Drvengrad - Küstendorf - traditionally surreal and surreally traditional

5 minutes to read

The rebuild hidden city of Emir Kusturica

Hidden, gorgeous gems of nature and undiscovered spots are all around you. And while you are sitting behind your laptop or scrolling through your phone, you realize that there is so much to be seen and explored. But have you heard of a small, wooden town in Serbia, graciously built by human hand, that became the spot where all the biggest names of film industry are gathering for seminars, shootings and just a pleasant talk with a warm drink and unforgetagle night out? If you want to know about this glorious place with an unexplicable vibe and soul, where you can in fact go and who knows, even bump into Johny Depp, Monica Bellucci or Anthony Hopkins, then keep reading.

"I lost my city during the war. That is why I wished to build my own village, Küstendorf. I dream of an open place with cultural diversity which sets up against globalization." Emir Kusturica, Serbian filmmaker, actor and musician.

Drvengrad, meaning Wooden Town in Serbian, also known as Küstendorf, as a word play on German "dorf" (village) and Kusturica's nickname,"Kusta" and Mećavnik, is a traditional, ethno, film village build by the Serbian film director Emir Kusturica for his film Life Is a Miracle in 2004. The wodden town is located in Serbia, in the mountain Zlatibor District, near the mountain Tara and city of Užice, two hundred kilometers southwest of Serbia's capital, Belgrade. Drvengrad is also famous for its incredible proximity to Mokra Gora and Višegrad, best known for Ivo Andrić's Nobel-winning novel, The Bridge on the Drina. Drvengrad is on the same altitude as the railway station of Jatara, through which the narrow gauge track passes, famously known as Sarganska osmica. Since the mid-2000s, it has been Kusturica's primary residence, amazing spot for many tourists and second home for the world’s renowned actors.

In 2010, it was visited by actor Johnny Depp. During his stay, a statue dedicated to him was unveiled. If you want to get a closer look into the village and its vibe, as well as the impressions of Johny Deep, check out the video below.

Drvengrad is indeed an ethno village, but in the city shape and structure of a rectangle. The biggest church of the town was built and dedicated to the Saint Sava. In the central part of the village, the square is paved with wooden cubes and cut wooden thresholds and surrounded by log cabins. The log gates are authentic and transmitted, mostly coming from Serbia and Bosnia, in the form of skeletons and placed on stone posts. In each of them there are characteristic features of the city, such as: picture gallery, library, cinema, candy shop, homemade cakes and natural, organic juices, national restaurant, as well as folk art shop of that region.

Nearby is also a ski slope with four trails, as well as a hotel named Mladost ("Youth"), so you can in fact go to Drvengrad and spend a weekend there. Useful thing to know before visiting is that the main inspiration for Drvengrad has been the ancient city of Ephesus Ephesus. The influence of the antique and medieval times is clearly visible in the mere architecture of the town.

While enjoying the fresh, unpolluted mountain breeze and listening to the amazing songs of Bob Marley, you will get to see the works of Vincent Van Gogh decorating the beautiful interior of small, wooden houses. You may assume that Drvengrad is not an easy spot to be understood at first, as it might not make any sense to you at all, but if you get to know the opus of its architect Emir Kusturica, you will realize the connection with Stanley Kubrik and Maradona. Also, the more you stay there, the more you will get to used to its balance of discrepancies.

In fact, most of the streets in the village hold the names of various renowned individuals that Kusturica finds to be personally significant such as: Nikola Tesla, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, Diego Maradona, Miodrag Petrović Čkalja, Federico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman, Joe Strummer, Novak Đoković and of course, Ivo Andrić, after whom the main street is named. Drvengrad also has Ivo Andrić Library; an artist gallery named Macola in honor of sculptor Dragan Jovićević, Stanley Kubrick Cinema; a main house with a cinema-hall in the cellar, a living room, a guest room, a closed yard, a swimming pool, a gymnasium, a sauna and private rooms for the Kusturica family; a sports hall; a restaurant; a cake shop, as well as a souvenir shop. While you are enjoying the perfectly functional incompatibilities, do me a favor and get a traditional, creamy dessert known as krempite at the place called "Ćorkana” while enjoying music of Clapton and many other famous names.

Another breath taking monumental sight of the town is definitely the bridge, reminisce of the one Andric wrote about in his famous novel “Bridge at Drina”. It simply cannot be explained by words, it is something that must be lived. And trust me that I am not at all exaggerating, because rarely anyone can remain immune to a bridge that is a symbol of a time, a tormented history, preserved customs and a success. Therefore, from the moment you step into Drvengrad, and continue your journey to Visegrad and Andrićgrad, about which I will write about in the articles to come, you are actually traveling far beyond and back in the time than what you might initially think.

Another amazing thing about Drvengrad is that, since 2008, the town hosts the annual Küstendorf Film and Music Festival,which showcases films and music from all around the world. The festival is known for not having a red carpet as well as none of the popular Hollywood festival artifacts.

The latest movie shot in Drvenrgrad, called On the Milky Road in 2016 was with Monica Bellucci. A story of the movie stretches across war and blossoming love, which earned many presitgious film awards such as Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

Rhine Maria Rilke said that when there is no home, one will never get it. However, the one who had and lost his home, will find it again and the town of Drvengrad is the utmost proof for such a thought. With its hospitality, warmth, hotel services, spaces for seminars, small and large schools, this town makes it a unique refuge for all people who love nature and culture! You don’t trust me? Then get on the road and see it for yourself.

The author

Lejla Dizdarevic

Lejla Dizdarevic

I am Lejla, from Serbia, passionate about writing, radio and theatre. I would love to show you the hidden gems of my beloved Balkan countries.

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