The city is located just over two hours on the bus from Belgrade, in the West Morava Valley in Central Serbia. There are over 30 monasteries in the vicinity dating from the 14th century. Many of these are located in the Ovcar-Kablar Gorge. More on this later. The city has a bustling main square, busy market and friendly inhabitants. But if you visit, you'll likely spend most of your time out of the city.
We stayed at this mountain cabin near Prejevor, not too far from the centre. It was the perfect antidote to the bustling cities we had been in. Peaceful, green and stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Jovana and her mum Lily welcomed us with coffee, homemade jam and fresh salad before lighting a BBQ to cook corn on the cob. We went for a walk up the hill, passing the orchards of plum trees, the encroaching darkness revealed the multitude of stars.
The next morning we set off to scale the mountain of Kablar. We had some vague directions and had a very adventurous drive through old mountain tunnels before arriving to Ovcar Banjar, a tiny town in the river valley. We had a quick look at the hiking map before starting our ascent. There are plenty of trails here and different ways to reach the summit. We of course didn’t notice the ! that accompanied our route. There were very steep sections where scrambling was required, metal handholds had been positioned in some places but it was definitely quite dodgy. The views paid off though. We gained height quickly and the view along the valley in both directions was stunning. We reached the top, sweaty and proud, and sat and ate some chocolate admiring the view, while those who had driven most of the way up bustled to the viewpoint and back. The trail we chose for the descent was much easier going. There were fruit trees to keep us energised, and a really different landscape. None of the same stunning river views though.
We stayed at an apartment in the centre of the city for a couple of nights. I’m not sure I’d recommend the place we stayed but it will remain memorable for a host of reasons…! I had a lovely run through the pedestrianised centre to the river. Then we visited the church as we wandered around. The highlights of many trips are often the food. We found THE best bakery. Serbia is a vegan paradise. No, I’m not joking. Thanks to the Eastern Orthodox tradition of abstaining from animal products on Wednesdays and Fridays, many baked goods are vegan. Zmej pekara was amazing! Not only did they have friendly and patient staff, but a wealth of vegan choice. I think we visited about 4 times in 3 days. The mushroom burek, potato pitta, sweet breads and weird cheesecake thing were all amazing but were however shadowed by THE CHOCOLATE CROISSANT. Chocolate filled and chocolate covered. Bliss.
The market in Čačak was another absolute highlight. The colourful stands of fresh and local produce were a vegan heaven. We were admiring a man’s melon stall and were offered a taste. “Dobro” we had a multilingual conversation about which countries we were from, which somehow resulted in us being given half an enormous melon!
Undeterred by our adventurous hike, we returned to Ovcar Banjar to scale the second of the twin peaks. The monasteries in this area are extraordinary. Many are still inhabited by monks or nuns, and have ancient wall paintings. The first that we visited was Monastir Preobrazenje where we had to put on long clothes to be allowed to enter. The nuns were very friendly and had provided fruit and water, and the paintings inside the dark chapel were beautiful. We continued our hike on the other side of the river where we saw three or four other monasteries. Another larger one had refreshments for travellers too. It was at this point that we decided that the weather wasn’t quite bad enough to deter us from scaling the peak. It was shortly after this that it started with the thunder and lightning. You’ll have to let me know what the view is like from the top…
If we had more time, there were miles and miles of unexplored paths and numerous other monasteries to visit. And I'd definitely return to the city just to visit the pekara!
What's the best bakery food you've had? Comment below.