The Šumadija region is the spiritual and cultural capital of Serbia and has given its own touch and contribution to much of that which makes Serbia different. Here trumpets and pipes are provide musical entertainment, the kolo dance weaves in and out at major gatherings, cold days are warmed up by a mug of “Šumadija Tea” – (Serbian rakija brandy heated and sweetened with honey or sugar), and people still gather round to hear stories of Serbian heroes and army commanders, great battles and even greater victories.
Maybe it is because of this historical legacy that every stone in the region has a story to tell. A special kind of roadside stone marking, the krajputaši, alert the traveller to moments in the region’s history or point the way to a famous landmark – but sometimes they just encourage the traveller to stop and take a break.
Partially cleared forests were transformed into vineyards and orchards. Wine from Župa and the royal cellars in Oplenac and rakija (brandy) from Čačak and Kraljevo are droplets of history distilled into tradition. Small and large rivers like the Zapadna Morava, Studenica, Ibar and Gruža flow through central Serbia, but this region is also home to numerous natural mineral water springs with proven medicinal qualities – these are Serbia’s spas.
The villages of central Serbia, whether they are nestled around Aranđelovac, Topola, Gornji Milanovac, Čačak, Knić, Lučan, Kruševac, Kraljevo, Aleksandrovac or Kopaonik, nurture the tradition of good health typical of this region. From every single grain that arrives on the dining table as proja (cornbread) or pogača (bread roll), through to medicinal plants, forest fruits, cheese, kajmak (kaymak – similar to clotted cream) and smoked meat, all the way through to the lamb under the sač (a cauldron-like cooking pan) or on the grill – the taste of food is improved here by the fresh air, mineral water and medicinal properties of nature. Gibanica (cheese and egg pie), apple or plum pie, clear chicken or turkey soup and prebranac (Serbian baked beans) are also on the menu. Central Serbia is often thought of as one big fruit and vegetable garden, where during autumn every village turns into a small factory churning out winter provisions and fresh juices made to local recipes.
Located near rivers, springs and streams and on mountains slopes, the villages of central Serbia offer opportunities for a varied and active holiday, which depending on the season can be a mixture of fishing, hunting, skiing, swimming, horse-riding, picking medicinal plants and forest fruits, walking, biking, preparing food and winter provisions with hosts, rakija distilling or grape-picking. Some village households hold workshops on how to make handicrafts and prepare traditional food or dry plums.
Touring the landmarks of mediaeval Serbia – its many monasteries – further adds to the powerful spiritual electricity felt across the region. The Endowment of King Petar Karađorđević I is located in Oplenac, and of special interest is the Church of St George, known for its unusually beautiful mosaics.
The Dragačevo Brass Bands Festival in Guča, with its rich and unique tradition, and celebrated good music, world-class fun and genuine hospitality, has helped to make Serbia’s name known around the world. The Rajac Mow (Kosidba na Rajcu) is an event born from the tradition of mowing, in which relatives, neighbours and friends came together to cultivate the land. At that time, the mountain meadows below Rajac, near Ljig, were mowed in the middle of summer to the melodies of authentic folk songs.