October 23, 2009
Best travel tips for Serbia - RASKA/KOSOVO
Links for Tour 3: Visiting UNESCO heritage sites and spiritual places in Raska and Kosovo
These two regions are filled with historic facts and tradition. Endangered World Heritage, a long ottoman past and medieval treasures of the Serbian empire..here you have loads of culture!
The Raska Region
Serbia's South/West has currently two names. Serbs call it Raska or Old Serbia, while Muslims who live in the same region and are in majority here call it Sandzak. These two names reflect the two characters of this region in which Orthodox and Muslim populations live alongside one another with their different traditions and customs.
Even before the chaos in Kosovo, this part of Serbian territory was considered a possible future flash point and it's still making headlines. This area was the heart of medieval Serbia.
There are numerous beautiful examples of sacral buildings in existence from middle age highlighting the importance of this region in the past:
The old church of St. Peter near Novi Pazar
St. Peter's church (Црква светог Петра) is one of the oldest churches on the territory of the Serbian Orthodox Church. I made a post about it.
Sopocani Monastery near Novi Pazar
In the vicinity of Novi Pazar stands the Sopocani monastery (Сопоћани Манастир), built around 1260 as the endowment of King Stefan Uros I (Стефан Урош I), the son of King Stephen the First-Crowned (Стефан Првовенчани). The primary and major value of the Sopocani monastery are its frescoes, by which it ranks among the best examples of the European medieval painting. Here the nice UNESCO site about Sopocani and here my post.
Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery
The monastery of St. George in Ras belongs to the most important sacred places in the history of Serbian people. As early as the Middle Ages it became known as "Djurdjevi Stupovi", named after its pillars towers which adorned the monastery church. The monastery was founded by the founder of the Nemanjic dynasty, Stefan Nemanja (Стефан Немања), in the second half of the 12th century.
Here is my post about it.
The Studenica monastery was built in the late 12th century, as the endowment of the Serb ruler Stefan Nemanja (Стефан Немања), who endowed it richly with the icons and books. After he had become a monk and left for Serbian Hilandar on the Mt. Athos, his older son Stefan, later named the "First-Crowned" (Стефан Првовенчани), took his place in taking care over the monastery.(Here my post)
Novi Pazar, the former capital of the region and still the most important city here, bursts with oriental sights and smells. I made posts with beautiful pictures about Novi Pazar here, here and here.
Here are links for spiritual/cultural landmarks and Serbia's orthodox treasures
of this region:
An overview about the region from "Serbia in your hands" and from "Visit Serbia" will give you a first impression.
"panacomp"has two interesting tours called: SERBIAN U N E S C O HERITAGE inclusive KOSOVO AND METOHIJA 1 and SERBIAN U N E S C O HERITAGE inclusive KOSOVO AND METOHIJA 2 for group travels.
Kosovo and Metohija
A lot of medieval monuments in Kosovo and Metohija are in the list of World heritage in Danger. Many monuments have already been destroyed by blasting, incendiary and looting. I will intentionally not give any numbers of how many monuments/churches have been devastated as every source gives another information and also this is used a lot for manipulating information to show which side of criminals is worst.
Visok Decani Monastery
The Decani Monastery was built in the mid-14th century for the Serbian king Stefan Decanski (Стефан Урош III Дечански) and is also his mausoleum. Here my post.
The Gracanica Monastery was one of the last monuments by Serbian King Uros II Milutin. It was errected in 1321 on the ruins of an older church.
Saint archangels Monastery
The saint archangel monastery was founded by Tsar Dusan and built between 1343 and 1352 on the place of the earlier church,and is part of the Visegrad fortress complex abov the city of Prizren. Here my post.
The city of Prizren is just awsome. Here my impressions.
And this are just a few highlights to visit. Kosovo and Metohija is filled with exiting landmarks!
And here my favorite links:
The diocese of Ras-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija
Kosovo – the land of the living past – by the monks of Decani
Kosovo and Metohija by "Serbia in your hands"
A nice pdf to download about spiritual and cultural heritage of Kosovo
Travelling in the Kosovo province on one's own?
With foreign number plates you can travel everywhere in the entire province (stick to the roads...as off road there might still be landmines). With Serbian number plates however it's not recommended to travel in the Albanian parts. The Serbian authorities do not recognize as official the external border crossings of Kosovo. Between the northern Kosovo region and Central Serbia there is just an administrative line but no "official border". It is therefore advised not to enter Serbia through the Kosovo province (at the administrative line in the north) as you will not get an entrance stamp for Serbia and this can give you again problems when leaving the country. If you enter the Kosovo province by the administrative line in the Serbian part and leave it again from the Albanian part to get to Central Serbia you might have trouble at the border for leaving the Kosovo province.
How to visit Serbian orthodox monasteries?
To visit Serbian orthodox monasteries protected by KFOR you must carry personal documents as they will control you.
From what I can tell, the monks in Serbian orthodox monastery are not really strict about behavior of visitors in the monastery, as they assume that if you dress not adequate and behave rather rude, that you’re not doing it on purpose, but that you just don’t have a clue about the rules. However it’s nice to show you arrive prepared and are willing to show your respect for their holy place.
Apropriate clothing: For men it’s long trousers and closed shoes, and no head coverage. For woman it’s a long skirt, long sleeves and a headscarf.
Greeting the monks: Walking toward the monk (or monks) you can nicely say: "pomaže bog" (literally: That god helps) and he will answer "bog pomogao" (literally: God helps). The monk will then hands you his hand that you will hold in your both hands and bend down your head and tell: "oče blagoslovi" (literally: Father bless me) and he will make a sign to bless you.
Of course you don't need to do all that, a simple greeting is fine. The monastery always will send one monk to show you around the monastery and answer your questions. Often you will be invited for coffee and cakes or exquisite monastery rakija. If you want to show gratitude leave some money or in the designated places or simply by the icons in the chapel.
In the next post there will links for the last tour:
Links for Tour 4: Enjoying rural tourism and Serbian traditions in ethno villages (26.10.2009)