Why do city dwellers escape to the mountains during the weekends? Well I will tell you why – to find restoration which they lose from living in tall buildings and polluted air. Today’s postcard features our recent trip to Zlatibor, a mountainous region located in South Western Serbia.
Starting our journey from Belgrade at 7:00am, we passed by several beautiful cities including: Oplenac (see previous blog about our experience there), Ovcar – Kablar (two glorious mountains surrounded by a beautiful lake), and Uzice– a city with historical and cultural importance in Serbia. The roads are quite dangerous as they are winding through the mountains and tunnels so an experienced driver is highly advised. The journey took approximately 4 hours (including 2 coffee stops) as we arrived to our destination of Zlatibor.
A bit of history: The town was originally named Kalusevac however in 1893 King Aleksander Obrenovic built a fountain in the city centre called Kraljeva česma (The King’s Fountain) and the town was therefore renamed after him to Kraljeva Voda (The King’s Water). A few year’s later in 1946 after World War II, the town was renamed to Partizanske Vode (The Partisans’ Waters) in honour of the Zlatibor citizens who were murdered by the Nazi’s. Yet again a few years later in 1995, the town was renamed to Zlatibor (Golden Pine), recognizing the endangered pine trees upon which the town lies on – a far more characteristic name if you ask me 🙂 The region today is the ultimate spot for recreation and relaxation; it is especially popular during the winter time for skiing.
Our personal experience was simply beautiful. We stayed in a chalet called Villa Natural Wood nestled in a valley overlooking the town. I’m not sure which was more impressive – the environment surrounding us, or the 5 star quality of this well designed and maintained chalet. Owned by a Montenegrin gentleman who moved to Serbia 5 years ago – this adorable chalet offers modern and luxurious apartments for up to 12 persons.
Our apartment was ideal – one bedroom with a living room, kitchenette, bathroom and terrace overlooking the mountain. Ultimate comfort! (high speed WiFi and satellite TV are also provided, not that you would need this anyway). The details and thoughts which have gone into the design of the chalet and the rooms specifically are to be commended. The environment is so peaceful, so fresh and simply ideal for relaxation.
After checking in, we headed to the town centre which was booming with tourists! The most characteristic sight is the lake which is dotted with cafes and palacinke (crepes) stands – this is definitely the place for me 🙂 An ideal getaway for city dwellers, it has a spectrum of shops ranging from local markets to designer shops. The smell of food fills the air as the centre is surrounded by stands offering every type of speciality from rostilj (grill) to sweets.
We couldn’t resist a visit to the famous outdoor market where vendors sell authentic decorations and souvenirs representing this region, handmade wool clothing (from socks to coats), organic teas from the herbs grown in this region, liqueurs produced locally from the forest fruits which grow here and of course prosciutto and kajmak (a specialty made from milk curd and salt). And yes, we brought home a lot of specialties 🙂
Our host at Villa Natural Wood suggested an authentic dinner in an ethno style restaurant called Koliba Kod Milunke (at Milunka’s place) – a family owned affair named after the owner’s mother and known for their delicious traditional food prepared the same way Milunka did many years ago. Mum ordered a veal soup – hearty and perfect for the cool mountainous air, Dad went along with a sweet cabbage speciality cooked for hours in pork; and I opted for veal gulash and mashed potatoes – simply the best gulash I have tasted in my life!
In the evening, Zlatibor is filled with vivid nightlife – children swarm the luna park and ride the ferris wheel competing with who can “throw” the other further to catch a prize. The cafes are full of people drinking, eating, laughing and enjoying the crisp air. Many famous Serbian musicians come to Zlatibor during the summer and perform open air concerts.
We however, indulged in palacinke (crepes) as we couldn’t resist the smell while passing by the food stands. We had three types: Eurokrem (Serbian version of Nutella) with coconut flakes, chopped walnuts and sugar, and Eurokrem with chopped almonds – to die for! Thankfully Zlatibor is a recreational destination so there is a lot of walking, and sport activities to balance the gastronomic consumption :).
The next morning, my father and I went for a brisk walk up the mountain and let me tell you… we are definitely out of shape. The mountainous air is very thin and it was quite hard for us to breathe, plus as my father is much taller, I had to walk 2 steps faster to keep up with his stride! However once we reached the top – it was perfection!
One experience which definitely shouldn’t be missed, is to enjoy a traditional planinski dorucak (mountain breakfast). A typical plate includes: various types of sliced prosciutto, white cheese, kajmak, chopped tomatoes, a stick of spring onion, walnuts and dried fruit such as prunes. This power breakfast is accompanied with kiselo mleko (a type of yoghurt specialty) – an ideal balance for the entire day.
After our breakfast coma, we headed back to the town for a light activity. Mum and I took a 15 minute pedalo ride on the lake while dad sat on the benches under the trees enjoying the crisp air- simply relaxing. I highly recommend anyone wears sunscreen, because after only 15 minutes, we went home a shade darker believe it or not!
As for the finale from this trip and (for my father’s pleasure), we indulged in a giant waffle smothered with an organic forest fruit compote, strawberry and forest fruit infused ice cream and whipped cream …. yes this was our lunch and dinner in one shot.
Once we got back home we all took a moment to appreciate our enriching experience in the mountains and simply smiled knowing that, despite how tired we were from the drive back, our souls were simply restored.