Interview – Bojan Pavlović, director of the City Tourism Organization of Kragujevac
The City of Kragujevac is the first capital of the new-century Serbia. In it, the first court, the first grammar school, the first theater… were established, and the Serbian industry was born in this city. The Monument to the Pupils and Teachers Executed by Firing Squad and the “Fića” automobile are its symbols. Our collocutor Bojan Pavlović considers the historic heritage, the strong urban “vibration” and the original products of the climate as the foundation on which he intends to build yet another attractive tourism destination of Serbia.
When you came to the forefront of the Tourism Organization, new, more ambitious goals were set…
Kragujevac is the fourth city by size in our country, only to be preceded by Belgrade, Novi Sad, and Niš, which, each for itself, have achieved and are achieving envious results in the tourism sphere. I don’t see why we wouldn’t be following them in that respect. We’ve got all a developed urban environment should have. I’m convinced we can become yet another outstanding Serbian urban destination, and we’re ready to face this challenge.
You are an economist by profession. How have you made progress in your career?
I earned my degree in international management at the Faculty of Economics in Kragujevac. As early as during my university days, I became a member and the president of AIESEC, an international association of students, which, through different voluntary practices, endeavors to develop leadership in young people. They sent me to the company Messe Frankfurt, with a branch in Istanbul. Upon return, I began to work at the City Administration, the Department of International Cooperation and Protocol. As the head of cooperation and protocol, I gained quite a big experience in cooperation with partner cities, cultural exchange, the organization of city holiday festivals… When I was offered to move to the Tourism Organization, to me, it was both like encouragement and like a spontaneous continuation to my prior experiences.
What exactly are the main urban attractions of the city?
The complex named “Milošev Venac”, the core of the former capital, the European unique complex of the Military-Technical Institute also known under the name “The Prince’s Arsenal” and the place where the industrial revolution in Serbia was first born. Within the Arsenal, there is a museum, “The Old Foundry”, in which the industrial achievements of that exciting timespan are exhibited.
The tragic tribulation of civilians in the time of the fascist occupation is sublimated into the monumental memorial complex in Šumarice…
The “Kragujevac October” Memorial Park is located in the location where German soldiers executed by firing squad several thousand people on October 20th and 21st, 1941. The cause for the executions by firing squad was the retaliation for the losses they had suffered in the armed battles with the chetnik and partisan troops. The central Monument to the Pupils and Teachers Executed by Firing Squad was erected in the place where, together with their teachers, 300 secondary-school pupils were executed. Today, there’s a circular path through this green space, where visitors can also see other 30 mass graves, the 10 of which tumuli have been artistically arranged. The museum “October 21st” within the complex is the most significant museum in the city, which not only preserves the memories of those abominable days, but through its activity it sends a powerful antiwar message. The legacy of famous painter Petar Lubarda is one of the exceptional collections in the museum setting.
The automobile “Zastava 750”, the popular “Fića”, has remained an amenity of the city although its manufacturing ended a long time ago…
“Zastava” used to be the biggest automobile factory in the former Yugoslavia. Since the mid-1960s, nearly a million of nice-looking cars, which have become a cult national vehicle, were produced on the factory lines. In memory of this “favorite of the nation”, we organize the “Fića Fest” ever year, which brings together numerous lovers of this “small-size car of great possibilities”. Next year, we’re going to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the start of its manufacturing in a special way.
Nikola Koka Janković’s Legacy has recently been opened, and the opening of Djura Jakšić’s Home has also been announced…
Our fellow citizen, academic and sculptor, Nikola Koka Janković, bequeathed the incredible 1700 works of art to the city. The city considered that it was needed to do something right in return for what he had done, so we built one of the most modern galleries in Serbia. In spring, its replica is going to be built in the place of the house in which Djura Jakšić, our famous poet and a painter of the romanticism epoch, live. On the upper floor, there will be an exhibition setting dedicated to the memories of him in the time of his serving here, and on the ground floor, there will be a wine “hub” – a space where the wines of Šumadija will be promoted and the legends, too, will be told over and over again about bohemian adventures from Djura Jakšić’s life.
“Šumadija Plum Brandy” has recently become a protected brandy with a geographic origin. How will you include this famous, now also acknowledged, product in the tourism offer of the city?
We’d prepared the first “Šumadija Brandy Festival” with “Šumadija Brandy” Regional Association of Producers, which was held at the beginning of December. At this moment, the Association consists of 19 distilleries, some of them having tasting rooms. At every moment, we can organize brandy tours for those interested. We’ve also got a developed offer of rural tourism, which we can meaningfully fit into thematic tours. Apart from brandy, “refreshments of Šumadija”, the famous winter potion “Šumadija tea”, our famous wineries will certainly not be left out, either.
Of your numerous sightseeing offers, which are the most popular?
The monastery tours certainly have no equal. We pay visits to Vracevsnica – the place where Kragujevac was declared capital city at the assembly held in the churchyard. We take our tourists to Blagovestenje, Voljavca, Draca, as well as other less known, but still very nice-looking monasteries.
What do you like most in your home town?
I love most the First Grammar School of Kragujevac, i.e. the space including the Theater, the Grammar School, the Youth Home, as the places where the greatest creators of my city gather and create. I was growing up on the programs of the Youth Home. Deep in my heart, I’m a rocker, proud of our band Smak and our Serbian Jimmy Hendrix – Radomir Mihajlovic Tocak (The Wheel). Although it may seem contradictory, I unfathomably love bohemian Kragujevac, personified in the atmosphere of the pubs Balkan, Stara Srbija, Paligoric, Lovac… Yet, above all, I love the spirit permeating my city, connecting the impossible to connect – traditional and modern, tranquil and dynamic. My message is: Welcome to the city with a soul, welcome to Kragujevac!
Author: Milena Mihaljčić