Travel

Drvengrad Serbia: Ethno Village by Emir Kusturica

Drvengrad, Serbia
Tomasz Woźniak /Depositphotos.com

Deep in the Serbian mountains, there is a place near the borders of Montenegro and Bosnia. One man had the vision to build a city in that spot. That city is Drvengrad, and the man who “invented” it is Emir Kusturica (not Moe Green from The Godfather).

Drvengrad is literally a wooden city located in southwest Serbia. 

It was built from the idea of (the above mentioned) Serbian movie director Emir Kusturica in 2004. Hidden between mountains Tara and Zlatibor, Drvengrad has around 500 inhabitants.

Drvengrad is also known as Mećavnik and is named after the hill on which it is located. 

Drvengrad got its world popularity from 2008, when the first film festival Kustendorf was held. After that, Drvengrad became a Serbian tourist gem.

Drvengrad: The Serbian Ethno Village

Although Drven – grad (timber – town) has the word “town” in its name, it is actually a model after an old Serbian mountain wooden village. All buildings are built out of wood, including the church which has a wooden bell as well (which means you could hear the wooden sounds..).

This type of architecture was popular during the 18 and 19 centuries in the mountainous parts of central and southern Serbia. But that was long ago. After the discovery of brick and other solid materials, these types of houses were very rare.

For that reason, Drvengrad is not just an exotic town, but a museum collection. The British foundation for architecture “Philip Rotije” declared Drvengrad (in 2005) the best architectural achievement in Europe in the previous three years [1].

For nature lovers and those who want to escape from their towns, Drvengrad is the right thing, and definitely, a place worth visiting. Besides, the surrounding forest, its beautiful mountain view and its fresh air is enough for anybody to fall in love with this place. 

If you find time to travel to Drvengrad, don’t miss the opportunity to try local traditional cuisine which is quite known by now. 

Restaurant “Prokleta Avlija” inside Drvengrad serves traditional specialties from this part of Serbia like prosciutto, kajmak, ajvar, pickles, lamb, and homemade wine and rakija.

The rooms in Drvengrad village are all in traditional style, made of natural materials (which is primarily wood) but there are few pieces of modern equipment like plasma TVs (nobody can live without TV, right?).

Modern Village

Drvengrad village in Serbia

Under the wooden exterior, Drvengrad is a modern town (in some way). It has cultural and fitness centers which are not uncommon in villages of this type. 

Some of them are the hotel (and/or cinema, it’s kind of a Schrödinger’s building) named after the movie director Stanley Kubrick. Yes, Kubrick is the name of the cinema (or the hotel).

Under the wooden exterior, Drvengrad is a modern town (in some way). It has cultural and fitness centers which are not uncommon in villages of this type. 

Some of them are the hotel (and/or cinema, it’s kind of a Schrödinger’s building) named after the movie director Stanley Kubrick. Yes, Kubrick is the name of the cinema (or the hotel).

Everything in Drvengrad has a name including streets, buildings, squares, etc. For example, the tennis court is named after famous Serbian tennis player Novak Đoković and the swimming pool after the Serbian swimmer Milorad Čavić (it makes sense, right?).

Even the restaurant is named after a famous book Prokleta Avlija written by Serbia’s only Nobel Prize winner Ivo Andrić (you would think that the library would bear the name of the famous Serbian writer but even a restaurant is alright, I guess).

Drvengrad has thirteen streets and some of them are Ivo Andrić Street, Nikita Mikhalkov Street, Jim Jarmusch Street, and Ingman Bergman Street. Library Meša Selimović (ok, now I feel better), Gallery Macola, square Diago Armando Maradona, and many others.

Küstendorf Film and Music Festival

Everything is connected in some way with the art of film in Drvengrad (and with restaurants). The idea of making Drvengrad was born during the film shooting Život Je Čudo (Life is a Miracle), which Kusturica made in 2004. 

In an interview, Kusturica describes his first encounter with Mećavnik hill during the shooting of the film Life Is a Miracle. While the crew was waiting for the clouds to dissipate, so they could proceed with their work, he saw Mecavnik covered with Sun rays.

After that event, he started to build Drvengrad (as a wooden village) and in 2008 it became a place with an international film festival [2].

Kustendorf became very popular in a short time, especially because it hosted famous names from the movie industry. 

Russian movie director Nikita Mikhalkov opened Küstendorf. In the second year, it was Jim Jarmusch and in 2010 the special guest was Johnny Depp. Also, the monument of Johnny Depp (in his real size) was revealed at the opening that year.

Kustendorf is also famous around the world for the non-glamour approach without the red carpet (there are no red carpets in nature, I guess). 

Emir Kusturica

Emir is a writer, a musician, but he is most known as a film director. He won several movie prizes at film festivals, including two golden palms at the Cannes, a Silver Bear at the Berlin Festival, and a Silver Lion at the Venice Festival.

The reason for his global success is the way he presents the people from the Balkan Peninsula in his films.

Magic realism, (the usual term, used to describe his approach and style), represents a way in which the West sees Southeast Europe and Balkan in particular. This is only in an exotic or to be more precise, a romanticized way.

In that regard, the usual subjects are gypsies or common countryside people. These are, in one word, the people from the margins of society. 

Šarganska Osmica

Šarganska Osmica

We cannot talk about Mokra Gora and Drvengrad village without Šarganska Osmica. It would be like talking about Mecavnik and without mentioning Drvengrad.

We cannot talk about Mokra Gora and Drvengrad village without Šarganska Osmica. It would be like talking about Mecavnik and without mentioning Drvengrad.

Šarganska Osmica is a heritage railway, that runs from the village of Mokra Gora to the village Šargan Vitisi. It is a small part (attractive one), of an old railway which was built to connect Europe with the Adriatic sea.

Today, it’s used only for tourist purposes. The term Osmica (Eight) refers to the shape of the railway which is 15 km long. The locomotive “Nostalgia” which is an old model of steam locomotives, provides an unforgettable experience to its passengers.

This tourist attraction had 70 000 visitors last year. A trip with this railway offers a glimpse of nature and at the same time a feeling of nostalgia.

The Bottom Line

Drvengrad is a hidden village, with old-style architecture and a wooden church. At the same time, it’s a film and music festival. It is a place where people live quiet lives in nature.

Drvengrad is a little wooden village, whose inhabitants and tourists travel by foot or by a steam train. And yet, it is a village where Johnny Depp and Monica Bellucci came by helicopter.

This being said, in the true words of Kusturica, visiting Drvengrad would mean nothing less than living the magical realism to the fullest.

References

  1. https://www.communications-unlimited.nl/emir-kustoricas-wooden-ethno-village-best-architectural-achievement-in-europe-and-a-film-festival-visited-by-johnny-depp-and-many-other-stars/
  2. http://www.kustendorf-filmandmusicfestival.org/2021/ 

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Meet the Slavs

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