary tours” of Bosnia that hit wineries, farms, and cheese spots. From what we saw the infrastructure is still being built, but if you want to get off the beaten path and see somewhere a little different (and eat like a king the whole time) try visiting Bosnia. Or at the very least add it to your visit if you’re in the Balkans.
The drive between Blagaj Tekke and Krka is about 2.5hr, mainly on large well paved roads so the trip takes close to Google’s estimated time. Krka National Park is best known for its waterfalls, particularly Skardinski Buk a collection of 17 waterfalls reaching up to 45m in height. The Park encompasses about 2/3rds of the Krka River and you can swim in its waters during summer. Tickets to the park can be purchased day of, or pre-purchased online beforehand. Prices range from 30-180 Kunas/adult depending on the time of year you plan to visit. Sadly we didn’t make it in time to visit due to our backlog from the rental car mishap. Instead we arrived to our lodging outside the park late that night. We were only able to watch the sunset over the Krka River at a viewpoint not too far from where we were staying. We were torn between trying to see Krka the following day or cutting it as a loss and continuing onwards to Plitvice National Park. Ultimately we decided not to try and play catch up and instead chose to forge on to Plitvice National Park. While we were disappointed to not see Krka, we knew we wanted two days to explore Plitvice and sometimes you can’t see it all.