Mountaineering, hiking-marathon tour in Homolje mountains. Only the most persistent ones manage to do it, not necessarily the strongest ones. It was a new climbing experience, and once again, nature that exists only in Serbia. The magnificent weather, and an even better company, enabled us to have a great time and wish to do it once again.
A trip to Homolje mountains
I’ve never been to Homolje before, and yet I’ve heard so much about it and its brands and landmarks.
For the ones that might have some trouble with geography (thank God, you can google it all) Homolje mountains are set in the eastern Serbia and are classified as lower mountains with highest peaks at an altitude of 650 do 970 meters (there are 16 of them altogether).
The mountains are rich in forest: beech, oak, and there are a lot of meadows in which you can enjoy (humans as well as flora and fauna). Everything is covered in natural beauties, streams, waterfalls, caves, gullies…
Some of the greatest brands from Homolje (and in Serbia) are Homolje honey and Homolje cheese (sheep, cow, goat, or mixed).
Honey is well known to be great for one’s health both as food and as a medicine. Every kind of honey (wild flower, acacia…) has its specific aroma, taste, color, thickness and medical uses. It is interesting that the crystallization process varies from one sort of honey to another. Acacia honey can stay liquid up to a couple of years, while wild flower honey crystallizes after only a couple of months. (Med sa Homolja).
Homolje cheese comes from alpine dairies (farms by the pastures). Village households which don’t have the assets to keep their sheep on pastures take them to dairies where a shepherd takes care of them and milks them, and makes cheese (cottage or mature) from the milk.
Who did I go with?
A mountaineering club ‘Vulkan’ from Pozarevac took us on the tour through Homolje. This April, they organized Homoljski marathon for all of the mountaineering clubs that wished to participate, and the mountaineering club PK ‘Radnicki’ from Belgrade took us there.
There were two tails, a 35-kilometer and a 16-kilometer long one. We, the beginners, wanted to try our luck and applied for the 35 kilometer-trail. Luckily, we came to our senses in time and changed our minds, applying for the shorter one.
I cannot even think of what would’ve happened, had we decided for the marathon trek.
The beginning of the new experience was in the village Vitovnica, nearby the river and the monastery of the same name. Vitovnica is a medieval village, first mentioned in the Hungarian writings dating back to 1390.
Here we are, in Vitovnica, making the preparations for the marathon walk:
A light step forward (and the two of us are in the background, thinking our guide was still there):
Right at the beginning of the trail, on the right side of the river Vitovnica, there’s the homonymous monastery.
This is one of the oldest churches in the eparchy of Branicevo. The monastery was first mentioned in the census lists in the times of the Ottoman Empire, around the year of 1537, where there’s also data about the number of monks living in it, and the amount of money they had to pay to the Sultan as tax (paid in akchas, Ottoman currency).
According to the stories, the monastery was built by the Serbian king Milutin, at the end of the 13th century. It was torn down and rebuilt multiple times. The monastery complex consists of the Holy water source and three lodges:
We lost our guide
Our trail goes along the monastery, i.e. both of our trails. After losing the sight of our guide, (as a matter of fact, we didn’t even know who our guide was), we decided to simply go along and follow the crowd.
After we had walked a quite bit of our trail (convinced we were on the right way), we found out that we had taken the 35-kilometer one. Although we weren’t exactly thrilled, but the silver lining was that the two of our mountaineering buddies were also mistaken and started to go back.
We were out of our depth, but what could we do? Would we manage to complete the trek, if we took the 35-kilometer one? On the other hand, we didn’t know how to find the 16-kilometer one (who knows where the turn was, and the rest of the group had already left).
As I said, luckily, we found more mountaineers who had the same problem (they had lost their guide). And so, we created a small, but a well-chosen group (the four of us) to continue our way through Homolje.
A small, but a well-chosen group
So, we started climbing higher and higher, and enter the woods (without the guide).
Luckily, the trek was marked well, and in our company we had more experienced mountaineers than me.
For a long time (an hour or two), there wasn’t a soul on our trek. We still didn’t give up hope that we would eventually run into somebody.
The first alpine dairy
While we were hiking, we came into a pasture, in which there was a decrepit old shepherd’s shack (it was probably a dairy of some kind).
Fortunately (hip, hip hooray, we didn’t get lost in the woods), we met some other mountaineers there, who had stopped to rest (I think they were from Novi Sad).
We joined them for some time, and then continued hiking with a little more confidence, thinking that we would be able to complete the trek successfully after all. Now, we were able to enjoy in nature more, and we also prepared to conquer our first peak (Vrata, 815 meters) in order to get a well-deserved rest on the 16-kilometer trek. The very peak was a couple hours of some serious hiking away (more serious than the one in Fruska gora).
Conquering the first peak
Finally, we conquered the first peak and most of the group was together again (marathon hikers took the longer way around, the 35-kilometer one), with a longer break and some truanting on the grass.
When was the last time you simply lay in the grass, looking at the sun and the infinite blue sky?
I haven’t done that for at least 30ish years.
After an hour and a half break, we conquered the second peak (Kobilja glava, 778 meters) quickly and easily.
On the way to the second peak, there were some great places to take a photo.
If you climbed somewhere, you have to get down
Then, climbing down and some new challenges ensued (comfortable sneakers are a ‘must have’) and new natural beauties:
Our lungs were recovering from the Belgrade smog, but also nature amazed me. I will try to share that amazement with you through the photos from our hiking. Isn’t it wonderful and relaxing, fresh air and the beginning of spring in the forest:
Somewhere towards the very end, there were streams and waterfalls, with crystal-clear water.
The final challenge, a shaky, wooden (and half rotten) bridge we had to cross:
And where there’s clear water, there’s also…
Where to for lunch
For me, Homolje had thrown one other surprise. There was a restaurant at the end of the trek. Although the main rule is not to go on a trip without a backpack full of necessities, food (which was my case, I could feed the entire group), it might’ve not had to be taken seriously. It would be pity to pass that fish restaurant, and not to try the fresh trout.
We, half-marathon climbers, reached the finish a little earlier that the others did, our stomachs full. The marathon climbers (35-kilometer trek) were arriving till 7 p.m., in time for beans and beer that were organized (traditional cuisine could be ordered to) with traditional music. Nothing can pass without kolo (traditional Serbian dance).
The last of the Mohicans, finishing the 35-kilometer marathon.
A cheerful host that has greeted us with traditional dishes of the Homolje region.
Žmare is a traditional dish from Vlaska region which is cooked for 16 hours, with constant mixing of the corn flower, sheep meat and onion.
Truth to be told, I haven’t tasted it, because I wasn’t sure there was space left after I had consumed everything from the backpack and the fresh trout. There was just a nap on the bus back to Belgrade left.