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Interesting places

Tara, Serbia’s westernmost national park

Photo adventures

Serbia is not a typical tourist destination. We find it hard to accept that the war in the area had been over for one and a half decades. We also must familiarize ourselves with the fact that Hungary’s southern neighbour recently received the European Union candidate status. If we undertake this adventure, we can get to fantastic places in Serbia. It is true that the Cyrillic spelling can cause some difficulties, but information on the traffic signs is also indicated in Latin characters everywhere. With knowledge of Slavic languages and English you can get along quite well. However, it can be expected that menus in the less frequented places are written only in Cyrillic letters.
Photo: © Béla Szabó

Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF 2,8/70-200 L USM 1/800s f/5 ISO 160
The Serbian cuisine is typically meat-lover, roast meat are characteristic but they also eat lots of vegetables as garnish or salad. They use pork, beef, lamb and goat-meat as raw material. At the same time many kinds of dairy products are also available. Restaurant prices are reasonable and portions are hearty, especially in the countryside. My first visit to Serbia was by chance. Surfing on the Internet I came across a trumpet festival. I travelled with my former student at Fotooktatas.hu, Irén Becker who was born in Vajdaság (Vojvodina) and another two photographer colleagues. We thought, we would have a look around in the region, once we got there. That’s how we got to the Tara National Park. Being foreigners we visited the management of the national park to ask for information and advice what was worth seeing for us, photographers. At this point we came into contact with Boriša Čolić who was very glad to see foreign photographers, especially that one of them was the editor of Nature Photo Magazine.
During our talk he invited us to return if we want another times too. Taking the opportunity we have visited the region three times already to enjoy the hospitality of the national park. They accommodate us in different areas each time, once in a place where nobody stayed around us within miles. The Tara is the westernmost projection of Serbia, a mountainous area partly surrounded by the Drina River. It is 50 km long and 22 km wide in an area of 183 km². The Tara stands at an average of 1,200 metres above sea level, so it is a mountain range of medium height.
Photo: © Béla Szabó

Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF 2,8/70-200 L USM 99s f/22 ISO 50, ND64, stand
At some of its points the yawning chasm is almost 000 metres deep below us. In the canyon of Drina at some points the river is hardly wider than 100 meters and the peaks above our heads are 700 or 800 meters high. The Tara Mountains became known for the world in 1893. In that year researcher started to study the region. But the massive mountain did not reveal its secrets that fast, diligent and persistent work of generations was needed for the results.
The unique species of the mountain is the Serbian Spruce or Pančićeva omorika. It was discovered and named by the Serbian botanist Josif Pančićn in 1855. This spruce differs from other species as it is much slimmer and harder, the bottom side of its needlelike leaves has a silvery gleam, and its unmatured cones are purple. Thanks to these characteristics the area was declared a national park and special natural reserves were established within its borders.
The first foresters arrived at the mountain area in 1872 and decades of forestry slowly thinned out the dense forests. In order to stop that, efforts were made in 1950 to declare the area protected but the establishment of the national park was realised only in 1981. The area of the national park now is 19 175 hectares, while of the national forest is 11 807 hectares. Thanks to the employees of Tara National Parks we were lucky to spend longer periods in the region, in summer, in autumn and in winter too, although we had to postpone our February journey due to the huge snowfall in the Balkans. In some parts of the region 200 or 250 cm snow fell and up in the mountains travelling was impossible. Even a month later we could go off the road in snowshoes. It was an exciting adventure.
Photo: © Béla Szabó

Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF 2,8/24-70 L USM 0,5s f//9 ISO 200, stand
Thanks to the cooperation the national park published a calendar this year illustrated with the works of Béla Szabó, Irén Becker and Uros Petrovics. At the same time the calendar participated in the Calendar Competition of the Art Managers’ Club of Serbia where the publication received a special prize.
As the next phase of the cooperation the two authors plan an exhibition in Serbia to show the treasures of the Tara National Park through the lenses of Hungarian photographers. We also plan a series of exhibition from the Tara pictures in Hungary too. We would like to thank Milica Tomić and Boriša Čolić, and their colleagues who guided and supported our work. Special thanks to the prior of Rača monastery form where – according to the tradition – the first monks and the people of the region came to establish the city of Szentendre, in Hungary.
Text and pictures: Béla Szabó
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