05 Aug The Smoke Cave // A Medieval Death Chamber
An old hideout with a tumultuous past, the Smoke Cave has witnessed the kind of bloodshed you would see in a Game of Thrones episode. Getting its name for the way in which its occupiers were killed hundreds of years ago, this historical refuge is now the site of absolute peace and quiet, hidden nearby Serbia’s Holy Mountain.
Serbian peasants fearing oppression from the Ottoman Empire used the cave as a refuge in 1814. Turkish forces discovered roughly 100 individuals hiding during the Hadzi Prodanova anti-Ottoman revolt and suffocated them by burning straw and wood that they stuffed in the cave’s openings. The victim’s bones and ashes lay unnoticed for over 120 years, before being collected and buried in the cave in 1936.
The Smoke Cave is located 1 km away from Ovcar Banja and 20 km from the closest major town, Cacak. Sitting in the midst of the country’s famous Ovcar Kablar Gorge, the cave-church’s surrounding area is home to medieval monasteries accompanied by a meandering West Morava river. Adventure opportunities are in abundance here, as the Kablar and Ovcar mountains can also be visited as part of a day trip.
Your path to the cave-church features an old ruined bridge, greenery, carved stone steps, and a 50 m tall cross visible from afar, serving as a guide for your trek to the cave. Differing from many others caves in the country, the Smoke cave is unlike Serbia’s famous Resava Cave or Zlot Cave, for example. It is small; It’s not a labyrinth of undiscovered tunnels; and, it is home to historically significant events. In fact, all you will find is the cave are two sarcophagi, home to the bones and ashes of the 19th-century victims of the Ottoman Empire’s tyranny.
Tips & Essentials:
Your visit to the Smoke Cave can be part of a whole-day adventure starting with a hike atop the Ovcar Mountain, followed by a stroll to the the Smoke Cave, and then continuing to the Kablar Mountain while visiting an abundance of monasteries situated between the two peaks.
How to get to the Smoke Cave:
Your starting point is at Ovcar Banja. You can get here via bus or train, though the train is the better option. If you’re travelling by car, then it’s a 160 km drive from Belgrade.
Once you get to Ovcar Banja, begin walking west along the river until you get to an old rusty bridge. Though not safe for cars, the bridge is sturdy enough to walk across and is fitted out with large planks of wood. Cross the bridge and continue along the river for 10 minutes, until you come across a sign pointing toward the cave. Keep going for another few minutes and you will come across a set of stones steps, which you will need to climb up. From there, it’s just a little further and you will be at the cave. If you’re still not sure, just look up for a big cross and use it as your guide.