Deprture from Belgrade and visit to Krušedol Monastery, after which we leave for Sremska Mitrovica, tour the Museum “Sirmijum Palatijum“ and Museum of Srem, and then we visit the village of Zasavica. Time for lunch and rest. After lunch, we visit mausoleum Tekeriš (the battle of Cer) and Tršić, the place where Vuk Karadžić was born. We climb Gučevo and visit memorial charnel house of the Great War heroes, after which we arrive in ethno village Sunčana Reka (Sunny river) to rest, have dinner and sleep.
КRUŠЕDОL MONASTERY – When her husband died, the despоt’s wife Аngelina, who had been in the West for a while, arrived in Srem in 1487. On her return, she brought to Serbia her husband Stefan the Blind’s relics with her. She got a plot of land from a noble family Jakšić where she erected female monastery, which is at present time a Church dedicated to the Visitation of the Lord, located in Кrušedоl – whereas her son, bishop Maksim (in his secular life despоt Đоrđe Brankоvić), erected male monastery Кrušedоl with the support of his cousin Jovan Nagolj, the Duke of Vlašić. The Branković’s got support from Russian prince Vasilije, who was related to Jakšić’s family. The church of Krušedol Monastery is also the mausoleum of Serbian churh-related and other significant people where the remains of prince Đorđe Branković and partiarch of Аrsenija IV Šakabente are kept. Jоvan Raškоvić, the Duke Stevan Šupljikac, princess Ljubica (the wife of Milоša Оbrenоvić) and the king Milan Оbrenоvić were buried in this monastery.
SIRMIUM – now Sremska Mitrovica, hides under its streets and squares remnants of once abundant and powerful Roman city Sirmium. Its history can be traced back to Augustus foray on Ilirik (35. – 33.B.C), up to 584 AD when the city fell under the Avar reign. Since the collonial times all up to the end of 4th century, historical data refer to Sirmium as the place of temporary stay of many Roman emperors. Historical sources show that just in the period from 1st to 3rd century here stayed, for both short and long periods, the following emperors: Domitian, Marco Aurelie, Septimius Severus, Diokletian, and that in the city and its surroundings the following five emperors were born: Traianus Decius, Aurelus Probus, Maximianus Herculius and Gratian. The city flourished in 3rd and 4th century, when it became one of the capitals of the Roman Empire and at times the place of stay of Roman emperors. During archeological explorations of Sirmium, when royal palaces with Roman circus were discovered, other monumental buildings were found too: ’Litianus thermes’, granary (horreum), merchant and craft quarters. The city was protected with strong bastions and it got water supply over aquaduct running from Vranjaš spring in Fruška Gora. The street had porticos and sewerage system and they were covered in stone. There was a mint, workshops for products made of genuine metals, glass, ceramics, and bricks were produced as well.
MONUMENTAL CHARNEL HOUSE TEKERIŠ – From 16th to 20th August in 1914 in the Battle of Cer near the city of Loznica, the Serbian army completely defeated Austro-Hungarian army. It was the first victory of the allies in the WWI, and its strategic leader, Stepa Stepanović, was awarded the title of duke. On the southeast slopes of Cer mountain, in the village of Tekeriš, the monument was erected in June 28, 1928. The purpose of this monument is to serve as a reminder of WWI and the Battle of Cer which took place here.
TRŠIĆ – home place of Vuk Karadžić. On Mitrovdan (the day when St. Mitar, a Serbian Saint, is celebrated), in the house of Joksim Stefan, a boy called Vuk (Wolf) was born. This is why he got that name, which later Vuk himself described: “When a woman can’t conceive, then she calls a baby boy Vuk (Wolf), as it was believed that witches eat out a child. Since they are afraid of wolves, they won’t attack the children called Vuk (Wolf). That is why I was given this name.“ And whiches gave up indeed… It’s hard to briefly describe Vuk’s life: Loznica, Tršić, First Serbian Uprising, Sremski Karlovci, Belgrade, rheumatism, cramped leg and crunches, Negotinska krajina, Viena, Book of poems, Book of orthographic rules, Serbian dictionary, Serbian Cyrillic, Russia, Kragujevac, Vuk’s Orthography… an incredible life and incredible work. That’s why Tršić is inseparable from Vuk, and Vuk is inseparably linked to Tršić. That’s why there’s an impression that Vuk is somewhere around as a host while fire is cracking in the fireplace. His house is daily visited by students and teachers from the whole of Serbia, making Tršić lively, cheerful and youthful place.
GUČEVO – On the mountain of Gučevo a monumental charnel house was built in the memory of battles fought in Gučevo during WWI. The monumental charnel house (15m high) was built by the Association of substitute army officers and warriors in 1929, as a permanent reminder of that historically very important battle for the Serbian people. At this place remains of both the Serbian and Autro-Hugarian troops were buried together. The monument holds sarcophagus bearing the note: THE HEROES OF GUČEVO IN THE BATTLE OF 1914, with Njegoš’s lines below it saying: THOSE WHO CAN LIVE FOREVER ARE THE LUCKY ONES WHO WERE BORN WITH THE PURPOSE. Behind the monument there are the remnants of the trenches dug during WWI.
Excursion to prehistoric place Mačkov kamen, and later on to Soko Grad Fortress and the monastery at its foot. Time for lunch in ethno village Vrhpolje and then a special surprise. In the afternoon we leave for Rača monastery and climb Tara mountain and Zaovine lake, we have dinner and sleep at Nagramak household.
MAČKOV KAMEN – Jagodnja mountain is the battlefield of the bloodiest and the most tragic battle during the Great war. At the plateau of Mačkov kamen in September of 1914, the second Austro-Hungarian offensive attack was broken in a two-month battle on the Drina river. In the battles taking place from 16th to 21st September about 1150 Serbian soldiers left the battlefield. That number was doubled on Austro-Hungarians part. Never before or after that period during the Great war were so many soldiers killed. In these battles Serbian army lost 11,490 troops and army officers who were killed, wounded or gone missing. Austro-Hungarians recorded even more dramatic numbers. It was estimated that over 30,000 soldiers were lost. This very place holds soldiers’ bones, and the photographs from the battlefield are exhibited in the church’s crypt as well as wreaths of flowers in the glory of the dead. There is also a monument in the crypt to brigadier Svetislav Marković who led soldiers into a deadly attack on Austrian army.
SOKO GRAD developed in mediaeval Serbia. However, it is most famous for its role during the Ottoman occupation of Serbia when it became one of the most notorious places of Orthodox people torture. Some of the oldest records date back to the year of 1476, but given the shape of this fortification, it can be concluded that Soko Grad is much older, as the original and older fortification was built on the highest rock and corresponds to much older age than the age of despotism. Along the road from the monastery to the fortification (that is the plateau with the cross) ten stone chapels have been built, which have been properly painted and each bearing one of the commandments.
CARSKA LAVRA RAČA MONASTERY is located on the right bank of the Rača river, on the plateau surrounded on all sides by densely forested cliffs of Tara mountain. According to the tradition it was built by Serbian king Dragutin (1276-1316), Stefan Nemanja’s grandson. The church with lodgings is surrounded with tall stone wall. In this monastery the prince Miroslav’s Gospels was kept – the largest and most significant monument of Serbian literacy dating back to 12th century. This handwritten book, which contains the elements of colloquial language, ornamented with initials and miniatures, has an unsurpassed literary-historical and artistic value. During the war, head monk Platon looked after it and kept it underground in this monastery, and it was saved from inevitable destruction, which happened in 1943, when the occupier burnt the monastery to the ground. Today, Miroslav’s Gospels are kept in The National Museum in Belgrade. The Serbian patriarch Pavle was a monk in Rača. Thanks to him, today we can see the part of king Dragutin’s remains, who founded and financed the construction of monastery.
In the morning we tour the lake of Zaovine, Tara mountain and the village of Tarabić. Then we leave for Mokra Gora and Drvengrad. Organisation of a surprise tour. Visit to Dobrun monastery and fortress. Time for lunch and then leaving for Višegrad. Excursion to Andrićgrad, the museum, the bridge and finally Sopotnica waterfalls. Time for dinner, rest and accommodation in the ethno household.
ZAOVINE which belongs to the beautiful Tara mountain is famous for the fact that Pančić spruce, living floral fossile, was discovered here. In 1875 a famous botanicstJosif Pančić discovered a new endemic-relic conifer species and named it Pančić spruce. At the lake end there is a geomorphologic attraction at the bottom of the river Beli Rzav, called GRAD, with the remnants of medieval fortification and medieval basilica church. With the construction of Lazići dam, on the river Beli Rzav, a star-shaped lake was formed leaking over the lowest parts of the village of Zaovine.The dam is 130m high and the lake is 80m deep at its deepest point. On Tara mountain there are 53 living mammal species with brown bear and mountain goats as the most attractive, as well as 135 kinds of birds of which 43 are migratory, with eagles and falcons as the most discerning bird species.
TARABIĆI, MOKRA GORA AND DRVENGRAD – Tourist attraction here is one-track rail, built in the shape of number 8 to make ascent to Šargan hill easier. Along the railway old locomotives and carriages are exposed and are under the protection as technical culture monuments, which makes this area a unique museum under the open sky. The house of fortune tellers Tarabić’s is in Kremni, where they lived in 19th century. Tarabić’s were the family famous for their fortelling powers among their people. In ancient past Mokra Gora and Šargan made the significant route with remnants of old Roman cobblestone road and tombs dating back to Roman era showing its importance. Great attraction here is also ethno settlement “Drvengrad“ (wooden town), on Mećavnik hill, designed and built by our famous film director Emir Kusturica.
MANASTIR DOBRUN, known in the sources as Kruševo, is situated in a picturesque mountain area in the gorge of the river Rzav. It was dedicated to Ascension and was built by county-prefect Pribil and his sons Stefan and Petar in 1343. Not later than in 1393 it was destroyed when the Turks invaded Bosnia. It was reconstructed by despot Stefan Lazarević and princess Milica.
OLD TOWN DOBRUN is located in the immediate sorroundings of Dobrun monastery. It used to be the most famous meadieval town of the area, even back in 15th century. According to the legend, the town was built by “Cursed Jerina“, the wife of Serbian despot Đurađ Branković, but this is not historically proven. In meadieval times the town had its suburbs where salespersons from Dubrovnik lived.
ANDRIĆGRAD was constructed on the idea of Prof. Kusturica as a medieval stone town inspired by works and characters of the famous nobel award winner Ivo Andrić. In terms of architecture, the town itself presents the mixture of different historical periods and styles characteristic of this area: Byzantine, Ottoman, reneissance, classical. Walk through the main promenade will take the visitors back to the past.
VIŠEGRAD BRIDGE ON THE DRINA is the endowment of a great vizier Sokollu Mehmed Pasha Sokolović. He is one of the great Ottoman soldiers of Bosnian origin. At the time, there was a custom known as Divširma, that is ’Bloody toll’. Serbian children were forcefully removed from their families and taken to Turkey where they were converted to Islam and acquired education at Turkish army schools thus becoming janissaries. This is how Bajica Sokolović was taken as a child from Višegrad suburbs and was renamed Mehmed. Owing to his capacities he later became Ottoman army officer, and at the peak of his power he became great vizier, which according to contemporary standards corresponds to the title of a state premier. As a powerful figure in his prime he ordered the construction of the bridge on the Drina river that wouldn’t have a match.
Homemade breakfast, excursion to Sopotnice waterfalls and visit to Mileševa monastery (White angel) and Mileševa fortress. Off-road jeep ride and arrival in the natural reserve Uvac famous for its meanderings. Touring the lake itself in boats, Frozen caves and climbing up Molitvenik plateau from where Griffon Vultures can be behold. Time for lunch and rest. Leaving for Sjenica and then Novi Pazar. Dinner and rest in the ethno village of Ras, at the foot of Stari Ras fortress (Gradina).
SOPOTNICA WATERFALL is rich in water all year round and is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Serbia. Nearby are mills where grain was grounded and rollers where cloth was rolled. There are many cascades and waterfalls which make this river unique. The biggest waterfall is 25m high. The Sopotnica river, its cascades and waterfalls are protected by the Republic of Serbia as natural resources of the greatest importance.
MILEŠEVA MONASTERY was built in the period from 1218 to 1219 and it was painted from 1222 to 1228. It was founded by the king Vladisav, the son of Stefan the First-Crowned, Nemanja’s grandson. Vladisav built Mileševa as his tomb churh, where he was buried. Saint Sava’s relics were carried to Mileševa one year after his death, where he was ceremonially buried in a newly-built porch. The fact that Sava’s body was buried in Mileševa added to already high monastery popularity. After that Mileševa became the place of pilgrimage. Because of that, the Turks took St.Sava’s relics to Belgrade in 1594 and burnt them in order to destroy the cult image of the saint among Serbian people. Among Mileševa’s frescos the most famous is ’The Angel at Christ’s Tomb’, which reminds of ancient Greek art. With its size and whiteness of the angel’s gown it creates a very strong impression. Given that Mileševa is one of the first monuments of early Serbian art and that ’White Angel’ has almost been fully preserved in its originality, it is regarded as the symbol of youth and longevity. During 20th century Europeans got delighted by the image of “White angel” – Archangel Gavrilo who, dressed in white garment, with spread wings sitting on a stone and pointing to the empty Christ’s Grave with his myrrhbearers thus drawing attention to his ressurection. Travel writers spread their astonishment with the freasco across Europe, regarding it even greater that Giotto’s works of art. In the first satellite video greeting sent from European to Americans fifty years ago, this fresco was used as a symbol of Europe and peace among continents. The same sygnal was afterwards sent to cosmos to potential extraterrestial forms of existence. Famous ’White angel’ is a part of ’Myrrhbearers at Christ’s Grave’ composition, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful works of Serbian and European medieval art.
THE LAKE OF UVAC or Sjenica lake as people also refer to it, is one of the most beautiful lakes in Serbia. It is famous for its meanderings, which were created when the canyon of the river Uvac was flooded. The lake was formed in 1979 due to the necessary accumulation for hydroelectric power station Uvac. The lake is located between mountains Zlatar and Javor, on the altitude of 985m, and the meandering is 27km long. This special natural reserve Uvac gained particular importance and popularity with the protection of Griffon Vultures, vulture birds on the brink of extinction, with just a few pairs left at the time. With the systematic approach and dedication, there are about 500 of them now in Uvac. Besides, on the Girl’s Rock rising from the lake there is panoramic view called Prayer from which you can behold meanderings and protected Griffon Vultures. There are also caves as part of the lake, and one of them is Frozen Cave as the most famous, which consists of 12 halls. Geologists estimate that it is 250 million years old. There are also Tubići caves and Ušac cave, which are equally beautiful, leaving all nature lovers breathless.
After breakfast, we tour an old merchant place, Stari Ras fortress ( Gradina ) and Sopoćani monastery. Arrival in Novi Pazar in the time for lunch and town sightseeing. Departure from the town centre and excursion to Petar’s Church, Đurđevi Stupovi and an old Novi Pazar spa. Climb to Kopaonik mountain, time for dinner and sleep.
RAS was founded between 8th and 10th century, when it became the center of medieval Serbian state. One of the locations of Old Ras, Gradina on Pazarište with the lower town Trgovište, is near Sopoćani monastery. This once was monumental fortification on the estuary of the Raška and the Uvac rivers, with special construction forms which influenced the landscape, where water supply was very important. Stari Ras (Old Ras) is the most significant cultural attraction, erected on the eastern border of late antique and medieval Serbian state. Archeologists discovered king Stefan Radoslav money deposit in Ras – the first Serbian coins, weapons, Roman bowl originated from Northern Germany, stone mould for casting Virgin Mary’s medallion, etc.
SOPOĆANI MONASTERY is a Serbian medieval monastery of Raška School of Architecture, dedicated to Holy Trinity, which is situated on the spring of Raška river, near Old Ras – once the center of Serbian medieval state. The monastery Sopoćani was probably built between 1260 and 1268 as King Uroš I’s magnificent endowment (king Stefan the Blind and Venetian princess Ana Dandolo’s youngest son, 1242-1276.), at the time known as Sopot Monastery. Around the year of 1255 King Uroš married Princess Helen of Anjou, the cousin of Sicilian and Naples King Carl I of Anjou and French King Lui IX, and he spent his last years in Sopoćani Monastery as monk Simeon. From once large monastery complex, which consisted of several edificies (dining room, lodgings, etc) the Church of Holy Trinity has been saved to date, while the tall bell tower was added to it in the early 14th century. Primacy of the holy place of Sopoćani Monastery has been retained as here the holy king Uroš, who endowed the monastery, his mother queen Ana Dandolo, patron’s father Stefan the First-Crowned and a great duke Đorđe, king’s Uroš uncle were buried here. The most famous fresco is surely Virgin Mary Ascent, with the size of 40m2. It depicts pain of apostoles, archiereuses, Jerusalim women, angels and Christ caused by Virgin Mary death. This fresco is so beautiful that it has drown special attention on many world exhibitions, while the church of Holy Trinity itself presents a great gallery of the most famous frescos from medieval age in Serbia.
NOVI PAZAR is a town of craftsmen, turbulent history, the oldest Christian sacral monument in this part of the world, of Pazar meat fingers and meat pillows. Narrow streets, small shops, a plenty of little sales shops and mosques, constitute its centre where oriental and western influences merge creating a universal style characteristic and unique of Novi Pazar. On the crossroads of important roads, situated in the valley of the rivers Jošanica, Raška, Deževska and Ljudska, there is a multiethnic town founded in 1459 by a Turkish military leader Isak Isakovic bey.
PETAR’S CHURCH is the only well-preserved monument from the time before Nemanjići’s reign. Before the establishment of the first Serbian archiepiscopy in Žiča, the monastery with the Church of St. Petar was the centre of religious life in Serbia. This was the centre of Raška episcopy all the time during the state independence. This temple is one of the oldest religious edificies and is of utmost importance for further development of Serbian construction engineering. Its design and construction epitomize several historical periods.
There was an early Christian temple at this very place, probably baptiserium dating back to 6th century. The core of this edifice today comprises of the remnants of that oldest building. Early Christian edifice was erected over Iliric prince tumulus, which was discovered in 1957. In this tumulus dating back to 5000 BC various objects were discovered such as Greek vases, silver plates, gold jewellery, objects made of glass and amber, as well as ornaments of exquisite beauty but also great historical and artistic value. During the first reparation in the time of Prince Časlav, the upper part of the Church of St. Peter was fully reconstructed. This temple later changed its architectonic shape, particularly during Ottoman reign, when the porch was added on its west side. Stefan Nemanja was baptised again, actually anointed here. At this very place he held well-known assembly when false believers were convicted, as well as the assembly when step down from the throne and passed his crown to his son Stefan the First-Crowned. St. Sava proclaimed Church of St. Petar (1219) the centre of Raška episcopy.
MANASTIR DJURDJEVI STUPOVI is one of the oldest Serbian monasteries. It is situated on the hill above Novi Pazar, which used to be Old Ras. The monastery was built in 12th century, as the first large monastery in the centre of medieval state – Old Ras, and as one of the rare monasteries built on such a high hill. Djurdjevi stupovi monastery along with St. George Church was built by county-prefect Stefan Nemanja as a token of thankfulness to St. George, as he managed to free himself from the dungeon where he was imprisoned. According to Stefan the First-Crowned’s scripts, Stefan Nemanja was put to dungeon by his brothers after an argument. However, when he managed to escape from the dungeon, he took over the power and became a great country leader in Raška. This is why the year of 1167 is mentioned as the year of construction beginning, which finished four years later. During 13th century, Stupovi was a very renown monastery, and the fact that King Dragutin, the last Nemanjići’s ruler who ruled over Ras was buried here shows the importance of this monastery. He also was the second monastery patron, thanks to whom more elaborate works were performed. Unfortunately, the tomb was robbed in 18th century and his relics have never been found. As part of Old Ras complex, which was the most significant defence point and the eastern border of the Serbian state in early medieval times, as well as the capital of royal family. Along with Sopoćani Monastery and Church of St. Petar and Pavle Apostoles, it has been under UNESCO World Heritage protection since 1979.
After breakfast we climb Pančic top. Upon getting to the highest point of Kopaonik mountain, we get ready for going to Studenica Monastery and medieval fortress Maglič. Time for lunch and rest. Visit to Žiča monastery, touring the town of Kraljevo and Vrnjačka banja. Time for dinner and accommodation at ethno household near the town of Aleksandrovac.
KOPAONIK AND PANČIČ TOP – Since ancient times Kopaonik has been known for its mines and natural resources and hence its name which means ’to dig out from’, but it was also called “Montania de argento” ili “Gimiš dag” – silver mountain. Mining industry on Kopaonik is mentioned in historical tales, but also national poems and tales from Kopaonik area. Once ’Kopaonik mining area’ was rich in a number of metal ores – iron, lead, silver, zink and gold, as well as rare metals. Kopaonik boasts the most widespread forest-grassland zone in central Serbia. Its higher parts are covered in spuca and fir arbutus woods, and its sides are covered in beech and oak woods. Kopaonik owes its attraction to exceptional dynamics of its terrain. Broad mountain pastures with thick arbutus and mixed forests, as well as mountain peaks from which Šar planina, Stara Planina and other surrounding mountains stick forever in the memory of all who visited this beautiful mountain. Pančić top was named after a great Serbian doctor and botanist. The famous Serbian botanist is considered a pioneer of mountaneering in Serbia, and during his lifetime he gave unsurpassed contribution to natural science and was known as a great man among his countrymen. Pančić’s Top was named in his honour, along with the other floral species which serve as living monuments. There is Pančić’s mausoleum on Pančić’s top where Josif Pančič, as he wished for, was buried with his wife in a box made of spruce he discovered. There stands this note on the mousoleum: ’We make Pančić’s vow come true. We take him here to rest in eternity. We pass his message to Serbian youth – that only with indepth exploration of nature of our country will they show how much they love and respect their home country.’
MANASTIR STUDENICA – In the valley of the Studenica river, surrounded by pine woods, there is one of the biggest and richest monasteries of the Serbian Orthodox Church – Studenica monastery. This most magnificent complex of medieval Serbia presents the greatest spiritual and cultural centre of the Serbian people from its beginning to the present day. The monastery was founded in 12th century by a great countryman Stefan Nemanja, and its construction lasted from 1183 to 1196. Upon its completion, he gave up throne at the national assembly and passed it to his middle son Stefan the First-crowned, and with his wife Ana he decided to live monk life and got a new, monk name Simeon.
After two years of monk life in Studenica, Simeon went to Mount Athos, where he erected monastery Hilandar together with his son Rastko (St. Sava) approved by byzantine emperor Aleksij Komnen, and died soon afterwards in 1206. St. Sava took his relics to Studenica as requsted by his brothers Stefan and Vukan, where he was buried for the second time. The Serbian Orthodox Church proclaimed him saint and he was called Simeon Myrrh-gusher, (with fragrant liquid leaking from his relics, which is considered to be an obvious sign that a person is a saint). During the rule and funded by his youngest brother, first Serbian illuminator, Saint Sava, it became political, spiritual and cultural centre with the development of medicine and school system in Serbia. St. Sava founded the first Medical school based on the model of byzantine monastery hospitals, while the importance and treasure of the monastery increased with his description of monk life in exceptionally significant ’Studenica typic’. St. Sava described his father’s way of life in it, as well as spiritual and monk life of his time. Monastery Studenica is the place where Stefan Nemanja, his wife Anastasija and sons Vukan and Stefan, also Serbian rulers, were buried.
MAGLIČ FORTRESS – Ibar is surrounded by mountains on both sides. On one side there is Golija, proclaimed the Biosphere Preserve by UNESCO and on the other side is Kopaonik, national park ski centre and ’the Roof of Serbia’. Medieval fortress Maglič, the most precious place on the Ibar river, guards entrance into its valley. Some refer to the valley of Ibar as the Valley of Kings, others call it the Valley of centuries, while those romantic ones call it the Valley of Lilacs. First two names were given to it because it was the centre of medieval Serbia and was home to monasteries Studenica, Žiča, Sopoćani and Đurđevi Stupovi, some of the most sacred places of Serbian people. The third name was given to it because of a love story. Viewed from above, it looks inaccessible, like a gigantic stone crown on top of a steep rock. Maglič is just one of about 200 medieval Serbian towns (at the time the word ’town’ was used interchangeably with the word fortress). This castle withstood great lot of wars, upheavals and uprisings, thanks to its inaccessibility. But also thanks to fog. It actually got the name because of fog that often surrounds it. In the medieval times, Maglič bore the title of guardian. It guarded whole Raška, Žiča and Peć patriarchy and most significantly, Žiča and Studenica monasteries. Since the ancient times people have passed the legend of ’Cursed Jerina’, the wife of despot Đurađ Branković. It has been said that Maglič was built by Jerina, and that people hated her and gave her this unpopular name. The fortress is still referred to as Jerina’s town. Even today, the fortress keeps many secrets. Historians still cannot establish exact time of construction and who enriched the valley with white and purple lilacs which flourish every spring. One of the theories goes that lilacs were planted by King Uroš I in order to show his love for catholic queen Helen de Anjou and to make this Frech noble lady feel like at home.
ŽIČA MONASTERY is the endowment of Stefan the First-Crowned and St. Sava. The beginning of its construction is linked to the early 13th century. Although there are no exact data on the time of its construction, it is presumed that the monastery was founded in the time when Stefan the Fisrt-Crowned was still a great county-prefect and St. Sava head monk of Studenica, which is the period from 1206 and 1217. In that very year of 1217 Stefan the First-Crowned was crowned here and became the first king of Nemanjići’s dynasty while Serbia became a sovereign state of Christian countries of the time. Following the example of Stefan the First-Crowned Žiča monastery used to be till 1253 the place of coronation of all later rules of a glorious Nemanjić dynasty – kings Radoslav, Vladislav, Uroš, Dragutin and Milutin. Given the fact that seven kings were crowned here and with each coronation a new door was opened, Žiča monastery was also called ’Seven-door Žiča’. In the year of 1219, St. Sava, who at the time was archimandrit of Studenica monastery, set off to Nikeja where he was issued the Act on Serbian Archiepiscopy Inderpendence from the emperor Teodor I Laskaris. That is how St. Sava, here in Žiča, was named the first Serbian archiepiscope and Žiča monastery the centre of independent Serbian archiepiscopy. Unfortunately, Žiča could not hold on to this role for long as it was devastated as soon as in the early 13th century in Tatar attack. In the north and south quires the following frescos were preserved: Apostoles, Crucifixion and parts of Removing from the Cross, and among the most significant are the ones made in the period from 1309 to 1316. Some of them are Virgin Mary Ascetion, Stefan the First-Crowned Charter, portraits of Stefan the First-Crowned and his son, as well as characters of apostoles Petar and Pavle.
Breakfast and setting off to Koznik Fortress. After touring the fortress we tour another fortification in the town of Kruševac and also Lazarica Church. Time for lunch and rest. Then we leave for Kragujevac and tour Šumarice. Next stop is Topola (Oplenac, church, King Aleksandar villa). Time for dinner and arrival in Belgrade.
KOZNIK is one of the best preserved medieval fortifications on the territory of Serbia. The town lies in debris, but based on the scientific analyses, it can be very precisely established how it looked since 14th century onwards. It is presumed that Koznik was an active establishemnt even during Celts and Romans. It is known that during the reign of Lazar Hrebljanović the town of Koznik was the place where he often resided and later on, during the reign of his heir Stefan Lazarević, it was governed by Radič Postupović. In a national poem he was referred to as Rade the Cloud and Rade from Rasina, and he is the first historical figure related to this fortress as he kept dozens of villages in his feud. He gained fame for constructing churches, at first place Milentija Church, and the monastery at Koznik foot in the valley of Bašicka river. Milentija is relatively well-preserved and used to be opulent which excavations performed here confirmed. Radič undeniably worked on construction and redecoration of Koznik because he lived during the reign of despot Đurađ Branković and his wife Jerina, when Serbia experineced 24/7 work on construction and reconstruction of new fortresses, with Smederevo Fortress as the biggest of the time. Hence the other name for Koznik in Župa where it is called Jerina’s Town, with many legends demonstrating how much it was done in Koznik, that is how much significance it was given to it as the key role it was expected to have in the defence of this area.
KRUŠEVAC – the capital of Lazar Hrebljanović state, founded after the Battle of Marica, so it is not surprising that we can still feel the spirit of medieval Serbia here. Prince Lazar Hrebljanović organized the state, established borders and towns, gathered nobility, married his five daughters, fouth the Turks, crowned dignitaries, opened mines, built monasteries and grew muscat. Lazar Hrebljanović, a Serbian medieval prince, founded the town of Kruševac. Here he built a palace in 1371 and Kruševac became the capital of Serbia till his murder in the Battle of Kosovo. After him, Kruševac became the capital of feudatory Serbia governed by the Princess Milica, and then by their son Stefan Lazarević, who later moved the royal palace to Belgrade.
КRАGUJЕVАC – On the territory of Kragujevac we can find a number of traces of human existence and culture dating back to prehistoric times. This is the territory that Stefan Nemanja conquered from Byzantine and adjoined it to the Serbian State. Through the valleys of multiple water flows, roads led to the territory of the present city, where there originally was ’marketplace’, square or ’panadjur’. The name of the town is believed to originate from ’kraguj’, a predator bird, which at the time were used for hunting, like falcons are used at present time, and they remind of eagles. The city amblem bears the image of this bird. The turning point and the most significant period in the town development started in 1818 when Prince Milоš Оbrenоvić proclaimed Кragujevac as the capital of Serbia. Kragujevac is the town where the regent Аleksandar Кarađоrđević resided during World War I and where Serbian Army Chief Command was located with Radomir Putnik as its chief commander. This is the place where execution plans for the battles of Cer and Kolubara were developed, the plans that are still explored at military academies around the world. The biggest tragedy this city saw happened during World War II, on October 21st, 1941, when several thousand civilians were shot in Kragujevac (men, women, students and young children) due to the German loss in the battle with chetnick and partisan units on the road Kragujevac-Gornji Milanovac.
TOPOLA is a town in central Serbia which became famous during the reign of Đorđe Petrović, known as Karađorđe. He led First Serbian Uprising, got the title of Serbian vozhd and due to the nickaname he got he bacame the first member of later founded royal lineage Karađorđevići. When Karađorđe became a vozhd, he made Topola his town of residence, and in the period from 1811 and 1813, he built a fortified town with three-storey towers, two lodgings and Church of Virgin Mary. When Karađorđe’s Serbia fell apart, Turks destroyed and burned his town in 1813, and it was reconstructed only in 1843 with the merit of prince Aleksanadar Karađorđević, Karađorđe’s son. The town was heavily destroyed again during Topola revolution in 1877 against the Dynasty of Obrenović. Only when Petar I succeeded to the crown did the construction of a huge church St. Đorđa, villa and endowment begin. The works were completed during the reign of Aleksandar II. This settlement used to be known as Kamenica, and it was named Topola (Poplar tree) due to the following reason: at the crossroads, where the roads split towards Belgrade, Kragujevac, Rudnik and Šabac, there was a giant Poplar tree, which was a famous place for rest of all caravans and travellers passing by. That is how the whole area was named Topola – Poplar. On the hill called Oplenac there is a church of St. Đorđe, a monumantal building made of white marble with five-dome roof, the endowment of Petar I Karađorđević. Within this complex there is a Church of Virgin Mary, built by Karađorđe himself, then the house of King Petar I, where he used to live during the church construction which he monitored, the old barracks and restored Karađorđe lodgings with a tower.
BELGRADE is the city where different worlds collide and merge, the city where the traces of antique time merge with medieval and contemporary influences. It was built on the estuary of the river Sava into the Danube. It was destined to be the Balkans centre of cultural and historical happenings. Around the White City many battles have been fought, it has been destroyed and rebuilt many times, which consequently created the spirit visible in its architecture, sites, people and its way of life. Every single inch of Old Belgrade hides the remnants from the Roman period. Actually, the first settlement was built by Celts as early as in 3rd century, but it fell under Roman rule in 1st century BC who named it Singidunum. Belgrade is one of the oldest European cities given the fact that its settlements are 7000 years old. Not far from the city centre there is Vinča, the culture older than mesopotamian, dating back to 5 millenium BC and the first few centuries of 4 millenium BC, and it is the one of the technologically most advanced cultures of Bronze Age. Celts called it Singidūn(on), Romans Singidūnum, and afterwards it has many different names, including: Alba Graeca, Alba Bulgarica, Fehérvár, Nandoralba, Nándorfehérvár, Landorfehérvár, Weißenburg and Griechisch-Weißenburg, Castelbianco, Veligrad(i)on or Big City, Dar Al Jihad (the House of War), Belgrat and Prinz Eugen Stadt. However, the name it has kept till the present day is Beograd (Belograd), first mentioned in 878 in the letter of Pope John VIII to the emperor Boris Bugarski. In the city centre, under St. Marko Church, on Tašmajdan, there is a real cave. Even during Roman time stone was excavated from the Shalitra cave, which was most often used for sarcophaguses making later found at different locations across Belgrade. Kalemegdan used to be a fortification (kale) and a battlefield (megdan), and at the present time it is the place of exceptional cultural and historical significance, a park and opservation deck, the zoo and playground, the place where many concerts are held, etc. One of many unusual Belgrade traditions date back to 19th century when people gathered in Slavija to hunt ducks and other wild birds. The place of today’s Slavija used to ba a marsh which was part of an estate bought by Scot Frensis Mekenzi in 1878. The St. Sava Temple in Vračar is one of the most remarkable Belgrade symbols. With 70m high central dome and 12m high golden cross, this magnificent cathedral is 87m high and as such presents the biggest Serbian temple, the biggest Orthodox temple on the Balkans and one of the biggest Orthodox churches in the world. Would you believe if we told you that battles in 115 wars have been fought around Belgrade and that it was obliterated even 44 times. Due to its strategic location on the mouth of two rivers, between the East and the West, the White City has always been the scene of historical happenings. It was doomed to be conquered and destroyed by Celts, Romans, Goths, Hunes, Turks, as well as to be competed for between Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empire. However, Belgrade rose from ashes every time. There is Avala mountain in its immediate surroundings, which is a favorite picnic area of the city residents. The other favourite place is Ada Ciganlija lake – the promenade and beach made built around river lake, the best place for refreshment during hot summer days.