WEEKEND IN SERBIA: Old train and Kusturica

There are few more places around Uzice town in Western Serbia one should visit. If you keep driving towards Tara Mountain, you will reach the Mokra Gora area, famous for Emir Kusturica’s Drvengrad, the old train route and the Serbian clairvoyant family. On the other side of the town there is also a small settlement called Kosjeric with its rural tourism. Such variety!

FROM BELGRADE: to Kosjeric – 135 km, to Mokra Gora – 240 km

FROM NIS: to Kosjeric – 240 km, to Mokra Gora – 300 km

Driving from Uzice town towards Zlatibor and Tara, I took the turn for Tara Mountain and passed villages of Tripkova and Sljivovica. There are 20 km of lovely surrounding to enjoy while heading to the village of Kremna. And here is why you shouldn’t miss it!

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Charming Drvengrad street

KREMNA The Kremna area stretches over the northern part of Zlatibor Mountain. The village itself is famous for the Kremna’s Prophecy Complex dedicated to Tarabic family. They lived here in the 19th century and it is believed that they were clairvoyant. According to beliefs, they have predicted the invention of television, telephone and telegraph in Serbia, shifts to the local throne etc. The first Tarabic to show clairvoyant abilities was Milos, born in 1809. He lived for 45 years, “as he has predicted”, they say.

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Detail from Kremna Complex

When I saw the road sign for Kremna, I immediately turned right, but as it turned out – it was just the modern village. Still, when you get to the main road again, make sure to stop by and peek into the wooden statue of Milos Tarabic. This is also where the road turns left towards the Tara Mountain, the turn you should take to reach the Prophecy Complex after 3 kilometers or so.

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Souvenir cottage

No wonder I was curious, as I am sure you would be. There is the small wooden gate you pass through to get into the courtyard with the cottage that sells souvenirs and, well, an interesting exhibition. This is where the so-called Cosmic Stone is to be found, with the inscription that says that it was “dug out by the military in the 1980’s from the 3.5 meters deep”. They say that the Kremna valley was actually created “when the Earth was formed and when millions of stones like this one fell in its bowels”. It is said that the valley is hard to scan by planes and satellites, that this Stone not only interferes with modern equipment but emanates benevolent irradiation, “and nobody can explain it”. At the end of the inscription, it concludes: “It is believed that the continuous benevolent irradiation is the reason why people here are born psychic.”

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The Cosmic Stone

Visitors are encouraged to leave few coins here, make a wish and touch the Cosmic Stone. At the souvenir shop there are necklace or key pendants with small pieces of the Stone inside that you can always carry with you. No matter what you might think about the whole story, it’s really interesting to learn more about the Tarabic family and their Prophecy. And when you go around the courtyard, you will admire few sculptures by Miladin Lekic, the local self-taught wood carver, whose work nowadays represents one of Zlatibor’s tourist attractions. Among others, there is the one called – the King in the Barrel?

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Lekic’s sculptures

Yep, you heard it right! This is the barrel where the 19th century Serbian ruler Petar I Karadjordjevic was hidden. The local priest, being a Karadjordjevic dynasty supporter, tried to save Petar I by putting him into a half of the large rakija barrel (national drink) after the near-by uprising. But the interesting part of the story is as follows. Before it all happened with Petar I, they say that Mitar Tarabic who was priest’s friend and one of the Tarabic clairvoyants, was going through the basement, pointing out to the same barrel: “You see this barrel – the one who hides here will rule all of Serbia!”

They say that you should take a picture next to the wooden king in the Complex to gain personal success. It is believed that the barrel is performing miracles – if you want to get the throne, this is the place to come. And one more thing, they were telling me that before the last US elections, they have put Donald Trump’s photo inside the barrel!

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King in the Barrel

MOKRA GORA This is the valley in Western Serbia, between mountains of Tara and Zlatibor. The Nature Park Sargan-Mokra Gora covers 10,813 hectares and it is abundant in gorges, peaks and valleys with 700 flora species, a lot of them being endemic. The area was once part of the important Roman road and there are remains of Roman cobblestone found here, along with few Roman graves. Today, however, it is best known for the Sargan Eight railway route and the Drvengrad settlement.

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Mokra Gora landscape

Driving back to the main road, I was still thinking about the Tarabic family. Another 12 kilometers and I took the turn towards the first railway station I stumbled across. My train was at 13.30. So, I found a nice spot to park, and I thought that I have another 15 minutes or so to stroll around and take few pictures, even though the station was surprisingly empty. But when I finally found someone to ask about the train ticket, I was explained that this is the Sargan-Vitasi station and that I should go to the Mokra Gora station, “10 minutes from here”. You can imagine my rush back to the car! “How would I explain missing the Shargan Eight train, and it goes in a circle!”, I smiled.

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Sargan-Vitasi station

SARGANSKA OSMICA (Sargan Eight) This is the narrow railway track of 760 mm, that goes over 10 bridges and through 22 tunnels across the Sargan hill, in a shape of 8 in order to climb up the steep hill. The number of bridges and tunnels makes it unique in Europe. The composition is pulled by the steam locomotive called Cira with three stops on the way – Sargan-Vitasi, Jatare and Mokra Gora. They say that no one ever bought a ticket in Jatare, that no one ever came in or out of the train at this station. According to beliefs, Mitar Tarabic predicted that this train will not be used by people “to go to work, but for fun”. Actually, that’s exactly what happened. The regular route was closed in 1970 only to be reopened in 2003 for tourism purposes.

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The old train

The train leaves at 10.30, 13.30 and 16.10 during the summer season, while the last one is excluded for the rest of the year. The ticket is 800 Serbian dinars (about 6.5 Euros) and it is advised to call in advance to book a seat. Otherwise it might happen that you can only purchase “the standing ticket” or you might pass the ride all together. It’s not that rare that the train is full during summer, groups of Russian and Chinese tourists are frequent here.

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Between the wagons

The ride lasts for two and a half hours. The train stops few times and you will be given a chance to admire the view from couple of observation decks. One of them is called Golubici where you will be pointed to parts of the railway route you covered to get here. Still, it’s not that easy to imagine how all those railway tracks you see actually get together at some point, going up and down in seemingly opposite directions!

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Train interior

One should expect to ride in an old wagon with a furnace in the back, to see lovely scenery through the window, to have a coffee at Jatare station and enjoy the view of the spring slopes there, to be greeted by the sound of the old steam engine at Sargan-Vitasi station.

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Beautiful view from the window

And although I now know the route, I still can’t seem to grasp how Drvengrad was once on our left and other times on our right!

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Confusing tracks

DRVENGRAD Being created by the famous Serbian film director Emir Kusturica, this traditional settlement now houses the Film and Music Festival of Kustendorf. Locals also call it Mecavnik, derived from Serbian word “mecava” for heavy blizzard. The complex is home to the town’s gate, 13 streets, two squares, cinema, church, restaurants, pastry shop, tennis courts, swimming pool. Everything is named after renowned people from movies, literature and sports, such as Ivo Andric, Stanley Kubrick, Federico Fellini, Novak Djokovic. There are 50 authentic cottages in the complex, gathered here from surrounding villages, which can be rented.

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Drvengrad church

Ever since Kusturica has built the settlement in 2003, Drvengrad became a synonym for this part of Serbia. A lot of people will think of Drvengrad when mentioning Mokra Gora. In addition to that, when you remember that this is the place where Johnny Depp or Monica Bellucci came to visit Kusturica or to attend the Kustendorf Festival, it’s even more interesting to stroll along the same cobblestone streets. This is not the first time I have visited Drvengrad and I was impatient thus to come again and have some traditional ledene kocke cake (Serbian for ice cubes) while gazing at the surreal view of those green mountains. It was late afternoon, dusk was approaching, not many visitors left, except for a group of Russian tourists posing around the settlement.

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Authentic cottages

The entrance fee for Drvengrad is 250 dinars (2.5 Euros) and it will serve as a cinema ticket as well. If you have enough time, this is certainly a lovely idea. You can stroll around, take photos, have a bite to eat, see a movie and have some cake before leaving.

…And now, wait until I tell you about the things to see on the other side of Uzice town!

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Fascinating view from Drvengrad

KOSJERIC This small town lies on the north of Uzice with the population of less than 4,000, according to the 2011 data. The river Skrapez flows through, coming from the near-by Povlen Mountain. Kosjeric is surrounded by mountains with the highest hill called Grad (1,022 m). It is believed that this is where the Serbian medieval fortress stood once.

The first settlers came from the Montenegro village of Kosijer, hence the name of the town. It was established by Antonije Kosijer who came here with his three sons.

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White Church in Karan

It’s good to go off the main road sometimes. In this case, I took the old road from Uzice towards Valjevo town. It takes 30 km to come to Kosjeric and half way down the road I had a good reason to stop for a break. This was the Karan village with the old White Church. And for me, it was like a scene from a painting with all those autumn yellow leaves covering the path towards the snow-white church with heavy fog behind it. The church was built in the 14th century. According to its architecture, it belongs to the Serbian Raska style, dating back to 12th to 14th century. Make sure to stroll around its courtyard because there are also some fascinating Roman tombstones to see!

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Roman tombstones

After this village, the road will take you up and down, through forests, along many curves all the way to Kosjeric. Given the fact that the town is small, you can just take a nice long walk. Nice view from one of the bridges, huge clock on the square, the Old Han. The building was erected after the Ottoman rule in 1854 and it is now among the protected history monuments of Serbia. There is also a statue in front of the Han, dedicated to Antonije Kosijer, the founder.

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Antonije Kosijer statue

You will come across the monument to Karadjordje, Serbian leader of the First Uprising in 1804, in front of the Cultural Center. There, the National Library dedicated to Sreten Maric, who was born in Kosjeric’s village of Subjel in 1903 and was the famous essayist and Faculty of Philosophy professor in Novi Sad. Maric lived in Serbia and France.

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Charming town detail

There is also the exhibition here of Liza Maric-Krizanic work, along with those depicting her portrait. She studied French in Belgrade and began to paint during her visit to Paris in 1924. Liza started to exhibit in 1939 and her work is kept in Belgrade and Novi Sad museums. One of her first portraits was painted by the renowned artist Pjer Krizanic, who later became her husband.

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The Skrapez river

Kosjeric is also referred to as the Olympic town, because of the fountain dedicated to the founder of the movement in Serbia, one of the hotels is called the Olympic and there is also the Olympic sized swimming pool. While you stroll along the Skrapez river, you will see the old water mill, sport terrains and you can also stop by for a tasty trout at the local restaurant. Don’t miss to visit the small village of Seca Reka. It’s not far and it is believed that the old church-cottage was built here in the 15th century. Now you can see the one erected in 1812 at the same spot. It’s also interesting to admire few picturesque monuments krajputasi, known to be built by the road dedicated to the 1912 and 1913 Balkan war casualties.

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Seca Reka church

I was lucky to be able to attend the first class of the School of My Ancestors tour in Subjel village which is now on the Kosjeric’s Tourism Organization agenda. Snezana, who is head of the local TO, explained that all the children will be dressed in traditional cloths just like their coevals in 1932 were when this school was reopened for the second time. She compared it to another of their tours – the Serbian Wedding, where tourists take part as brides and grooms and their guests.

And by the way, Subjel was surreal that morning with the hill soaked in the sun and children’s laughter, while the town was still wrapped in heavy fog below.

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Fog beneath Subjel

Still, the thing that Kosjeric is best known for is the rural tourism. It has also been the popular destination for children excursions for years that are hosted, among others, by Mologosce and Gostoljublje households. At the first one, I was told by Ivana and Mile that they actually lived in the city at first, but soon decided to move back here for good. They welcome children groups from various schools and kindergartens, from Serbia and abroad. Because here, they are able to learn old crafts, to have a ride on a tractor, to make jam, bread or to collect herbs.

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Activities for children in Milogosce (courtesy of Milogosce)

As for the other household, I spent the night there and had a chance to talk to Marija and Zeljko about their experience. Zeljko is also one of the School of My Ancestors initiators and besides managing this interesting traditional accommodation complex, he is into various projects for cultural heritage conservation.

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Gostoljublje’s traditional cottages

And I can’t even begin to tell you how delicious Marija’s breakfast was!

Next destination – Things to do in Prijepolje

The full Weekend In Serbia section

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10 thoughts on “WEEKEND IN SERBIA: Old train and Kusturica

  1. Looks like you really dove into learning about the culture here! That is my favorite part of traveling (along with the food). If they believe people are born psychic because of the irradiation from the cosmic stone, did you encounter anyone offering psychic readings?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hehehe. No, of course not, it’s not that kind of place. 😀
      Rather a complex trying to preserve the memory of the family. It’s what the village is known for. And it’s not like they are all clairvoyant here, of course, nobody says that, but the curious thing is that few Tarabic family members were and “this is the reason”, they say. That’s what makes it interesting, when you consider it as part of the tradition of the area. If one is looking for a reading of some sort, this is not the place to be, it’s the memory complex after all. 🙂

      Like

  2. I’ve never made it to this place even though i’ve lived in Serbia for a year during my studies. Would love to go and visit all of these places. You wrote such a detailed post that I have to save it for the time when I will go there again.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love these colorful little towns but most especially when they have history like you outlined in the post. This is what really attracts me to Serbia and this part of Europe in general, it’s full of historical importance but it also still seems to appear now, as it did all those years ago!

    Liked by 1 person

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