Posted by: Alex MacGregor | May 6, 2010

Trebinje–Why Would You Go There?!?

Throughout our stay in Dubrovnik, we told locals our onward plans when asked. We were going to cross over to nearby Trenbinje, a city of about 50,000 people just across the border in Bosnia i Hercegovina (which I’ll call BiH for short).

This plan was universally met with shock and confusion. “Why in the world would you want to go there?!” we would be asked. Even when we tried to steer the conversation another way–we knew well that people from Dubrovnik just plain don’t like Trebinje or the people who inhabit it–the question would come up once more, “So what makes you want to go to Trebinje, again?”

But we held steadfast to our plan. I had found Trebinje on Google Earth and thought it looked pleasant and worth a visit since we were passing through the area. Not enough of a reason for people from Dubrovnik, but it worked for us.

So we headed for the bus station to take the sole daily bus between the two cities–not much of a bus, really; more like a minibus. On the way to the station, the sweaty walk forced us into a taxi cab, where the driver again did all he could to dissuade us from making the trip. As I handed over the 40 kuna cab fare for the 2km journey (!), I thought it was ironic that the driver added, “Make sure you watch your bags in Trebinje.” $8 for a three-minute cab ride is just as good as robbery to me!

After all of this build up, we wondered what we were in for. Is Trebinje really as bad as everyone makes it out to be?

As we quickly learned by exploring the flower-filled center, of course not. Trebinje is a perfectly pleasant medium-sized city. It’s certainly not as wealthy or historical (or expensive) as Dubrovnik, but we could find no reason it should be avoided.

Unlike Dubrovnik, which was never conquered by the Ottoman Turks, Trebinje has an Ottoman-style old town.

Unlike other places we had seen, where the old town serves mainly as a tourist attraction, in Trebinje it is just another residential neighborhood.

Trebinje’s market, where locals go to pick up herbs, fruits, and vegetables, in stark contrast to the market in Dubrovnik!

Trebinje’s stone bridge is famous for its a unique design.

To be honest, Dubrovnik does have more of a reason for its distaste to Trebinje than I’m letting on. Although they do also look down on it for not having the historical riches and spectacular seaside setting of its coastal neighbor, Trebinje is the closest manifestation of Serbian dominance in the former Yugoslavia that Croatians–particularly those from Dubrovnik–had to work so hard to brush off.

This man, Jovan Dučić, was a poet who is now considered a hero to Serbians everywhere, whether they live in BiH, Serbia, Montenegro, or Croatia. For that reason, Trebinje is an important place for the Serbian people.

This Orthodox church is Dučić’s burial site.

Inside the chruch. The burial site was built by a BiH-born American business man.

The burial site stands on top of the biggest hill in town, and now serves as a fully functioning Orthodox monastery, complete with shale-roofed workhouse…

…and monastic donkey!

The place also has an excellent view, which is the main reason we made the hike.

Trebinje is part of the Republika Srpska, the region of BiH administered by Serbs following the 1990s war with which the name Bosnia is now synonymous, in the eyes of most Americans.

Now is probably a decent time to attempt to explain the Bosnian conflict. (If you mainly look at ths blog for nice pictures, you can scroll down to see some lovely shots of Dubrovnik!)

The idea of Yugoslavia was a union of Slavic people–Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. As Yugoslavia fell apart in the 1990s, Slovenia–a wealthier republic that enjoys proximity to Italy–gained independence somewhat quickly and painlessly.

Croatia was next. The (mainly Catholic) Croats wanted independence from Yugoslavia, and, after a civil war where many of Croatia’s (mainly Orthodox) Serbs were killed or expelled into BiH and Serbia, modern-day Croatia was born.

Then it was BiH’s turn to decide if it wanted independence. Here, there was no overwhelmingly dominant population: Serbs and Croats were nearly equal in numbers. Serbs loved the idea of being part of Yugoslavia–a pan-Balkan powerhouse headqaurtered in Serbia’s own Belgrade. Bosnian Croats wanted to join their Croatian brothers in their newfound independence. The two couldn’t agree, and war broke out.

Quickly, the country was divided up: Croats took over the west, expelling all the Serbs, and Serbs dominated the east, expelling all the Croats. This eastern part now has a separate government from the rest of BiH, called Republika Srpska.

But if only it were that easy. BiH also has a major Muslim population that didn’t fit with either ethnic group, and neither Croats nor Serbs envisioned a significant minority of Bosnian Muslims (called Bosniaks) in their single-ethnic areas. These were the most horrifying images from the war: atrocities committed against civilian Bosnian Muslims by Serbs and Croats.

Sadly, if you look hard, you can still see lingering tensions with Muslims in the area, even though most have fled or were killed in the war.

Despite all this, we found the inhabitants of Trebinje to be totally kind and friendly. At dinner, the restaurant-owner was so pleased we stopped in the city that he poured us both a glass of the local after-dinner drink, just to try. (There’s something that would never happen in Dubrovnik!)

Trebinje was a good place to learn that it’s important not to blame what happened during a conflict on the whole group of people associated with it.

Edit: Since the one topic that seems to draw more visitors to this blog than anything is how to get to Trebinje, I’ll go ahead and add that info. One bus per day goes from the main bus station in Dubrovnik daily to Trebinje at around 1PM. It costs about 40 Kuna if I recall correctly and takes around an hour. The bus goes to Dubrovnik from Trebinje in the morning. From Trebinje, there are buses into Montenegro (Niksic and Kotor, I believe) at a greater frequency than along the Dubrovnik route. There are also a few buses to Mostar per day.

Advertisements

Responses

  1. Thanks for your reportage,

    When does the bus(es) goes back from Trebinje to Dubrovnik?

    regards,
    Katarina

    • Wars between Dubrovnik and Trebinje were mostly about religion. Dubrovnik had orders from the Pope to convert the Serbs to Catholicism . At some points in history there was a Catholic Bishop in control of Trebinje, In the 18 hundreds Serbs were a dominant political forcer in Dubrovnik. This ended with the Ustase in WWII. Konavle south and North of Dubrovnik the people originally were Serbs but converted to Catholicism by force. We know this as many ruins of Orthodox churches can be found on the territory all the way to Split. Examine maps from the Crusades. If you had gone to Trebinje and missed going to the monastery of Tverdos .that is a great loss. Tverdos dates back to the IV century and its the most peaceful place I have ever been to. Its located on the old road to Dubrovnik , 15 minutes from Trebinje or 15 minutes from Dubrovnik. .

  2. loved your comments, loughed out loud…so thank you! also, very useful 🙂

  3. nice reportage,true.
    Very objective reportage from somebody living outside Balkans
    Point is clear,go where you think you should and listen to others.You will not regret it… in the end IT was your decision!

  4. I found this article while looking for info regarding the cost of the bus connection as I don’t have any Kunas left and I will exchange the right amount for this trip. I found this info and much more. Great reading! Thanks and greetings from Portugal.

    Ah… it’s funny that I agree with most of you write even before being there, and also funny that just like you I found Trebinje on Google Eeartjh while preparing my visit in this area and thought exactly the same… “why not…?” Imediately, by Bosnian friend who was at my flat at the moment said “Why the hell would you go to such boring place…?”

  5. Very good reporting but we still don’t know if you can get back from Trebinje to Dubrovnik the same day. Does anyone know if this is possible.

    • I wouldn’t try that. It was hard enough just to get to Trebinje from Dubrovnik.

      • Agreed. Just checked my photo of Dubrovnik’s bus schedule (circa 2010) and they only have one departure daily to Trebinje, at 1:30 PM. Kind of incredible that this is the only transport available between two fairly large cities that are so close to one another.

      • Will you believe if I tell you that prior to the war there had been 19 daily buses between these two towns? It is a shame what a bunch of lunatics can do!

  6. How about hiring a taxi to take you from Dubrovnik to Bosnia for a day tour? Can you do that?

    • Yes! You can do it, but it is quite expensive. If you take a cab from Dubrovnik it might cost to 300-400kunas.
      And if you call a taxi driver from Trebinje it would be around 250-300.

      Ps. Love the article 🙂

  7. Thank you so much for this comprehensive view of Trebinje! We read this while in Dubrovnik last month and went to Trebinje for the day despite all attempts to dissuade us from this folly by local Croatians. We really enjoyed a few hours wandering the town and seeing a real town that was not flooded with tourists and related shops. We hired a car for 1000 kuna round trip – not cheap but worth it for our family of 4.

    • So great to hear that there are people like you. I am from Trebinje and we know how this conflict was stupid and artificially made in the centers of power far from both these two towns. Dubrovnik people simply do not want to know that many of us were and are still unhappy with what happened. As if they simply want enemies 30 km away from them, which is ridiculous since so many of them come to our town to buy, to visit dentists (it is cheaper), and we go to the Riviera beaches…so life is already finding its way.

      • Dragane, razmisljali smo da dodjemo u Trebinje iz Beograda, sredinom novembra, na produzeni vikend. Kakva je atmosfera u gradu u to vreme ili preporucujes da to ostavimo za toplije dane?! Takodje smo mislili da jedan dan odemo do Dubrovnika. Kako ne bi isli kolima, vec tim busom u 10h (ako je i dalje samo taj jedan polazak…), interesuje me, ako mozda znas, koliko bi kostao taxi da dodje po nas? Unapred hvala na informacijama!

  8. Whilst your article was erm, perky, I must take it upon myself to be specific and defensive here – Trebinje is located in Herzegovina – you know, that region of Bosnia AND HERZEGOVINA that often gets forgotten. So, please, don’t refer to it a a Bosnian city. It’s not.

    • Corrections made throughout, and I apologize for not being more careful initially. As I wrote this in a Croatian internet cafe I had no idea that this of all the blog posts we’ve made would be the one to get scores of views every week.

    • It is true and people, only for the reason of shortening the name of the country, often omit to say Herzegovina. It is the southern part of the country, completely different in every sense from Bosnia. But don’t worry, even people from Belgrade most often say “Bosnia” for what is actually Herzegovina. It does not have anything to do with ethnicity or religion – it is just about geography and mentality 🙂

  9. […] Europe (or the Balkans, specifically): SS prides itself on its old bridge. Just like every Balkan city. The bridge in Sancti Spiritus is definitely a lot more out of context, sitting on an island in the […]

  10. A nice, unbiased article. I am actually from Trebinje, and I belong to the generation where it was naturally to live together (actually and regardless of how they try to show themselves different, those ethnic groups are of the same Slavic origins). As you may have seen, Trebinje is a mixture of pretty much everything, and a typical Mediterranean place. It is a crazy and tragic politics that made all these people, on all sides victims. I have issues that happened, but I not bother with it, I would rather enjoy in this nice travel story. Come to Trebinje after or before you visit Dubrovnik and enjoy a nice ambient and hospitality 🙂

  11. My Great, Great Grandfather is from Trebinje.. born in 1881

  12. […] my sporadic Google Earth explorations over the years, which have in the past uncovered some pretty fascinating places, inclined me to push ahead and rent a car. Better yet, I managed to rope someone else from […]

  13. […] Transnistria’s main source of differentiation from Moldova is a common one: language and ethnicity. While Moldova is primarily Romanian-speaking, Transnistria was the recipient of many Russian migrants under Soviet Russification. During the collapse of the USSR, Moldova wanted to be indpendent, Transnistria didn’t, and war broke out. We’ve heard this story before. […]

  14. Trebinje (Herzegovina) is the best-kept secret of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
    TREBINJE is the southernmost city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, part of the entity of Republika Srpska, and one of the lesser-known regions Herzegovina. Trebinje has a Mediterranean climate. During the year, there are about 260 sunny days, warm summers, and mild winters. Its distinctive geolocation makes it a good base to stay and explore the surrounding areas (the Adriatic coast of Dubrovnik is 30 km away, Herceg Novi 40 km, and Kotor 80 km) and western Herzegovina, including Mostar and Medjugorije.

    Trebinje is rich in natural resources and has a large hydro potential as it is surrounded with water (lakes, rivers, and sea). It has a rich cultural and historical heritage from different historical periods (including 88 monuments that are protected by the state) and excellent infrastructure links (within a radius of 100 km to 4 airports). Because of these attractive attributes, Trebinje and the region of Herzegovina in general are becoming recognized for their outstanding wine tourism. Unlike the many world-famous wine regions, such as the Napa Vally of California, Bordeaux France, and Tuscany Italy, what makes this region unique as an undiscovered wine destination is that it is the only region with “wine” in its name — Herzegowina.

    In addition to wine tourism, Herzegovina is also becoming widely recognized for its precious herbs (Herbegovina) and mouthwatering and health-boosting Honey.

    Just as the Provence in France is famous for its lavender, Herzegovina is distinguished by the native immortelle plant, as well as a variety of other types of medicinal and aromatic plants.
    http://www.trebinjetravelguide.com

  15. Pro-Croatian, Catholic Nazi seacoast snobs from Dubrovnik feel superior to Serbs in Trebinje. These admirers of Pavelic and Hitler were the cause, along with Muslim Jihadists, of the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. In WW2,
    Serbs and the US fought against these barbarians together. However, when it was in the interest of the US to SWITCH SIDES, they did and backed these barbarians in the destruction of Yugoslavia. The people of Trebinje are warm, peaceful and loving people who have fought in self-defense against these arrogant criminals for hundreds of years. Dubrovnik is a lovely place but the people are nicer in little Trebinje.

  16. Thank you so much on these kind words about my hometown Trebinje. I am glad that you were able to see its unique charm and please come again!

  17. […] they’re a stone’s throw from touristy spots and make an easy add-on to a trip (see: Trebinje, a pretty, untouristed ethnic Serbian town an hour bus ride from Dubrovnik, or Apricale, a gorgeous […]

  18. i went on holiday to cavtat in 2010 and went to Trebinje on a day trip. I visited the football ground of the local team FK Leotar. I met a great friendly guy called Milan Jankovic at the club and became good friends with him. In 2011 i went on holiday to cavtat again and came back to spend 2 whole days in Trebinje. The friendly people and the hospitality shown to me by Milan Jankovic and his friends and family was superb. We had a great night out in the town and it’s a beautiful and welcoming place. Yes Croatia is beautiful , but Trebinje and Herzegovina is stunning as well. Don’t let the croats put you off. My Croatian driver said nightlife in Trebinje was way better than Cavtat and it was especially on a saturday night. I love Trebinje and the bars cafes and restaurants are great,

  19. Hi webmaster, i’ve been reading your articles for some time and I really like coming back here.
    I can see that you probably don’t make money on your page. I know one interesting method of earning
    money, I think you will like it. Search google for: dracko’s
    tricks

  20. My friend’s grandfather left Trebinje at 16 and came to the US long ago, maybe before WW2. She found a distant relative in Sweden asking if anyone is left behind but nobody wants to discuss this. Because they were Muslims, is it possible that her family may have been killed in the war? My understanding is limited. We would like to visit and see if we can find her distant family, Any thoughts appreciated.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: