Home / Blog / On the road with us #throughserbia / 6 reasons to visit Gruža Lake

6 reasons to visit Gruža Lake

Before we wave goodbye to the summer and ask it to return quickly, let us visit more natural jewels of our homeland. This time in the very heart of Šumadija. Where the girls are pretty as roses. The landscape the great poet Dobrica Erić described as “a piece of paradise, which God deliberately or intentionally dropped from heaven.” We are driving on the highway to Niš, via Kragujevac.

Why visit Gruža Lake

1. Because the Gruža Lake is the Šumadija Sea

It was created by damming one of the longest and water-richest rivers of Šumadija, the Gruža River, so it was named after it. It covers 900 hectares and is the fifth largest artificial lake in Serbia. The river bank, about 40 kilometres long, is quite rugged and usually accessible. It is rich in fish, especially carp, pike, catfish, golden carp, bream, perch, but may find some other specimens, too. There are fishermen all over the place. They take pleasure in casting fish hooks, chatting, and preparing food. Numerous birds keep them company. There are about 90 species of them, although the data is quite different. Even fans of rowing, kayaking as well as surfing enjoy it when the wind is favourable. As the average depth of the lake is about six meters, the water is pleasant for swimming. Along the river bank immersed in meadows and groves, several lanes and pathways are arranged for walking, cycling and jogging. Or you can just sit on a bench, enjoy the view, chat with your friends, or be alone and read.

As far as we can tell, there are no arranged public river beaches in the area. Some of the owners of the river bank houses have arranged an access to the river, but only from their houses. However, we have learned from the fishermen that from recently there is a place for splash in a river. La Terrasse, the original Šumadija name… but as the landlord lived in France, we accepted and forgave. Except for the name, he intertwined a bit of French charm into his piece of paradise just on the river bank towards the village of Žunje near Knić. A small restaurant, a cafe and a swimming pool with an amazing view on the lake. The way it was made gives the impression the pool water merges with that of the lake. Although the river beach under the terrace is arranged, swimming is prohibited. There are several pontoons all around. The first neighbour has had the gravel poured and a wide beach made, so you may jump into the river but at your own risk. This is where accommodation facilities are being built to a large extent. It seems that tourism is being rapidly developing in the Šumadija Sea. And it should, because the reasons are so many.

2. Because the church in Borač is a stone beauty

The official name is the Temple of St. Archangel Gabriel. The church property is very large and impeccably arranged. Flowers, trees, benches for rest and a drinking fountain for drop-by travellers to refresh themselves and fill their bottles for a walk through the forest. We climb up the small path to reach the small stone church. It has nestled at the bottom of Borač karst, sheltered by steep cliffs from three sides and by century-old linden trees from the fourth side. The churchyard has a number of stone slab graves. It was built in the Byzantine-Serbian style with only two small narrow windows. We enter through a beautiful wooden door. The interior hides a magnificent wooden iconostasis with a wooden cross above. Only remains of the frescoes to be poorly seen date back to the XVI century. The original church was built during the reign of the King Dragutin, by the end of the XIII century. It was restored by the Emperor Dušan, and later on by many other Serbian rulers. It has been ravaged by the Turks for the last time, and it was restored thanks to the efforts of the Knyaz Miloš in 1818. It has been under the protection of the state since 1971.

Between the church property and the country houses, an old cemetery in Borač is situated. There are several hundred tombstones in various shapes and sizes, mostly leaning on different sides, some of which are covered with moss. They are mostly narrow and elongated with a cap (“kapa”) on top, which is why they are called “kapačari”. Rich, diverse, vivid and rather strange patterns and prints. According to some data, the oldest date back to the XVI century, and according to other data, they were erected in the period from the First Serbian Uprising to the First World War. It must be that they have not been researched enough. The thing they have in common: they are made of stone from the Borač quarry and are the work of the local stonemasons.

The whole scene somewhat resembles the old Rajač cemetery near Negotin. As for the unusual ornamentation and shapes, as well as the overall impression – it is overgrown with grass and neglected. The Church of St. Archangel Gabriel and the cemetery are cultural assets of great importance.

3. Because Borač karst hides the remains of a medieval town

It is a rare terrain relief phenomenon. It is part of an extinct volcano that was formed about 20 million years ago, within the Rudnik’s massif. What sculptures nature has carved out of petrified lava! Today it keeps a watchful eye over the Gruža valley. The rocks are extremely solid and durable, of unusual colour and partly shiny, so the Borač stone is used as an ornament in building. It was declared a natural monument in 2019. The peaks can only be reached on foot, by a pathway through the forest. We walk slowly, breathe-in nature, and look for forest fruits. The highest peak is at 515 meters above sea level.

On a cliff just eight meters lower, there are the remains of the medieval town of Borač. The name is believed to have been derived from the verb “to fight” (“boriti se”), because it was often a target of long and dreadful battles. Although it was mentioned for the first time in 1389 in connection with the Hungarian incursion into Serbia, it is assumed that it existed much earlier, back in the reign of the Roman Empire that built the first fortress. It was then mentioned in the Despot Stefan’s Charter in 1405, and since then it has been recorded in documents as “the famous town of Borač”, so it is not surprising that the famous Venetian cartographer Fra Mauro put it on the world map. With the fall of the Serbian Despotate, it lost its strategic importance and then fell into disrepair.

The town was completely adapted to the configuration of the terrain. It had six towers and was divided into an upper and a lower town, and also served as a shelter for the population during enemy attacks. Today, only the remains of certain facilities may be seen, such as the tower of a circular base and a rectangular building that was a church. It was declared a cultural monument of great importance in 1983.

The visit give you the right feeling. Physical activity, lush nature and rich history in a single climb-up!



6 reasons to visit Gruža Lake

4. Because the Vranić house gave home to a famous Serbian intelligence officer

That is what the famous series My Cousin from the Village says. We saw a sign for the property where the series was filmed on the way to Borač karst. We decided to see if the TV series scenes were real. After several sharp turns on the dirt road, we reached a vast clearing on a hill. Behind the stone fence, in the spirit of Borač, the Serbian tricolour flag welcomes us. It is fluttering on the mast, up high. We are welcomed by cats, dogs and a rugged puppy who whines until it has been caressed and played with a little bit. Only now are we allowed to pass. We are looking for the host, the Colonel Milomir Vranić, but on the wooden old house stands the notice, saying he is at the teacher’s house. As the door is open, we go in. One room has it all. As in the old times. The central part of the room has a large table with a checkered tablecloth and a small village museum around it. A fireplace, two beds with woven bedspreads, rugs, folk art pieces, old furniture, black and white photographs, wall cuckoo clock, a spindle and a horsetail, old banknotes, and of course a corner with icons.

There are no scenes, everything is real. A courtyard with several facilities, an old well, lined barrels and flower pots, a mare and a colt, always friendly donkeys coming to cuddle. Time has stopped here. Only a playground for the kids has been added as something new, and a new facility is being built, probably a restaurant. We hope that its appearance will be integrated into the environment, not disturbing the true village idyll.

5. Because at Vranić’s, one dines like an officer

Since we are already in the country, it would be a pity not to have a bite. It must be homemade and just prepared. We sit in the great shade of a branched, huge walnut tree. And the menu is according to the village custom – there is not much to choose from. Only what a skilled cook prepared that day. Usually two or three dishes are offered. Today the cooked sauerkraut with corn bread (“projara”) is one the menu. Maybe a bit heavy food for a hot sunny day, but the boys smile in content. Eating the sauerkraut, not saying a word. They started speaking only after having eaten a half of the meal – it speaks seven languages, just like the Serbian intelligence officer in the series. However, the lady member of the team chooses a homemade dish – cheese, cream, “kulen”, prosciutto/ham, dry-cured pork neck and bacon containing just a bit of fat. Expected and delicious flavours from Šumadija. We are kept company all this time by puppies and kittens who lovingly hang around and patiently wait for some bites. We gave them many.

The taste of homemade food is complemented by the view that opens up to the cliffs of the Borač karst massif on one side, and to Gruža and Gruža Lake on the other side. Eh, the resourceful Colonel Vranić knew all sorts of things, even where to find peace for himself.

6. Because in the tavern “Ko to tamo peva” (“Who is Singing Over There”) you may rest with your eyes open

At the beginning of our trip, near the road to Knić, we spotted a tavern named after the cult movie Who is Singing Over There. The bus of Krstić and son was parked in the yard. We were going to stop for a coffee there on our way back. And we did so. Yet, we were there, but not the bus anymore. In disbelief, we hang around the wheel tracks in the ground. A chatty and cordial host comes to us and reveals that the small bus has gone for a drive of a small group of visitors around the area. “Yes, it is in roadworthy condition,” he replies to our astonished faces, and adds wittily: “But it only drives those with a marriage certificate.” Of course, everything here is in the spirit of the famous adventure with the company Krstić. He frankly admits that the bus is not a specimen from the movie, but it is almost from that time, from 1953. The “missing” bus then arrives. The cheerful people come out. We are peeking inside. Everything original, intact, unrepaired. But it is still on the road. It is indestructible. Just like the great Bata Stojković in the movie.

The characters from the cult movie are everywhere in the spacious flower garden with wooden tables and benches. The atmosphere is cosy and homely. The interior of the tavern is eclectic. A little bit of everything – folk art, old furniture, instruments and paintings, then foreign posters and records, and finally the jukebox. A lot to see and read. An unusual cosy place for full relaxation and refreshment.

After the Gruža adventure intertwined with the Serbian cinematography, we sit in our vehicle, certainly more comfortable than Krstić’s. Inspired by various impressions, we sang in unison: Zaaa Beograd (To Belgrade)! Vozi, Miško (Drive, Miško)


You may also be interested in:

Jazak – naturally good spring water

It is important to take care of regular hydration when traveling. Naturally good spring water Jazak from the heart of Fruška gora is your faithful companion. In addition to still water, the range of the Jazak water also includes carbonated water, as well as immune support water with a balanced ratio of magnesium, selenium and zinc which are particularly important for boosting immunity. But do not miss to try the vitamin-added waters that provide extra strength with their irresistible flavours of forest fruits, mandarin orange and lemon, as well as elderberry and aloe vera.

Learn more

Sa nama na putu (On the Road with Us) – the programme which helps you save money

If you have not already, join online and free-of-charge the “On the Road with Us” loyalty programme. You will get discounts of up to 6 RSD/l on fuels and 20% on premium Drive Cafe coffee. In addition, every time you buy at our petrol stations, you collect bonus points you can later on use to reduce your bill when buying fuel and a wide range of other products. Only at NIS Petrol and Gazprom petrol stations!

Learn more