On a Tuesday morning in late August, the four of us took a trip to the village of Vrmdža, in Eastern Serbia.
My dear friend Dragana has been living and working in Vrmdža for three years now. My visit was due two years at least. Now I had an additional reason to visit. My friend Vladimir is looking for places in rural Serbia where he could take his Serbian Cooking Class guests.
The ride took 3 hours. Two hours in the comfort of the highway. And one hour on the winding roads of wonderful Eastern Serbian rural landscape. Green hills and pastures, fields of corn that had just been harvested, sunflowers…
We follow the instructions that sound like a fairytale: pass the little bridge, follow the little river, look for the sign for a watermill. Everything around us is green, lush and natural. Marija, Vladimir’s sister who lives in Hong Kong, is breathing in deeply, amazed: “Wow, you can scent all the plants just breathing the air!”
At Dragana’s place (“you’ll see the last house in the village, brick-walled”), we are greeted by two dogs and three cats. And with an unmistakable smell of a home cooked meal. Dragana’s husband Igor is in charge of the aperitif. It is, of course, the plum raki, local šljivovica. The eight of us at the table. Dragana and Igor, their children Magadalena and Vasiliije and four of us guests: Vladimir, Marija, Ana and myself. We eat, we talk, we laugh. I love it.
We are having coffee and cake outside, at a portico in the garden with the 360-degree views of slopes and rocks of Rtanj mountain. The mountain has a special reputation among geologists, free climbers and mystics.
All the time we hear the near-by mountain river. I love the sound. It gives a rhythmical yet relaxing and purifying background to the overall atmosphere.
Dragana takes us to the upper floor, to the premises of Rural Hub. What a cosy and neat place! Perfect for workshops! The sky and the mountains peek in through the windows. I have never seen a workshop/co-working place with the view like this. I imagine it really helps you put things in perspective.
I am delighted with a little art piece, bright yellow with black spots. Dragana says Magdalena painted it. It’s a cheetah. She shows me her office, where Magdalena’s works hang on the wall. I love them! The little one is clearly talented!
Dragana is working a lot with local women, to empower and enable them to make their arts and crafts sustainable. First we visit Miladinka who makes fruit juices, jam and Serbian traditional fruit preserve called slatko (my favorite, absolutely yummy, must-try blackberry!). I am enchanted by Miladinka’s flower garden. Her husband Vukota takes as for a tour of the farm. We see and hear and smell cows, pigs and hens. Vladimir bought Miladinka’s goodies for tasting at his Serbian Cooking Class.
Our next stop is Snežana who mades fresh goat cheese. Wow! Thanks to the herbs these goats graze and a minimum technology Snežana applies (that is to say all is done by hand), the cheese is delicious, mild, with the slightest of scent. Ana and I are buying! Once home, I ate my 500g in two days.
We lodge at eco bungalows hosted by Sneža. The silence is fantastic and we sleep like babies.
The morning after I wake up before the alarm. The breakfast was delivered in the wicker basket. Again that delicious goat cheese, home baked bread buns that melt, local charcuterie and the tastiest tomatoes I’ve had in a while.
We are fully charged to take up a bit of exploration adventure. We climb to a higher quota, once a Roman fortification town. Nothing of it is preserved here, but a UNESCO heritage listed Felix Romuliana, a Roman imperial palace from 3rd century is close (70 km).
We can’t leave without the flour from the local watermill, where they grind crop the same way like 500 years ago. Would you? Once again a calming sound of water and lush greenery.
We leave Vrmdža reluctantly. Now we have to change these vast horizons, crisp air and home-made food for the frenetic buzz and concrete overload of the city. But now we know of a getaway where you can get a full recharge in just two days.
So, if you want to sleep well, eat well, get support and business advice at one place, visit Rural Hub Vrmdža.
For goodies made by local women check out their association’s Facebook page .