Bosnia's historical landmarks as UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Ljiljana Krejic | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Whether a connoisseur or a debutant apropos Bosnia & Herzegovina, learning about its main historical landmarks is an enriching experience, especially if we speak about the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. As it is always the case, each country tries to protect its biggest treasures – material and non-material ones. Bosnia is no exception. Besides its three elements of intangible cultural heritage, there are also three World Heritage Sites in this country, and ten others are still on a tentative list of the UNESCO. This is a story of those three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Bosnia & Hercegovina

The Old Bridge in Mostar

One of the main reasons why a mesmerising city of Mostar has to be on your bucket list is its world-celebrated Old Bridge. This architectural chef-d'oeuvre from the 16th century has been Mostar’s raison d’être since ever. It is an Ottoman-style bridge and considered the greatest invention of that time because it succeeded in an almost impossible mission - to cross the Neretva River with a single-stone arch span. The Old Bridge (or Stari most) is a white-stone masterpiece (28 meters long) and is definitely one of a kind, so no wonder it was inscribed in UNESCO World Heritage List. Accompanied by an emerald-green river and amazing surrounding landscapes, this elegant bridge is a perfect location for your photo sessions. A final tip – try to stay at least 24h in Mostar, so that you experience the evening atmosphere around the bridge. You will understand what I am talking about when you see it.

The Bridge on the Drina River in Višegrad

Another Bosnian masterwork enlisted as the UNESCO World Heritage Site is the Bridge on the Drina River in Višegrad, a town of three masterpieces. It was built in 1577 by Mehmed Paša Sokolović, a Serbian boy who became a grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire, so it also brings his name. Surrounded by scenic landscapes, the bridge straddles the Drina River with 11 large arches and several smaller ones. It is 180 meters long with two terraces in the middle – for the passers who need to rest or wish to enjoy the spectacular view. Before you come to see the Bridge on the Drina, I strongly recommend you to read the book with the same name, written by our Nobel laureate Ivo Andrić. The best way to admire the bride is to take a cruising trip along the Drina River. Breath-taking views are guaranteed, as well as complete escapism. Whenever you happen to be here, do not forget to pay a visit to Andrićgrad, a town of a famous filmmaker Emir Kusturica, but also to take a ride with a legendary narrow-gauge train “Ćiro” through this picturesque region.

Bosnian medieval tombstones - stećci

The oldest of Bosnia’s historical landmarks enlisted as the UNESCO World Heritage Sites are stećci, monumental medieval tombstones. Located mainly in the south-eastern part of Bosnia & Herzegovina, these distinguished necropolises appeared in the 12th century reaching their peak between the 14th and the 15th century, before disappearing under the Ottomans occupation. The word stećak (singular of stećci) comes from the South Slavic verb “stajati” (to stand). So, stećak would literally mean “a tall, standing thing”. They were cut in massive limestone blocks, designed in different shapes and decorated with religious and traditional symbols, as well as Cyrillic inscriptions. While the origin of stećci is still argued, it is sure that it was a common tradition in the Catholic, Orthodox and Bosnian Church. Even though shared with three other countries (Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro), stećci are mainly Bosnian cultural heritage, so no wonder that 22 necropolises out of 28 protected ones are situated in Bosnia & Herzegovina.  The best-preserved and largest necropolis is Radimlja site near Stolac, with its 133 tombstones and dating back to 1480.  

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