When it comes to the historical places to visit, what would you choose between the potential Homer’s Troy, an important archaeological site from Roman times and the old oriental-style town placed on the UNESCO list as one of the 100 endangered cultural heritage sites in the world? Or would you prefer a religious destination that is Europe's third most important apparition site? I know, it might sound like a tough question. So, what if I tell you that you don’t need to pick only one because you can explore them all in a diameter of fewer than 20 km? You just need to come to the legendary herons town of Čapljina (in southern Bosnia & Herzegovina), to experience an amazing time-travel journey in the Neretva Valley.
The most important archaeological site in the region is located on a hill above the Neretva River, only 5 km from the town of Čapljina. It is a well-preserved Roman Villa Rustica from the 4th century with rich ancient architecture. Surrounded by the lavish greenery, this villa is one of the most beautiful archaeological monuments from the Roman times and therefore protected by the state. The Mogorjelo site contains the ruins of a fortified farm for the 1st century (burnt down in a fire in the 3rd century), a new splendid Roman Villa Rustica from the early 4th century (damaged by Visigoths in the same century) and two Christian basilicas from the 5th century. Whether a connoisseur or a novice when it comes to archaeological ruins, following Roman footsteps in Mogorjelo will please all tastes as they speak about the ancient history of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
If you like Mogorjelo, you will undoubtedly enjoy another rich archaeological site called Gabela. Also, only 5 km from the town of Čapljina and even less from the Croatian border, this ancient settlement is located on the right bank of the Neretva River. In this place, you can find the ruins of the largest Roman military camp in the region. Being on the crossroad of empires, different rulers have conquered and influenced Gabela, that was finally destroyed by the Venetians in 1715. Another reason why Gabela attracts history lovers is an interesting theory coming from Mexican archaeologist Roberto Salinas Price that this place actually Homer’s Troy.
The medieval town called Počitelj is about half an hour drive from Mostar, but it can also be a great D-tour on your way to the Adriatic coast or Hutovo Blato Nature Park. Only 4 km from Čapljina, this lovely settlement is located below the high cliffs above Neretva river, dominated by the medieval defence fortresses. Počitelj is characterized by the fusion of Oriental and Mediterranean construction styles, which gives this place an exceptional dimension. As a result, its unique architecture has earned the UNESCO World Heritage status as one of the 100 most endangered cultural heritage sites in the world. Počitelj has been under the program of permanent protection since 2000, which means that the whole town is slowly being renovated and it is getting back its old glory.
Whether a pilgrim or a curious non-believer, don’t miss the opportunity to visit mysterious Međugorje to discover Europe's third most important apparition site. Only 24 km southwest from Mostar and 15 km from Čapljina, Međugorje is a small picturesque town whose name stands for the “place between mountains”. A legend says that the Virgin Mary (with a baby Jesus in hands) appeared in front of six children on the hill Podbrdo in summer 1981, and she kept appearing for a couple of days. Since the first apparition of ‘Our Lady’, more than 30 million pilgrims from all over the world have visited this place reporting miracles such as unexplainable healing of illnesses or seeing signs in the sky. One thing is sure, those people experienced something extraordinary here.
Due to its specific position, through millennia the history had created a vibrant fusion of cultural influences that resulted in numerous ancient sites spread all over the area. It really is wonderful to explore ancient Roman ruins, to wander around the medieval castles, and admire the holy pilgrimage places, while travelling back in time with every single step you make in the Neretva Valley.
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