Day 37: Travnik, Bosnia Hercegovina

by - September 28, 2011

“narrow houses with tall and shapely slanting tiled roofs sit gracefully, like cats on their haunches, among the green gardens of a garden-like valley”

Many-Coloured Mosque, Travnik
Our penultimate stop of the entire trip, which has come around far too quickly, was the town of Travnik.  The town is conveniently located between Jajce and Sarajevo (we had already been through it on the way to Jajce) and seemed like a good place to stop for a night to break up the journey.  The city is important to Bosnians as being the capital city of the country when it was a part of the Ottoman Empire and is another example of classical Bosnian ‘east meets west’.  On a hill above the town is a large fortress which was actually designed to keep the Ottomans out, but which surrendered without a fight when defeat seemed inevitable.  As a result, the historical parts of the town are remarkably well kept, despite some damage during the 1990s conflict.  I was tempted to use for my introduction the description of the town that was given in the city map that we picked up, as the English had been comically mis-translated. It contained gems describing Travnik as: 'the town of cheese’ where 'streets are murmuring’, 'water is either blue or nine-fold’ and 'every dog is a shepherd one a bit’.  I assume that these are all based on Bosnian sayings that don’t quite survive the translation.

Travnik Castle
The journey from Jajce took about an hour and a half, though having left relatively late we arrived at about half past three in the afternoon.  The town is relatively compact however, so we dropped our bags off at our hotel - the Motel Aba (while it calls itself a Motel, it had some surprising mod-cons like a jacuzzi bath) and set out exploring.  We started in the Ottoman quarter where one of the more famous Bosnian mosques can be found, the appropriately named 'Many-Coloured Mosque’ which has a distinctive painted exterior that has unfortunately become rather faded over time.  The pedestrianised old town would have been a nice place to do some shopping, given more time, but we passed it by to head up to the castle before it shut.  I don’t actually remember being in any part of Bosnia that wasn’t overshadowed by mountains, and the castle is at the highest point within a steep valley, with views along it in both directions.  After paying a small entrance fee we wandered along the walls and admired the view, stopping for a little while in a museum based in the central keep.  Bosnia does seem to be famous for its castles and the four that we have seen have all been extremely impressive - there are still another five that Lonely Planet recommend visiting, but we just don’t have the time to get to them.

Plava Voda, Travnik
One of Bosnia’s most famous writers, Nobel Prize winner Ivo Andric, was born in Travnik and based several of his more important works there.  Having read none of his books, the numerous references to him were lost on me, but it does seem to be a place of pilgrimage for his fans.  The last remaining site after the castle was the 'Plava Voda’ area, a natural spring in the hills which turns into a small area of rapids when it meets the town itself.  A lot of restaurants have sprung up beside it and it made a picturesque place to have our evening meal of traditional Turkish kebabs when we came back later in the evening.  The town was busy, which I think is as a result of it being a popular day trip from Sarajevo for tourists and locals alike.

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