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7 reasons to visit Mokra Gora and Višegrad

“One can hardly find a daybreak as beautiful as in Mokra Gora,” claims a landscape lover. Undoubtedly so, as the area comprising the Mount of Šargan and the village of Mokra Gora was declared a Nature Park in 2004. This beautiful place, which seems to be embraced by the Tara and Zlatibor mountains, is crisscrossed by the Beli and Crni Rzav rivers, their rapids and waterfalls. It is also blessed with healing waters, a diverse relief, which is overgrown with medicinal herbs and dense forest. The words of the local poet, Mihailo Ćupović, provoke curiosity and encourage us to explore these divine landscapes. One thing is clear even without any verification: Western Serbia is a realm of abundant scenic beauty and it never disappoints the visitors.

Why visit Mokra gora and Višegrad

Visit the village of Mokra Gora and the city of Višegrad. Reasons are aplenty. Here are the most significant ones:

1. Mećavnik is the art of living

This entire area was conceived by the celebrated film director Emir Kusturica during the filming of his “Life is a Miracle” movie. “As a fortress that defends itself from all the poisons of society. As confirmation that home can be found again”. He turned a dream into reality, creating the village of Drvengrad on the Mećavnik hill, between the Tara and Zlatibor mountains. This village is studded with wooden houses made of pine logs, from which Dinaric type log cabins were built. Those original houses were dismantled and fetched from the surrounding area and the Republika Srpska, and now they have been outfitted for a comfortable stay. This village has all the features and amenities of an urban settlement – the main square, catering facilities, a hotel, and a log church dedicated to Saint Sava. There is also a gallery, a bookstore, a cinema, and a folk crafts shop. There is even a prison. A symbolical one. Kusturica-style! From behind the bars of this prison, we spot the gaze of two men, whom you will definitely recognize. We didn’t find out if there were some other villains keeping them company, because we didn’t set foot in the dungeon. This village pays a due tribute to the personalities, whom its host considers great men and friends. The main street is named after Ivo Andrić, Serbia’s acclaimed Nobel Prize-winning writer. Visitors can also walk the alleys named after Nikola Tesla, Diego Maradona, Novak Djokovic, and great film and literary creators. The names of famous Serbs and foreigners, names and characters of famous written and film productions are highlighted everywhere.

Living here is in harmony with nature. Like a small farm, everything necessary for life is grown and produced. Fruits from the surrounding fields and orchards, and produce from greenhouses and stables are brought to the table, called the Serbian table in the household, similar to the abundance of the Swedish table, otherwise known as the smorgasbord, except that people sit at this Serbian table and eat organically. Culture defends itself against modern social scourges. It hosts the famous Kustendorf Film Festival, the Bolshoi Music Festival, the Autumn Theater Festival, the May Writers’ Festival, and various cultural events. National architecture and the natural environment have embraced certain achievements of the modern world, only for the comfort and needs of visitors. The visitors ready to indulge themselves also have a heliport at their disposal, just in case they require a quick arrival and an even faster departure. In the spirit of a healthy life, we offer a gym, a basketball pitch, tennis courts, and a swimming pool.

In winter, when the snow covers the mountain, just eight kilometers away from the Drvengrad, a narrow paved road uphill leads to the “Iver” ski resort on the eponymous top of the beautiful Tara Mountain. The church of St. John the Baptist is nearby as well. This most recently built structure, surrounded by a flower garden, amidst a forest, is on the left bank of the Kamešina River. There is also a healing water spring Bele Vode. Locals claim that it is unique in Serbia and very rare in the world. Nature and health abound in “the city that looks as if it has always been lived in, but never was”. That is how its creator describes this place, Emir Kusturica, who made his home right here.

2. The “Šarganska Osmica” railway loop is the route of the last narrow-gauge train in Europe, which was called “Ćira”

The famous “Ćira” provided a railway service from Belgrade to Dubrovnik via Sarajevo over thirty bridges and through countless tunnels and mountain gorges. It was between 1925 and 1974, when “Ćira” was driven into retirement. At the suggestion of a group of enthusiasts, the then state-owned Railway Administration in Belgrade revived one section of the unique railway in 2003, for tourist purposes. Today, a romantically entitled Nostalgia steam train again whistles its way through the slopes of the Šargan Mountain along the 760 millimeters-wide only narrow-gauge railway in Europe. The form of the loop gave the name to the entire enterprise: the “Šarganska Osmica” or the figure-eight-shaped railway loop of the Šargan Mountain. The train treads along more than 15 kilometers from the station in the Mokra Gora village to the Šargan Vitasi station and back, passing through 22 tunnels and over five bridges and overcoming altitude changes of 300 meters.

A diverse and colorful world. A spare ticket is always in demand, but there is no under the counter trade going on here. First come is first served is the principle here. The fastest ones eagerly board the carriages, each with a different arrangement of wooden benches and seats. Antique, but as good as new. Clean and tidy. Nostalgia has beeped and the romance begins. The public address system with a pleasant voice speaks to passengers in Serbian and English, revealing the most important information, and then the music starts, homey, recognizable. Sounds of trumpets, accordions and flutes. During the approximately 150-minute drive, the train rests at several stops. Every single one has its own unique features.

From the “Krst” lookout point, you might be able to see the famous figure eight-shaped railway track loop. Another stop features the so-called “Crazy Stone” where the first marriage proposals take place. No ticket was ever sold at the Jatare station, however it has a waterfall for refreshment, and the “Golubići” station was constructed just for the filming of the “Life is a Miracle” movie. You can see all sorts of unusual things here, in the style of Professor Emir. The landscapes along the way are surreal; the nature is breath-taking and wild. Old railway cars and locomotives are placed along the railway line as an open-air museum-historical space. Exciting, romantic and certainly nostalgic. A somewhat older passengers evoke their carefree childhood, recalling the famous song about the panting and the hot, chirping locomotive called ‘Iva’. They fulfilled their childhood dream of taking a ride on one of these. It seems that there are more foreigners than locals. News about good things travel far. The Japanese are especially conspicuous and nice, a group of young people, visibly excited and curious, frantically making selfies and snapshots, walking around in a hurry so as not to miss something in all that scurry hurry. Small wonder.  They arrived from a country boasting fast “bullet” trains, for them this is pure exoticism. Probably also for many people from the West. So, they, overwhelmed by the scenery, smile in the original environment of “Ćira”, which trundles along the slopes and curves. Although we are used to all kinds of circumstances, we share impressions. We are still deeply proud of our iron winding wonder.

The “Šargan Eight” is a great example of how antiquity can be torn from oblivion and transformed into history that lives and is admired. Once an architectural feat, today it is a masterpiece that provides an unforgettable and unique experience.


7 reasons to visit Mokra Gora and Višegrad

3.The tourist train offers a bun stuffed with gravy

We resisted the well-known Serbian custom of “grabbing a bite” on the train, with the sweetest snacks, and waited for disembarkation at the last stop, Mokra Gora. Straight from Nostalgia, we ran into another Osmica, now a restaurant. In the shade of the garden, located almost on the platform itself. Rumour has it that the best bun filled with roast mutton gravy is made right here. It is the pride of the entire area. Veal stew and pork medallions on cottage cheese are also arriving. Everything is perfect and we wholeheartedly recommend it, especially the bun with gravy! Juicy, full, strong flavours. It heals and recovers you at any time of the day. Maybe you should rest a little, but there is no time. The “beautiful old town of Višegrad” awaits. Armed with healthy calories we gained in the village of Mokra Gora, we are heading to the border, which is only thirty kilometres away.

4. History merges with nature in Višegrad

Geographically, it is at the confluence of the Rzav and the Drina rivers. The capricious and overwhelming Zelenika divided peoples and kingdoms. Everyone wanted to conquer it since time immemorial. Višegrad miraculously managed to spread across both its banks. A rare privilege. The oldest traces of life in this area come from the time of the Illyrians, around 1500 BC. It was first mentioned in historical sources at the turn of the 15th century when it belonged to the Serbian noble family of Pavlović, so it is assumed that the old town, standing above the present one, got its name Pavlovac or Pavlovine from this family. Due to its strategic position, it was often attacked by many nations, most prominent among them the Turks and the Austro-Hungarians.

Today, it is a lively, cheerful and, above all, hospitable town, which strongly exudes the spirit of the old times. She is inextricably linked to Ivo Andrić, our only Nobel laureate, so far! Although he was born near the town of Travnik, he grew up in Višegrad, where he attended the elementary school. Memories of the great man of the pen are everywhere. A monument to Ivo was erected just before entering the most famous bridge in the world. Modest, but adorned with floral arrangements. The memorial classroom of Ivo Andrić, where you can find out what kind of student he was, and the house where he spent his boyhood days, on the left bank of the Drina, which can only be seen from the outside, are on display. Walking through Višegrad’s alleys, you will get to know the Tsar’s and Gazanfer-bey mosques, the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the monuments to Mehmed Pasha Sokolović and the fighters from the last war. The surroundings are equally rich, both nature-wise and historically. Nearby are Višegradska Spa, Dobrun Monastery, in the Rzava Gorge from the first half of the 14th century, and the Stari Brod Memorial Complex on the Drina. A poignant display in memory of more than 6,000 Serbs executed in 1942.

Wander through the stone alleys and listen to bazaar stories, treat yourself to kebabs and other sweets, take a ride on the Ćirko train carriage, sail the Drina by boat, climb the surrounding hills and explore. Surrender to the Višegrad spirit. And be sure to leave everything for the next time, because Višegrad must be revisited.

5.Bridge on the Drina was crowned with the Nobel Prize

Day slowly breaks over the Drina. The famous bridge is also awakens, for who knows how many times, being washed with cold water and reflected in the sparkling clarity of playful shades of green. How many times has Andrić witnessed this love dance of the sun, Zelenika and architectural achievement at dawn? Where did he sit, how many steps did he take with the white stone over its nine mighty pillars, did he ever swim the Drina and pass under one of the 11 arched openings? Questions swarm inexorably while we sip our morning coffee on the shore and swallow home-made snacks, unsurpassed. A sight that leaves no one indifferent. And it was Andrić, who took it to eternity. He received the Nobel Prize in 1961 for the novel “Bridge on the Drina”, but also for his overall literary work. The bridge or ćuprija, as the original title reads, is the main character of the epic story. It speaks about almost four centuries of history of this area and landmark developments that took place in it. And if it weren’t for the Drina, there would not have been any prize. This is why Ivo Andrić brought a record with the composition “March on the Drina” to the awarding ceremony of the world’s most-coveted prize. That is how the “ćuprija” and Drina were not only read, but also played in Sweden, and even further afield.

The bridge is officially called the Mehmed Pasha Sokolović Bridge. Born a Serb, Bajica was taken to the Ottoman Empire as a blood tribute in his youth. He has come a long way. To the position of grand vizier, closest the Sultan. They say that he never forgot his homeland. So around 1570, he commissioned the best architect of that time, the court architect and supreme builder of Constantinople, Mimar Sinan, to build a bridge over the Drina River. Therefore, a few years later, Višegrad got a magnificent structure, which in 2007 was inscribed on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List.

There is a white marble gate with an inscription in Arabic script in the middle of the bridge. We heard that the verses are about the builder and the year of construction. Whatever they say, they cannot surpass Ivo’s thoughts: “Life is an incomprehensible miracle, because it constantly crumbles and sheds, and yet it lasts and stands firm like the bridge on the Drina.”

6. Andrić-grad is an ode to history and Serbian great personalities

This town was designed by Emir Kusturica, who was inspired by the works of Ivo Andrić. On the peninsula between the Drina and Rzav, near the bridge. It was opened to visitors in July 2012, and the official ceremony was held two years later, on Saint Vitus Day, or Vidovdan. Also known as Kamengrad, it is a tourist, cultural and administrative centre of mixed architectural styles – Byzantine, Ottoman, Renaissance and Classicism. The Sokolović Brothers, Mehmed Pasha and Makarije welcome you at the entrance. In addition to the Nobel laureate, the squares and monuments also commemorate two giant personalities of Serbian history, Nikola Tesla and Petar II Petrović Njegoš, and a memorial to the writer Meša Selimović was recently discovered. Inside the walls are restaurants, galleries, bookstores, souvenir shops, shops, a church dedicated to Saint Lazarus and the Kosovo martyrs, and of course the “Dolly Bell” cinema, which is open to public again. It also houses the Andrić Institute, the City Administration and several other institutions. Since its opening, it has been constantly expanded, and the contents are supplemented.

An unusual place suitable for a family or romantic gathering, an evening out or just a tourist tour. A meticulous observer will also experience it as a history and culture lesson. As it is, new knowledge arouses imagination and new thoughts. The creator of the city dedicated to Ivo Andric knew this unequivocally when he designed it to “represent all the unfinished dreams of Andrić in one place.”

7. The Zlatibor refuelling station offers refreshments for both passengers and cars

An integral part of the journey home is refreshment that we can readily use as well as our car. The Drive Cafe at the Gazprom refuelling station in Zlatibor offers a “wind-down in 1000 flavours” and a hundred blends of coffee that will invigorate you for the journey back to wherever you came from. As you enjoy a delicious espresso, latte or cappuccino, an automatic car wash caters to your vehicle.

Please, always bear in mind: it is important to take regular breaks and refresh on the way back, especially during the travel season, as by taking care of ourselves and our cars, we are taking care of others.


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