If you have never heard of the Dragon of Bosnia and you are planning a trip to Bosnia & Herzegovina, you are on the right page to discover one of the most remarkable tales about the history of this country. Somewhere in the top northeastern part of Bosnia, not far away from the city of Tuzla, there is a place called Gradačac, a small town that is a synonym for local legends. Its history belongs to mythologies, but it also gave birth to one of the most prominent Bosnian personalities – Husein-Captain Gradaščević. So, this is the story of the courage and the fearlessness of one man who fought for the freedom of its country. And this is the story of the town of Gradačac, where the Dragon of Bosnia comes from.
Born in 1802 in the noble bey’s family, Husein-Captain Gradaščević spent his childhood and youth during the turbulent Ottoman times. When he was only 18 years old, he inherited the captain’s chair of his brother, who was poisoned because he dared to disobey the orders of Dželal-Pasha. This tragic event permanently shaped his character and developed the rebellious Dragon of Bosnia, as he was called. He was a fearless warrior and leader who stood up against the Sultan requesting more autonomy and rights for his country and his people. When he decided to confront the Ottomans in 1831, he fought until Kosovo with his army, where he eventually defeated them. His spirit inspired other rebellions as well. All this is the reason why his name is written with golden letters in the history of Bosnia & Herzegovina. He was not only a Bosnian hero but also a wise and tolerant ruler who constructed many buildings in Gradačac, all named after him.
If there is one landmark typical for this oriental town, it would undoubtedly be the Gradačac Castle together with its white tower. They are both built on the strategic hill that dominates the amazing cityscape. The impressive fortress with 18 meters-high walls was constructed between 1756 and 1821, on the old Roman foundations, while the watchtower called Gradina 22 meters-high was built in 1824 by Husein-Captain Gradaščević. The tower served as a military complex, but also city administration premises. The ramparts of the Old Town are almost one kilometre-long, and apart from the castle and the tower, they encompass the mosque and some other buildings. Below this Old Town Beauty, as the locals call it, there is a hidden underground system of tunnels, that were used for defence purposes while ago and only recently got rediscovered.
The story of Gradačac would not be complete without mentioning its two water pearls – Hazna and Vidara lakes. They are both artificial lakes created to save this place from the heavy floods. Apart from that, they became green oases and favorite summer destination for the locals and visitors. Like in Tuzla with its Salt Lakes Trio – Pannonica, Hazna and Vidara lakes are offering a range of water activities, including swimming and fishing. And if you happen to be in Gradačac in August, you will have a chance to visit their traditional plums fair. Actually, this region is well-known for its high-quality plums, and consequently, they are organizing an excellent fair for already 45 years. So, what to expect before you explore Gradačac, the home of Dragon of Bosnia? An explosion of history, colors and tastes. One thing is sure – this visit will make you discover the glorious era of the region whose legends still live.
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