The weather is quite a bit unstable, but nature doesn’t really care. It keeps putting on its dazzling spring cape and calls out. We couldn’t wait. We are off to a quest for uninhibited beauty, to a neighborhood where premium cheeses and even better honey are made. The road leads us through the city of Požarevac.
Why visit Homolje
1. Because Homolje exudes natural beauty
We are arriving in Homolje. This eastern Serbian area is enclosed by mountain ranges from every side. The official mention of Homolje is linked to the 13th century, when the whole region of Braničevo was ruled by Bulgarian nobles. In the olden days it served as a refuge being so hard to access. It boasts a lot of things, most notably the Homolje mountains, which are, in average, about 900 meters high. They are overgrown with oak and beech forests and covered with endless pastures and meadows, where you can still spot the so-called “katuns”. They are rich in diverse and medicinal herbs, forest fruits and are a habitat for many animals.
While hiking along well-kept and marked trails or conquering one of the mountain peaks, you might meet a deer, a rabbit, a fox, a wild boar, but also a wolf. Birds are watched here, there is hunting and fishing, and climbs are mastered by bicycle. Numerous caves give this place a special charm, the most famous of which are the Ceremošnja and Ravništarka caves. The famous ethno-village of the region is Trška. Many say it is one of the best in Serbia. We can’t confirm because we couldn’t find anyone. We were a day early. It is located on the road to the town Žagubica, marked with a turn sign showing to the gravel road.
The most important water way is the Mlava River, which cut the 16-kilometre long Gornjak gorge through the luxuriant, unbridled nature. It is because of the temples and remnants of the medieval town of Ždrelo that the locals call this gorge a holy valley. Many mystical stories and legends are told about Homolje. At some point in its course, the Mlava river flows silently. Locals call it “the silent water.” One legend says that a messenger brought news of the lost Kosovo battle. It was then that everything went speechless, including the Mlava river. The second legend is related to Emperor Lazar and the Gornjak Monastery. The locals will tell it to you when you get there.
It is not possible to visit, let alone explore Homolje in a day or two. One must come again and discover new nooks and crannies with great curiosity, over and over again.
6 reasons to visit Homolje
2. Because the Gornjak Monastery was founded by Prince Lazar
Perhaps the greatest Serbian poet of romanticism Đura Jakšić described his encounter with the monastery in the heart of the Gorge with this verse – “The cross on it shines, responds to the sun, and draws golden stripes on the cold rock” in the poem “A Trip to Gornjak” (Put u Gornjak). It is located in picturesque landscapes, at the foot of the steep cliffs of the Ježevac mountain, on the left bank of the Mlava river. Once named Ždrelo, today it is called Gornjak. One oral tradition says that it was named after a medieval nearby town, another one suggests it was named after the so-called “gornjak”, the mountain wind. It was founded by Prince Lazar, who wanted to make a small offering to the Mother of God. It was built between 1379 and 1381 in the Moravian style. It shared the fate of his people. It was demolished, set on fire and ravaged countless times. All the valuables of the treasury are now gone, including the charter of Emperor Lazar, a cup with his initials, the golden chalice he donated to the monastery, and the banner of Emperor Dušan.
Of the medieval buildings, the main monastery church dedicated to the presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Vavedenje), the chapel of St. Nicholas and the hermitage of Grigorije of Gornjak are preserved. A chapel dedicated to St. Elijah was built in the lodgings. There is a coffin with what is believed to be the miraculous relics of Grigorije of Gornjak. The main church is currently being rebuilt and no entry is allowed.
Across the road, on the right bank of the Mlava, there is a small hotel where you can have a snack and spend the night, and the surrounding forests can be roamed on footpaths. The parking lot features a map of the area with clearly marked sites and natural landmarks. Take a picture of it, it will come in handy for your further exploration.
Not far away, at the very entrance to the Gornjak gorge, the Blagoveštenje monastery (Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary) is located. It is believed to have been built by despot Stefan Lazarević, in an almost vertical rock. Such an extraordinary sight. The road is marked and extended for the parking, however, the monastery is deserted.
3. The Krupajsko vrelo (Krupa spring) is the pearl of Homolje
At the foot of the Beljanica mountain, on the right bank of the Krupa river, secluded and forgotten by time, in the dense untainted vegetation lies the treasure of Homolje. Blue and green play with their brightest and tamest shades, painting a fairytale landscape. And the resonant sound of waterfalls cannot be overpowered. A sight for sore eyes and music for the soul. If only we had something to scoop water with and drink it. We might also get a tiny bit of gold with it. For, as the legend goes, the Homolje mountains swallowed a vast treasure chest hidden at the bottom of the Krupa spring in a golden cave, guarded by a water spirit, possibly a naughty one. We didn’t go looking in so deep, but someone did. The divers descended to 123 metres and discovered a network of canals leading to the cave. There must be some truth in every legend.
And while fantasizing about the enchanted treasure, refresh yourself in one of the two restaurants and be sure to treat yourself to some pond-grown trout. There is an unusual stone pool where you can freshen up in the summer. The Krupa spring (Krupajsko vrelo) is a natural monument. Clean and intact. It just seems like the surrounding area could use a little refinement. For starters, take care of the access road and plant grass in the dirt parking lot.
4. Because kids also enjoy the Ždrelo Spa
It is known for its thermal mineral water. With its spring at a depth of 180 meters and a temperature of 40 degrees at its surface. It is especially beneficial for gout. Nowadays it is a private hospitality and entertainment complex of the Terme Ždrelo. Visitors can relax in the spa, take a swim in four open and five indoor pools, and the kids simply love the outdoor and indoor water slides. Apart from the hotel guests, daily tickets are available to everyone else as well.
The hotel is built in the form of a castle, and the interior of the complex has intertwined Roman and ancient Greek styles; looks like everyone can find something for themselves. Stands with authentic products of the region, souvenirs and various trinkets, clothing stores, even a cow made of plastic, a barrel for lovers, a dragon fountain, because this is where they used to land. What this great place for rest and family gatherings has to offer won’t leave you indifferent.
It is located about ten kilometers from Petrovac on Mlava, along the road with pedestrian footpath with lighting and benches. Next to the complex there is a camper area, and private accommodation is also available. Take a ride around the neighborhood. You will be surprised by the large houses and even several castle-like buildings with priceless fences. Many are uninhabited. They seem to have been built for retirement days.
5. Because Homolje bites taste like a miracle
Since the sunset caught us at the Terme Ždrelo, the ethno-style restaurant seemed more than tempting. It was going to turn out to be just the right thing. All sorts of food. We opted for local tastes. For starters, the so-called “gypsy” homemade bread. Fiery, just as the name suggests. Mouths are burning, but it will be eaten in delight. Corn porridge with vegetable stew too. If we hadn’t tried those, we would have missed a lot. And a plate of Homolje cheeses. The names are cutely featured on post-its on a toothpick. “Urda” turned up in the middle of them. We were exchanging puzzled looks. The waiter explained that it’s cow’s lump cheese. They’re all top notch, but the trophy undoubtedly goes to the goat cheese, it’s second to none.
A Wallachian plate followed. Meat of all kinds, but a pljeskavica (burger) like we’ve never tasted, to be forgiven by skilled Southerners. There were still so many interesting things to try, but we were already way out of line. There will be time for that, because such a gourmet experience is worth coming a long way for. As we gloated with Homolje delicacies, we heard that the people of this region are the longest-lived in Serbia. Together with air and nature, food also helps. And our wise people have always said – you are what you eat.
6. Because top quality Drive Cafe coffee is waiting for you at NIS Petrol in Požarevac
The prerequisite of every excellent trip is vigilance, so on our way back, we looked for a break at NIS Petrol gas station in Požarevac, where they serve all kinds of top-quality Italian coffee.
We had the largest-size cappuccino to spice up our journey with the aroma of quality coffee. We ended this journey with sips of our favorite drink.