Kosovo Mountains

Similar to the entire region, except the coastal parts, the climate in Kosovo is continental.

Much of Kosovo's terrain is rugged, and its mountainous area, including the highest peak Đeravica, at 2656 m above sea level, is located in the south-west, bordering Albania and Montenegro.The mountain range dividing Kosovo from Albania is known in English as the "Cursed Mountains" or as the Dinaric Alps.

The Kopaonik Mountain is located in the north, bordering Central Serbia, although all of its ski resorts and other tourist destinations are outside Kosovo.
The central region of Drenica, Crnoljevo and the eastern part of Kosovo, known as Goljak, are mainly hilly areas.

The Šar Mountains are located in the south and south-east, bordering Macedonia. This is one of the region's most popular tourist and skiing resorts, with Brezovica and Prevalac as the main tourist centers.

I have never been to Šar, but it is supposed to be very picturesque and beautiful; its untouched landscape is covered by glacial lakes, pine forests and very small villages, populated by sheep herders. A big part of the mountain (39.000 hectares) was declared a national park in 1986, with the purpose of protecting more than 147 butterfly species, and around 200 birds.

Although some locations are promoted as skiing resources, many of those are poorly managed and maintained. I believe that only Kopaonik has a developed center suitable for ski tourism, and that you should skip all others.

On the other hand, if you are interested in hiking, camping and love nature, these places, especially the Šar Mountain are a perfect destination for you.

Kosovo and Metohija (Kosovo)

The most southern tip of former Republic of Yugoslavia, and now Serbia, Kosovo has had a very turbulent past.
In the last 20 years, its citizens have seen civil unrest, uprisings, curfews, low intensity guerrilla war and finally, the NATO bombing campaign in the 1999.
After the war that lasted more than 3 months, foreign forces entered the province under a peace agreement between Yugoslavian government and the NATO alliance. Since then, the province is formally still a part of Serbia, but in reality functions as a independent state under the peacekeeping force KFOR and the UN mission in Kosovo, or UNMIK.
Since the 1999 war, representatives of Albanians, the mayor ethnic group in Kosovo, have been seeking formal independence from Serbia, a move that is opposed by the Belgrade government.

I don’t want to go into the question of independence or the recent history.
I do not live in the region or believe I have a deeper understanding of this prolonged conflict.
Instead, I will try to write about interesting locations inside Kosovo, and all the things that foreign visitors could find worthwhile.

In the next part, read more about the nature and geography of Kosovo, here on Experience Serbia blog.

Grape Dance

Sremski Karlovci is a well-known town in Serbia. They are culturally and historical very significant (more about them later), but are also host to the most famous vine festival in the country - the annual Grozdjenbal, or loosely translated - Grape Dance.

Sremski Karlovci is located in the Fruska Gora hills, a small mountain range in the northern province of Vojvodina. Traditionally, grape growing and vine making are very widespread in these parts, and the small hills and valleys are covered with grape plantations and orchards. The climate and, more importantly, soil composition are ideal for the cultivation of not only grape vines, but also many different kinds of central European and more resilient Mediterranean fruit tree breeds.

The Fruska Gora region had experienced its vine revolution in the late 18. Century, and it lasted almost to the beginnings of 1940'es. In that period small, family based farms (traditionally called ''salashi'') began to label and export their vines abroad, and the region started to build a reputation as a important, growing producer. But after the WW2, these farms were nationalized by the socialist government and merged into big collectives - this decision had effectively killed of all previous brands and the collective mentality gradually decreased the vine quality.

Now, more than 25 years since the abandonment of large-scale SSSR stile agricultural units, the small farms are rebuilding their vine production - in the traditional, 19. Century manner. Today, many farmers make and brand their own vine, interested more in its quality instead of shear quantities.

That's why the town of Sremski Karlovci organized the first Grape Dance in 1996. The festival doesn't have a long history, but it's proven to be very popular and almost certainly the most visited vine festival in the country.

It takes place every year in the end of September, intended, like all vine festival, to coincide with the end of grape harvest.

But unlike most festivals, Grape Dance is much more oriented towards live music.

A big concert stage is erected in the middle of the town, and for the next 3 days a great number of artist perform there - almost every music genre is covered: starting from traditional and folk bands and musicians, classic orchestras, pop stars right to heavy rock and experimental band.

Of course, you can try a lot of different vines in the small stalls and pavilions that line the neighboring streets. The producers of almost every brand are always present, so you can chat with them and find out more about their products.

I try to go every year, and Grape Dance is well worth it. The only big problem is the traffic jams that occur regularly, especially in the evening hours. Because of the terrain, there is only one main road (not counting the backwater roads that are of poor quality) that links Sremski Karlovci to the bigger surrounding cities.

Also, there aren't enough parking spaces, although the town will probably deal with that soon. If you plan to visit the festival, you should go by train.

Grozdjenbal is a developing event. It started with very humble, but it's obvious that Sremski Karlovci administration and the wine-making community are working hard to improve it. I'm certain it will only get bigger and better.