The day after my exam here (one of the primary reasons I had to purchase a laptop) I took a bus to Jajce, one of the oldest Bosnian towns. Bosnia is smaller than most people think and it’s easy to get places by bus if you buy the tickets in time (we’re an eight-hour drive from Croatia and it has taken every bit of my willpower not to hop over there). I had a 7:30 am bus out of Sarajevo and arrived in Jajce at 11:15, the four-hour ride full of beautiful scenery and a view of the real Bosnia. I didn’t get any pictures (follow my instagram stories if you want real-time updates!) because the man in front of me closed his curtain and ruined the picture, but the drive was absolutely beautiful and very relaxing.
I have a book with a great section on Jajce at home (how I wish I had Hermione’s undetectable extension charm), so I’ll try to summarize what I know off the top of my head here, supplemented by the scant information on the internet, but if you have any specific questions, just ask and I’ll return an answer when I get home!
Jajce (roughly pronounced “yai-ts-uh”) is home to a beautiful medieval fort built sometime between the end of the 13th century and the beginning of the 14th century by Hrvoe Vukcic Hrvatinic, though the settlement existed prior to that. The city became the capital of the Kingdom of Bosnia soon after, and the royal seal from that time can still be found on the fort. The town is settled on the confluence of two rivers, the Pliva and the Vrbas, and is settled right above beautiful waterfalls.
Today’s post will focus on the waterfalls, and tomorrow’s will cover the actual fort- I saw and learned so much that they deserve two separate segments!
First, I got off the bus and walked through this tunnel to get to the other side, where the town begins (note for future travelers – you can get off the bus and take an immediate left, which takes you directly to the Falls, but I didn’t find this out until way later in my excursion).
During the war, Jajce was (inconveniently for its cultural heritage) located at a meeting point of the Croats, the Bosnian Serbs, and the Bosnians. In the summer of 1992, the Army of Republika Srpska heavily bombarded the area, which was held by both Bosniak and Croat forces, until it fell on October 29 to Bosnian Serb control. When the defeated armies retreated toward the nearby town of Travnik, they were joined by refugees numbering anywhere between 30,000 and 40,000, in what was to become one of the largest mass exoduses of the Bosnian War. During the retreat, the Bosnian Serb army sniped and shelled the column. By the end of 1992, all religious buildings in Jajce, regardless of their age or cultural significance, had been destroyed, including the holdings of the Franciscan Monastery, which was turned into a prison.
Below you can see an old house completely dotted in gunfire.
I think it’s also very interesting to look at the way time molds cities and blends architecture, technology, and culture. You can see in the picture below (not a great picture, but important for this point), the concurrent presence of a 14th-century fort, Communist-era homes, modern-day hotels, and all variety of technologies. Plus trees that have roots older than anything else in this picture.
On your way in there is a beautiful park that follows the Pliva river, winding and full of wildflowers and benches and stone pathways, swollen with moss on this day’s visit due to a few days of relentless rain.
As you walk along that, you curve into the old town itself, the archway still there from the original days of construction. I rather felt like I was walking into Gondor, or perhaps something a little less grand, like Rohan without the horses and stone instead of wood.
This is another place that isn’t completely full of tourists and has normal life just existing as it should.
I stopped to grab a burek (meat pie) before heading over to look at the falls, eating it while sitting on a stone ledge over the waterfalls.
As in most places in Bosnia, the river is constructed with minor waterfalls to control the flow throughout. You see this on the Miljacka in Sarajevo, too.
But then you hit the actual falls, over the edge of which you can see the mist from below.
There are a ton of fantastic viewpoints. The corner with the cliff in the picture below is where I’d be stuck for about an hour in a deluge a bit after this photo was taken.
I spent some time imagining what this might have looked like in the 1300s, where the guards on the walls could traipse right down to the falls as they pleased.
If you go across a bridge, you see a replica of the Paris locks, but most of these are actually in Arabic.
The view from the bridge.
The beginning of the climb down to the actual falls.
You traipse down a rather slippery hill, a little steep, to the very bottom, through very lush forest.
It was really cloudy, drizzling a little at this point, but I mean – look at the depth! How beautiful. It was so stunning in person and I can’t wait to write about it. Also yes, that is a graveyard on the hill in the background. I edited out some shadow specifically so that it’s visible.
Then the actual falls!
So immediately after I took this picture, it started POURING. I had a bag with my camera, my book, and my journal, and knew I needed to get those into a dry space, but there were no covered areas. I huddled under a 2-inch cliff ledge with a Bosnian family for about 30 minutes, shoving my bag into the rocks, getting myself soaked when I moved into the rain after the very kind Bosnian father pointed out a 3-inch spider right above me, didn’t I know it was there? Nope. I had not known, and you better believe I got soaked instead.
Disclaimer- the sky looks blue here, but don’t let it fool you. I was so wet that I could wring water from my clothes and not make a dent in drying them.
Eventually the rain let up enough for us to leave the ledge, and since the sky was blue, I decided to go down to the waterfall itself. It was still drizzling, but not downpouring, and I wanted to leave no stone unturned! So I went down these stairs and walked along a very wet, rather narrow, slippery stone ledge around the edge of the waterfalls and river. Safety? What’s that?
Immediately after I walked that ledge, the sky opened up again, so I ran back up the hill to find shelter, only to run into the same family again! We huddled under the eaves of the small Ranger hut for about 20 minutes before the nice Rangers inside saw us and invited us in. I read my (very wet) Hemingway and they talked until it subsided, another 30 minutes or so, before bidding adieu and traipsing wetly up the trail into the old city. All I wanted to do was dry off and drink some hot chocolate (it wasn’t exactly warm this day, and I didn’t have a jacket) and that is exactly what I did, before exploring the fort.
See you tomorrow!