Leskovac, Lebane, Bojnik
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Masters of the Skara Barbeque

The city of Leskovac is located on the Veternica River, not far from where it joins the Južna Morava River. It borders the Doljevac, Gadžin Han, Vlasotince, Vranje, and Kosovska Kamenica municipalities. Leskovac is 45km from Niš and 298km from Belgrade.

In the mid-12th century, the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Komnenos handed over this region to Stefan Nemanja. The Turks captured the city in 1454 and made it the seat of their sandžak (district). Leskovac developed into an important trade city in the 18th century.  In 1877, the city underwent a sudden transformation following its liberation from the Turks. Capitalizing on its hemp growing and production, Leskovac developed a robust textile industry. Between WWI and WWII, products made in the city were sold across the world. As a result, Leskovac came to be known as the Manchester of Serbia.

Though most of the town center was rebuilt in the modern style following WWII, there are still a few buildings on the main street whose size and beauty are reminiscent of the golden age of Leskovac. The old house of Šop-Đokić is located on Liberation Boulevard and features a splendid wide courtyard. This structure is a prime example of 19th century urban architecture; today, it houses the Tourist Organization of Leskovac. If you stroll past Šop-Đokić house, you will notice the town’s Old and the New Churches.

The Old Church, Crkva odžaklija (Chimney Church) dates back to the start of the 19th century and has a very unusual history. Because the Turks forbade the locals to build a church here, the people announced they were building a house for the priest, even adding a nonfunctioning chimney to make it appear more convincing.  Six steps lead down to the area underneath the church’s arcades, indicating the depth of the structure. The interiors are very dark; a few streams of light seep through a few small windows.

Next door, the New Church is the architectural opposite of the Old Church. This five-dome structure features splendid decorations inspired by a variety of styles from Serbian medieval heritage. The church was erected in 1931 with the help of Jacques Confin, a famous doctor and a prolific writer. Confin was called the Serbian Chekhov.

Leskovac is steeped in a rich cultural and historical heritage. The villages in the area abound with remnants dating back to the Neolithic period and the Middle Ages. The village of Skobaljić on Kukavica Mountain just above Vučjanka Canyon is a perfect example of this.

The Textile Industry Museum in Strojkovac showcases the determination of the people of Leskovac to succeed in textile production. You will find the museum on the road between Leskovac and Vučje.

The 1902 Power Plant, which today is a museum, is a beautiful 19th century building on the River Vučjanka that still generates power.  The monumental Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity (Saborna Crkva) was modeled after Gračanica in Kosovo. The church’s holy day is also the slava (saints day) of Leskovac.

Nearby Rudar is home to the Saint Petka temple, whose origins are unknown.  Parts of an early Christian basilica have also been preserved here.  The fortified Hisar Hill, which overlooks Leskovac, is the site of the Monument and Memorial of the Unknown Hero. The monument honors those who died in WWII.

The area surrounding Leskovac is a nature lover’s dream come true.  If you are looking for some beautiful scenery, head to the Kukavica and Radan Mountains. The Pašina česma, a great excursion spot, is accessible via Bojnik.  The Babička forest features a range of fauna. Brestovačko Lake (Radansko Lake) is brimming with fish.  The pristine Lake Borje on Veternica River near Kukavica Mountain is one kilometer wide and nine kilometers long.

ACTIVITIES

Leskovac has a tradition of red pepper production. In fact, it is one of the symbols associated with the town. Leskovac however is best known for its famous barbecue, the skari. The meat is prepared on a specific type of grill used in this region.  Though you can enjoy this culinary specialty throughout the year, the best time to sample it is during the Roštiljijada Barbecue Festival, which takes place in Leskovac every September.  The best grill chefs from all across Serbia, Bulgaria, and Macedonia congregate in Leskovac for the festival. The people of Leskovac have patented their special recipe for the preparation of pljeskavica (hamburger). The Leskovački voz (Leskovac train) is a famous specialty that consists of various types of grilled meat, served in small portions with salad.

Leskovac Summer is another of the city’s festive events. The festival features activities for all age groups and lasts until the end of July.  The people of Leskovac also organize their own Carneval, which showcases traditional folk music and dance. It includes doodle, a ritual song and dance performed by girls during the dry summer season and koledare, songs usually performed by men visiting village homes during Christmas Eve, and an array of folk dances.

Lebane

Lebane is located in the Jablanica River Valley 27 km from Leskovac.  The town was established in 1878 next to the village of the same name.  Today, Lebane is a small and pleasant town that offers ideal spots for hiking and recreation.

Empress Town is situated six kilometers from Lebane.  Its name is associated with the ancient town of Justiniana Prima, named after Justinian, the Eastern Roman Emperor born in the nearby village of Taurezium. The area is an archeological site that spreads across several hectares and includes a fortified upper city (acropolis) and lower city. The acropolis at the highest point of the city is also the site of the ruins of a cathedral church. To the East, the Crypt Basilica was used for the burial of important church dignitaries. Evidence discovered at the site suggests that Justinian wanted to build a large city here.

Bojnik

Bojnik lies on the River Pusta, approximately 20 km north of Leskovac.  Bojnik is a very old settlement whose economy is based on agriculture and fruit production, particularly grape growing. The ancient city of Kosturan was once located nearby. Bojnik’s main square features a monument that honors the five hundred people, mostly children, women, and the elderly, who were killed here by occupiers in a one-day massacre in February of 1942. The Brestovac Accumulation Lake is located just outside the city.

When in Leskovac, Lebane and Bojnik, we recommend:

– A visit to Empress Town

– Visiting Odžaklija, the Old Chimney Church in Leskovac

– Ordering Leskovački voz, a grilled meat specialty, in one of the local restaurants in Leskovac

A PLJESKAVICA (HAMBURGER) FOR THE RECORDBOOKS

Every year, contestants at Leskovac’s Roštiljijada Barbecue Festival compete to see who can make the largest pljeskavica, or hamburger.  The current record holder is Dejan Cvetković. The hamburger he grilled in 2008 weighed an astounding 45 kilograms and measured 120 cm in diameter.

INFORMATIONS

Tourist Organization of Leskovac
Masarikov Sqare bb , 16000 Leskovac
Tel: +381 16 233 360
e-mail: toleskovac@yahoo.com
www.tol.org.rs

Tourist Organization of Lebane Municipality
55 Cara Dušana Street, 16230 Lebane
Tel: +381 16  847 160, 843 710
e-mail: tolebane@gmail.com

Municipal Assembly of Bojnik
1 Sqare Slobode , 16250 Bojnik
Tel: +381 16 821 139
e-mail: sobojnik@verat.net
office@bojnik.org.rs
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