Bosnia and Herzegovina’s tourism: no man’s land in Počitelj
Author: Merima Uštović-Kapetanović
A small city of Počitelj is located in the South Herzegovina and it belongs to the municipality of Čapljina. It is a historical site, which dates back from the middle ages and it is known as an open-air museum, where you can see buildings and roads that were built in the period from 13th to 17th century. Basically, there you walk through history. In the last war, Počitelj’s inhabitants were forcibly relocated to Mostar, grown man were sent to nearby war camps, such as Dretelj and Heliodrom, and in theirs houses came people with whom they don't share ethnicity or cultural background. Šišman Ibrahim-paša’s mosque, built in the 15th century, was mined and blown up. A huge cross was set on the fortress Kula. After the war ended, houses were robbed and set on fire because they had to be returned to the real owners. For people from Počitelj other type of war started with return to their homeland.
What did go wrong?
After they got back their property, people in Počitelj started to feel all of negativity of a politics that doesn’t allow people to live freely if they do not wear its colors. No state institutions take care of Počitelj, even though it is a protected cultural site and it is on the UNESCO Tentative list from 2007. Nobody wants to deal with its almost completely ruined buildings. There is always a narrative that Počitelj will be renovated because it is a part of UNESCO protected heritage sites, but from 2007 until now it’s been continuously deteriorating. In good state are only some private houses that people managed to rebuild and preserve.
Local political games
Počitelj belongs to the municipality of Čapljina, which does not even want to put garbage bins in this historical place, so the residents need to drive their garbage to the dumpster located near Čapljina train station which is four kilometers far from the town. They are asking for bins for years, but the municipality is silent. In 2009, a businessman, Hasan Veledar, managed to buy area of 68 square meters in the old town. He bought even city water supplies, so sometimes people from Počitelj don’t have running water because somebody decided that they don’t deserve it. How weird the things here are shows the fact that a local imam is a person to whom residents are paying for using water. Hasan Veledar four years ago, decided to put concrete blocks, to stop tourist’s buses and cars to park on his parking lot (it is a big parking lot in front of the old town). Also, Počitelj doesn’t have a permit from municipality to establish a tourist agency to sell tickets, or to have tourist guide. Although Počitelj’s inhabitants are mostly Muslims who were put in war camps and dislocated violently from theirs home, on the other side of that big parking lot is a huge cross in memory of the fallen members of HVO, who committed those crimes against humanity and got sentenced.. No parking, no tourists, no life for people in Počitelj whose main source of economy is tourism.
How to get to Počitelj?
To visit Počitelj, you need to drive from Mostar to Čapljina. There is no a regular bus or train line, there is no proper signalization that you are near historical place. Although a train route passes through Počitelj, trains don’t stop there so you need to take a cab from Čapljina to go to visit middle age town which is falling apart, and it will get worse if something doesn't change!