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The Pearl of Herzegovina: Trebinje

Trebinje is a small city tucked away in the southernmost reaches of Bosnia and Herzegovina, right near Montenegro and Dubrovnik. The modest city is situated in a scenic valley along the Trebišnjica river and is surrounded by looming hills in most directions. It all makes for a particularly picturesque destination.

Trebinje is considered the main city for this corner of Bosnia Herzegovina. With only 30,000 people though, it is by no means a large city. Historically, it was situated on the road between Dubrovnik and Constantinople, an important trade route with obvious benefits for the city. With the coming of the Ottomans in the 15th century, much of the old city including a fortress was built over.

As with most places in Europe, the best place to start your visit is with Trebinje’s little Old Town.

It’s a small area by the river, but with its stone houses, pedestrian streets and stark difference to the rest of the city, it’s obvious when you’re there. Surrounded by stone walls, nowadays it hosts a number of cafes and restaurants.

Beyond the old town, you’ll find a number of squares and parks, typically with locals sitting out there watching the world go by. Sometimes you’ll come across memorials to events like the first and second World Wars, plus several modest churches.

Things start to get a whole lot more scenic once you reach the riverfront. It’s fair to say that the major defining landmark of Trebinje is the Trebišnjica river that flows through it. Like elsewhere in Bosnia Herzegovina, the river brings with it vibrant nature and greenery. Upstream, the Trebišnjica river is actually used to generate hydro power, but here in Trebinje, it just gently flows and cascades peacefully.

Given the river’s importance, it’s no surprise that one of the big attractions of Trebinje is a beautiful old bridge that cross it. Built by the Ottomans, Arslanagic Bridge actually sat further upstream originally. Due to its heritage, the entire bridge was moved to its current spot in the 1970s because of the hydropower station. With its distinctive shape and the beautiful colours of the river, it’s certainly a beautiful sight.

Besides the historic mosques in the Old Town of Trebinje, most of the religious buildings in the city are Serbian Orthodox. Without question the most impressive of these orthodox churches is the striking hilltop Hercegovačka Gračanica church and monastery. Sitting on a hill on the eastern bank of the river, it’s viewable almost everywhere and is lit up at night. To reach the Hercegovačka Gračanica church, you can walk or drive the winding road through the forest to its summit.

Oddly enough, the monastery is actually brand new and basically a copy of another monastery in Kosovo. Built in 2000, it still manages to look historic with its Byzantine architecture. With its bright and colourful interior, it might become a bit more obvious that it’s not as old as it first appears.

If you’re feeling a little adventurous, on the way down from Hercegovačka Gračanica you can walk to a ruined medieval tower in the Police neighbourhood.

It’s believed this medieval tower was built by noble Vuk Brankovic in the 14th century.

So, when you find yourself in Bosnia and Herzegovina, make sure not to miss out on this lovely town.