Zlatibor, Serbia: land of fresh air and kajmak
If there was a Serbian version of Dirty Dancing, it would be set in Zlatibor. It’s a popular mountain resort area nestled among pine tree forests and known for its fresh air, hiking and spa treatments. I haven’t spotted a dance hall yet, but I’ll bet there’s one somewhere in the little shops that surround the town center.
The town’s charm is somewhat manufactured, but the natural setting isn’t. The region has been a vacation spot since the early 1800s, when Prince Miloš Obrenović summered here. (I hate to use “summer” as a verb, but he was a Prince.) The air is noticeably nicer here, and it inspires a rare sight in Serbia: physical activity. People come to Zlatibor to ski in the winter and swim and hike in the summer. But true to the Serbian spirit, it’s also known for its smoked meat, kajmak and lepinja, a special sandwich. You’ve got to love Serbia: they don’t take their exercise too seriously–and if they do, it’s followed by a meal of 3,000 calories.
True to the Zlatibor spirit, I started my first evening here with a hike to the monument. I was with several Serbian women, one of whom was wearing heels. Based on their footwear, I figured it was a short walk and brought our own Prince Miloš along for the walk. After 40 minutes of walking uphill, I felt like I was carrying a watermelon. Actually, I was luring a French Bulldog up a hill with a giant stick.
Miloš and I have a long way to go before being considered Serbian. It was a nice walk, but there was no way I could have done it in heels. Even for this lovely view.
At the top of the hill, we stopped to admire the Zlatibor monument to fallen soldiers in World War II.
We returned to town with revived lungs and a hearty appetite. Fortunately, our hotel obliged with a buffet fit for Kellerman’s, I mean, King Aleksandra. The highlight of the meal was Zlatibor kajmak. Kajmak in Belgrade is a cross between cream cheese and butter. In Zlatibor, it’s denser and more feta-like, thanks to the fresh raw milk in the region. I like kajmak in Belgrade, but I love it in Zlatibor. Looks like I’m going to have the time of my life…and hit the hiking paths again.