The way through the forest near Trsic, Serbia was at once treacherous and wildly beautiful. Pine boughs scratch the sides of our car, birdsong provides some diversion to our growing terror as we, or rather our guide/driver Kristina, scrabble up and up the unmettled track. Not far now Kristina says for the 28th time. Finally, after what seemed like several hours – actually about 30 minutes – we break into a clearing.
There before us is a collection of fairy-tale wooden buildings. This is Konak Militsa, an eco wonderland with views over the hills around Trsic to die for.
We disembark and walk past a pen of vociferous geese and are warmly greeted by owner Budomir Matic.
Budomir: 'Everything is prepared naturally. Everything is organic. In Serbia most food is organic. Serbian food is too good to be forgotten.'
Very shortly we’re sat at a huge table in the main restaurant and the feast begins. The classic welcoming spoon of jam and shot of rakia. Actually a small carafe of the potent fruity liquid. This one was quince. Then a bowl of chorba – a lamb and vegetable soup, kajmak (think yoghurt meets cream cheese) and other Serbian cheeses, cvarci (pork scratchings), prebenac (Serbian baked beans), zalena salata (very simple lettuce, radish and cucumber) and delicious crusty Serbian bread. Most if not all sourced from Budomir’s own land or other local organic sources. Including a very quaffable local red wine.
Then it was time to tour the accommodation on offer at Konak Militsa. Let’s let the pictures talk.
And a final word or two from Budomir.
'My grandmother lived to be a hundred and two. She would tell me that the secret to a long life is one rakia, one coffee, one pipe of tobacco and 10 eggs every morning.'
From one forest denizen to another. Miodrag Misic and his wife own and run a splendid rustic bed and breakfast in a protected parkland dedicated to Serbian linguist/language reformer, Vuk Stefanović Karadžić whose birthplace is nearby.
It was to there we repaired for the night. Next morning, bright and early, we were exposed again to the Serbian rakia ritual. First to be placed on the table: a shot of rakia, wild strawberry jam and coffee. Take a spoonful of jam, then a shot of rakia, then coffee.
After which breakfast appears. And what a breakfast!
And all the while our host Miodrag was there to instruct us.
'Me I drink one litre of rakia to break stone with a hammer. I get half the litre and the hammer gets the other half, The hammer loves rakia.'
Words and images by Fred Shively and Paul Kelly, the Balkan Caffeinators.
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