Drvengrad: Kusturica’s traditional ethno village

When I look back on how our trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina started I’m amazed it turned out to be the best holiday we’ve  had in years. As I wasn’t taking my own car, thus not driving, I didn’t do any planning for transportation. In front of our two cars was also the Romanian guide in a third car, so needless to say it didn’t even cross my mind that we could get lost at any point between Bucharest and Foca. We even left town at 5:00 AM, early on, hoping to get to destination in time for a couple of cold beers.

Well, things didn’t go quite as planned, and instead of arriving at Kamp Divlja Rijeka at 7-8:00 PM we almost got there the second day, arriving around 11:30 PM. I guess no planning has its disadvantages… Anyway, one of the reasons for our late arrival was also the fact we’ve spent almost two hours in Drvengrad (aka Timber Town), an ethno village built by the renown filmmaker Emir Kusturica for his movie, Life is a Miracle.

The village is located near Užice, almost at the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. The exit from the main road is very easy to miss, especially if you’re tired. Add the fact the sun began its daily descent and you got the perfect scenario for missing the last stop before exiting Serbia.

Anyway, we’ve arrived to Drvengrad just in time to enjoy some sweets at the local cake shop. Also on the plus side, as you can see from the pictures, there weren’t too many people to ruin our shots. And as any photographer will tell you, too much light is not necessarily a good thing.

It’s interesting to read about the motivation behind Drvengrad: Kusturica wanted to build a cinema school, develop agro tourism in the area and have a place for family and friends, after having lost his hometown Sarajevo to the war. As Kusturica declared in 2004, upon inauguration, it’s an “open place with cultural diversity which sets up against globalization”.

Even if the official name of the town is Drvengrad (wooden village), there are quite a few ‘nicknames’ it’s known for: Küstendorf (german origin word, but may also mean Kustu’s Village, short from Kusturica), Mećavnik, Sharingrad (multi-color village). Up until researching for this post, it was just “Kusturica’s village” for me and my friends.

As one of the names suggests, the main building material used is timber, which gives this town its distinctive ethno look. The church, hotel, library, cinema, restaurant, shops and guest houses are all made from wood. Street names bear the mark of the people who inspired Emir Kusturica to become who he is today, including Stanley Kubrick, Nicola Tesla, Che Guevara, Maradona and many others.

I personally enjoyed the old cars on display throughout Kusturica’s village, all restored to their formal glory, including the stretch limo based on East Germany’s communist era Trabant, basically a car built from hard plastic made using recycled materials.

Oh, and one more thing: since 2008 the city is the annual guest for Küstendorf Film and Music Festival, which contrasts heavily with traditional Hollywood film festivals. Typically Kusturica, if you ask me. So, if you’re in the area, make sure you plan a stop here, be it just for a few hours. You won’t regret it!

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