Serbian Slava celebrations are legendary. Songs have been written and films have been made about them.
Orthodox tradition in the Balkans requires that Orthodox families chose a saint as protector of their household and celebrate that day with family, relatives and friends. It always involves a lot of eating and drinking, and in the case of Serbian families, many different kinds of meat, several types of homemade fruit brandy (rakija) etc. Guests are never left without food or drink with the attentive hosts constantly filling up glasses and serving platters.
We visited Staletovic family in Brezovica, Kosovo on the day the Orthodox Church celebrates St. Petka (St. Paraskevi). They were our hosts and it was their Slava. How was it? We can confirm all stereotypes about Serbian celebrations, so it isn’t difficult to imagine how it all went. It was a delight to see such positive atmosphere in Kosovo, a place which has produced only unpleasant news for the last fifteen years. There was no discomfort here, only a group of people enjoying life on that particular day.
However, it is hard to keep stories of Kosovo positive until the end. Brezovica, a village located on the northern slopes of the Shar Mountain, is a long forgotten ski resort. There are cable cars and ski lifts, but it doesn’t work with full capacity, and it is difficult to reach it up the narrow, poorly maintained road. Locals say that when there is a lot of snowfall it is a great place for skiing, but if the road hasn’t been cleared than no one is able to come. The ski resort is still owned by the state, it functions with the facilities it has and is hardly maintained. Due to well- known political disagreements, authorities in Pristina and Belgrade could not agree on who should find investors to privatize it, attract tourists and restore its old charm and glory.
Brezovica is simply wonderful, especially in autumn. The colours seem unreal, as if you have given a palette to a child and asked them to paint autumn. The courtyard of “St. Stefan” church, high on the hill above Brezovica, has the best view. Mountain peaks shine in the sun, some of them already covered with snow, with colourful forests decorating the slopes.
The village is at the foothills of Shar Mountain. The huge “Narcis” hotel dominates the centre of the village, and we can see that the name fitted it perfectly in the past. Brezovica is beautiful enough to fall in love with itself, but the hotel has been closed and out of work for too long, looking rather intimidating nowadays.
It seems that many years will pass before this idyllic mountain village grows into a new Balkan St. Moritz. Several well-developed ski resorts, where millions have been invested, are already running up for that title. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy in Brezovica as it is now. It isn’t intact. It was touched and left to rediscover itself becoming authentic once again.
Where else can you rent skis from a store standing next to a chicken house? Where else can you go down the ski slopes passing by a herd cows? Where will you be greeted by so many locals working in their small gardens, cutting wood or feeding livestock? Only here.
In the end, the story of Brezovica is positive. You only need to take a positive viewpoint.