Monday Column - Croatia, Destinations 5: Livno and Kupres
This Monday we are straying outside strictly Croatian territory to have a brief look at two towns in Bosnia that are just a short drive away from Split – Livno and Kupres. On Friday I suggested they were an hour and two hours drive from Split respectively. I think two and four hours might be more realistic. Looking at the map, it should be somewhere in between but we have always gone there with our good friend Zdeslav, who knows so many people along the way, that we have never managed to get directly to either town without having at least three coffees en route. That’s one of the reasons we have such good memories of our visits – the locals that we met may not have been very rich but they always rolled out the red carpet for us.
Both towns are in the Croat part of Bosnia and Hercegovina and you will therefore find a high percentage of Croats amongst the population. Both towns, especially Kupres, suffered quite badly during the Homeland War, and we had some friendly but insightful discussions, with some of the residents, on how post war politics and diplomacy were perceived by those living with it. You may still see some evidence of the war – roofless buildings and a few bullet holes for example - but there seems little question that life has long since returned back to as near normality as possible. That being said, there are no signs of overt tourism as yet and I can’t help wondering just how long these two unspoilt and beautiful destinations will remain a secret.
Livno is on the borders of Dalmatia, Bosnia and Hercegovina, 90 kilometres from Split, and on the route from Split to Kupres. It’s famous for its cheese, and the fact that King Tomislav, the first King of Croatia, who died around 928AD, was crowned in the nearby fields of Duvno. The town itself is in need of rejuvenation but the countryside all around, featured in today’s photo, is beautiful - rolling hills, streams and old stone houses. The nearby plain of Livno is a hot spot for thermals and therefore a favoured site for gliding and hang gliding. One of the family’s we visited took us for a short walk to the nearby spring where they get their water and claim that it’s solely responsible for their good health in their nineties.
Kupres is one of the highest settlements in the region, at 1200 metres above sea level, and is covered in snow for 5 months of the year. That makes it a great spot for gentle skiing, away from the crowds, in winter, and an idyllic retreat, to the cooler mountain air, in the summer. As a ski resort, it’s hardly developed but does have a number of hotels ready to welcome you. There are four runs totalling 14 kilometres in length, 2 T Bar lifts, one double chair lift, and a number of farmers offering tractor tows.
In the summer, its vaguely reminiscent of the foothills of the Pyrenees with the clinking of cow bells, rolling pastures, striking houses and flower covered gardens. On the first Sunday in July there is a Festival, loosely translated as the "Grass Cutting Festival” when the men of the town, sometimes in traditional costume, have competitions to see who can cut the hay fastest with their scythes. The scene reminded us a little of a wild west fair, with lambs roasting on a spit all around, and scores of stalls offering anything from home made honey to hand carved furniture. There weren’t too many western Europeans around when we attended last year, but its obviously a huge draw for locals and Dalmatians alike, and a lot of fun.
There’s much more to these two towns than we are able to report in a small space and the tourist boards are only just starting to develop their websites with some pages remaining untranslated into English.
www.hbzup.com is the official site of the the Herzegbosnian Canton (effectively the Croat part of BIH) but we found http://www.bhtourism.ba/ to be more informative. In particular, their page of frequently asked questions will allay any fears you might have about the effect that the war has had on the region, together with practicalities for visitors. In either or both sites you will find most of the information you need about accommodation, activities and places to go.
We have our eye on this area as one of the next hot spots, especially for those who want to discover one of the few last places that has escaped mass tourism for decades, and probably for some inspired entrepreneur who can formulate an ideal two week August Package for families wanting both beaches, on the Adriatic, and a bit of adventure, inland.