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Herzegovina, naturally

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Although we were warned about the snow coming earlier this week, I was still silently hoping that the meteorologists were wrong (as they so often tend to be). Just our luck, they were spot on.  But I won’t give up on my search for sun. So once again I lead you south to Bosnia’s sunny side – Herzegovina.

In a country such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is impossible to separate the cultural from the natural heritage of this central Balkan nation. The symbiosis of the land and its people has a created a powerful local identity amongst the people of Herzegovina. They are proud people…and are proud of their land. Every generation has worked hard to carve a living from its rocky terrain. And they’ve done a pretty good job getting it ready to share with others. Last week we visited Trebinje, today we’ll venture to central and western Herzegovina.

Herzegovina is part of the largest karst field in the world. The massive limestone massifs have created one the most biologically diverse regions in Europe. Vjetrenica Caves in the Popovo Polje Valley is the most biologically diverse underground system on planet earth. The towering peaks of the Central Dinaric Alps dominate the heart of Herzegovina. This mountain range, reaching well over 2,000 metres, is a mountaineer’s and hiker’s paradise. The proposed national park, Prenj-Čvrsnica-Čabulja, located just north of the city of Mostar, is the natural frontier between the warm and mild Mediterranean climate and the cooler, continental Alpine one. This intersection of climates is the reason for its unmatched bio-diversity. They offer some of the most attractive and challenging hiking areas in southeast Europe. Prenj, coined the Herzegovina Himalaya, is the mother of all mountains this region. The rafting in Konjic isn’t too shabby either.

From both the underbelly of the earth and the high peaks of the mountains, comes the lifeline of Herzegovina. Water. Unlike many other arid Mediterranean areas – Herzegovina is blessed with a plethora of magnificent rivers, streams, and springs. Due to its limestone configuration, the waters of Herzegovina have a mysterious turquoise color. The Neretva River, flowing from the highlands of northern Herzegovina into the Adriatic Sea in neighboring Croatia, is the heartbeat of Bosnia’s southern region. Herzegovina’s traditional cultural and political capital, Mostar, was established along her banks where the UNESCO heritage site the Stari Most was constructed to span the east and west banks that were divided by the fast flow of the Neretva’s mighty waters.

The Trebižat River, a contributory of the Neretva in western Herzegovina, is a meandering dream of crystal clear, pristine water. Whether one experiences it from the Kravice or Kosuća waterfalls near Ljubuški or by taking the plunge with a canoe safari from Čapljina, this precious waterway will leave no visitor unmoved by its beauty. Nor will the inspiring sources of the Buna Springs at Blagaj. The 16th century Dervish Monastery, perfectly constructed into the rock faces, perhaps best represents the synergy of Herzegovina’s cultural and natural heritage.

Perhaps the mystery of Herzegovina’s silver stones and turquoise waters can be best summed up by the wetlands of Hutovo Blato. This RAMSAR site, located only a stone’s throw from the Adriatic Sea, is the seasonal home to over 240 bird species in their migratory paths heading both north and south. The waters are from a labyrinth of underground aquifer systems that create a series of large, fresh water lakes. Both fresh and seawater fish have oddly made their home here. It is a popular destination for both bird watchers and sports fisherman.

Herzegovina seems to have it all. The countryside in the far southern regions is covered by wild pomegranates, figs, and vineyards. Its northern tip produces apples, pears and finest sorts of continental fruit. The moonlike landscape to the west is balanced by its green and forested terrain to the north and east. Wherever one travels in this rustic, historical driven region…Herzegovina will be sure to Inspire.

So trust me, head south this spring. Herzegovina  – a natural mélange of Mediterranean and Alpine life.

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