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Zasavica wetlands offer a rich natural ecosystem in which tourists can enjoy sport fishing, photo safari tours, and delicious dishes from the local cuisine.
|Two large rivers, the Sava and the Drina, fought over which one would prevail and lend its waters to the wetland,|
Zasavica's intertwined system of streams, lakes, wetlands and meadows is accessible mostly by boat. Visitors can choose to take a look around by themselves, pushing their wooden boats through the wetland with a long stick, or take a more official tour with a reconstructed authentic ship, the „Umbra“ built during the Second World war, the only one that is still in use.
This unique ship takes tourists for a 7km long route from 2003, offering tourists a view of the widest part of the Zasavica water flow, the pasture, and the flooded forests.
The heart of Zasavica's touristic offering is a visitor’s centre featuring an 18 meters high tower and a waterwheel, with rooms, a restaurant, an ethno room for exhibiting old household and farming implements and tools from the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century and a pier from which all of the tours start. It is located in the wildest, and some would say, most beautiful part of the nature reserve.
A refuge for the endangered:
Two large rivers, the Sava and the Drina, fought over which one would prevail and lend its waters to the wetland, leaving it alone in the end, lazy, slow, and covered with a soft carpet-like layer of green underwater herbs.
Today's river Zasavica flows from the Drina to the Sava for some 30 kilometres. A large wetland around it covering some 600 hectares has continuously changed through the millennia, bringing waters to the Vojvodina's Macva region and taking them away again, enriching the landscape with new meanders.
For generations of locals that lived here as long ago as 3000BC, changes in the landscape might have seemed like the work of giants and dragons. In fact, Zasavica is drawn into the Celtic map as one of the living places of ancient dragons. There are only eight such places in the Balkans.
That is not so strange keeping in mind that the inhabitants of Vojvodina strongly believed in benevolent dragons that fight to preserve the nature and the crops. Perhaps it's thanks to the dragons that today's Zasavica is one of the best preserved nature reserves in Serbia.
Zasavica offers a great diversity of wildlife.
Some of the most rare and endangered species here are beavers and otters.| Photo by Remi Jouan
Some of the most rare and endangered species here are beavers and otters. However, since otters haven’t been seen in Zasavica for a long while local ecology organisations have announced an award for those who capture an otter on camera.
On the other hand, beavers were reintroduced here in 2004, after they had gone extinct in the beginning of the 20th century. Although they are highly admired by the visitors that come to Zasavica as well as by biologists, the local inhabitants who mostly make a living from farming complain that the furry long-tailed rodents ruin their crops.
Another attraction is the Umbra fish, which is protected by the Bern convention throughout Europe as an endangered species. Because of its frowning face in Serbia it’s called „Mrgud“(Grumpy).
The name of this small red fish that weighs only some 30 grams probably comes from its ability to levitate in the water for hours with its head down waiting for prey: larvae, insects, and smaller fish. When necessary it can breathe air, and live outside of the water for more than 10 hours.
Because of its size and its bad taste, Umbra is not meant for eating. Fishermen however often use it for bait. In Bohemia it was used with good results for fighting mosquitoes.
Among 600 plant species, some are especially rare: white and yellow water lilies, water soldier, yellow floating heart, marsh nettle and calamus.
|The heart of Zasavica's touristic offering is a visitor’s centre featuring an ethno room for exhibiting old household and farming implements.|
Like many other tourist spots in Vojvodina, Zasavica is also famous for its local cuisine consisting of many fish and meat specialties. The most famous is fish prepared on „talandara“(a piece of a tractor plough), and meat of mangulica pig.
Here one can try bacon and sausage made of mangulica, sudzuk (similar to sausage) of podolian cattle (the old kind of cattle) and goose stew.
Mangulica is the only surviving autochthonous Serbian breed of domesticated pig. The breed also known as "woollen pig", due to its hair-covered skin, is considered a "noble", but it almost died out in the 1980s. Its fat has up to 80 per cent less cholesterol and triglycerides than a common, white pig. In 1998 Mangulica was introduced in Zasavica, but unlike Podolian cattle, they are left to roam free in the reservation, becoming feral since.
The analysis of mangulica meat shows that it contains rather high amount of proteins, an acceptable amount of fat and that it belongs to the group of meat with the lowest amount of cholesterol.
Zasavica is also rich with donkeys whose meat and milk are used for food, balms, and much more. Donkey’s milk has a revitalising impact on the whole body. It is very effective for removing skin problems, as well as for boosting the immune system and against chronic fatigue.
In Zasavica there are many products made of donkey milk: soaps, liquors and facial creams. For those that can afford it there is an extra expensive bathing in donkey’s milk that is allegedly great for one's skin.
The price is so high because one donkey produces only 20 litters of milk per year, and three times more is needed to fill a bath tub. The Egyptian queen Cleopatra once upon a time enjoyed this strange activity, and her servants had to milk some 300 donkeys for her bathing.
Those that find this too expensive or too strange can simply enjoy the natural habitat, wonderful sights and exciting fishing trips of Zasavica.
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