Cities can become so overwhelming some time… I live in Belgrade, which is a very crowded and noisy capital. At the end of the week I feel nothing but the urge to escape. I want to find myself again and I do it by reconnecting with nature.
Have you ever tried trekking? It’s very popular here, in Serbia, since we’re blessed with so many beautiful natural landmarks. I’m a trekker myself.
Two weeks ago I climbed a mountain named Rudnik, which is located in the heart of Serbia. It is 1132 meters high (nothing special) and relatively elongated. I went there with my favorite trekking club (Outdoor Serbia). Our trail was 15km long.
It’s strange how weather affects your impression of any trip. You can visit the same place several times and each time it would seem like a totally different one. When our bus got near the mountain a very thick mist fell down. We couldn’t see the houses we were passing buy, not to mention the mountain. The people in the group began to complain (‘cause no one likes to climb a mountain when you can’t get “the view”). It also seemed like it was going to rain. Not a very cheerful start of the adventure…
ENTERING THE FOREST
We began our trail with a steep climb and almost instantly, the mist disappeared. Even the sun showed up! It powered us all up!
Gradually we entered the forest. It was so dreamy, so green, so beautiful! I could feel my lungs opening to grasp the fresh, pure air. I felt the blood running into my cheeks. The beginning of the hike always feels like an initiation! Your whole body is responding to it! And second by second you begin to connect with your surroundings. You begin to be aware of the environment and your own body being part of it, but still moving freely and independently.
We came across some wide car roads, but instead of following them, we choose the shortcuts and it was, of course, straight through the forest, through the brushwood. There were some people complaining about it and I didn’t really get them. Hiking and trekking is all about adventures, exploring and finding new pathways, not using the existing ones, especially not the car roads! Anyway, we advanced straight through the woods and it was exhausting! The climb was damn steep! But don’t get me wrong! I loved it! It was a little bit tricky carrying my camera around, but how else would I share this adventure with the world?
It wasn’t long before we reached the first viewpoint. It was stunning! I love to see the clouds below me! Only then can I get the feeling of being really high and this takes my breath away every time!
There were three viewpoint in total on the trail and we reached all of them in the first 5km of the trail. The most beautiful was the second one and it was also one of the mountain picks called Small Shturac (sr. Мали Штурац).
BEAUTY OF THE FOREST
The interesting thing about Rudnik is that its environment constantly changes. Your passing through totally different aspects of the forest in a very short periods of time and this is really nice, because you can’t get bored! First there was a thick, almost rainforest like, section where you could feel the humidity in the air, breathe it and even see it in a form of a fine mist. You could also see so many different sorts of plants, fern and weeds. This section was also mostly green. Then, there was also a section with conifer forest. Have you ever noticed how magnificent the light coming through conifer branches and leaves is? It creates a beautiful arabesque of light and shadow.
We also went through beautiful golden meadows. Here the space suddenly opened and you could see the sky, nearby hills and picks. The view then continued through the villages and fields, blending finally with the horizon.
My favorite section was the “golden” one. It consisted of many close situated trees, which were very slim and high. In March this place becomes incredibly rich with a plant called sremush (sr. Сремуш). It is also konwn as WILD GARLIC since it grows in the woods and smells like garlic. This plant has many madical propertys, but it is also very popular and used for traditionaln sauces and dishes. There is even a special sort of cheese with sremush. So if you ever happen to be in this place in March, you could find so many sremush that you can get rich by gathering it, since this spot is not yet widely discovered… 😉
A GRASP OF ARCHITECTURE
I saw many lookouts too. I’m always very happy to see them, because I think they are lovely. Those are small wooden ‘’towers’’ for hunters to locate the pray.
We finished our trail by visiting the Monastery of Saint Nikola. Comparing to other stunning monasteries of Serbia this one has no historic value and is practicaly insignificant. But it was a nice place to drink some fresh spring water and rest for a while.
FALL FESTIVAL IN TOPOLA
After we successfully finished the trail, our bus took as us to Topola to visit the harvest fair. Topola is a small city but it’s fair is widely known. People all over Serbia came to Topola to have fun on this festival. The crowd was enormous! There were people selling wine, grapes, candy, pancakes, burgers, traditional boiled cabbage (this is a very delicious meal which consists of vegetables, meat and spices, whch are all cooked together in a traditional earthen pot on open fire). I think I saw nearly a hundered (exaggerating a little bit) pigs toasting on skewers (people in Serbia love to eat grilled pork, it’s a „must eat“ dish for every holiday or festival).
MYSTERY OF OPLENAC CHURCH
Finally after conquering the crowd I reached the Oplenac hill. Here you can find St. George′s Church and the Mausoleum of Karadjordjevic dynasty. Historically, this is a very significant place for Serbian people.
I heard many times the stories of the Oplenac church and how beautiful it is, but I never really expected much from it. I’ve been to Russia (which is the greatest orthodox country), Italy, France, Germany, Czech Republic, etc. but I have never seen a church like this! It’s very simple on the outside, but this modest outer shell treasures a true inner gem. And believe me, as an artist and student of architecture, I know what I’m talking about!
In the underground floor you can find a crypt. All the walls, columns and the ceiling are covered in mosaic. The stone fragments of this images are so small that you can see them as painted frescos until you come close enough (and imagine me without my glasses :D). I can’t even think of how long it took to create these perfections! The whole floor is lightened only with blue, green, red and yellow lanterns which makes the whole place even more mysterious. This beautiful light reflects on the walls making the images to tremble and dance in front the viewer’s eyes.