SUSTAINABLE ROAD TRIP IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA WITH THE AUDI E-TRON SPORTBACK

Blagaj - In the Holy Place of Love

Blagaj is one of the most beautiful places in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Here, nature and thousands of years of history enter into a symbiosis that is rarely found elsewhere.

My Stages

SUSTAINABLE ROAD TRIP IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA WITH THE AUDI E-TRON SPORTBACK

Blagaj - In the Holy Place of Love

Blagaj is one of the most beautiful places in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Here, nature and thousands of years of history enter into a symbiosis that is rarely found elsewhere.

My Stages

The Mystic's Dream Retreat - In the Heart of Blagaj

The drive from Stolac to Blagaj is a beautiful one. The highway is surrounded by the Karst mountains and the barren nature, which is interrupted again and again by fertile and green oases. Before long, a river is accompanying us again. It is the Buna, which rises in Blagaj. As we enter the village, a family of horses, including foals, crosses our path. “These are Ruzica and Dejo’s horses,” Gorcin and Emina rejoice. I am traveling with them in Herzegovina. Gorcin Dizdar and his family are from this part of the country, more precisely from Stolac, which we had visited for the past two days. Today he and his girlfriend Emina want to show me Blagaj, one of the most fascinating places in this world.

Blagaj - In the Holy Place of Love 1
© Mirella Sidro

We park in the garden of her friend Ruba, who is already expecting us. Today it’s barbecue time. The fresh trout from Stolac are in our luggage. Ruba comes towards us beaming with joy. She has incredible charisma. And while she smiles, her eyes sparkle spiritedly. You can tell at first glance. She is confident and strong.

She accompanies us to the house that she has converted into a hostel. It bears the promising name The Mystic’s Dream Retreat. It is not just any hostel, as will become apparent during our stay. Located in the heart of Blagaj, right on the banks of the ever-cold Buna River, this wonderful place welcomes travelers seeking tranquility, spirituality and relaxation. “Would you like me to show you the property?” Ruba noticed my quiet enthusiasm, which seems to have been heard louder than any extroverted expression of emotion.

Blagaj - In the Holy Place of Love 2
© Ruba Velagic
Blagaj - In the Holy Place of Love 3
© Mirella Sidro

The house is perfectly integrated into the natural environment. Situated on a hill, you have a wonderful view of the bright blue river Buna, which flows leisurely towards the horizon. There is an energy in the air here that carries the mystical heritage and seems to be contagious. I want to sit right by the river or in the garden and let my mind drift. Here there seems to be no time measurement dictating our lives. Here we live in harmony with the healing nature and the universe whose stardust we carry within us.

Blagaj - In the Holy Place of Love 4
© Mirella Sidro

Ruba leads me into the house. Everyone is busy working in the open kitchen and preparing everything for the evening barbecue. Many smiling faces greet me. There is a bedroom downstairs and as well as one upstairs. Modern style is perfectly mixed with traditional elements. “I am heavily assuming that you will be staying overnight!”

Actually, the plan was for us to drive back to Sarajevo in the evening with a stopover in Mostar to charge our Audi e-tron. “So, you can also charge the car here at the socket, if that works. And then tomorrow we’ll drive to Mostar together and I’ll show you the city. Mostar does not only consist of the Old Bridge!” Before long, the decision is made that we will be here until tomorrow.

Blagaj - In the Holy Place of Love 5
© Mirella Sidro
Blagaj - In the Holy Place of Love 6
© Mirella Sidro

"Love, gratitude and humility".

As we leave the house, I notice the drawing of a Sufi on the garden wall. Ruba smiles, “My father would have liked to meet you, but he had to go to Sarajevo today. He comes from an old Sufi family.” Sufis, or dervishes, are a mystical Islamic community. Their God-consciousness springs from the heart. Love, gratitude and humility characterize their lives. Through daily meditation and spiritual exercises, they come closer to God.

Blagaj - In the Holy Place of Love 7
© Mirella Sidro

In the West, we know the dervishes who spin in circles in white dresses to fall into a trance. And of course we know one of the most famous Sufis of all times: Rumi, whose poems shaped our understanding of unconditional love. Originally from Persia, their movement also stopped in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the Ottoman period. The Sufis I have met are calm, balanced people who listen and provide an answer to questions and problems with a few and, above all, understandable sentences. Ruba’s father likes to receive guests here and share his life as a Sufi or Darwish. We walk down the stairs to the riverbank.

Blagaj - In the Holy Place of Love 8
© Mirella Sidro

There are many small natural caves under the house. “They are also part of our property. We are in the process of fixing them up a bit. Then our guests can retreat here, live, meditate. Like the hermits or Sufis once did. From the caves you have a wonderful view of the river Buna. Since the climate here is Mediterranean, it is warm. We have over 20 degrees here too, although the water of the river is always cold. It springs from a karst spring 200 meters deep, one of the largest in Europe.”

Blagaj - In the Holy Place of Love 9
© Mirella Sidro

Quite a few pomegranate trees are in the garden. There’s also a fair amount of space to grow vegetables. “Our guests can help themselves to food here in our garden.”
The name of the house could not have been chosen better. It promises what it is capable of describing! “Do you know the historic tekke at the source of the Buna River? The Sufi monastery? Have you been there?” Sure I have been there. A few years ago. A sacred and mystical place where, to this day, Sufis meet three times a week at night to sing their praises together. Unfortunately, I was always there during the day when it was crowded with tourists. “It’s only a ten-minute walk from here. It’s open until five o’clock. And there are hardly any tourists there in winter. If you like, run over there before dinner.”

Blagaj - In the Holy Place of Love 10
© The Mystic's Dream Retreat

I quickly tie my headscarf around my hair and make the pilgrimage to the monastery. Since it is a holy Islamic place, dress code is prescribed for both women and men. Thus, my hair must also be covered. If you don’t have anything with you, no problem. Cloths are lent out in front of the entrance.

Blagaj - In the Holy Place of Love 11
© Mirella Sidro

A sacred place of architectural diversity

I didn’t realize I was so close to the spring! It is already about three in the afternoon. There are some tourists coming towards me, who are leaving the place. The sun is already low, since it is winter time. I enter. It seems that nobody else is there, some guests are sitting on the terrace in the restaurant. The tekke was built on the right bank of the river, right by the spring. The architecture is ideally suited to its beautiful surroundings and is surrounded by naturally grown gardens, pomegranate groves, the water and the caves in the 240 high rock face. You can hear the powerful rush of the water as it is forced upward from the rock face with a force. It is so pure that it can be scooped and drunk with a hollow hand.

Blagaj - In the Holy Place of Love 12
© Mirella Sidro

I take off my boots and enter the sacred place. It has been destroyed several times by falling rocks and has always been rebuilt. The architecture of the complex, built in the 15th century, is unique in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ottoman elements mix with the Mediterranean style of construction. The rooms are furnished ascetically. Dominating are the cilims, traditional knotted carpets mostly in the color red. The ceilings are covered with dark ornate wood and the oriental lamps give off a warm light.

Blagaj - In the Holy Place of Love 13
© Mirella Sidro

The view from the windows is gigantic. You can see the barren ocher rocks, the turquoise water and the bright blue sky. Even the almost full moon can be seen in its details due to the sunlight.
Soon I am alone in the tekke. It is as if I am visiting here for the first time. I feel the power emanating from this place. The light, the sounds, the colors …

Blagaj - In the Holy Place of Love 14
© Mirella Sidro

It is like the ancient Egyptians, in whose architectural masterpieces the earthly and otherworldly life were depicted. Mother Earth and the cosmos form a unity and cannot be separated from each other. I walk from one room to another. Slowly and deliberately I put one foot on the other and listen to the creaking of the ancient wooden floor.

Blagaj - In the Holy Place of Love 15
© Mirella Sidro

I pass a room. The door with a window is closed. Two sarcophagi are laid out in it. According to legend, Sari Saltuk and Acik-Pasha found their final resting place here. They were dervishes of the Sufi order for whom this monastery was built. The Turkish Sufi Sari Satluk, who was revered as a saint in the Balkans, died around 1298 AD. It is said that seven coffins were placed in different countries so that his body could not be found. His grave in Blagaj is a pilgrimage site to this day, as it is said that he would lie here.

Blagaj - In the Holy Place of Love 16
© Mirella Sidro

I walk to the porch, from which you can see the spring and the rock. The moon smiles at me. Even before the arrival of the Ottomans, this place was culturally and religiously important. Apparently, a Bogomil sanctuary stood here. The Bogomils, translated “Friends of God,” belonged to the Gnostic, a dualistic Christian, church. They too, like the Sufis, rejected violence and lived in humility. Their motto: The heart of man is the true church of Christ. They strove to overcome evil with good. Quickly, this peace-loving type of Christianity became a thorn in the side of the Vatican.

Blagaj - In the Holy Place of Love 17
© Mirella Sidro

Whoever stays in this holy place, one thing has never changed over the centuries: love was and still is preached in this place. Regardless of their religious affiliation, people from all over the world are welcomed here with joy. With advance notice, one can also attend a Sufi service.
I leave the house, followed by the never-ending sound of the water, which has a meditative effect on me. My gaze drifts towards the moon, which towers over the high rock face.

Blagaj - In the Holy Place of Love 18
© Mirella Sidro

Back to the hostel with a peaceful mind

I walk back to our hostel. Dinner is in full swing. I am totally inspired and free from everyday problems. They seem so nonsensical to me! Ruba brings me pogaca, a freshly baked Bosnian bread, to go with my trout. She smiles, “You look so content.” I feel so light, even though I am now stuffed with freshly grilled trout and the delicious bread I baked myself. Everything tastes so intense!

Blagaj - In the Holy Place of Love 19
© Gea Heal

We were joined by Ruzica and her friend Dejo, the owners of the horse family we had encountered this morning upon our arrival. Ruzica is holding a puppy in her arms. He is fast asleep. “We found him on the street in Mostar a few weeks ago. Now he is part of the family.” She smiles. Together with her boyfriend and a few friends, she makes traditional cosmetics. Everything is bio-based and according to old ancestral writings. We arrange to meet for breakfast the next day in Mostar. She will bring the products so that I can try them out.

Blagaj - In the Holy Place of Love 20
© Mirella Sidro

Before we go to bed, I plug in the Audi e-tron to charge. I can’t close the front door. “Don’t stress, no one can get in here,” Ruba laughs. What a liberating feeling to leave the front door open all night! I sleep like a rock and don’t hear the alarm clock either. It’s about half an hour to Mostar. I get up and go to the balcony. Sunbeams and the bright turquoise water greet me. I put on my boots, walk into the garden and take the stairs down to the river. The dewdrops in the grass shimmer around the bet. I breathe in so deeply, which is not hard at all here! My brain is happy about so much oxygen in the early morning. Breakfast de luxe for us city people! We all drink a green matcha tea on the veranda before continuing to Mostar.

Blagaj - In the Holy Place of Love 21
© Mirella Sidro

Cosmetics made in Herzegovina

We have an appointment at the traditional restaurant Sadrvan in the old town. Breakfast turns out to be hearty, as expected. Salty Bavarian donuts with three-quarter cream and scrambled eggs with chard. The meal is served in traditional hand-beaten copper dishes. Ruzica brought me her products. Several lovingly made jars, soaps and candles end up on the table.

Blagaj - In the Holy Place of Love 22
© Mirella Sidro

“This soap is dishwashing liquid. You soap the sponge with it and then clean the dishes. There are only natural ingredients in it. You can even dump the water into the lawn. It’s especially ideal when camping.” She came up with the idea after her skin dried out with the usual products. Taking one with me. Balm for the lips, face and hands also go into my shopping bag, as well as candles. They have named their label Gea Heals, after the ancient Greek goddess of the earth.

Also, only ingredients that Mother Nature gives us are taken. I virtually smear the Herzegovinian sun on my face and hands. A small jar with great effect, wherever you are.

As Rumi said so beautifully, “Stop making yourself so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.” The people here seem to have God in their hearts for generations and live in harmony with nature and the universe. Ruba, Ruzica and co are wonderful role models. Not only for their homeland itself, but also beyond its borders.

My mobile companion

Maximum speed in km/h: 200

Continuous electrical power in kW: 100

Peak electrical power in kW (in boost): 265 (300)

Electric torque in Nm (in boost): 561 (664)

Battery type / battery energy content: lithium-ion / gross 95kWh / net 86.5 kWh usable

 

Electric range based on electricity consumption in combined WLTP driving cycle in km*: 373 – 452

 

Electricity consumption combined in kWh/100 km: 24.0 – 21.6 (NEDC); 25.9 – 21.6 (WLTP)

CO2 emission combined in g/km: 0

 

My average electricity consumption at about 3100 kilometers in winter: 27 kWh/100 km

Electric acceleration 0-100 km/h in s (in boost): 6.6 (5.7)

 

Base price: from 81.500 €

 

Price of my test vehicle Audi e-tron Sportback 55 quattro S line: approx. 113,000 €.

Blagaj - In the Holy Place of Love 23
© Mirella Sidro

It' s also possible to drive long distances with an e-car! Our mobile companion for the sustainable long road trip is a purely electric vehicle! The difference to the combustion engine: organize everything in advance and schedule extra time!