Knjaževac Rural Tourism

Municipality Knjaževac is located in East Serbia, close to Bulgarian border, 280 km southeast of Belgrade via highway E-75, 60 km away from Niš and 150 km from Sofia. Knjazevac Municipality and its surroundings are culturally extremely interesting and encircled by breathtaking crystal clear rivers streams, and magic mountains, of which the highest is Stara Planina Mountain with Midzor Peak – 2169 m, one of the highest points of Serbia. Knjaževac is a region of indescribable beauty, an amalgamation of various possibilities for active vacations, combined with colorful ethno motifs and well preserved tradition of the Roman archaeological sites and monuments that all make tempting destination for fulfilled vacations. The region around Knjaževac is an ethnographic treasure-chest, with its rich tradition of religious beliefs and preserved customs linked to ancient popular religion. A detailed study of the customs of this area gives us an insight into several layers of old Slav and old Balkan religion and the culture imposed later by the Christian tradition. For its bridges the Knjazevac town itself is called the “little Venice”. Nowadays, wine is inseparable from the Knjaževac region’s history and tradition. Viticulture and wine making in Knjaževac vineyards date back to the Roman times.

Budžak is area in East Serbia which contains the foot of highest peaks of Stara Planina Mountain and belongs to Knjaževac Municipality, but still today bears the name which in Turkish means crook, due to its remote location. Trgoviški Timok or Strma reka River springs on the western slopes of Stara Planina Mountain, beneath its highest peak of Midžor – 2169 m, which is the highest point in Serbia, less than 1 km from the border with Bulgaria. Strma reka River gets Trgoviški Timok name from Kalna village, along the Trgovište village in Knjaževac Municipality, to join further the Svrljiški Timok River, creating together the Beli Timok River. The mountainous Budžak area is actually triangular space between Knjaževac and Serbian-Bulgarian border and villages of Pirot, where life was flourishing since the ancient times and during the mining of Romans up to the end of the 19th century and especially til the seventies of the 20th century, when this ultimately beautiful area, also known for cattle breeders – declined. There is an assumption and archaeological finds that people had lived in Budžak area already during the bronze age (1400-800 years BC). Turbulent historical, cultural and economic factors brought changes to the demographic picture of this area. From the end of the 19th century (1879) till the beginning of the 21st century, the population decreased for more than 3 times, and the number of members per household for 5 times, by decline of family cooperative and large migrations of population. Faced with harsh conditions of mountain life and lack of perspective, the population intensively emigrated to the lowland areas around the Beli Timok river and to the surrounding towns. In the Budžak area, few settlements have the average population younger than 60 years what is nowadays one of the oldest populated areas in East Serbia featuring population density of 7 inhabitants on 1 sq km. Judging by the long-term trend of birthrate decrease and the accelerated aging of the population from this area, the question has to be asked: in 30-50 years in Stara Planina Mountain in the Budžak area, would there be human life at all, or there would remain historical monuments as the evidence that generations and generations of people had lived there and had their culture and customs.

The whole area from Stara Planina Mountain in the north, to the Belasica Mountain in the south – in present Macedonia, and from the Sicevo Gorge in the west up to the place called the Pobit kamen on the east, behind Sofia, is unique and known as the Šopluk are, after Šops population – Slovenized indigenous autochtonous population of the Wallachian – Vlach origin, who mingled with new-settlers. Torlak is the part of the Šopluka and its population Torlaks /Torlaci/ differ from their neighbors and are highly recognized in regard with the other ethic groups of the Shop area. Some researchers include the area of Vidin and Belogradchik and Berkovitza into the Shopluk – Shop area, and determine the name of Torlak as the synonymy for Šopluk “in narrower form”. Many centuries Torlaks were known not only in the near area which they populated, but also in Tzarigrad – Carigrad /nowadays Istanbul/ and farthermost settlements of the Vlaska region, and everywhere where pechalbars worked – craftsmen and seasonal workers…. Pirot was the center of Torlak population, while from the first half of the 19th century, it was the largest settlement of Torlaks…. During winters the Torlak population used to married, and was making plans for the further pechalba engagement….

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