A glimpse of history: Fortifications of Trebinje – Part 1

Ljiljana Krejic | Live the World

November 23, 2022

If you are passionate about historical fortifications, during your visit to stunning Trebinje, the southernmost city of Bosnia & Herzegovina, you should explore its legendary bastions. Due to its position at the crossroad of civilisations, this mysterious gem boosts in historical ramparts from different époques: from the Romans, over the Middle Ages and Ottomans, to the Austro-Hungarian times. A rich fusion of cultural influences has resulted in many fortresses spread all over the area. For a glimpse of history, try to visit some of the fortifications of Trebinje, as each hill above this city hides a fort that waits to be discovered.

Old Town Kastel & Arslanagića Bridge

Your tour of Trebinje fortifications should start with the most charming one – the Old Town Kastel. Dating back to the beginning of the 18th century, this fort was built on the right bank of the Trebišnjica River, on the location of a medieval fortress called Ban Vir. Constructed during the Ottoman’s occupation, the fort had a shape of a triangle originally, but over the time, by adding the towers and ramparts, it became more rounded. At the end of the 19th century, above the Roman and Ottoman foundations, the Austro-Hungarians constructed a military building, that today hosts the Museum of Herzegovina. A part of the Old Town used to be a draw-bridge crossing the canal, that was filled and levelled in 1910 before it completely disappeared in 1932. The original architecture of the Old Town is still well-preserved making it the most visited attraction of the city. Perhaps the Kastel evolved from a former trade and crafts centre, but this complex is still inhabited and very lively. Many tourists but also locals visit the old town inside the walls.

The main landmark of the Old Town is its famous Arslanagića Bridge. This 16th-century masterpiece has a significant place in the Balkan’s architecture of that time. It was built in 1574 by a Turkish Grand Vizier Mehmed Paša Sokolović, as an endowment to his son, who was killed during the battle with the Venetians. Curiously, the bridge was not named after the constructor but the bridge-toll collector – Arslan-aga. Nowadays, Arslanagića Bridge is situated 6 km from the urban zone of Trebinje, but the original location used to be 10 km upstream. Due to the construction of the hydropower plant Grančarevo Dam on the Trebišnjica River in 1965, the bridge had to be dismantled stone by stone and moved upstream to the current location. Besides having two addresses, another peculiarity of this bridge is its two names. In fact, as from 1993, it has been called Perovića Bridge.

A medieval watchtower - Branković Tower

The legend has it that the Old Town of Trebinje has initially been at another location, around 2,5 km on the east, in the place today known as Police or Brankovina. The whole area was named after Branković Tower, one of the best-preserved medieval watchtowers in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Built in the beginning of the 14th century, this tower had an important role in the protection of the settlement back then. It is believed that it was a residence of a noble family Branković, the last Serbian medieval dynasty that ruled from the 14th-16th century. The watchtower was named after Branko, the son of Mladen, a founder of the Branković family. Even though one of the most impressive watchtowers in the country, it is not very well-known and remains an ideal hidden gem of history.

If you want to get a glimpse of history by exploring the fortifications of Trebinje, make sure you pin them on your bucket list. And to intrigue your imagination a bit more, I will tell you that this is just the first part of the tour, as you still have to check out the rest of Trebinje fortresses.

Photo credits: Slavenko Vukasovic & Tourism organization of Trebinje

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