Serbia gastro tour
When I was called to do a gastro tour of Šumadija and cities of Belgrade and Zemun, I did not hesitate for one moment. The list of wineries, local brandy degustations, craft breweries and restaurants was more then enough of a push for me to make a quick decision. I certainly did not regret it.
Šumadija is an area south of the city of Belgrade. “Šuma” from Šumadija means “forest” and hence the name for it, it was one big forrest in the past. As our tour guide explained, Šumadija begins right behind the edge of the city of Belgrade. Region full of hills was quickly replaced with the city’s skyscrapers.
The aim for the first day was to visit the administrative office of Kragujevac province. It was my first time visiting Šumadija and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting it to be a bit more rural, but on the contrary, I was welcomed by modern establishments producing high-quality alcoholic beverages. For lunch and beer tasting, my next stop was Kabinet Brewery.
Young owners have invested in the production of excellent beer, which has become one of the most popular Craft brands in Serbia. Interesting labels and a modern approach to fine dining dishes made an excellent impression on me. The food here was maybe the best of all the places on this gastro tour.
Of all the wineries in that area, ‘Aleksandrović Winery’ was one of the first larger ones and it is definitely worth a visit. Usually carrying bottles on a plane can be a real hassle but considering the indigenous selection of quality wine there, I just had to bring a couple of bottles back home. The winery itself and the wine tasting room are nicely decorated and worth a visit.
We arrived at Kragujevac in the evening but it truly showed itself in the right light the next morning. We had dinner at a famous restaurant called “Biblioteka kod Milutina” or “Library at Milutin’s place”. The “Library” part comes from an old joke that has been told all over the world, an older local granddad who was interviewed on television talks about how much brandy he usually drinks a day, but when they warn him about it, he replaces the word ‘brandy’ with the word ‘book’. The food is very typical of this area. The appetizers were, as usual, the best.
Hotel ‘Kragujevac’ is a building from the era of Socialism, and the rooms look just like it. Enough for an over-night stay and a good breakfast. The city is very green with a lot of parks. As we learned, it was the first royal city and many institutions of the modern state were created in Kragujevac. The city was marked by a massacre when Germans killed about 3,000 people in one day in 1941. Memorial Forest is a park today, filled with monuments of the past. Snežana Milisavljević showed us around and taught us many facts from the life of the city and the region.
In Šumadija, everyone drinks rakija, or ‘brandy’. We took the local customs seriously, and about around 10am we visited the first tasting room. ‘Stari Hrast’ produces wines and various fruit brandies. In addition, we were served the best kajmak I have probably ever tasted with some homemade bread and meat slices. A first real go-to snack after breakfast – brandy + kajmak. Hostess Slavica Stevanović proudly showed us their vineyards and orchards.
Rakija is usually followed by another rakija, so we soon arrived at another tasting room. ‘Pevac’, modern as it is, looks like it could be located in any European country. Young owners, proud of their product, showed us all kinds of rakija (we haven’t tried everything, though) produced in this area. As they say, “Everything that is thrown to the ground grows here.”
Rural farm ‘Janin Raj’ was a perfect place for our lunch before heading to Belgrade. Village idyll – these two words are enough to describe this beautiful and carefully landscaped and decorated place. The garden, many animals, old wooden houses and great food attract many tourists every year. Lunch began with the Koljiva, dish made of cereals, nuts and spices eaten during Slava ceremony. We tasted some of the best cheeses along the way and a variety of roasted meat.
Feels like we are going to return to Šumadija, it has a lot to offer. But this is surely not the last place on the tour where we ate good.
‘Bonbondžija Bosiljčić’ is a sole trade business originating from the last century. The third generation may be the last because the demand might not be there anymore. It offers great rahat lokum and caramels to bring home, which I did. Caramels are much easier to pack than large bottles of wine and brandy.
Dinner was different. The ‘Spasa’ Bakery offers a special meal at the entrance to Skadarlija street. Meat stew in ‘lepinja’ bread was a perfect end to a day very rich in flavours and filled with food and alcohol.
However, the city of fun carried us along and we ended the night at upscale ‘Buddha Bar’ in one of the skyscrapers of the Belgrade Waterfront Project. It’s always nice to see dear friends, Ivana and Tamara.
After visiting it plenty of times, we didn’t stay in Belgrade the next day. Our next stop was Zemun. Once an independent city, and today a part of Belgrade, about ten kilometers away.
The town has like a smaller town soul, a good market, we ate legendary burek at ‘Petrović’ bakery and walked along Dunav. For lunch we had fish specialties at the traditional ‘Carinarnica’ restaurant.
We ended the day, like tradition usually dictates, by tasting rakija. ‘Belgrade urban distillery’ is a tasting room located in a modern space in Dorćol. A recommendation for anyone who comes to Belgrade. Ideal warming up place before dinner or a night out.
Restaurant “New Balkan cuisine” offers a superb dinner including several courses, perfect for the last day.
Serbia gastro tour proved its name. It involved plenty of fine food and drinks so it’s hard to single out something special. All the places we visited were very carefully decorated and run offering quality products. All of them were worth because of their uniqueness and originality. Belgrade, Šumadija and Serbia have a lot to offer.
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