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Ostrozac – One of the most amazing castles in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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When you are exploring the rich history of Bosnia and Herzegovina and seeking for it’s most important monuments, it is impossible not to notice, and after it, fell in love with the most amazing castle-fortresses in Bosnia – Ostrozac castle, still witnessing the incredible history of the region.

When you see the perfect mixture of the architecture styles in this castle it is like traveling history of Bosnia and Herzegovina. So keep reading, and have a short tour of different periods of our beautiful country and it’s amazing castle – Ostrozac.

Medieval Bosnian Castle Ostrozac; photo by: Deni Selimovic

Medieval period

The Ostrožac castle was constructed in North Bosnia, 14 kilometers NE of Bihać, on the left bank of beautiful river Una, standing at the peak of 206 meters above the river.

The first castle, according to information we have, have been built here already in 405 BC and was called “Orisio” or “Hostrosach”.

But,  the oldest part of today’s castle has its origins in the 13th century, when in 1286 it was for the first time is mentioned as the property of the Knez (duke) of Blagaj, from Babonic family. Babonics  were Croatian noble family who were ruling the Old Town of Ostrozac since the left bank of River Una was not under the borders of Medieval Bosnia.  Specific architecture style from medieval times in which it was constructed, gives this castle a very special charm and character of that time.

Ottoman period

The Ottomans attempted twice to capture it, in 1538 and 1543, and finally, Sokollu Ferhad Paşa (Ferhat Pasa Sokolovic) succeded in 1577 but soon it was recaptured by the Austrians. It came finally into the hands of the Ottomans in 1579 and the keys to Ostrozac castle were given to the family of Besirevic beys. Members of this family collectively owned the castle for the next 300 years.

When it comes to the castle itself, from a small fort in this period it is spreading to the west and is being strengthened with murals and towers. The Ostrozac Fort was around 185 meters long in total and in the southern part of Ostrozac Old Town was constructed a residential building – house of the captain Besirevic. Slowly, it is getting the shape of today’s breathtaking castle.

The Ostrozac castle surviving during centuries
The Ostrozac castle surviving during centuries

Ostrožac Castle and Lothar von Berks

The castle was sold by impoverished Mehmed-bey Beširević in 1899 to Ritter (Knight) Lothar von Berks, at that time Mayor of Bihać, who also was before the chief of Sarajevo’s police and Mayor of Brčko. Lothar von Berks is also remembered as one of the founders of the first Tourist Club of Bosnia-Herzegovina, helping in that way  the tourism industry in our country to develope. The Berks family originated from England, where they were “Earls of Berkshire”, and as Roman-Catholics they had to flee from the British islands to the European mainland in the province of Brabant – in today’s Netherlands.

His wife, Isabella von Berks decided to spend all of their savings not only in both restoring and renovating the complex that was in a rather poor shape, but to also build a magnificent romantic castle in so-called „Alpine“ style. Ostrožac castle was completely restored and renovated in 1902, and the couple moved in straight after with their children.

Period of Yugoslavia – Tito stays in the castle

Ostrozac was the ownership of the Berks family until 1946 when the castle was nationalized by the communist Yugoslav authorities and put under the protection of the Federative Republic of Yugoslavia.

In WW2, during Bihac Republic, Ostrozac for a while was the seat of Supreme Headquarters of Army of Yugoslavia. In this magnificent castle, Josip Broz Tito personally stayed from December 1942 until January 1943.  At the same time, in the castle was staying famous Yugoslavian poet, Vladimir Nazor, who wrote his masterwork poem – “With Partizans”.

Ostrozac Castle today – The Sculptures Colony

In 1967, Ostrožac castle again opened its doors to the public. It eventually became a sculptor’s colony, and sculptors from all around the world visited Ostrožac castle not just to admire the sculptures that were on display within its walls, but also to work on creating the new ones that were added to the collection. Many sculptors call Ostrozac Castle “a gallery under the opened sky”.

Today, unfortunately, this splendid castle with a great history has again fallen into the state of disrepair and its existence is threatened, although the reconstruction did begin in 2017. The fact is that a lot more needs to be done so it could take its well-deserved place – as one of the major tourist attractions in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Sculpture Colony in Ostrozac
Sculptures Colony in Ostrozac

If you are interested in learning more about this fascinating castle, we recommend you the book “pl. Berks & Ostrozac written by the local, Almir Kurtovic. Of course, if you want to see this amazing castle with your own eyes, you can arrange a tour with Meet Bosnia Travel to Ostrozac Castle and on the way see the amazing region of North Bosnia in Una River valley.

 

Author: Tarik Dreca

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