MOKRA GORA – Momčilo Sotirović, retired director of the Railway Museum in Belgrade, told the The House of Good News Internet News about the importance of the renewal of the ‘Šargan Mountain Railway,’ for Serbia’s tourism. He said a short film had been shot about Mokra Gora and presented at a festival in France and the Tourist Fair in Vienna, followed by numerous international and domestic trade festivals.
Sotirović said the actors in that first film were the residents of Mokra Gora, who had played their roles masterfully.
“The tourists began to come. Excursions to Mokra Gora were organised from the popular nearby Mt. Zlatibor and Mt. Tara resorts. This wonderful and popular mountainous region now had a completely new attraction, the ‘Šargan Mountain Railway’, he said.
He said that regional tourism received a huge boost, while Mokra Gora residents soon came to understand the line’s significance, who tore down all decrepit old farm buildings and built new ones, planted flowers everywhere, mended roofs and fences and did many other things to beautify the verdant valley, kept so clean visitors could for a moment think they were somewhere in Switzerland. A huge contribution was made by world-renowned film director Emir Kusturica, now a Mokra Gora resident, who organised a maintenance and firefighting service for the entire Mokra Gora region.
Sotirović recommends that all visitors travel the picturesque line and visit the ancillary railway facilities, but also visit the famous curative springs (including the famous ‘Bele Vode’ - ‘White water’ spring, which, locals say, helps improve eyesight and heal infective and other diseases of the eye, as well as help heal infertility).
In the summer months, holidaymakers can swim in the crystal-clear waters of the river Kamišna, and visit the old wooden church in Mokra Gora.
“Taste the delicious traditional specialities in the local restaurants, breathe the wonderful mountain air, drink water from the hundreds of natural springs [Mokra Gora means ‘Wet Mountain’], climb surrounding peaks and enjoy the nature and the local black stone, said to be able to rid the human body of the effects of harmful radiation accumulated from using computers, mobile phones, TV, but also don’t forget to visit filmmaker Kusturuca’s ‘Drvengrad’ ethnic village on the Mećavnik hill overlooking Mokra Gora station”, Sotirović told the The House of Good News Internet News.
He said another local attraction that should not be missed is nearby Kremna, the hometown of Serbia’s famous Tarabić prophets, where the original house and the grave of Mitar Tarabić can been seen.
“It’s a town of very special long-living people which they say cannot even be photographed from satellites, a place which should definitely not be missed”, Sotirović said.
He also recommended a visit to the open-air Narrow-gauge Railway Museum which lies in Požega, about 30 km east of Užice.
“It is a department of our Museum with a total of eight steam locomotives and numerous wagons and coaches, a small railway station, a storage depot and other railway infrastructure situated right next to the Belgrade-Bar main line, so that it can be reached by train from Belgrade or from the Adriatic Sea coast”, he said.
Sotirović said he was satisfied with the progress being made on the entire narrow-gauge railway restoration project, adding that what was still missing was a larger hotel in Mokra Gora, to supplement the existing relatively modest accommodation facilities, as well as a cableway to provide an opportunity for spectacular overhead views of the valley and of the mountains surrounding it.
He said two or three old-timer buses could be brought in to transport passengers between regional destinations which are not close to the railway line. A former air base north-west of Užice, now being upgraded to international airport status, will also help bring holidaymakers into the region, regarded as one of the most beautiful in land-locked Serbia.
Sotirović praised the contribution of film director Emir Kusturica to the popularisation of Mokra Gora and the ‘Šargan Mountain Railway’.
He said he was only sorry that many of the people who had invested great efforts in the reconstruction project were absent from the scene and not amongst the renowned personalities who have left their mark by planting trees in the Mokra Gora station compound. “But I am optimist – time will change this, he added.
Sotirović reminded us of the importance of steam railway restoration projects worldwide. He said that a railway appreciation society existed in almost every major town, model railway enthusiasts and clubs with large track layouts and even their own periodicals, thousands of people using their own time and money to restore steam locos and rolling-stock to working order and then organising runs trains along short formerly disused lines, or even on the main lines in some countries, enjoying the sweet smell of the ejected steam and smoke mixture and the never-to-be forgotten whistle of the steam loco.