Serbia hosts some of the best, award-winning festivals that attract young people from all over the world, giving them the opportunity to see their favorite musicians at a relatively low cost, while providing the highest level of enjoyment.
Numerous film festivals, visited each year by some of the world’s biggest stars in film: FEST, Kustendorf, the Magnificent Seven Festival, Independent Films Festival, Auteur Film Festival, European Film Festival on Palić… Among the internationally recognized are also the outstanding theatre festival Bitef – Belgrade International Theatre Festival and Belef – Belgrade Summer Festival.
However, if you truly wish to get acquainted with Serbian tradition in a more original and intimate manner, you should visit various minor festivals and events being held across the country. More and more tourists are recognizing the unique beauty of these local events that depict a tradition specific to a region.
Famous director Emir Kusturica has built the beautiful ethno village “Drvengrad” (eng. Wooden town) set between two mountains. Every year it hosts Kustendorf festival, an event visited by some of the world’s top film stars.
Located on Mećavnik hill in Mokra Gora nature park, the meeting point of two beautiful Serbian mountains Tara and Zlatibor, ethno village “Drvengrad” is a product of film director Emir Kusturica’s imagination, and was built for the production of his film “Life is a miracle”.
Around the world it is better known under the name of Kustendorf, a gorgeous oasis just beside Mokra Gora, a town of only 605 residents not far from the city of Užice.
“Drvengrad” is a rectangular ethno village with main street leading from the entrance gate on one end to a small wooden Christian-orthodox church on the other.
The church was built in tradition of Russian log cabin churches and is dedicated to St. Sava, the founder of Serbian autocephalous christian orthodox church. In the center of the village is a square paved with wooden blocks and surrounded by authentic log cabins brought in from their original locations and placed on foundations made of stone.
Streets in the village are named after some famous people. Main street bears the name of a Nobel prize winner, writer Ivo Andrić.
There are also streets named after Cuban revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara, Argentine football player Diego Armando Maradona, Serbian actor Miodrag Petrović Čkalja and famous film directors Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman. One street is named after Novak Djoković, one of the best tennis players in the world.
“Drvengrad” has an art gallery, a library, a cinema called “Underground” after one of Kusturica’s most famous movies, a cake shop with home made sweets, a restaurant with traditional Serbian cuisine, a souvenir shop etc.
Somewhat fantastic and mystical atmosphere of the place that actually resembles a fairy tale town, is additionally amplified by wooden birds placed on the upper plateau of its main square.
In 2005 the Brussels based “Philippe Rotthier foundation for architecture” has named “Drvengrad” the best architectural achievement in Europe in past three years. This ethno village was also awarded a four-star city-hotel status (just like Sveti Stefan in Montenegro).
“Drvengrad” also hosts the international “Kustendorf” film festival, founded by Emir Kusturica. It is conceived as an event where young filmmakers and students can meet famous actors and directors, but also as a meeting point of bands and musicians. Special highlight of the festival is a “bad films burial” ceremony taking place at the Bad films cemetery.
The first film “buried” here was “Die hard 4.0”. Over the years, actors Johnny Depp and Gael Garcia Bernal but also directors Nikita Mikhalkov, Jim Jarmusch and Abbas Kiarostami were among celebrities that have visited “Kustendorf”.
A visit to “Drvengrad” is not complete until you took a train ride along the Šargan eight, a 12km part of the narrow-gauge heritage railway.
“Ćira”, the old steam train, shall take you through deep rocky gorges sliding up and down an extraordinary number-eight-shaped track route. This so-called “eight”, the only such combination of tunnels and bridges in the world, manages to overcome a 300 meter altitude difference between Mokra Gora and Šargan.
Near “Drvengrad” you can also find another “must see” site. That is a village called Kremna, the home of “prophets” from the Tarabić family.
How to get to the magical village of Drvengrad?
The nature park Mokra Gora extends between Mt. Tara and Mt. Zlatibor at about 210 km from Belgrade and 290 km from Niš.
To the very Mokra Gora and Drvengrad you come using the road to Višegrad from the direction of Užice or Bajina Bašta.
When you are already here, don’t miss…
Taking the old “Ćira” on the “Šargan eight” railroad between Šargan and Mokra Gora.
Visiting Zlatibor and the Zlatibor area, as well as Čajetina where you must attend the traditional event “Pršutijada” and try some of the domestic specialties prepared from the well preserved recopies.
Don’t miss a visit to Tara and enjoy the beauties.
Lush nature of Mokra Gora merges the spirit of old times and modern era: the old “Šargan Eight” railway, Emir Kusturica’s ethno-village “Drvengrad” and a modern ski center with artificial snow cannons
Steep, exciting relief covered with dense pine forests between Mt. Tara and Mt. Zlatibor was once known as “Markovo polje” (Marko’s field), a place where Marko Kraljević, a Serbian medieval knight and a hero of epic poetry, threw maces from one hill to another, according to traditional folk stories.
Today, however, Mokra Gora (eng. Wet mountain) is better known for its tourist attractions and breathtaking nature surrounded with valleys and gorges of the White and the Black Rzav and the Kamiška River.
Old mountain cabins are scattered across meadows between streams and numerous mineral springs. And contrasting them, new cabins were built in the old traditional style on the hill Mećavnik that dominates in Mokra Gora. Set in a line in cobbled streets cabins create “Drvengrad” (eng. Wooden town), the famous ethno-village of the film director Emir Kusturica.
While filming the “Life is a Miracle”, director was so enchanted by the beauties of Mokra Gora that he decided to come to live here, build a unique village and start a film festival “Kustendorf” that takes place in January.
At that time of the year, Mokra Gora is the perfect destination for skiers as the ski resort “Iver” is located only 10 km up the hill from Drvengrad. New modern ski center is fully equipped for spending a perfect day out in the snow: four ski tracks, ski lifts and artificial snow system.
Nevertheless, the most beautiful way to experience this lush landscape is to take a train ride on old “Ćira” on the “Šargan Eight”, a truly unique narrow railway track.
8-shaped railway cuts through steep and rocky landscape and passes through 22 tunnels and crosses over a dozen of bridges, making passengers unaware of having crossed this unusual winding track from Mokra Gora to Šargan.
At the stops along the way pride of green pines and amazing viewpoints will leave you breathless, with sounds of the nearby waterfalls.
Mineral waters spring out deep in forest, and the best known spring is “Bele vode” (White water). It is said that its miraculous water cures eye diseases, therefore once at Mokra Gora numerous tourist will also come here to invigorate their eyes.
Covered with mountain flora, the “Hajdučka” and the “Crvena” (Red) caves treasure the secrets of hajduci (hero freedom fighters in the Balkans) while the remains of a Roman road and cemeteries indicate that in the time of the Roman Empire a significant road was leading through this area.
This landscape isn’t appealing only to humans, but also to numerous rare animal species that found their home in these forests. Capercaillie, Short-toed Snake Eagle, brown bear, wolf and wild cat are just some of them.
All these beauties of Mokra Gora won’t leave anyone indifferent as the landscape connecting two nature’s perfections, Mt. Tara and Mt. Zlatibor, must truly be something outstanding.
How to get to the mountain with the winding Šargan railroad?
The nature park Mokra Gora is located about 210 km from Belgrade and 290 km from Niš.Google maps>>HERE<<
If you’re using your own transport, it is best to take the highway from Belgrade to Montenegro.
If coming from Niš, the road to Mokra Gora leads across Kruševac, Čačak, Požega, Užice and Zlatibor. In Zlatibor the road separates leading to Nova Varoš and Višegrad. You need to take the road leading to Višegrad in order to get to Mokra Gora.