An hour south of Kragujevac lies Žiča Monastery, one of the most important monasteries in the country. When you take into account the importance of charter houses in the nation, that statement may well hit home. Žiča was established in the early 13th century, and has the honour of being built by Stefan Nemanjić and Saint Sava – although we sincerely doubt that they did the grunt work.
Žiča inevitably became the most important church in the Serbian lands, and was quickly made the official coronation church for Serbian Kings. A King simply wasn’t a King until he had been coronated here. The monastery was made a Cultural Monument of Exceptional Importance in 1979, although its importance and value have never been questioned.
If you’re heading to Žiča then Kraljevo is the city you need to drive towards, and the King’s Town is more than deserving of a little attention itself. It was here that major dents into Turkish rule were achieved during the First Serbian Uprising, and Serbian confidence grew out of the successes. This is another Serbian town where history fills the air, a city whose best years may be behind it but remembers them with no small amount of respect.
Questionable leaders have meant that Jagodina is subject to varying amounts of scorn from the cities to the north, but don’t go selling the town of strawberries short just yet. The Wax Museum might be among the least accomplished we’ve seen, but that simultaneously makes it a fabulously entertaining experience. The town’s central park is home to the highest artificial waterfall in the Balkans, and the city is surrounded by a number of excellent traditional restaurants. An underrated spot? Absolutely.
A rudimentary knowledge of Serbian geography will give a clue as to the history of Mount Rudnik. The world’s oldest evidence of copper smelting was found here, and the mountain is rich with mining resources such as lead, zinc, copper and more. The dam here is shaky to say the least, but for the time being a catastrophe seems far away.
There’s more to the mountain than just digging holes and finding resources of course. Ostrvica is a hill that has long been sued as a summer getaway for leaders and despots alike, and the mountain is home to numerous examples of classic Serbian architecture. There are plenty of gorgeous views out over Šumadija too, although it feels like that goes without saying when it comes to mountains.
A short drive north of Kragujevac lies the town of Topola, an enjoyable little stop itself but one far more famous for the church and mausoleum complex that lies above it. Oplenac is one of the finest attractions in the entire country, the final resting place of the Karađorđević family and home to one of the most incredible mosaics we’ve ever seen. Calling it a single mosaic is somewhat unfair, as the entire interior of the church is one huge mosaic made up a millions of tiny, coloured pieces. It really does need to be seen to be appreciated.