Neretva Travel Guide

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The Neretva flows through Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia and it is the largest karst river in the Dinaric Alps in the entire eastern part of the Adriatic basin, which belongs to the Adriatic river watershed. The total length is 230 km, of which 208 km are in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The size of the Neretva watershed is 10,380 km2 in total; in Bosnia and Herzegovina 10,110 km2 with the addition of the Trebišnjica river watershed. The average discharge at profile Žitomislići in Bosnia and Herzegovina is 233 m3/s in addition to the Trebišnjica River's 402 m3/s. The Trebišnjica River basin is included in the Neretva watershed due to a physical link of the two basins by the porous karst terrain.

Geographically and hydrologically the Neretva is divided into three sections. Its source and headwaters gorge are situated deep in the Dinaric Alps at the base of the Zelengora and Lebršnik Mountain, under the Gredelj peak, 1,227 m.a.s.l.

The first section of the Neretva courses from its source all the way to the town of Konjic; the Upper Neretva (Bosnian: Gornja Neretva), flows from south to north - north-west as do most Bosnia and Herzegovina rivers belonging to the Danube watershed, and covers some 1,390 km2 with an average elevation of 1.2%. Right below Konjic, the Neretva briefly expands into a wide valley which provides fertile agricultural land. The large Jablaničko Lake was artificially formed after construction of a dam near Jablanica.

The second section begins from the confluence of the Neretva and the Rama River between Konjic and Jablanica where the Neretva suddenly takes a southern course. From Jablanica, the Neretva enters the largest canyons of its course, running through steep slopes of magnificent mountains of Prenj, Čvrsnica and Čabulja reaching 800–1200 meters in depth. Here man once again turned to the river for energy and created three more hydroelectric dams between Jablanica and Mostar. When the Neretva expands for the second and final time, it reaches the third section of its course. Often called the Bosnian and Herzegovinian California, the valley of the downstream Neretva indeed is a true “Golden State” of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The last 30 km of the Neretva's stream form an alluvial delta, before the river empties into the Adriatic Sea.

The upper course of the Neretva river is simply called the Upper Neretva (Bosnian: Gornja Neretva), and includes vast area around the Neretva, numerous streams and well-springs, three major glacial lakes near the river and more lakes scattered across the mountains of Treskavica and Zelengora in the wider area of the Upper Neretva, mountains, peaks and forests, flora and fauna of the area. All this natural heritage together with the cultural heritage of the Upper Neretva, represents rich and valuable resources of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Europe.

The upper course of the Neretva, Upper Neretva has water of Class I purity and is almost certainly the coldest river water in the world, often as low as 7–8 degrees Celsius in the summer months. Rising from the base of the Zelengora and Lebršnik Mountain, Neretva headwaters run in undisturbed rapids and waterfalls, carving steep gorges reaching 600–800 meters in depth through this remote and rugged limestone terrain.

The valley along the last 30 km of the Neretva River, and the river itself, comprise a remarkable landscape. Downstream from the confluence of its tributaries, the Trebižat and Bregava Rivers, the valley spreads into an alluvial fan covering 20,000 hectares. The upper valley, the 7,411 hectares in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is called Hutovo Blato.

The Neretva Delta has been recognised as a Ramsar site since 1992, and Hutovo Blato since 2001. Both areas form one integrated Ramsar site that is a natural entity divided by the state border. The Important Bird Areas programme, conducted by Birdlife International, covers protected areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Since 1995, Hutovo Blato has been protected as Hutovo Blato Nature Park and managed by a public authority. The whole zone is well protected from human impact and functions as an important habitat for many plants and animals. The historical site Old Fortress Hutovo Blato is in the area of Nature Park. The nature park “Hutovo Blato” is in the south-western part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 30 km from the city of Mostar and near the Croatian border. It stretches over an area of about 7400 ha and represents one of the richest wetland reserves in Europe. Until 1995, when the cantonal protected area was founded, Hutovo Blato represented an area well-known mainly for its hunting and fishing tourism. Every winter over 200 species of birds find their shelter inside this untouched nature. Visitors can enjoy relaxation, recreational activities in nature, sport-fishing, cycling and the main tourist attraction – photo safari. There is also an educational path providing information on the park and for rising environmental awareness and the need for preservation of the natural heritage of the nature park “Hutovo Blato”.

Dinaric karst water systems support 25% of the total of 546 fish species in Europe. Watercourses of this area support a large number of endemic species of fish. The river Neretva and its tributaries represent the main drainage system in the east Adriatic watershed and the foremost ichthyofaunal habitat of the region. According to Smith & Darwall (2006) the Neretva River, together with four other areas in the Mediterranean, has the largest number of threatened freshwater fish species.
The degree of endemism in the karst ecoregion is greater than 10% of the total number of fish species. Numerous species of fish that inhabited this area live in very narrow and limited areas and are vulnerable, so they are included on the Red List of endangered fish and the IUCN-2006. The Adriatic basin has 88 species of fish, of which 44 are Mediterranean endemic species, and 41 are Adriatic endemic species. More than half of the Adriatic river basin species of fish inhabit the Neretva, the Ombla, the Trebišnjica, the Morača Rivers and their tributaries, and more than 30 are indigenous.

During classical antiquity, the Neretva was known as Narenta, Narona and Naro(n), and was the inland home to the ancient Illyrian tribe of Ardiaei. The Neretva provided them life, and turned them into ship makers, seafarers and fishermen that were renowned in ancient times. There have been numerous archaeological discoveries of material and spiritual Illyrian culture, such as the discovery of ancient Illyrian shipwrecks found in Hutovo Blato, in the vicinity of the Neretva River.

The Old Bridge (Bosnian: Stari most) was commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1557 to replace an older wooden suspension bridge of dubious stability. Construction began in 1557 and took nine years: according to the inscription the bridge was completed in 974 AH (Islamic calendar), corresponding to the period between 19 July 1566, and 7 July 1567. Little is known of the building of the bridge, and all that has been preserved in writing are memories and legends and the name of the builder, Mimar Hayruddin (student of the Old/Great Sinan (Mimar Sinan / Koca Sinan), the Ottoman architect). Charged under pain of death to construct a bridge of such unprecedented dimensions, the architect reportedly prepared for his own funeral on the day the scaffolding was finally removed from the completed structure. Upon its completion it was the widest man-made arch in the world. Certain associated technical issues remain a mystery: how the scaffolding was erected, how the stone was transported from one bank to the other, and how the scaffolding remained sound during the long building period. As a result, this bridge can be classed among the greatest architectural works of its time. On 9 November 1993, during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina it was destroyed by Croatian HVO sustained artillery shelling, in attempt to erase any sign of Ottoman architecture in Bosnia.[58] After the war, immediate plans were raised to reconstruct the bridge as a symbol of peace and ethnic harmony, literally bridging the two sides of the conflict. It was important to use as much of the original material as possible. Salvage operations, funded by the international community, raised the stones and the remains of the bridge from the river bed. Missing elements or parts that were not usable, were cut from the same quarry where the original stones came from. Now listed as a World Heritage Site, the bridge was rebuilt under the aegis of UNESCO. Its 1,088 stones were shaped according to the original techniques, and the reconstruction cost about €12 million. The grand opening was held on 23 July 2004.

It is traditional for the young men of the town to leap from the 24 meter high bridge into the Neretva. As the Neretva is very cold, this is a very risky feat and only the most skilled and best trained divers will attempt it. The practice dates back to 1566, the time the bridge was built, and it was held every summer ever since in front of the huge audience. However, the first recorded instance of someone diving off the bridge is from 1664. In 1968 a formal diving competition was inaugurated and held every summer.

Počitelj is situated on a hill near Mostar and is easily accessible by bus. As many other Bosnian sites, this town is Ottoman in its nature. It is a historic fortified town with a hostel (caravanserai) and a hamam underneath it. There is also a traditional mosque which can be visited. During the Bosnian War Pocitelj was badly damaged and most of its residents fled away and never returned. Nonetheless, some Bosniaks still reside in this beautiful town and still enjoy the unique atmosphere of their traditional houses and food.

One of the most significant monuments of Roman times in Bosnia and Herzegovina is certainly Mogorjelo, yet another pearl of Neretva's long strand of pearls of ancient cultural and natural heritage sites. Located 1 kilometer south of the town of Čapljina, Mogorjelo remnants of the old Roman suburban Villa Rustica from the 4th century represents ancient Roman agricultural production and estate, mills, bakeries, olive oil refinery and forges. The destruction of the Villa came in the middle of the 4th century, during the invasion of western Goths. Residents who survived invasion and destruction did not have any further opportunities to renew it to its full splendor. There are two theories about the name of Mogorjelo. First one assumes that the place had burnt several times, so the root of the name was derived from a word “burn” (Slavic – goriti). Another theory is that at the end of the 5th century the church was built on the ruins of Villa, and it was dedicated to St. Hermagor – Mogoru, for whom the site was named.

Gabela is a rich archeological site on the Neretva bank, situated 5 kilometres south of the town of Čapljina. Among a great number of notable medieval buildings, there are still remains of Old City walls, as well as a sculpture of a stone lion – a symbol of Venetian culture. For its remarkable geostrategic position, Gabela was linked to Homer's most famous work – the Iliad. Mexican Homeric scholar and amateur archeologist Roberto Salinas Price has claimed that Gabela was actually ancient Homer's Troy.

The famous Battle of Neretva is a 1969 Oscar-nominated motion picture depicting real events from the Second World War and the actual Battle of the Neretva (Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, Serbo-Croatian: Bitka na Neretvi). Codenamed Fall Weiß, the operation was a German strategic plan for a combined Axis attack launched in early 1943 against the Yugoslav Partisans throughout occupied Yugoslavia during the Second World War. The offensive took place between January and April 1943. The operation is generally known as the Fourth Anti-Partisan Offensive, while it is also known as the Fourth Enemy Offensive (Četvrta neprijateljska ofenziva/ofanziva) or the Battle for the Wounded (Bitka za ranjenike). At some point during the battle, the Partisans were caught in a pocket with their back to the Neretva River. The movie depicts events that happened on the banks of the river Neretva near Jablanica while 20,000 Partisans under command of Marshal Tito struggled to save some 4500 wounded comrades and typhus patients together with the Supreme Headquarters and Main Hospital, against some 150,000 Axis combatants.

Part or or all of this text stems from the original article at: Wikipedia