In the West, nothing new, as the famous novel says. However, we do not worry, because it is exactly the opposite in western part of Serbia; everything is convenient and seductive, always. We drive through Valjevo and across the picturesque Debelo Brdo hill. We rest at the belvederes along the way. With our eyes fixed not behind the sea, but rather on countless hills, valleys and mountains. To be able to see entirely the landscape where the blue colour of the sky receded before the greenery. Where dark forests, bright pastures and emerald river play freely in the most magnificently painted chamber of Serbian nature
Why visit Bajina Bašta
1. Because the house on the Drina is one of the symbols of Serbia
Once a stranger strolled and the road brought him here. The local story counts that he took a picture of a house on a rock. And as the good word spreads quickly, the image travelled around the world in a flash, and the small building was featured in many world magazines. The National Geography magazine devoted an entire issue to it and it entered the list of the 16 strangest houses in the world. The first construction was built of planks, in the deceptive summer of ’68, when a group of youngsters made a place for themselves to rest on a rock. The idea was obviously liked by many, so the first house appeared already the following year. According to legend, none other than Marko Kraljević is to blame for the piece of stone in the middle of the river. The hero, as it seems, managed to arrive everywhere riding his horse Šarac. He looked after this horse better than after himself. So once, he wanted to cross the swollen Drina without his four-legged companion getting its feet wet. And the hero hit a rock half way across the river, Šarac jumped onto it and jumped over the Drina without getting wet.
The house itself was repeatedly flooded and carried away by unruly waters, and local enthusiastic souls built it anew. At the moment, it stands tall, prominent, a bit cheeky in the middle of “Zelenika”, as the people call their beautiful river due to its emerald colour. It can stand tall, because here the river has dried up, put on a brownish dress. Rocks, stones, gravel came out… The heat took its toll. But the eminent river Drina will dress up again. And then, the little house will barely emerge from the water, modestly.
2. Because the Rača monastery preserved the Miroslav’s gospel
Since its creation at the end of the 12th century, the oldest preserved Serbian manuscript that has travelled a long way. It has narrowly escaped destruction more than once. It also crossed Albania with the Serbian army in the Great War, and in the next one, it ran away from bombs, Nazis and robbers. In search of a safe hiding place, it was entrusted to the monastery in the bosom of the Tara. The monks hid the book deep in the ground, at the foot of the stone slabs under the altar. That is how it survived the Bulgarian destruction and burning in 1943. Many have looked for it, threatened and intimidated in the search, but the fearless abbot of the time defended her with his life. And managed to defend it. Even if Rača had no other history, the preservation of the most precious Serbian book would make it priceless.
The monastery is six kilometres away from Bajina Bašta. It was built by King Dragutin in the seventh decade of the 13th century. Like many other sanctuaries, far from the world, in a fairy-tale netherworld. Surrounded by forests on the slopes of Tara, on the right bank of the river Rača, a tributary of the Drina river.
It was looted and demolished, but also rebuilt, the last time in the sixties of the last century. During the Turkish rule, it was an important transcription centre, responsible for most of the creativity in the 17th and first decades of the 18th century. Today it is a magnificent building. The impeccably arranged flower garden is dominated by a high bell tower, made of stone. A part of the relics of its first benefactor, King Dragutin, are stored in Rača, and in the tomb next to the temple wall rests Hadži Melentije, one of the leaders of the First Serbian Uprising and the archimandrite of the monastery. The church boasts one of the most beautiful iconostases in Serbia and is vividly painted with unusually bordered frescoes. The late Patriarch Pavle was a monk in Rača.
The Monastery Treasury has a phototype edition of Miroslav’s Gospel from 1998, two Holy Gospels printed in Moscow, the part of the table at which the Ottomans murdered the monks in 1813, the Uprising flag, documents from the monastery archive, personal items of Hadži Melentije, and many other valuables.
From the monastery, a path ascends to Lađevac thermal karst spring, in the Rača river canyon. Its water is considered beneficial for the skin and eyes. Spiritual and physical invigoration at the same place.
3. Because lake Perućac is the Drina’s excursion area
The construction of the Bajina Bašta dam near Perućac submerged the lowest parts of the Drina canyon and created a large, emerald lake. Yes, Zelenika (green one) has its recognizable colour here. It shines. Although it is quite deep, up to 60 meters, and at an altitude of about 300 meters, the water is not icy, just refreshing.
The locals took advantage of the God given benefits. A pontoon beach and diving boards have been built, and along the bank are rafts, are lined and studded cafes and restaurants from which it is convenient to jump into the water. In summer, lot of people gather here. Many of them cringe on the narrow concrete quay under the branches of the trees. Pedal boats, kayaks, boats, paddle boards, are available for rent; people swim, sunbathe, rest. The quay should be arranged and polished. For more complete enjoyment.
Boats that dock in Višegrad depart from here, so, in Višegrad you can walk across and along the widely known bridge. It is recommended to book this trip a few days in advance. And you can cruise the Drina canyon even without visiting the town of Ivo Andrić. In massive, steep cliffs of 70 to 1000 meters of height, the Drina cut the third deepest canyon in the world, after the Colorado and the Tara. In terms of numbers, a bronze medal, and in terms of beauty… Oh, it is unappreciated to be the judge. Once upon a time, Tara Mountain wanted prevent two beauty queens, the Tara and the Drina, to compete for the golden ribbon, and swore that it would cry her “tears” in the Drina.
4. Because Vrelo is the shortest Serbian river
It is popularly called the Year River because it flows for exactly as many meters as there are days in a year – 365. It is one of the shortest rivers in Europe. It springs at the foot of the Tara mountain. The source is protected, it cannot be approached. But one can approach the waterfall, which, judging by the roar, is very close to the spring. A walk, a bit longer than 365 steps, to the gorgeous scene is a must. Once there, one discovers freshness and grace and indispensable folk belief. Happiness awaits everyone who walks its shores. And since the 365 meter length of the river does not change even by a millimetre, newlyweds are advised to visit it before the wedding and make their love unchanging.
Not far from the dam, this small river plummets into the Drina by the waterfall of about ten meters, over stout rocks. By the murmur of a mighty water stream. At the very mouth of the river is a restaurant under lush treetops. A wonderful setting for a break or a lunch.
5. Because the Stećci tombstones in Perućac are protected mounds
The largest number of “Stećci” necropolises in Serbia is located in the vicinity of Bajina Bašta. Two of them were enlisted in the UNESCO List of World Heritage in 2016, along with late medieval tombstones in three neighbouring countries. They represent a special expression of sacred art in the Balkans. Mramorje site in Perućac is one of the best preserved in this region and it represents a Serbian cultural monument of exceptional significance. Tombstones originate from the period from the XIV to the XVI century. Originally, there were about 200 of them, and today, around 93. There are almost no inscriptions on them, and some are decorated with a circle, a crescent and a shield and a sword. Mramorje site is located right next to the road that connects Bajina Bašta and Perućac, and you cannot miss it. The second location is in Rastište, on the slopes of the Tara mountain.
6. Because G-Drive fuel completes every car journey
After a long drive, it is time to refill the tank. On the recommendation of a cheerful petrol station attendant, the choice fell on G-Drive, a premium additive fuel for better performance and more efficient engine operation. We have been told that this fuel pushes all the limits of our car and gets the most out of our vehicle. Splendid! Once we have stocked up our car, we continue our journey.
7. Because Studenac restaurant has a unique view
Yes, we are back to the little river house. If we cannot get to it by boat, at least let us make it our company while we feast. In the Studenac restaurant with a terrace above the Drina. Since trout and perch are only served by the kilogram, carnivores outvoted the fish eaters. But they will certainly enjoy the Drina fish, if not grilled, then at least from a kettle. Rich, tasty, spicy fish broth. Perfect. For the main dish, meat eaters order beef stew and chicken in bacon. It is delicious, they nod in satisfaction with their mouths full. Decent prices, pleasant and expeditious staff. A great choice for gourmets and admirers of the Drina and the river house on it. Two pleasures at the same place.
8. Because Bajina bašta is the city of the cyrillic alphabet
The area of Bajina Bašta has been continuously inhabited for thousands of years, and the oldest known settlement dates back to the period of the Starčevo Culture. The city settlement was established in the middle of the 19th century by the order of Prince Aleksandar Karađorđević. He was not only a prince, but also a real “baja” (the man) when he decided to do so. And whether it was named after one Turk named Baja, who had large gardens, or after the fairy-tale beauty and dewy garden, it is neither known, nor does it really matter. It has developed into a receptive and lively little town. It has its old bazaar buildings, Roman ruins, monuments, and a promenade. It gave birth to famous poets, writers and athletes.
Today, it is the city of Cyrillic. In the centre, the first park of the Serbian alphabet in Serbia has been landscaped, with a playground for children. True values are taught from childhood. On the benches are written inscriptions to Duško Radović, Isidora Sekulić and Dobrica Erić to “the most beautiful alphabet on the planet” and the language that is pure poetry, which is exceeded “only by birds that sing more beautifully”. The letters of the alphabet represent the surrounding natural beauty, historical and cultural sights. A Cyrillic keyboard has also been installed. As a reminder that not only a pen, but also a computer can write with the heart. A small, but fun, colourful and above all educational corner. A cry to cherish the “pearl necklace that protects all Serbian bequests”.
The people are smiling, cordial and relaxed. No wonder they are like that in the embrace of two natural deities of our homeland.
9. Because the visitor’s centre is your first meeting with Tara
The Tara National Park Visitor Centre is spread on two levels. In the basement, a visitor learns about the geology and the cultural and historical heritage of the region. One should learn a thing or two before visiting the monuments. Biodiversity, flora and fauna are presented on the ground floor. Special place belongs to the protected species and landmarks of Tara – Pančić’s Picea omorica and brown bear. The exhibition is well thought out and especially interesting for the little ones, who are being addressed picturesquely and wittily by the most famous and unique inhabitants of Tara. The adults also smile and remember something. A relief representation of Tara with the most important places marked certainly helps to better design the time and planned adventures. The visitor centre is located in the heart of the city. It is advisable to visit it. Young, smiling souls will do their best to make your Tara experience even more meaningful and exciting. They equipped us with useful instructions and advices. Willing and too impatient, we rush to make friends with the favourite landmark and the pride of Serbia.