Some 100,000 tourists annually visit the small town of Pocitelj in the south of the country, which remains preserved today as it was during the middle ages. It portrays a large part of Bosnia’s history from before the Ottoman Empire conquest.
But without the local government giving it much attention, locals fear it might be forgotten.
The town never lost its oriental-mediterranean character and is included in the list of Bosnia national heritage sites.
Locals, however, warn that Pocitelj is neglected by the Government.
The N1 team found a number of cars and buses parked on the side of the motorway near the town. Tourists came to check out the medieval clock-tower, the Hajji Alija Mosque, the Sisman Ibrahim-Pasa Madrasa, the Gavrankapetanovic House and other attractions of the little town.
“I just came here, it looks magical, I want to reach the top as soon as possible and enjoy the view,” said a tourist from Germany.
“We just began our trip to Mostar and we stopped here on the way. This is a truly historical place, we might never again have an opportunity to come here so we didn’t want to miss the chance we got,” a tourist from England said.
Although many tourists pay a visit, they don’t stay for too long. There is not a lot of content, they say.
“We always have the same problems here regarding accommodation and content that we would like to offer, apart from only sightseeing,” the head of the Pocitelj Tourism Society, Jadranka Dizdar, told N1.
“How many times have we complained that the Gavrankapetanovic tower is collapsing? People climb up there and the walls are collapsing, everything is collapsing and that is a danger for tourists,” she said.
Local merchants who make most of their money selling their goods at the stands in the area are also aware of the unused potential of Pocitelj. They complain over a lack of lighting, public restrooms, faucets, accommodation, garbage collection and many other issues.
They have also suggested charging tourists who want to enter Pocitelj so that the income could finance improvements such as setting up lights in the town. However, there is still no response coming from the local government.
“We have no shop, no restroom for tourists. I opened a restroom in my own house for foreigners,” said Hajrija Dizdar, a local merchant.
It was completely different before, according to local Mirsad Oruc, whose authentic stone house looks over the nearby Neretva river.
Oruc said that some 20 people live in the old part of the town and that their only income comes from tourism, as there are no other options there.
“However, the profits here are very small if there even are any, these are not tourists who spend money like before, sometimes I wouldn’t even call them tourists because they carry bottles with them, they buy sandwiches in a store, come through Pocitelj and stay for some 15-20 minutes, taking pictures,” he said.
But locals still hope better days will come and that this part of Bosnia’s cultural and historical heritage will not be forgotten.