One of the places we always return to when traveling the Balkans is the village of Šćit (difficult to pronounce, isn’t it?) on Rama Lake in Bosnia & Herzegovina. It is a hidden gem in a country that is still characterized by a large number of destroyed and abandoned houses – consequence of the last war -, alternated with brand-new big churches and mosques in every settlement.
After the artificial Rama Lake was created by the Rama dam in 1968, Šćit found itself on a small peninsula in the new lake, with its Franciscan monastery and church (photo 1).
What makes this village so special, apart from the wonderful landscape? Well, so far it has hardly been visited by tourists. The core of the village is the Franciscan Monastery that was probably built in the 15th century, before the arrival of the Turks.
During its turbulent history, the monastery was burned down and rebuilt many times. Nowadays, the refurbished monastery accommodates the “House of Peace”, an institution that welcomes all those who seek peace, tranquillity, guidance…
We arrived in Šćit on a sunny day, with the intention to visit our old friends from Konoba “Gaj”. Apart from an nice restaurant and excellent home-made šljivovica, they also offer camping facilities and we were glad to find a place for our camper on their lot, with a fantastic view on the lake and the surrounding green hills.
For us, a walk around the cloister courtyard is always one of the highlights of Šćit, as it houses several beautiful art sculptures, e.g. the Rama Cross made by the sculptor Mile Blažević, and the Last Supper by Divo Grabovčev.
The Church of the Assumption is simple, but decorated with an impressive painting, made by Albert de Rhoden, which depicts the angels returning the Our Lady of Sinj to Rama. Behind the church is an interesting ethnographic museum that illustrates the life of the local people.
The House of Peace (Kuća mira), part of the monastery, is a place of retreat. It offers all forms of prayer, counseling and meditation, thus helping people in need to find their inner harmony. Honestly speaking, the whole monastery complex and its surroundings always make me happy and calm, as Šćit is an oasis of peace indeed!
But some changes are happening in the village. Walking around, we saw the construction site of a huge building… a hotel? No, fortunately not, it is going to be a nursing home for elderly people, funded by the monastery and the state of Croatia. Another good initiative is the implementation of the “Our Lady of Sinj Route” project.
Originally, this route is a pilgrimage trail, used for thousands of years from several directions, to walk towards the Marian shrine in Sinj (Croatia) that contains the miraculous painting of Our Miraculous Lady of Sinj. Franciscan monks from Rama took this painting to Sinj, while fleeing from the Ottomans in 1687.
But the newly marked trail is not only meant for pilgrims, as it leads you through picturesque areas full of medieval tombstones, ancient villages, remains of old paths and bridges, lookouts and cafes, all representing checkpoints where you can get a stamp as a memory of this unforgettable hiking tour. Certainly a good idea for all hikers, tourists and nature/culture lovers!
Next morning, we woke up by the sounds of nature and the tapping of a woodpecker. The lake had a deep emerald green color in the morning light. Full of new energy, we arrived in Podgorica the same day.