Belgrade, cave “Potpecka pecina”, the monastery of Nikolje, Enthno Village “Terzica Avlija”, Mokra Gora, Sargan Eight

One of the oldest cities in Europe and the only one built on the confluence of two rivers – Danube and the Sava . The capital of Serbia, Belgrade, is known as “the city that never sleeps”. Floating clubs on its rivers have become synonyms for great parties and neverending fun, and Skadarlija, the bohemian street, for a place where music and singing can be heard until dawn.

 

Belgrade is a modern european city with population of about 1.7 million people. It is an administrative, political and cultural center of the country. The sessions of Serbian parliament and government are being held in Belgrade, and the office of the President is also in it. The buildings that host these institutions are themselves monuments of great cultural importance and therefore a part of every visitor’s itinerary.

 

All the people that have lived here and the armies that passed through Belgrade have left their marks on the city, and the magnificent Victor monument, the remains of the Belgrade fortress, the Stambol gate, the Old Palace and many other sites of Belgrade are inviting you to discover them.

 

The seats of numerous international companies can be found there, but also major shopping malls and the Belgrade Arena – the largest hall in the Balkans – that has already hosted some world famous events like the Eurosong contest, Summer Universiade, Davis cup finals…

 

In Belgrade you can also find one quite specific monument – “The house of flowers” (Kuća cveća). It is the burial place of Josip Broz Tito, the former president of Yugoslavia and a person that has marked the second half of the XX century in this part of the world. Whether due to their nostalgia or just simple curiosity, this monument attracts a great number of visitors from the region, but also from the world.

 

One of Belgraders’ most popular picnic and excursion destinations is mount Avala – located not far from the city. The other is Ada Ciganlija, a river island turned into a peninsula with a promenade and a beach that surround the lake in the center. It is a perfect destination to cool down during hot summer days.

A prominent feature on the mountain is the cave Potpećka pećina (43°47′44″N 19°55′59″E), located near the village of Potpeće. Its main entrance, 72 m (236 ft) tall, is the largest of all caves on the Balkans. Apart from the main, upper entrance for tourists, there is a smaller, lower entrance into an underground lake, which overflows in rainy seasons, creating an intermittent water flow called Petnica, flowing into Đetinja river. The upper hall has lightened tourist trail, 555 m (1,821 ft) long, reachable by a circular staircase of over 700 stairs. The hall with stalactites and stalagmites is still geologically active, and is protected from outer atmosphere by an iron gate.

 

Seen from the inside, the main entrance resembles the shape of the mammoth. The cave was explored by the geographer Jovan Cvijić in the 19th century and by Radenko Lazarević in the mid-20th century. A rare form of speleothems, helictites, developed in the cave. The speleothems are given jocular names: Single guy, Uncle Ljuba and his cats, Eagle on the rock, Snow White and the seven dwarfs. The largest hall is called Cvijić hall. In the lower section of the cave, artifacts were discovered which show that the Neolithic people inhabited the cave. The cave’s open season is from April to November and in 2016 it had 7,000 visitors. Additional attractions in the vicinity of the cave include numerous trout fish ponds along the Petnica and the adjoining restaurants, so as the village tourism in the villages of Potpeć, and especially, Zlakuse, known for its pottery.

Nikolje monastery, the oldest monastery of the Ovčar – Kablar gorge, was erected on the slopes of Mount Kablar, on the left bank of the river Zapadna Morava.

 

By architectural features, it supposedly dates back to the Middle Ages, most probably to the end of the 15th century i. e. to the beginning of the 16th century.

 

A large number of manuscripts on the monastery, its history and its important superiors are of a precious value for the investigation into the monastery. The most significant and the oldest manuscript is a well – known Nikolje Gospel.

 

The monastery contains the icons depicting Great holidays, a few scenes from the cycle Sufferings of Christ and other saints.  The most precious icon in Nikolje monastery is Passion Mother of  God.

 

The most significant manuscript in Serbian culture written at the beginning of 17th century Karan Gospel is kept at the monastery.

The architecture of Nikolje monastery is modest, however this is the only monastery in the gorge whose architecture has remained preserved since the Medieval times ( this makes it even more important and precious ).

In the “Terzića avlija” ethno village you can visit an open-air museum of Serbian history and ethnocultural heritage, learn how to make famous pottery, taste great dishes of Serbian cuisine and rest in modern suits set in a wonderful natural scenery.

 

A monument of Serbian soldier carved out of ash tree, wearing traditional peasant footwear and a uniform dating from Balkan wars, and a statue made of walnut tree showing a potter from Zlakusa, both of them life size, are the trademark of “Terzića avlija”, an ethno village in Zlakusa, 185 km far from Belgrade. It is settled on a small hill not far from the village center, just beneath a beech forest.

 

As a whole, it is practically a museum representing a typical rural household from the Užice region at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.

 

“Terzića avlija” is basically what was once a typical village yard, consisting of two old traditional houses (one is a hundred years old, made of adobe, with a tiled four-sided roof). The first was used for everyday life, while the second served as guest room and a place for special family celebrations (like “slava”, a patron-saint day).

 

These houses, built in 1907. and 1925, were transformed into a museum and today they host a vast collection of exhibits dating from different ages: the Roman period, time of Turkish reign, the Balkan wars, Principality and Kingdom of Serbia all the way through to the last Yugoslavia. Numerous items are also exhibited in front of these houses.

 

In another part of “Terzića avlija”, guests of the village can find an authentic picturesque garden, an inn that hosts 50 people, a bar next to a murmuring creek with cascades, a small pond and a 12 meter deep well with fresh water, but also a dairy, shed, farmstead, summer theater, shop with souvenirs and a base for mountaineers.

 

“Terzića avlija” also has two four-stared suits, both awarded with ECEATA certificate. One of them is built in a completely modern style and includes air condition, cable TV and central heating. Another follows the tradition of vernacular architecture (partly a log cabin, partly a wattle and daub house), and is furnished in ethno style.

 

Visiting mountaineers can accommodate in a cabin log with straw mattresses, or bring their own tents. If they don’t have any, tents are available for rent at the village. Also, there are 50 beds available in various households surrounding the ethno village.

 

Beside visiting the museum, guests of “Terzića avlija” can taste some home made juices and dishes of traditional Serbian cuisine prepared in the well-known crockery of the Zlakusa village, or learn the traditional making of pottery and crockery and take courses of folklore dancing.

Mokra Gora is a valley in western Serbia, which nestles between the mountains of Tara and Zlatibor. Connected to it is the Šargan Pass, which to the north comprises a natural link with Zborište, Tara’s highest peak, and to the south connects with Zlatibor. The Šargan – Mokra Gora nature park is 10,813 hectares in size.

 

The beauty of this region is in its turbulent landscape, with its deeply-carved, steep valleys and the gorges of the rivers Beli Rzav, Crni Rzav and Kamiška Reka, above which tower numerous peaks and passes. Of special interest are the Hajdučka and Crvena caves, and in particular the Skakavac waterfall. There are also a great many mineral water springs, the best-known of which is the Bele Vode spring.

 

Particularly attractive are the European black and Scots pine growing on the serpentinite rock which is naturally found in this area. These forests, just like the patchwork of mountain meadows and pastures, are inhabited by a rich variety of plant and animal life thanks to the climate and the bedrock they stand on. The area is home to 700 plant varieties, many of which are relicts or endemic species. Mokra Gora is a particularly valuable habitat for bird species. Of the 60 registered species, 29 are rare. Here one can encounter the Western Capercaillie, the Short-toed Eagle, the Willow Tit and mammals such as the brown bear, the otter and the wildcat.

 

Together with Šargan, Mokra Gora was in the distant past situated on an important road route, which can be seen in the remains of an old Roman cobbled road and graves from the Roman era. Today the areas of Šargan and Mokra Gora are best known for the Šarganska Eight, a narrow-gauge railway, famous for the impressive engineering that enables it to climb rapidly over a short distance. Alongside the track there are a number of exhibits – old locomotives and wagons which are preserved as examples of the engineering of yesteryear – making this a unique open-air museum.

 

Another great attraction is the Drvengrad (‘Wooden Town’) ethnic village built on the hill of Mećavnik on the initiative of the famous Serbian filmmaker Emir Kusturica. Authentic log cabins from the region were transported to the location and used in the construction of the village, The oldest of these cabins dates back 90 years.  Once brought to the site they were placed on high stone bases, with cellars specially built with hillside terrain in mind. In terms of its urban form and structure Drvengrad is somewhere between a village and a town or ethnic village. The town is clearly defined around a rectangular plaza, whose main axis is defined by the entrance gate and the location of a small wooden church at the other end. The outline of the square, which is paved with wooden cobbles and cut wooden blocks, is defined by log cabins, each of which houses an element of the urban: a cake shop, a shop selling local traditional crafts, a picture gallery, a library, a restaurant and a cinema.

 

The preservation of the traditional interconnectedness of nature and man is important for the protection, maintenance and development of this region.

The Šargan Eight is a narrow-gauge heritage railway in Serbia, running from the village of Mokra Gora to Šargan Vitasi station. An extension to Višegrad in the Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina, was finished on 28 August 2010. It was planned to extend the railway to the village of Kremna by the end of 2011, and in 2013 to extend to the city of Užice.

 

Construction began during World War I and the plan was to connect Serbia with Austro-Hungary, which occupied both Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina at the time. Šargan was located 9 km (5.6 mi) away from the pre-war border. Austrians enlisted numerous Russian and Italian prisoners of war in order to speed up the construction. During the digging of the “Budim” tunnel, the ceiling collapsed killing the entire shift of workers. The works were halted and were only continued in 1921, in the newly formed Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. The construction of the railway was completed in 1921. A descent of 300 m (980 ft) was surmounted with the tracks which curve in the shape of 8, hence the name. The track is 15.44 km (9.59 mi) long and due to the curvature, on some sections the train passes twice through the same points.

 

In total, there are 22 tunnels on the route. The entire area is abundant in water, which gave name to the village Mokra Gora (“Wet Mountain”). There are 365 known water springs along the route. The water is literally dripping down the tunnel walls.

 

The former East Bosnian railway with a gauge of 760 mm (2 ft 5 15⁄16 in) was an important part of the former narrow-gauge main line from Sarajevo to Belgrade and closed in 1974. Between 1999 and 2003 the section over the Šargan pass was rebuilt by the Serbian Ministry of Tourism and the Yugoslav state railway JŽ, now the Serbian railways (Železnice Srbije) with great help from Emir Kusturica, a famous film director who had the town of Drvengrad (near the Šargan Eight station on Mokra Gora) built for one of his movies.

 

As of 2017, the train popularly named “Ćira” but officially called “Nostalgia”, still runs only on the route Mokra Gora-Šargan Vitasi-Mokra Gora, with occasionally running to Višegrad. During the snowy periods, it runs only from Mokra Gora to Jatare. In 2017 season it had 75,000 visitors, out of which 25,000 were foreign tourists. Attractions include the restaurant carved into the rock at Šargan and a rock named “crazy stone” (Serbian colloquialism for getting married) at Golubići, which “invokes love”. In the 2019 season, number of visitors grew to 88,000.

 

In 2019 reconstruction of the tunnels began. Works should be finished by 2021, a centennial of the railroad.

Price: 350 EUR for max 8 people