Pester Mountain – Pester Plateau

Pester Mountain – Pester Plateau

Pešter Plateau or Pešterska visoravan is the wonderfully beautiful karst plateau in the Southwest Serbia of Stari Vlah area, in the Rashka region, between rivers of Ibar and Lim.

The archaeological excavations on the territory of Pester started in the middle of the 20th century and are still underway, and testify on numerous prehistorical burial mounds – high stone tumuluses with found urns from the late Bronze and late Iron age which are more than 3000 years old. At that early time of the prehistory funerary practices were cremation. It was the historical period of the Brnjica culture which spread on the territory of present Raska region, southeast Serbia and Kosovo and Metohija from the 13th till the 4th century BC. There were found fortified settlements on hard accessible or inaccessible hills and in caves whose autochthonous population was engaged in cattle breeding, hunting and crafts, with remains of seasonal pasture regions and livestock winter shelter. The prehistorical population on the territory of the present Pester Plateau area were mainly the Illyric tribes among which was the most significant and the most powerful the Autariatae or Autariatai or Autariates tribe with  fearless warriors who were always on alert against plundering hordes and invading gangs. In necropolis on Pester Plateau were found numerous graves of the Illyrian warriors and other social levels dating from the period from 750 until 500 BC, as well as finds and artifacts of ceramic urn type vessels, pottery, tools, cups, fragmented vessels, jewelry…  Illyrian warriors were buried in tumuluses – burial mounds in dresses and with war equipment and gifts. The most significant prehistorical necropolis in the Pester area is located in Glogovik. The prehistorical period of the Pester area was disrupted in the 1st century by the Roman Empire conquest.

Pester Plateau is the area of the former lake and believed to have been the place where Saint George had killed the dragon that lived in the lake. Covering the surface of approximately 50 sq km and laying at the altitude between 900 – 1250 meters, Pester Plateau makes the largest plateau in the Balkans and one of the largest plateaus in Europe. The territory of the Pešter Plateau is mostly located in the municipality of Sjenica with parts belonging to Novi Pazar and Tutin Municipalities.

According to the folk epics and traditions, Sjenica is named after the abundance of grass /”seno/”, which is  richly harvested even three times during year in the Sjenica area. The name of the Pester region comes from the word peštera which is an archaic term for cave. The Pester Plateau is actually a large field (Peštersko polje) full of endless vast pastures with plenty of stock, surrounded by mountains of Jadovnik (1734 m), Zlatar (1627 m), Ozren (1680 m), Giljeva (1617 m), Zilidar (1616 m), Javor (1520 m) and Golija (1833 m). With the area of around 50 km², Pešter field is the largest field in Serbia, and the highest one in the Balkans. Rivers Uvac, Vapa, Jablanica and Grabovica flow through the Pešter plateau. In the geologic past, Pešter field was a large lake, of which only a small Sjenica Lake near the village of Tuzinje remained.

The soil of Pešter is mostly karstic, interspersed with vast pastures. Economy of the Pester area relies primarily on the stock and cattle breeding, chiefly sheep. Pešter Plateau is famous for its delicious dairy products, especially the “Sjenica cheese” (Sjenički sir) that is traditionally produced in the special autochtonous way, as well as lamb and smoked beef or sheep. Sjenički sir belongs into the group of soft white semi-fat cheeses that are kept and matured in souse. The sjenicki sir – Sjenica cheese is produced of sheep and cow milk, that come from cattle grazing in the Pester pastures nearly the whole year. This original cheese of Sjenia is produces only from the raw sheep milk and features characteristic aroma, delicate and strong taste and outstanding white color and specific appearance.  The Sjenica sheep cheese is made seasonally, while the Sjenica cow cheese is produced throughout the year. Yearly production of the Sjenica cheeses ranges between 300 and 350 tons of the sheep cheese and four times more of the cow cheese. Within the territory of Sjenica Municipality there are several dairies which produces pasteurized cheese, due to which the original technological features are lost.  This is not the traditional way of production of the Sjenica cheese, that comes from the fresh and raw and whole milk. There are some specialties that can be found only in Pešter, such is the jardum – thick yoghurt of sheep milk, or the Sjenički sudžuk – Sjenica sujuk or dishes prepared with buckwheat, with lots of love and joy. If you love fish, the finest trout you can fish in one of the local rivers, or you can buy it in local fishponds. Sjenica pies and oriental sweets make food that need no words to recommend and explain, but deserve tasting them. The Pester plateau is sparsely populated : most settlements are on the edge of the Pester field. Pešter Plateau is famous for its micro climate which is particularly harsh in the winter months. The lowest temperature in Serbia since measurements are taken, -39 °C is measured at Karajukića Bunari village on the 26th January 2006, beating the previous record of -38.4°C measured in Sjenica in 1954.

During the medieval period, town of Raska and the region at the northern edge of the Pester Plateau known as Rashka was the center of the Serbian Medieval state. The name of Rasija /Raška was first mentioned in 1189. Since then until the 18th century Venetians, Germans and Hungarians used the term Rascija for Serbia, and determine Serbs by names of “Raci, Rascijans, Raicens and similar. The name of Raška has been preserved til the present day designating the Raški okrug – Ras district in Serbia, while the territory of former Raške is at present known under the geographical names of Raška oblast or Sandžak /Sanjak/. The ravine of nowadays Novi Pazar, between Rogozna and Golija Mountains and the Pešter Plateau is the political and the spiritual center of the oldest Serbian state. It was the Serbian city of Old Ras with Pazariste during the Middle Ages in whose vicinity the present city of Novi Pazar was settled. The number of the Serbian Medieval Orthodox Monasteries, among them the Sopocani and Djurdjevi Stupovi Monasteries were erected in Rashka area. In the 15th century, the Ottoman Turkish Empire invaded and occupied the region. The Pester area with the town of Novi Pazar was on a key trade route from Istanbul /Constantinople/ and Asia Minor to Bosnia and the key Ottoman Turkish base in Europe. Novi Pazar literally means new bazaar, or new market place. The Pester area with Pazariste used to be a vital economic supply line for the Ottoman Empire and was vital for the Ottoman economy. Pešter Plateau is home to a number of endangered species and endangered ecosystems so Ramsar included the Pester Plateau wetland area of 3.455 hectares into its list of wetlands of international importance.

On the territory of Novi Pazar Municipality there were evidenced 650 localities, in Sjenica 460 and in Tutin 415 localities. In the area of Novi Pazar, among others, there are remains of some 276 medieval Serbian grave yards, 130 churches, three monasteries, 26 fortresses, 109 settlements and 14 mines.

Velika Gradina site in Vrsenica village is situated on the southeastern fringes of the field Sjeničko polje. It presents one of the rare localities showing an example of the use of a place of defense dating to the late Classical and early Byzantine periods. It is a complex locality with three cultural horizons, as well as ruins of objects which are a subject of archaeological investigations. The mosque in Ugao village presents the oldest preserved mosque in the territory of the Sjenica Municipality. It was built in 1704 and played the key role in the process of the Islamization of the newly settled Catholic Malisora population from northern Albania to the territory of the Sjenica-Pešter plateau, as well as other population from Herzegovina and Montenegro. The Sultan-Valida Mosque is located in the center of Sjenica. It was built in the mid-19th century as the endowment of the mother of Abdul Hamid II. Its size and shape make it a significant urban detail of the place and in architectural terms makes one of the most beautiful Islamic cultural monument in Serbia. Regarding its construction, the Sjenica Mosque of Sultan Valid has all the characteristics of monumental architecture, with a dominant large dome, around 15 meters in diameter. This dome of fascinating size is built of wood, but was originally made from lead sheets. The local people have preserved a legend about how the mosque came to be built. Rebels and outlaws robbed caravans which carried the Sultan Valida’s goods, the legend says. When Sultans mother had recovered her goods and golden ducats after a long time, she gave it all for the construction of the mosque in Sjenica, for her soul, where the people could pray to their god.

Pester Plateau and its wild surroundings of the clean environment provide exceptional conditions for amazing adventurous activities and traditional programs with introduction into authentic lifestyle of locals – hiking /one hiking trail goes along the mountain to the Kumanica Monastery/, mountaineering, boat ride along the lake, photo safari, horse back riding, jeep rides, visit to the agriculture estates and tasting of original specialties with geographic origin and rural households which provide tourist services, visit to the Stave coal mine, fishing, hunting, skiing, weaving rugs, mowing,  making hay stocks, team building activities in open air…

The 15 cycling routes of total 400 km have been marked within the West Serbia area, in favor of the active bikers and cyclists outdoor vacations. In this way the marked cycling routes connect tourist destination which provide visitors and locals choice of their wishes and physical conditions, as well as to choose tourist attractions they want to visit. Zlatibor is connected with the Tara Mountain via Mokra gora, Divčibare with the Užice area, Kosjerić and Požega. Arilje and Ivanjica are connected with the Golija Mountain, Uvac Special Nature Reserve, Pešter Plateau, Zlatar and Prijepolje. The cycling routes are well marked with the tourist signposts, there are wooden coverage in the resting points for cyclists, hikers and mountaineers. For the active vacations in Serbia, there are available bikes to rent.