Jajce – a Tale of Kings, Sultans, Marshals and Hobbits (Part II)

June 27, 2017

As I promised in the first part of my travelogue from Jajce as one o the Mastercard Top Hidden Treasures, (if you haven’t yet, you need to check it out ;-)) in this post I intend to show you many beautiful sights apart from the Pliva Waterfalls, which this city has to offer and that you shouldn’t miss in any case during your visit. Did you know that Jajce is often referred to as “a museum under the open sky”? Lovely, right?

Well, we started our sightseeing tour with the Ethno Museum, which is situated only a few steps away from the Hotel Stari grad, in which we were staying and that I wrote you about in the previous post. Museum is placed in the building that used to serve as the first elementary school in Jajce. What I would recommend you to see in this museum are, among others, a traditional Bosnian room decorated with original furniture and decor pieces, folk costumes of the people living in the this area, ancient everyday utility objects, tools, weapons and instruments. My favourite and most charming museum specimens where two old looms for making tapestry and rugs.

On the first floor of the museum there is a very extensive collection of minerals and ores. It includes the ones that are very typical for the area of Jajce (particularly bauxite and tuff) and Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also the ones that you can find around the world. The particularity of this collection, which is one of the biggest in Bosnia, is that it’s been constantly expanded by curtesy of the former inhabitants of Jajce, who now live abroad. Namely, during their visits to their hometown they bring samples of minerals from their new countries of residence and give their contribution to the museum collection. On the displayed samples you can see the names of the donors and places where the samples are coming from. I think that’s just incredibly sweet and caring, don’t you think darlings?

We left the museum and followed the stone-paved road passing by the “Finance building” from the Austrian-Hungarian period and went in the direction of the tower of St. Lucas and the remains of the old Franciscan Church of St. Mary, which was transformed during the period of the Ottoman reign over Bosnia and Herzegovina into the mosque of the Sultan Suleiman II. And this is the point when we meet for the first time the history related to crowns, kings and sultans in Jajce. :-)

Then in this very church is where the coronation of the last Bosnian king Stjepan Tomašević took place. His wife and the last Bosnian queen Jelena (although there is a wildly spread misconception that this role belongs to Katarina Kosača, the king’s stepmother) brought as her dowry the physical remains of St. Lucas, which was the reason for the construction and the name of the tower. Unfortunately this church/mosque has burnt many times, so today we can only see its walls.

We continued up the hill in the direction of Jajce Fortress and passed by the Clock Tower and the tiny, so-called “Woman’s Mosque”. Today it’s not an active house of worship, but for a long time it was reserved only for women’s prayers during the holy month of Ramadan.

It’s assumed that the Fortress was originally constructed in the 13th century and expanded throughout the years. The former main gate is decorated with the official crest of the Bosnian ruling dynasty – the Kotromanić.

The Fortress served primarily for defence purposes and was deemed to be unconquerable, also due to the fact that it has its own source of fresh water. The strength of the Fortress is also displayed by the fact that one of its walls goes all the way of the River Pliva and the other to the River Vrbas, which represent natural obstacles. Its reconstruction and renovation started in the Austrian-Hungarian period and it’s still a work in progress. It really was a very special feeling to walk along its walls and feel the history boiling and pulsing under my feet. :-) And the city – you can see it, like it was on the palm of your hand. With every step it became clearer to me, why Jajce was selected as one of Top Hidden Treasures.

That brings me to the origins on the name “Jajce” (small egg)  and a few legends related to it. It’s up to you, darlings, to decide which one makes the most sense. ;-) First of them says that the founder of the city, the Bosnian Duke Hrvoje Vukčić Hrvatinić, ordered the construction of the town, which would resemble Castello del Uovo (Castle Egg) in Naples. The other one says that during the construction of the city, the workers put eggs in the mortar in order to make it more solid. Finally, the third one is related to the geographical position of the city. According to the latter, the city and the fortress were situated on an egg- shaped rock, which inspired the name. Personally, I like the last one the best. What do you say, darlings? :-)

When you leave the Fortress, go down the hill and turn right – there is the mighty Bear Tower waiting for you. As with regard to the name of the city, also the name of this defence and observation tower is related to a couple of stories. :-) The first one is very obvious and connection with the strength of the tower, which has 4 m thick walls. So, it was called the Bear Tower since it was strong and powerful as the Brown Bear. The other one is not pretty at all. Namely, there is a legend that in the past, serious offenders were locked in the tower with a bear as a form of punishment. I think this time we all share the same opinion on what legend we prefer – right darlings? ;-)

Across from the Bear Tower is the entrance to the Catacombs, which were carved into a solid rock without any additional material being added. The construction was initiated by the founder of the city and it was intended to serve as a church and a mausoleum for him and his wife. However Hrvoje died before it was finished, so this underground tomb was never finalised. The information that fascinated me the most, was the fact that the temperature in the Catacombs is always 10°C, regardless whether it’s Summer or Winter and that they are exactly 10 meters deep.

Also, the ceiling of the Catacombs that was finalized during the construction has the form of the indigenous  flower called “Bosnian lily” (“Lilium Bosniacum”) from the crest of the Bosnian ruling family. Isn’t that completely WUNDERBAR?

Also during the World War II, the Catacombs served as a shelter from airplane bombing for then marshal Tito and later the present of the former Yugoslavia and his main military staff. And that’s when we come to speak more of marshals. ;-)

When you exit the old part of town and go through the Travnik gate, I suggest you make a quick stop from all the sightseeing and take a walk through the park that’s situated under the Pliva Bridge. Have an ice cream, or just rest on one of the benches while listening to the sound of water and enjoying the beautiful green surrounding. Or you can visit the peacock family living there. That’s exactly what we did but their “pater familias” ‘wasn’t in the mood to display his gorgeous tale to us.:-)

When you cross the bridge, on the other side awaits you the Museum of the 2. Session of AVNOJ (Antifascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia).

It’s a museum dedicated to this historical session held on 29th and 30th November 1943, when the foundations were laid for the former state of Yugoslavia, that Bosnia and Herzegovina was a part of.

If you happen to be in the city at the end of Novemeber, you can take part in the event called the “Days of AVNOJ in Jajce.” In the museum you can find the historical room, where the session was held with the original furniture and also historical documents and photographs. One of the special specimens is the original armchair used by marshal Tito when the meeting was in session.

So, darlings, what is left for me to tell you… Well of course – the Hobbits! ;-) For sure, I’m joking, we haven’t met a single one. ;-) However I’m almost certain that some 5 km away from the city, in the green heaven filled with tiny bridges, surrounding the Big and the Small Pliva Lake there could have easily been situated the famous “Auenland” – the home of these mythical beings from the trilogy “Lord of the Rings” written by R. R. Tolkien.:-)

Apart from the wild nature in the location known as “Mlinčići” (Little Mills) you can find some 20 actual tiny wooden water mills, which were allegedly built already in the Middle Ages and finally reconstructed in 2016. However only two of them are actually serving their purpose.

They represent a true tourist attraction and a wonderful addition to the stunning nature scenery. Trust me, darlings, the first thing you want to do when you see those 20 tiny wooden houses with numbers, connected with adorable little bridges and surrounded by the river jumping from one stone to the next, is to sit across from them on the grass and just enjoy the view and relax for hours. But maybe there were really build by Hobbits? What do you say, darlings? ;-)

And so after two days of the typical Central-Bosnian hospitality, clean and fast waters, history, legends, great food and so much more, it was time for us to go back home to Sarajevo. And yet, there was so much left to see, like the Saračeva kuća or Šarenica – a house is built in pseudo-Moorish style (similar to the City Hall in Sarajevo), where the first news agency of the former Yugoslavia was founded – TANJUG.

Then the temple of the Indo-Iranian god of sun and light – Mitra, which was established in the fourth century. Or the City Gallery in in the Kršlak house

That only means that I have two visit Jajce again very soon. It’s not like I have any other choice, then I left a part of my heart on the beautiful shore of the river Pliva. <3

Talk soon, darlings!

This post was prepared for the Top Hidden Treasures Campaign of Mastercard. To explore more undiscovered destinations all around Europe, check out the #TopHiddenTreasures hashtag on social media, or visit the Mastercard hompage.

Photography: Alma Hadzic Photography
My gratitude goes to the Public Institution “Agency for Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage and Development of Tourist Potential of Town Jajce”  for the amazing hospitality, help and support in making this travelogue happen. My special thanks goes to the director of the Agency – Mr.  Huso Hadžić,  who is a true ambassador of his city and to the associate of the Agency Mr. Samed Žužić for his time and the “insider information” he provided me with. I would also like to thank hotel “Stari grad” for the cozy stay and for making us feel at home in Jajce.
If you wish to find out even more about Jajce as one of the Mastercard Top Hidden Teeasures, you can download the free bilingual tourist brochure from the homepage of the Agency Jajce.




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