Built on the slopes of the hill above the powerful Neretva River, just 30 km south of Mostar lies the medieval stone town of Počitelj. This picturesque town of great strategic and historical importance is often referred to as an open-air museum. It is actually a small settlement built in Ottoman – Mediterranean style preserved in its original form to this day. Surrounded by the rich vineyards and wineries of Herzegovina, it is a perfect day trip from Mostar or Sarajevo or, a stop on your way to the coast as it is only 10 km off the border with Croatia.
A World Heritage Site
Though most organized tours will only make a 20 min stop here so that tourists can take a few pictures I recommend coming here for at least half a day and really exploring this little gem. If you can spend the night, even better. I feel like I haven’t really experienced the place fully until I’ve spend the night there. As a world heritage site Počitelj rivals Old Bridge in Mostar, City of Safranbolu in Turkey, Museum-City of Gjirokastra in Albania and many others. It is certainly a highlight of traveling through BiH.
Though we don’t know the exact date, it is likely its construction started with the first Bosnian King Tvrtko in 1383 and continued on and off until the 18th century. However, it wasn’t until the Ottomans arrived, during the 15th and the 16th century that the settlement gained its oriental architectural features. Počitelj lost its strategic importance with Austro-Hungarian arrival in the late 19th century deteriorating rapidly.
What to see?
Perched at the top of the hill above the town is the Sahat-Kula (Clock Tower), a fort which used to house watchmen and military guard against possible invasion from the Neretva Valley. Do climb to the top, the panoramic view is worth the steep climb. Don’t miss the Šišman-Ibrahim Paša’s Mosque (or Hajji Alija’s Mosque) considered one of the finest achievements of the classical Ottoman style of single-room domed mosques in BiH. Though it was destroyed in 1993. along with many other places of historical and cultural significance, it was subsequently rehabilitated and returned to its original function. Other public buildings located by the mosque are the maktabs (Muslim elementary school), the imaret (public soup kitchen), the medresa (Muslim religious high school), the hamam (public bath) and the han (Caravan Inn).
The first art colony
Počitelj is also one of the first and longest operating art colonies in Southeast Europe and it started in 1964. You can feel the artsy vibe in town. Sipping Turkish coffee in one of its beautiful cafes with amazing views is an experience which will stay with you forever.
What to buy?
Herzegovina with its Mediterranean climate gives the best and richest fruit and vegetables money can buy. You should stock up on figs, pomegranates, apricots, cherries as well as various homemade jams and juices such as the delicious and healthy pomegranate juice. The locals mostly sell what grows in their own backyard which I find priceless. Finally, don’t forget your camera as this is a really cool place for some nice shots.