After visiting the tekke of Blagaj at the very source of the river Buna, the fortress that towers high above the village seems to call me. I cannot resist the call, and when I reach the square, I turn right and walk the street leading up. I know that the way up is by climbing the backside of the hill that rises steeply above Blagaj. There even is a sign with a short explanation. Soon enough, the road becomes narrow, and turns into a track. It skirts the foot of the hill, and I reach a narrow valley. High above, on the other side, I can see the road coming down from Mount Velež. The track becomes a dirt track, and then, I see a trail going straight up the hill. Again, I cannot resist.
It turns out to be a little tricky because of the loose stones, but I make my way up zig-zagging, climb through a strip of poplar trees, and reach the trail again. When I look right, the fortress rises mightily up in front of me. I reach the gate, and walk in: there is no one around, access is free, and there are no signs to explain what I am seeing. This is also known as Stjepan grad, it is some 200 metres above Blagaj, and the first fortress on this location was built in Illyrian times; there are traces of settlements on the slopes of this hill of prehistoric times. The present fort was built in the Middle Ages, and later repaired by the Ottomans. The name Stjepan grad comes from an early 15th century count who had his residence here.
The walls are still high and thick, up to two metres; inside, the fortress lies in ruins. The ground is covered by poppies and other flowers, giving the fortress a peaceful appearance. I walk to the far end, climb the thick wall, and sit down with a bottle of water. From here, I can look over the plains below, the Neretva river which flows under the famous Old Bridge in Mostar just a few kilometres to the north. I can see many tour buses now, down in the narrow streets of Blagaj, and I am happy no road leads up to the fortress. There is total silence here. I explore the grounds of the fortress, can make out outlines of buildings, but without explanations much is left to the imagination. Which is OK. Just scrambling around the ruined walls of the fortress of Blagaj, some covered with plants growing all the way up, is just the fun I was looking for.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Blagaj fortress (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Blagaj fortress.
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