Drvengrad (also known as Küstendorf) is a traditional ethno village in Serbia built by film director Emir Kusturica on the hill of Mećavnik near Mokra Gora. Located in the Zlatibor district near the city of Užice, southwest from Belgrade, the village was built at the site where shooting of Kusturica’s film „Život je Čudo“ (Life is a Miracle) took place.
Kusturica’s idea for building this village stems from his personal tragedy, as he stated in one interview:
“I lost my city [Sarajevo] during the war. That is why I wished to build my own village. It bears a German name: Küstendorf. I will organize seminars there, for people who want to learn how to make cinema, concerts, ceramics, painting. It is the place where I will live and where some people will be able to come from time to time. There will be of course some other inhabitants who will work. I dream of an open place with cultural diversity which sets up against globalization.”
The name Drvengrad (“Timber Town”) is self-explicatory because everything in this village is made of conifer trees, which are a great national wealth of western Serbia. The other name village is known by, Küstendorf, means “a coastal village” but it’s also a wordplay on his own name: Kustu – dorf or the village of Kustu (Kusturica’s nickname).
Drvengrad is a traditional village in its shape and structure: it is of rectangular shape, completely surrounded by a wooden fence, with the entrance gate placed at one end of its longer axis and the main street extending to the other end, where a small church with wooden belfry is situated. In the village centre there is a square paved with wooden blocks and sleepers, surrounded by authentic log cabins brought to the village from the surrounding area and Republika Srpska.
Each log cabin is a facility typical of a city; while visiting Drvengrad you can stay at the hotel “Mećavnik“, see some beautiful art at the gallery “Macola“, pay a visit to the library, watch movies at the cinema house “Underground” (which is literally located underground), eat some delicious homemade cakes from the cake shop, go to Kapor bar to enjoy some jazz music, have a hot drink in the amazing atmosphere of the café “The Damned Yard”, try local and international cuisine at the restaurant “Visconti”, or go to the National Restaurant “Lotika” where you can find some of the best dishes of Serbian cuisine. There is also a sports & culture center consisting of a gym, a swimming pool, a sauna, a discotheque, a billiard room, and private rooms of Kusturica family. The village also offers handcraft and souvenir shops.
Streets of this magical village bear names of the people who have inspired Kusturica throughout his life: Nikola Tesla, Stanley Kubrick, Jim Jarmusch, Maradona, Che Guevara, Joe Strummer, Novak Djoković and the Nobel Prize winning Serbian writer Ivo Andrić, after whom the main street is named. There is a display of restored old cars throughout the streets which adds to the antique feel.
Drvengrad was inaugurated on September 25, 2004 with the premiere screening of Kusturica’s movie “Life is a Miracle”. He then received Philippe Rotthier European Architecture award in 2005 which pronounced Drvengrad the best architectural achievement in Europe in the previous 3 years. The village gained a status of a 4 star town hotel complex.
“I created a town that looks as if people have always lived there. However, no one ever did”, Kusturica said, describing the idea he had while creating the village.
Küstendorf Film and Music Festival is an annual event held in January, with various activities prepared for its visitors such as workshops and lectures held by prominent people of the movie business. The festival is famous for its anti-commercial position shown by the lack of a red carpet or any other Hollywood style traditions. In the official competition part of the festival, student films from all parts of the world are shown and the best ones are awarded with a golden egg. One interesting tradition of this festival is a “bad films burial” taking place at the “bad films cemetery” situated in a secluded part of the village. The first film to be buried at this cemetery was “Die Hard 4.0”.
During the festival all rooms in Drvengrad are fully booked. Each of the unique log cabins has a separate path leading to it, and is decorated with handcrafted furniture paired with a beautiful view through the window. However, guests needn’t worry; despite the ethno style, all the cabins are provided with a bathroom, TV and the Internet access.
While visiting Drvengrad, make sure to take a train ride along the Šargan eight, the famous narrow-gauge heritage railway running from the village of Mokra Gora to Šargan vitasi station. An old steam train named Ćira will take you down a number eight shaped track route just above Drvengrad.
Since winter 2007 there is also a ski domain built 8 km away from Drvengrad so visitors can enjoy skiing as well.
With so many attractions this small village offers, it is difficult to leave disappointed. Kusturica has built a cozy little piece of heaven where everyone can find some relaxing distractions from their everyday life.