Megaliths and Secrets of Stolac

It is always a pleasure to go across the border to Hercegovina- a region full of amazing places and sites. Especially when friends organize it and we have Mr. Ante Vujnović as a guide. Ante is a director of Radimlja archaeological park near Stolac and the best person to show us around. He is very dedicated to preserving historical heritage of the region. Hercegovina, although being part of Bosnia and Hercegovina, culturally and historically cannot be separated from Dalmatia despite the borders set by Austrians in the 19th century.

Austrian monarchy map from 1848

Stolac, due to its troubled past – both recent and distant – offers a variety of unique sites to explore and visit. From the very unique necropolis of Radimlja to the fascinating walls of Daorson and the Stolac fortress.

Stolac on 1904 postcard

Our first stop and the meeting point is usually Radimlja necropolis. Numerous pages have been written on the stečci monuments and this particular site and you can read more on Radimlja and other historic sites of Stolac region on the official UNESCO web site:

This past year, stećak monuments have been listed with UNESCO as the World Heritage and that includes all the monuments in the region of Balkans – over 70 000 known monuments!

Bosnia and Hercegovina today holds the most of these unique monuments with Radimlja and Boljuni near Stolac being the most decorated ones.

The necropolis did not change much although the Austrian built road going to Stolac split Radimlja in two parts and destroying about 15 – 20 monuments. The landscape has changed significantly and, today, there are several modern buildings and warehouses a bit too close to the necropolis…


The monuments have been cleaned some years ago loosing that historic patina seen on old photos. Of course, it will form again with time.


Monuments have various decorations but Radimlja has the greatest number of human figures. Hunting, dancing, fighting… life as it was back in the days when they were carved. Most of the monuments have been carved between 1200s and early 1500s when the Turkish conquest completely changed the life in this part of the world. There is a controversy as some people consider these monuments to be much older but there is no evidence for that and, especially the ones at Radimlja, have been well documented and connected to the local, medieval noble family.

The next stop for our small group was the mysterious Daorson. Actually, quite a bit is known of this place but there is a lot to be discovered as only limited archaeology research was done in a single campaign almost 50 years ago.


This impressive hill fort was built on a prehistoric fortified settlement which was dated to the early 17/16th century BC and existed to the end of the late Bronze Age: 9/8th century BC. The final destruction of Daorson is dated to mid or second half of the 1st century AD and we know this from the details of the Roman wars against the Delmati tribe that lived here at that time.

Today, Daorson is still very impressive with its unique megalithic walls surrounding what is believed to be the religious center/refuge.


Besides Ante as a local authority, we had some proper archaeologists with us so we learned a LOT! And learned a lot about the hard-to-see defense structures in front of these massive walls, numerous graves and bases of ancient houses…

Basically, this is what the plan of Daorson looks like:

By Nova Akropola


Remains of the Daorson “Pyramid/Temple”

Daorson was built from the rocks from the nearby quarry and we took a short walk north to see what it looks like today.


One can learn more on Daorson and it’s Hellenistic traditions from this paper (in Croatian):

I also found a small piece of pottery just lying on the side looking completely unimportant:


But, with us, we had Mr. Miro Katić  (of Trogir conservation department) who has a PhD on Hellenistic pottery and immediately attributed this small piece to Pharos colony – a Greek colony from Hvar Island that existed at the same time as Daorson and, obviously, had a strong connections with this area. Connections were numerous and Daorson was a very prosperous community at its heyday.

Next stop: Boljuni
The necropolis in Boljuni numbers 274 stećak tombstones, 92 of which are decorated and 9 of which have epitaphs, making it one of the most interesting necropolis in the area.


This group of monuments is quite well preserved and with several unique decorations. One of the monuments even depicts some strange monsters/dragons:


But most have simpler decorations and ornaments.

Boljuni is a very fascinating place well worth visiting when in the area!

And then it was time to finally visit Stolac. This very historic town is known for the impressive fortress on the hill over Bregava river shown below on numerous historic images.


 Fortress is a bit of a climb but well worth it as the views are stunning and the fortress itself is impressive example of medieval fortifications in this part of the country. The earliest reference to Vidoški fort – as it is called – is in a charter dated 1444, followed by a series of charters up to 1454, as the possession of Stjepan Vukčić Kosača. Stolac became part of the Ottoman sultanate following the Ottoman conquest in 1465. And that changed everything as the introduction of a new religion divided people and that division continues till modern days…


Inside the fortress, there is still quite a bot of work but, generally, it is in good shape and the effort to preserve is quite visible. This is also a location where Stolačka Tarča is taking place – a medieval fair with emphasis on education and traditions of the region. This event takes place in May.

Image of Stolačka Tarča

Best description of Stolac today would be: “a sleepy town by Bregava”. It looks very lovely from the Vidoški grad fortress:


But the walk through the town reveals all the tragedy of the recent war in Bosnia and Hercegovina. Many houses have not been restored and many more, due to emigration from the area, are collapsing. Today, the peace is just on the surface as both Croats and Bosniaks are trying to patch the wounds from the war of the 90s. The scars are still quite deep. Visiting the Podgradska mosque, we were approached by an elderly Bosniak telling us few things about the mosque and the local Muslim traditions.


Podgradska mosque, 1732

Stolac is a lovely place. Layers upon layers of fascinating history and stunning nature. It should definitely be included when visiting the region as it offers quite a bit for travelers looking for unique and off the beaten path experiences. No matter if it is just a stop en route to inner Bosnia or even en route to Dubrovnik, this is a great stop.


And we will return. Many more historic places to see and explore deep in beautiful Hercegovina!


Skradin Photo Album – 1900

It’s not often that one comes across a 115 years old photo album of Dalmatia. I am sure that there are few still forgotten in some attics, old family houses… and I hope someone will recognize the beauty and value of those fading images.

Recently, I stumbled upon a beautiful photo album dating back to 1900.

The album
The album
The spread
The spread
The beauty of classical details
The beauty of classical details

It was a private album of Marasovic family that once owned most of Skradin region. The images were taken by Jerolim Marasović who was a son of a major of Skradin back then. Most of the images have been already seen and published in a 2009 book: Marasović – fotografska zbirka published by Joško and Nataša Zaninović by Krka National Park. The collection is now in Zadar’s Znanstvena knjižnica or Research Library of Zadar.

I have not seen the book so I was quite surprised when I got my hands on the album!

Here are just a few from the album that contains 28 images of Skradin and Skradin region.

Visovac monastery
Visovac monastery

Not the best of quality but again, this was a local amateur photographer.

Roski slap waterfalls
Roski slap waterfalls
Orthodox church in Kistanje
Orthodox church in Kistanje

I did not play with colors or filters and wanted to keep the authentic feel I have seen on the images in the album.

Hanging out with the locals
Hanging out with the locals
Sailing in style
Sailing in style
Streets of Skradin
Streets of Kistanje
Interior of Serbian Orthodox church in Kistanje (?)
Interior of Serbian Orthodox church in Kistanje (?)
Skradin 1900... no marina, no bridge, no trees
Skradin 1900… no marina, no bridge, no trees
Skradin from the water
Skradin from the water

And my favorite image:

Visiting the ruins of Burnum
Visiting the ruins of Roman military camp at Burnum

The images are simply fantastic and give instant goose bumps to everyone interested in our heritage and tradition!

Kastel Gomilica – Faded gem of the past

Kastela are not often part of my visits. Once a beautiful part of the coast (if not the most beautiful), now is simply a mess of modern construction, 50 years of socialist industrial “planning” and 25 years of not doing anything… or at least anything good. So, even the 7 lovely historic towns definitely deserve attention, it is just a narrow strip by the sea that is worth visiting. And for all the good reasons! History and architecture: typical Dalmatian coastal villages, wine: Bedalov cellar is right by the water and we offer a very unique “behind the closed doors” foodie experience in Sućurac at our friend’s beautifully restored place. So when a friend of mine, Mr. Ivan Šuta, director of Kaštela museums invited me for a short tour, I was more than happy to come along.

Kastilac fortress of Kastel Gomilica
Kastilac fortress of Kastel Gomilica

All of Kastela got their names after castles that were built in each 7 of them and most of them are still standing. Today, Kastela are making up one large, 40 000 inhabitants big town but it was not like that in the past and each of them was a separate little town with its own history.

Arguably, Kastel Gomilica is the prettiest one. It was built in the first half of the 16th century by Benedictine nuns from Split who built it for protection of their servants from the Turks that were pillaging in the region. This patch of land was donated to them all the way back in 1078 by King Zvonimir of Croatia and there is still an ancient church nearby standing as a silent witness. They also erected Catholic Monastery on a small island, that became today’s Kaštilac.

Kastilac from the inside
Kastilac from the inside

Kastilac today is in a very poor shape. The local authorities have bought one ruined building right next to the entrance and they are starting the renovation of the main tower as well as a nunnery at the opposite end of a short street. Kaštilac is fairly quiet and very few people still live there. And cats…

Lazy Tuesday morning in Kastel Gomilica
Lazy Tuesday morning in Kastel Gomilica

But some folks are quite creative with elaborate seashell design 🙂

Seashells all over!
Seashells all over!

The Kastilac will have a very interesting appearance on the Game of Thrones in season 5 acting as a distant and mysterious Braavos! That will bring more visitors for sure and, hopefully, some funds for full restoration of this beautiful heritage site.

Getting ready for the summer
Getting ready for the summer

Next door, the boats are getting painted for the season… Just a picture perfect Dalmatian scene!
Then we ventured into the town itself. Mr. Šuta warned of several Roman monuments that, over the centuries, became parts of the the local house walls and facades.

One of the walls is even holding Aesculapius head! This gem of late antiquity is now in a fairly risky spot next to cables and wires and there are discussions of its removal.

Aesculapius and a Roman monument at one of the houses.
Aesculapius and a Roman monument at one of the houses.

So, Kastel Gomilica holds many secrets but it is still a mess. This is not a place you enjoy just as a typical tourist destination although it can be such a lovely seaside town attracting flocks of people just for an easy stroll or some nice sightseeing.

Old doors
Old doors

For now, the doors will remain closed and we can only hope that a better times are coming.

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