Nine decades ago, a “landowner from Nova Varos” Milan Borisavljević built the first summer house on the Water Field, a glade at the foot of the highest summit of Zlatar. His example was also followed by other wealthy fellow-citizens. Soon, the first guests started staying in nice villas, too. This momentous jubilee of hospitality and tourism in Nova Varoš has recently been celebrated by organizing a special festivity.

“Dear friends, dear associates, lovers of the hospitality of Nova Varos and the landscapes of Zlatar, thank you for being with us… Our municipality has an exceptional geographic position which has made it interesting to tourists throughout the country, and in recent years to tourists coming from throughout the world as well. In the forthcoming years, we plan to increase and improve our accommodation capacities, empower the domestic industry and offer our guests a touch with tradition and real values,” these are some of the accents from the welcome speech given by Branko Pucarevic, director of the TO Zlatar, the main host of the celebration organized at the City Culture Center.
The attendees were also welcomed by the president of the municipality, Mr. Radosav Vasiljevic. Among other things, he emphasized: “The common goal of the management is the creation of a better and more certain future, the future that will encourage every young person from Nova Varos to return to their home… Tourism is the activity offering endless exceptional opportunities for every individual to make progress, and also for this region to revive, striving to be at the level of the best and most developed tourism destinations in our country.”

The most reputed mountain

Olgica Miljković, Ph.D., the manager for the domestic market of the National Tourism Organization of Serbia came onto the stage then. “It’s my great honor to be chosen by the National Tourism Organization of Serbia to address you on its behalf, but this honor is so much dearer to me since I myself embedded a part of my own self in the touristic development of Zlatar. Grigorije Bozovic, who published a travelogue from our region in Politika in 1935, left the first written trace of our first more serious steps made in this field. There were only a few log houses equipped for the admission of visitors at that time, and when Zlatar is concerned, he described it as “the most reputed mountain in Stari Vlah”. Of course, as a person born in Nova Varos, I am biased and I do agree with his appraisal that our Zlatar is number-one for its beauty – a blend of the Mediterranean and mountain climates, the maximum number of sunny days in the year, the broad views of the landscape and the green lakes surrounded by dense, healthy forests. Although this may sound as a fragment from a fairytale, the nature of Zlatar is real.

Gold and pearls with a panoramic view

As guests of the TO of Zlatar, we were asked not only to report on the event, but also to become familiar with the attractions offered to tourists. We were accommodated at the Panorama Hotel, which started working exactly half a century ago, and for so many years it was being reputed as one of the most elite in the then Yugoslavia. Even today, waiter Dragan Lecic Leka, who used to serve President Tito, legendary footballer Dzajic, and other sports stars who regularly came for altitude training, works here. Of course, the list of famous guests does not end here. Today, the hotel is in a solid condition, but the structure of the guests has changed – they are mainly pupils coming for recreational classes, smaller-sized sports clubs, and individual guests. The Panorama awaits investors who will give it back the splendor it once had, but still it is the lifeline of tourism. In its immediate vicinity, the new 4-star hotels “Zlatarski zlatnik” and “Zlatarski biser” (“The Golden Coin of Zlatar”; “The Pearl of Zlatar”) have been built, as well as a line of smaller-sized boards and apartments which satisfy the tastes of picky visitors.

Hit the road!

Milica Popovic, a tourismologist, introduced herself as our guide on our first morning on Zlatar. She opened a map and offered us different possibilities of field research. Unfortunately, due to the bad weather, we gave up on the most exciting offer – cruising the Uvac, watching griffon vultures, sightseeing the Ice Cave and visiting the belvederes that cast a view of the fluvial meanders. Photos of the imaginarily “twisted” riverbed of the Uvac, above which huge eagles fly, are found in all publications promoting the natural beauties of Serbia.
We decided to head for the Water Field – the place where the tourism history of this region had begun. Today, there is only one forest house there since the summer houses burnt down during the Second World War, and the newly-constructed monastery of Saints Cosmas and Damian. That the log church was erected without one single nail is a curiosity, and the churchyard offers a magnificent view of the meadows surrounded by the forest. The trekking path leads towards the summit of the mountain and farther on towards the monastery of Mileseva, which is yet another one amongst attractive offers for those in good shape.

Ljeposava’s table groaning with food

The map of the territory of Nova Varos looks like a heart with four arteries. You can head for Sjenica, Prijepolje, Zlatibor or Javor. We decided to head for Javor and the ethno-village of  Stitkovo, where the asphalt road ends. Although the tourist signalization is praiseworthy, we got lost a bit only to find ourselves in the hamlet of Bozetic. We approached the first house and in front of the door we found Ljeposava, who explained to us which turn we should take. She offered us coffee. We entered a nicely arranged dining-room, where we started quite a natural conversation, and her husband Slavko joined us soon. We learnt a lot about their life and the history of this region; beside coffee, water and quince sweet, they brought other refreshments – spinach pie and homemade sour milk. We were touched by this cordiality of theirs, and in other encounters with the people of this region we understood that cordiality and hospitality are the main features of the local mentality. While parting, we bought a small bucket of full-fat Zlatar cheese, without which it is impossible to even imagine a table groaning with food in Nova Varos.

Stitkovo – Beyond remote

On our way to Stitkovo, we paid a visit to Dubnica – a monastery of a nice architecture and a mysterious history; it was probably constructed at the beginning of the 15th century on the foundations of a much older temple. These landscapes require a slow drive since they are mild wavelike green landscapes. The scenes of the meadows on which cows and sheep freely graze, and the winding paths leading towards the brilliantly white village churches are pleasing to the eye. Driving through this tranquil landscape, we arrived in Stitkovo, from where one can only proceed on foot. Miljojko Ckonjevic, the host of the protected ambience-whole of the ethno-village, welcomed us. The houses were built in the spirit of folk architecture at the end of the 19th century, and each one is original. On his part of the estate, Miljojko made a wooden veranda harmoniously fitted into the ambience. It is here that he welcomes mainly those tourist groups who have already announced their arrival and who come here from cruising the Uvac. He offered us coffee and honey brandy as well, and with a smile on his face he was telling us how Chinese women had specially liked his potion. In the old storehouse, there are the shelves now, with tasty homemade juices and buckwheat flour used to make buckwheat pie, which is also a trademark of local gastronomy.

New blood vessels

The last day of our stay was dedicated to the extinguished star of spa tourism. Due to a favorable height above sea-level, the ozone- and turpentine-saturated air, and a special wind rose, Zlatar has a status of an air spa. However, even prior it became official, it had empirically been known that this region was curative, first of all for the heart and the blood vessels. For that reason, the Republic Health Insurance Agency constructed an exceptionally beautiful RH center that for so many years was a leader in the rehabilitation of patients suffering from heart diseases. By coincidence, we came across a woman doctor, a retired anesthesiologist from Stuttgart, who has been coming here for years. She told us that Zlatar produces “new blood vessels”. When we commented that it was nice stylistic exaggeration, she told us with the authority of a scientist that by no means was it stylistic exaggeration, but rather a proven truth. On the hill where the closed RH Center lies, we also came across mister Isidor from Pancevo, who had once been a patient, but who still comes here to recuperate every year. Although closed, the RH Center still attracts guests with its success story. Unofficially, we have learnt that this giant of medical tourism will soon be revolving in the orbit.
While parting, we only determined what of all the things we had failed to see: village households, log churches, trekking and mountain biking trails, etc.

By Milena Mihaljcic
Photo by: TO of Zlatar