The further in the south, the more cheerful
The town was visited by 600,000 people from Serbia and all over Europe in seven days. Once again, the biggest burger in the world was made (53 kilograms). Music stars were singing and playing, as well as numerous anonymous entertainers. Everybody was singing “O Sole Mio” in Italian in the overcrowded “Groš”. There were delicatessens from Mediterranean, continental Balkans and from the East, as well as local wines. Leskovac, all in flight and fire, reminded its visitors of what it had to offer. “Grill Festival” is, of course, merely a reason. Same as humans, towns have their rises and falls, and it seems that this town is heading upwards once again

Text and photographs: Dragan Bosnić

The heat of August was followed by equally hot beginning of September. The breeze from Kukavica Mountain, pleasant atmosphere of “Groš” Restaurant and tambour players, who performed unplugged, made the evening bearable. Good wine from Leskovac district and Leskovac spicy barbecue raised the temperature, though. Fortunately, the burger was of normal size, unlike the one which had been made at the square the previous night and which weighted 53 kilograms! We had just finished our dinner and started sinking into bohemian mood, with tobacco and “the wine of new rhythm”, when somebody order the song “O Sole Mio”. When all then guests started singing in Italian, quite harmonized, I thought that they were from a glee club. On the contrary, they were all local folks, plus several guest of the “Grill Festival”, in a typically good mood. We were sitting until the late hours in a singing mood, trying to confute the well-known saying– The further in the south, the sadder.
During following days, I was touring the town and the surroundings, trying to find out what made Leskovac sadder, i.e. poorer. There are two museums in Leskovac, and a Textile Museum in nearby Stajkovac. Inside the glazed cabinet resides the history of the settlement, from the time when first nomads used to siege caves from wild animals at “the wealthy north”. The fortune and the misery of Leskovac lay in the fact that it is situated in a vast valley alongside the South Morava, Jablanica and Veternica River, in the pleasant surroundings of Radan Mountain, Babička Gora and Kukavica Mountain. The land is arable, easily watered, but it is situated at the entrance of Grdelica Canyon (i.e. at the exit of it), where all army corps must pass from the North to the South or from the West to the East, and vice versa. Armies devastated the magnificent settlement Justiniana Prima, made to last for centuries by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian from Leskovac. Leskovac had its rises and falls, too. A powerful industrial town, of beautiful architecture, was heavily destroyed during the World War II, and was rebuilt afterwards. Then, it started withering slowly simultaneously with the fall of the state.


From plenty architecture of previous times, the Šop-Đokić House and the House of Bora Dimitrijević Piksla remained. Church Odžaklija and the Church of Holy Trinity have also been preserved. Successful textile industry, due to which Leskovac used to be called Serbian Manchester, was orientated towards the nearby Vučje. A power plant was made in Vučjanka canyon to supply the industry, and it has still been operating after a century.
In addition, Vučjanka canyon is the favorite picnic spot of citizens of Leskovac. One of the founders of Leskovac textile wonder, Mita Teokarović, built a beautiful church dedicated to St. John near the power plant. There is a monastery with two churches in the nearby village Čukljenik, as well as the monument of a commander Vladimir Radenković, who “together with his fellow soldiers, gave his life for his King in 1877.” One more village at the foot of Kukavica is known for its church whose foundations date from the time of the arrival of the Slavs – village Rudare and the Church of St. Parascheva, where there are lodgings and an ancient cemetery have been preserved. On the right bank of Morava River, in village Kumarevo, one more church is dedicated to St. Parascheva. There are the new and the old church, as well as the spring of holy water. Concerning the sanctities from Leskovac region, we should also mention Jašunj monasteries situated at Babička gora, on which the National Review has already written.
We have also mentioned village Lokošnica, or Lakošnica, as residents call it. However, when you find yourself there at the beginning of September, it is a pity not to visit them. In September, red pepper wreaths abundantly ornament all walls and fences in Lokošnica. It is the time when the village, apart from picking and stringing peppers, is getting ready for the “Pepper Festival” – a festival where one can see what can be made of peppers. They say that the best Leskovac ajvar is made exactly there. You will recognize it by the fact that it is so thick that it will not come out if you turn a jar upside down.
Settlement Justiniana Prima is a good reason to visit this place. We should also mention settlement Skobaljić, situated at the top of Kukavica Mountain rocky reefs, at the left side of Vučjanka canyon, 18 kilometers from Leskovac.
Leskovac is a town of festivals, which also confutes the saying from the beginning of the story. Naturally, towns have their rises and falls. Leskovac seems to be heading upwards once again.


Hot week
The wide bazaar in the centre of Leskovac was, again this summer, the epicenter of the famous “Leskovac Grill Festival” from 29th August to 4th September. This economic and tourist manifestation was held for twenty-second time.
– We broke all previous records – says Žikica Nestorović, Director of Tourist Organization of Leskovac. – There were more participants than ever before. The majority of them came from around Leskovac, but there were also grill masters from Čačak, Knjaževac and Gornji Milanovac. Leskovac welcomed 600,000 guests from Serbia and from abroad! Many organized groups came from Slovenia, FYROM, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Poland, Germany, Russia… The concerts of famous singers and bands (Kiki Lesandrić, “Balkanika”, “Tropiko band”, Novica Zdravković, Milan Dinčić, “Neverne bebe”...) attracted a great attention, as well as the concerts of local bands, folk dance ensembles and brass orchestras. Several tens of thousands of people observed concerts held in the evening!


Competitions, skills, records
Grill Master Competition “Miodrag Gligorijević” was held for the nine-teenth time as a part of the “Grill Festival”. The competition was severe, and there were winners in many categories. Detailed results can be seen on the web page of Tourist Organization of Leskovac (www.tol.org.rs).
The overall winner was the staff of “Kandahar” Restaurant from Sofia.
The team from “MK” butchery from Leskovac successfully prepared and grilled the biggest burger in the world, 53 kilograms of weight (the record from 2010 was broken by two kilograms). After grilling, the diameter of the burger amounted 138 centimeters, and the thickness was 2.5 centimeters.


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