Nedo Pinezić: Getting to know Western Herzegovina in three days

From a good idea that started on the path of active tourism, another variant of traveling by motor vehicles in smaller groups was born

Author  Nedo Pinezić

November 28, 2022

Cultural route "Franciscana"

The intention of the inhabitants of the villages of Skrbčići and Pinezići on the island of Krk, where St. Francis and St. Fuska, to embark on a combined study, cultural, spiritual and fun tour of Western Herzegovina along the "Franciscana" route. It turned out that the "compound" which has the order of learning culture, the order of spirituality and the order of entertainment leaves a good "taste in the mouth" for a long time.

"Franciscana" is a cultural cycling route designed as part of the development of cycle tourism in the West Herzegovina County "Cycling Rural", which was implemented by the Office for European Integration ŽZH, and co-financed by the European Union as part of the Cross-Border Cooperation Program between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.

The goal of the "Franciscana" project is to develop a thematic cycling route that will connect the Franciscan monasteries and their related cultural institutions, i.e. museums/galleries/ethno collections/libraries and through which it will be evaluated in a unique way Franciscan cultural and historical heritage in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

How to get to know Western Herzegovina?

From this good idea, which started on the path of active tourism, another variant of traveling by motor vehicles in smaller groups was born. Traveling to a country, region, city has the obligatory part of getting to know the local culture. Direct contact with the stakeholders of the local community changes prejudices, stereotypes about a tourist destination and everything acquires new significance and good value. To me, the only correct way to travel is exactly this way.

When talking about Herzegovina as one of the regions of neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina, the first associations are stone, karst, tobacco, hajduci, emigrant region, turbulent area, Međugorje, Mostar... Of course, each of us develops our own personal associations based on the collected information. A little more detailed knowledge of Herzegovina puts the Franciscans in the foreground.

And so our company of twenty people with three vans set off on an adventure to discover Western Herzegovina.

Saint Francis of Assisi and his legacy

This popular saint, the founder of the Franciscan order, is close to today's times in many ways. St. Francis was from a rich family, had the status of a knight, a soldier, and led a turbulent life in abundance. Through conversion, he becomes modest, humble, at the service of the most needy. His scholarship was and remains at the service of the regiment to this day. Purity, obedience, humility and poverty are the basis of the apprenticeship of St. Francis. He puts himself in the position of spiritual help to people and lives on the grace of those who feel the need to support such noble endeavors.


Storm area

The area of ​​Bosnia and Herzegovina could be compared to a stormy area over which cyclones that rage from the east and the west constantly alternate. Periods of "good weather" are short and storms are dramatic. The people are more or less left to fend for themselves, people are constantly looking for shelter, and in the most severe disasters they are forced to leave their region. From the first missionary arrival in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in 2. Franciscans have provided spiritual as well as physical refuge until today.Teaching agricultural and craft skills, literacy, treatment and care, spiritual care, were always available to anyone in need.

The Franciscans stayed and survived in the areas where the Christian-Catholic communities were strengthened and helped to maintain them in coexistence with other religions. That is why we say that the Franciscans are the guardians of the heritage and identity of the Croatian people. If we want to learn more about the history, culture, way of life of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also to learn the true meaning of the word coexistence, then we have to start our journey in the Franciscan sanctuary.

Spiritual and secular permeation

After a long journey from the island of Krk, we first need rest and refreshment. Thanks to our tour manager Stanislava Borovac, we found her in Wine Club Smokva in Ljubuški. The story of Herzegovina through wine varieties and the best ambassadors Blatina and Žilavka, along with some fresh snacks, is a good start.

Herzegovina - the land of tobacco, it is a legend that lives on even today, even though there is no more tobacco cultivation and purchase. But clever people remembered to connect one almost museum collection dedicated to tobacco and an excellent restaurant in a former tobacco factory.

Behind one and another great story stands one special man, designer and visionary Robert Alilović.

After acquiring basic knowledge from tobacco to wine, it's time for the spiritual side, so we head to the Monastery of St. Anthony of Padua on Humac.

There is the oldest monument in Bosnia and Herzegovina written in the Croatian language. The Franciscans say that it is their "Bašćanska ploča".

The Franciscan monastery on Humac hides another little-known secret - an art gallery dedicated to the mother. This collection contains 250 mother-themed artworks, including many by famous Croatian artists. It is an extremely valuable mess that deserves attention just like the historical-archeological collection in the basement of the monastery. 

Mother is loved and respected

The women of Herzegovina are strong women, of strong character, great strength and love for their family. There is a joke that says that a woman from Herzegovina keeps money from her husband: she simply puts the money on the table and tells her husband - "come and take it if you can". There is some truth in every joke, but a mother, a woman, is truly respected.

After visiting the "Majka" gallery, still impressed, we head to Medjugorje.

In Medjugorje, as usual, the church is full of pilgrims from many countries, but also local people. It is enough to be just a short time in front of the church of St. Jakov and receive that positive energy. He feels wonderful.

In the vicinity of the church "there is nothing missing", religious tourism is flourishing. The latest offer, well designed, is called the "Our Mother" gallery.

The gallery is actually a kind of visitor center where you can find out information about the origin of the phenomenon of Medjugorje. The first apparitions, their effect on individuals and the community, messages and that ever-present maternal care.

The modern building with modern technology gives an opportunity to better understand this place. There is also an indispensable souvenir shop, the private project has its own sustainability.

Accommodation with the Franciscans

Domus panis et spiritus, the bread and spirit house DOMPES, is a student dormitory, soup kitchen and dialogue center under one roof. That roof also offers all other travelers – groceries in double rooms at the level of a four-star hotel.

It's a nice feeling  stay in such accommodation which is maintained by students and contribute to the sustainability of this noble house.

The complex of the monastery and the church of St. Petra in Mostar today is a symbol of the rebirth of life and community coexistence after the devastating war suffering. The church was rocketed and destroyed by the JNA at the very beginning of the war, as was the bell tower. The new church was built from the ground up, and the Mostar Belfry of Peace has the role of an indispensable tourist, panoramic point with a view of the entire city.

In addition to the bell tower, there is also an excellent parking lot for buses and personal vehicles of visitors, a modern sanitary facility, a coffee bar, a souvenir shop... a true example of a tourist starting point for sightseeing in the city. Just the way it should be.

Franciscans in Mostar foster dialogue and communication with all religious communities, visit and worship each other. The crypt of the church has wide open doors for various therapy groups, cultural events, guest lectures... I will write about their work and their ideas on another occasion because they certainly deserve it.

Ante Raić, a wonderful man and a superb host, is laying the foundations of a new hotel industry, we could say.

At the end of the day, we chose another beautiful, new facility for refreshment - hotel "Buna". Wonderful ambience, professional staff, good food. What more could a man want?

From the world gallery to top wines to kebabs

This is the shortest way to describe our day in rain-washed Mostar. The gallery of the MTA foundation presents 70 top works of art by world masters valued at 150 million euros in a very accessible and direct way. Impressionism, Fauvism, geometric abstraction, Matis, Chagall, Modigliani, Degas... in the center of Mostar. Impressive and very positive for the city

Walking to the old bridge in Mostar is always a great challenge. There are many bars and shops with an attractive offer on the way. The women's world is "stuck" for fashion accessories and the men's for kebabs... but the bridge is the first and most important goal. Next to the bridge, next to the very foundation, there is a small, cute one-story house in which a cute store "lives" "The Spirits of Herzegovina".

Here you can taste and buy excellent wines and other autochthonous products. Tasting with a view of the old bridge and the Neretva river with that omnipresent female energy embodied in Mirna Jelčić. Mirna is anything but calm, along with our Stanislava, she leaves the impression of strong enterprise, great energy and immense love for her region. Pure female power.

Legend has it that most of the products offered are the work of women, and what is not yet, will be soon because the daughters of famous winemakers are increasingly entering the business.

At the end of kevapi, five in flatbread to take away, at Tim - Irma and Rota's. As a student, on the go, because the days are short, it gets dark at 16:30 p.m., and you have to get to all your destinations.

Franciscan monastery in Široki Brijeg

The Franciscan monastery and parish of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Široki Brijeg is the place of martyrdom of twelve Franciscan friars who were killed by partisans in 1945. Another 54 friars across Herzegovina were killed in a similar way. It is considered that such a pogrom is the result of the opinion that the people will completely submit to the ideology of the incoming regime by liquidating their protectors, the Franciscans. The terrible crime had the opposite result. The sacrifice united the people and encouraged an unprecedented turnout for spiritual vocations.

The wonderful complex of the monastery on Our Lady's care leaves a bitter mark but also the hope that after great evil comes great good. Even today, such a thought is very relevant in the context of war events in Ukraine.

Hope gives us hope

Nada Šarić, "the woman who talks to plants", born in the mountains, knows every herb. Nada and her family live with nature, they are true mountaineers with soft hearts. Nada's preparations heal the body and soul because in addition to medicinal creams, she also creates natural perfumes.

Hope really inspires hope that we will be better friends with the nature that strengthens and heals us. Narcissus is the main character of this wonderful story. He may be narcissistic, but he deservedly holds the title of champion among the wild giants of the Blidinje Nature Park.

It is not possible to describe Nada and her work in words, it simply needs to be experienced. That would be it recommendation number 1.


Masna Luka - a peaceful port

The term arch in the mountains is associated with a mountain cut. Masno used to mean marshy in the local dialect, so in a loose translation this locality could be called a marshy mountain cut. Above Fat ports rises the mountain massif Čvrsnica with the highest peak Pločno.

It was in this place that the "peaceful port", the Franciscan house of prayer, was created. This modern complex with accommodation was built in 2014 on the remains of the former stable house, a simple stone house covered with straw that served as a shelter for the friars when they went on a tour of households in the mountains.

Peace, peace, only peace and the sharp mountain air at 1.200 meters above the sea simply stops the flow of thoughts. The accommodation is excellent, as is the hospitality of Brother Josip and his small community. They continue the mission of their founder:

"A friar, priest, radio amateur, mountaineer, skier, architect, builder, cynologist and much more has lived and worked there for 40 years, and above all, the creator of the Blidinje Nature Park, Stjepan fra. Petar Krasić. The project to protect the entire area of ​​today's park began back in the 80s of the last century, and together with it the project of building a magnificent church, a stable house, a monastery and a house of prayer. It all started in Masna Luka, but not without reason right there. On the site of today's church complex until 1942 there stood the so-called stable house, a characteristic Blidinj thatched house, of larger dimensions, which served the friars as a place to live when, together with their flock, they left Lower Herzegovina for Planina in the spring."

Hajdučke virtues

Hajdučke Vrleti was established as a catering facility, restaurant and hotel according to the idea of ​​its creator Vinko Vukoj - Lastvić, who died too early, but that is only one, the most visible part of this original idea. The Republic of Hajduk and numerous events related to this phenomenon are a reflection of an incredible sense of interpretation of the history of the region in a modern, tourism-friendly way.

Even today, the spirit of Vinko Vukoja - Lastvić strongly rules the Hajduk Vrleti. His "extended hands" are his wife Albina and daughter Marija. Here we found a place to refresh yourself with fantastic local food in a unique setting. And thanks to that already mentioned spirit, sometime towards the end of the dinner, an accordion player from the neighboring hall, the maestro of the tambura orchestra from the area of ​​the town of Čapljina, joined us. Parting was difficult, but respect for the hard-working employees of Hajdučki vrleti was enough motivation to go to rest in the harbor of peace - Masna Luka.

Sunday mass at our Franciscan hosts, a glass of conversation after the mass with Fr. Josip, an excellent connoisseur of pilgrimage routes, including our Camino on the island of Krk.

Going from Masna Luka to the stećak necropolis, protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was a kind of "cultural safari". To this day, Stećci have not been fully clarified as a phenomenon in BiH, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia. Although the prevailing opinion is that these are tombstones, it is possible that they are actually collective monuments of a community in a certain area. They are connected with the Bogumils, that is, religious communities that were separated from the prevailing Christian churches, Catholic and Orthodox. In any case, they are monumental monuments in their entirety, and as such they are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Bosiljna and Kravice

On the way from Blidinje to the Kravice waterfall, the decision was made to have refreshments at the Bosiljna restaurant. The decision was, as always, a good one, which is not surprising when Ivan Jurilj, the director of the Office for European Integration of West Herzegovina County, takes care of everything. Tomo and his team really empowered us with fantastic home-made food, from soup to baked goods and cheese.

"Refueled" with new energy, we set off on our way to Ljubuški and the now well-known Kravica. The fan-shaped waterfall spread over plastered barriers leaves that "wow" effect on every visitor.

It is a place that must be visited, where you must immortalize the moment with a good photo. And this is where our Stanislava Borovac is a real expert. As a guide on the water, in a kayak, in a rubber boat, on a soup, she is just as good on a land tour, and photography is her signature on every trip.

Herzegovina extends both east and west of the West Herzegovina and Mostar-Neretvan counties. It remains for us to go from Ravni via Vjetrenica to Trebinje and go west to Tomislavgrad and Livno and then further... At the first next opportunity.

"Franciscana" is one of the possible cultural routes in BiH and has many derivatives. This was one of the shorter and more substantial variants. We return to our home richer for one life experience and knowledge taken from the source.

If you are planning a trip to Herzegovina, be sure to contact us Stanislav. It is up to you to reach Herzegovina:

Photo: Nedo Pinezić,

Author  Nedo Pinezić

November 28, 2022