R I TAM SRBI JE / RHYTHM OF SERBIA 86 | Golija » Golija UNESCO B I OSPHE R E R ESE RVE LushGolija, and on it Studenica UNESCOwas prompted to declare Mount Golija the first biosphere reserve in Serbia due to the level of preservation of nature, with a large number of plant and animal species that include endemic and relict species, as well as the presence of Studenica Monastery, which has been on theWorld Heritage List since 1986. The significant label of aUNESCOBiosphere Reserve is held in our country by Bačko Podunavlje andMount Golija, both of which are unique locations that are rich in diverse flora and fauna that must be preserved for future generations. Here we are taking the opportunity to introduce you to Golija, the tallest mountain in southwest Serbia, topped by the peak of Janko’s Rock at an altitude of 1,833 metres above sea level. It is necessary to spend days touring the heights of this mountainous beauty for a traveller to familiarise themselves with Golija even a little. And when we start moving away towards Kopaonik, Pešter or Dragačevo, Golija can be seen rising proudly above the other peaks of the Stari Vlah-Raška Mountain Range, like an island in a rising sea. The tame Mount Golija is rich in many plants and animals. When hiking over it you will have the unique opportunity to touch an exceptional natural monument that represents a synonym for all of its flora: the BalkanMaple (Acer heldreichii), which even survived the last ice age. This mountain is renowned for its forests. There is a particularly strong presence of Beech trees and some parts are characteristic of rainforests, while its southern slopes are overgrown with vast meadows and pastures. The species Pimpinella serbica (Pancicia serbica) and Adamović’s thyme (Thymus adamovicii) have locally endemic features and are classed as species of international importance for the conservation of biodiversity. In order to explore Golija fully it is necessary to travel through its heights for days, passing through countless dense deciduous and coniferous forests. And when your long hike culminates with you climbing to the highest peak of Janko’s Rock, stop and enjoy the unforgettable view that extends all the way to the mountains of Prokletije, Zlatar and Kopaonik. Representing a special cultural and historical treasure of Mount Golija is Studenica Monastery, which was founded at the end of the 12th century, as the chief endowment of StefanNemanja, the initiator of theNemanjić dynasty, and gradually developed to become the most important spiritual centre of the new Serbian medieval state. It was destroyed and rebuilt on multiple occasions. In the 12th and 13th centuries, the monastery complex included 13 churches and associated structures, two of which have been preserved to this day: the Church of the Virgin and the Church of the King (or the Church of the Holy Mother of God and the Church of Saints Joachim and Anna). It is indisputable that Studenica Monastery is among the most valuable buildings in the creative work of the Serbian nation and was one of the most important centres of medieval happenings. Its significance and values have extended beyond the borders of the country for more than 30 years and it is included on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites (since 1986). Also in the vicinity is Gradac Monastery, which was built in 1268 as the endowment of Queen Helen of Anjou, a princess of French origin and the wife of King Uroš I. The fact that this educated lady spent her life in the Serbian court had a resounding impact on the nation’s education and culture. According to legendary tradition and records, King Uroš I ordered that lilacs be planted along the banks of the River Ibar to beautify the landscape of the area in Queen Helen’s honour. This explains the presence of lilacs in the gorge of the Ibar to this day. iStock / kizaru