Illyria is probably not the best name for the region that is still so mysterious as we struggle in getting answers to even the basic quastions about the ancient inhabitants that lived here. It encompasses Dalmatia and it’s hinterland including Hercegovina in modern day Bosnia and Hercegovina as this region shared a lot of history despite the artificial divisions. So, studies on the Illyrian tribes, ancient cultures and traditions in Dalmatia, is never complete without stepping into beautiful Hercegovina.
This past weekend, I joined my friend Domagoj and his wife Sanja for a journey to some of the most mysterious and most sacred places in this beautiful part of the Balkans.
Our first stop was one of the very special places in the entire region: stećak monuments necropolis near Radimlja. I wrote about stećak monuments earlier so I will not go into too many details. This particular necropolis is considered to be the most special of them all as it has all stećak forms and 5 writings as well as some of the most wonderful carvings.
The necropolis has been divided in two when the Austrian government built a road. Same as in Cista Provo necropolis, someone decided that the road must go through the necropolis… There are 63 stećak monuments in Radimlja and it is not the biggest as there are 500 grouped monuments in Cetina and there are about 70 000 in the entire region. Some are very ancient and some are not. Some are carved and many are just big blocks of stone…Nevertheless, they are all very impressive. I always pictured this place with dark and gray stone monuments but the local archaeologists decided to clean them thus making them appear brand new. Not sure if that was the right decision but Radimlja monuments are definitely amazing!
And then we moved to another very special place: Daorson.
After you pass the recently restored old city of Stolac and into Ošanići, we headed up a steep hill to a natural plateau. At the very western edge of the plateau, a megalithic walls of Daorson appeared in front of us as a storm clouds were forming in the distance.
Today, Daorson is badly damaged site and we know very little about it. The name was given to this place by the archaeologists after they have found several coins with the name DAORS within the walls. It is assumed that there was a mint in Daorson as well. But, one thing puzzles me… This is supposed to be a city? It is tiny! And has no logic of a city being on this very spot and having this huge wall on some places just 10 meters from the edge.
According to the older drawings, just after the entrance, there was a pyramid. However, the archaeological campaign in 1960s leveled it! But one pyramid survived the total destruction…
Daorson is still very impressive and the theory saying that this place was a very important temple is more believable than saying this was a city. Read more on Daorson on Domagoj’s great blog: http://illyrianmysteries.blogspot.com/2011/02/daorson.html and definitely mark it as a must see spot if in the region! We spent over an hour just soaking the energy of this amazing place and trying to understand the logic of building it at this very spot.
Next we drove to picturesque Blagaj village where small river Buna starts it’s journey from the depths of Earth. This is one of the largest and most beautiful springs in Europe producing, at times, about 30 m3/sec. of very clear and very cold water!
Next to the very spring is a famous Blagaj Tekija (a sort of a Muslim monastery) and it was built in 1520s or so by the Turks when they conquered the region. We could not get to see it as there were some construction works but that is something to look forward to next time when I am here.. A boat ride to the cave if offered and there are several restaurants on both banks serving authentic Turkish-Bosnian specialties. And that is something not to miss!
This was simply delicious although these restaurants are famous for their trout.
So we returned late that afternoon full of impressions. But that did not prevent us from making plans for next day.
Next morning we took a hike around the lakes of Imotski. Both beautiful and both very unusual geological phenomena. We also wen to see so called “Dry Lake” – a hole in the ground resembling the Red and Blue lake but with no water. We also visited several stone structures and unusual formations but everything pales next to the big mound next to the Red Lake. It is most likely the burial mound of a high official or even a king as it is on a very special place.
And next to it we found even more interesting and more peculiar traces of ancient civilization.
Resembling eyes in the petrified heads, this is something strangest I have seen in stone walls anywhere in Croatia!
So, plenty of questions still unanswered in the hills of Illyria!