Bosnia and Herzegovina
Sarajevo, Mostar, Blagaj, Počitelj, Stolac
Dubrovnik, Korčula, Hvar, Split
An exploration of the Balkans’ complex and fascinating history, its stunning natural beauty, glorious art and architecture, delightful people and rich Jewish heritage.
Arrival in Sarajevo, and transfer to the hotel in the city centre. Checking in at the hotel and, in the evening, enjoy a welcome dinner combined with entertainment in one of the many local restaurants of Sarajevo.
Sarajevo is often referred to as the “Jerusalem of Europe” because of its traditional religious diversity – with adherents of Islam, Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Judaism, all these religions coexisting there for centuries. Major houses of worshipping are within steps of each other. We shall visit Gazihusref Bey Mosque, one of the world’s finest examples of Ottoman architecture; BKC – Film showing the Sarajevo Jews with a short history of the Sephardic Jews, visit the souvenir shop with original Jewish souvenirs. The Museum of the Jews of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the old Sephardic Synagogue). Sightseeing of the Ashkenazi Synagogue built in the pseudo-Moorish style; Latin Bridge, famous as the site of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, which became the justification for the beginning of World War I. We shall also visit the fascinating City Hall, designed in 1891 by a Czech architect, and at the time the largest and most representative building of the Austro-Hungarian period in Sarajevo. The building initially served as the City Hall and now houses the National and University Library. Return to the hotel and enjoy an evening at leisure in this friendly city.
After breakfast, we continue visiting other interesting sights of Sarajevo. Transfer to the Old Jewish Cemetery, a national monument, visiting the exhibition in the chapel. Visiting Zemaljski muzej (County Museum) – a short insight into the Sarajevo Haggadah, an illuminated manuscript from the 14th c. Vraca Memorial – an old Austro-Hungarian fortress reconstructed into a memorial museum with the names of the victims of World War II. We shall have the opportunity to enter the remaining section of the famous tunnel. Today known as the Tunnel of Hope, it allowed the transfer of food, war supplies and humanitarian aid into the city under siege. Our afternoon ends with a leisure stop at Vrelo Bosne, the spring of the River Bosna, the site of Roman ruins and one of the country’s top natural landmarks. Enjoy Sephardic dinner (cuisine of Bosnian Jews originating from Spain).
After breakfast, our drive continues southwards with beautiful views of the Neretva River, the largest river of the eastern Adriatic, until we reach Mostar, famous for its Balkans’ most celebrated bridge. The Old Bridge (Stari most), built during the time of Suleiman the Magnificent in 1557, is one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s most recognizable landmarks, and is considered one of the most exemplary pieces of Islamic architecture in the Balkans. Our visit to Mostar will also include touring the cobblestoned and picturesque Old Town with a stop at the synagogue , built in 1902 and burned down in 1944; it was reconstructed and has been used as a puppet theatre. Check in at the hotel and enjoy an evening at leisure in this friendly city.
Our day begins with a visit to Blagaj, where the Buna River gushes out of a gaping cave backed by soaring cliffs. Built into the base of the cliffs is a very picturesque, half-timbered “tekija”, a 15th century dervish monastery. We continue to the hillside town of Počitelj, an UNESCO World Heritage site. Built in the late 14th century, the town boasts stunning oriental architecture and an Ottoman atmosphere. We shall then visit the Radimlja Necropolis, a large ancient cemetery with decorated tombstones, considered one of the most valuable monuments of the medieval period in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Just outside of the town of Stolac, we shall visit a small Jewish cemetery, the burial site of the revered Rabbi Moshe Danon. Evening arrival to Dubrovnik.
Our sightseeing of Dubrovnik, the “Pearl of the Adriatic” and one of the leading sea trading ports and a center of culture and business, begins with a cable car ride to the top of Mount Srdj for a gorgeous view overlooking the entire old town and shoreline. We shall descend the cable car and begin our walking tour through Dubrovnik’s medieval and renaissance streets and squares. Our route includes the Stradun, Onofrio’s Fountain, Franciscan Monastery from the 14th century, Roland’s Column, Sponza Palace, a Gothic Renaissance palace and former customs house; Rector’s Palace, the Cathedral, The Assumption; and the Jewish Quarter. We shall visit the Jewish Ghetto and the Synagogue of Dubrovnik, the third oldest synagogue in Europe, built in 1408. Dinner in local restaurant, overnight in the hotel.
Today, we shall visit a third country, with a day trip to Montenegro. Independent since 2006 and somewhat smaller than the state of Connecticut, Montenegro is full of breathtaking beauty. Our scenic drive will take us first to Kotor Bay, once called Europe’s southernmost fjord because of the steep cliffs surrounding the narrow inlet. The bay features several well-preserved and enchanting medieval towns that we shall explore, including Kotor, an old Mediterranean port surrounded by fortifications built during the Venetian period; and then Perast, an equally beautiful town with 16 Baroque palaces, 17 Catholic churches and two Orthodox churches – and only 349 inhabitants. We shall take a ferry to Our Lady of the Rocks, the only artificially built island in the Adriatic. According to legend, the islet was made gradually over centuries by seamen after finding the icon of Madonna and the Child on a rock in the sea in 1452.
Before leaving Dubrovnik, we shall visit the Jewish cemetery “Bet HaHaim,” where graves with inscriptions in Hebrew, Latin and Croatian can be found. We head to the north along the magnificent Adriatic coastline and drive across the scenic Pelješac peninsula, where the main industries are olives, wine, fishing and tourism. After a stop for wine tasting, we shall board a ferry to the Island of Korčula ruled by Venice from the 14th to the 18th centuries. We shall visit Korčula, a striking walled town with round defensive towers and redroofed houses, including one that is claimed as the birthplace of the Venetian merchant and traveler Marco Polo. We shall drive along the coast until we reach the city of Split, the second largest city in Croatia. Overnight in the Radisson Blu Resort, Split.
Split achieved its fame when the Roman Emperor Diocletian had his retirement palace built here, where he lived from 295 to 305 AD. The city of Split is built in and around the ruins of Diocletian’s Palace, among the most imposing Roman ruins in existence. The remains of the Palace are part of the living heart of the city that features labyrinthine streets packed with locals and tourists alike, bars and restaurants. We shall tour the palace, including the basement halls where archeologists have found carvings of menorahs on the walls, which provide evidence of an early Jewish presence in Split. We shall visit the restored Synagogue of Split, situated along the narrow street called Židovski prolaz (Jewish Passage) and the Jewish Ghetto. Then we shall drive to Marjan Hill for a visit to the Old Jewish Cemetery dating from 1537, from which there is a magnificent view of the city. We return to the synagogue for Shabbat services and dinner with members of the Jewish community. Overnight in the Radisson Blu Resort, Split.
As a special treat of the last day of the tour, we shall travel by ferry to the island of Hvar, known as Croatia’s most luxurious island. It is famed for its lavender, rosemary and heather fields. Our tour of Hvar starts with the Spanish Fortress, built in the early 16th century and offering spectacular views of the town and islands below. We continue to the Franciscan Monastery and Museum housing the painting Last Supper by the Venetian Matteo Ingoli; the Gothic arsenal with a Renaissance theatre of 1612, reported to be the first municipal theatre in Europe; and the main square, one of the most beautiful and largest in Croatia. After some leisure time, we shall return to Split by ferry.
Breakfast in the hotel. Transfer to the airport for the return flight.
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