As we sipped our coffee in Mitrovica, white flecks of winter began to drift down from the sky. Gloomy-grey hung over the town as if the residents were never meant to wake up.
We traversed the river and piled in our friends’ car–the first time we had been in a car since arriving in Mitrovica months ago. After a few miles of criss-crossing the Ibar River as it weaves north from Mitrovica, we arrived in the village of Banjska, clinging to the side of an evergreen hill. Though the village is quite small, maybe 30 houses clustered on the hillside, it is a village of great fame.In the early 1300s, the king of medieval Serbia had a grand monastery built on the hillside in Banjska. This monastery was meant to house his body as he enjoyed the afterlife, so you can imagine it must have been grand indeed.
Centuries of neglect and intermittent war caused the destruction of most of the monastery. In the 1990s, the monastery was rebuilt and it seems from the scaffolding inside the cathedral that renovation continues.No one was out and about. The whole village was nearly silent, staying inside as the white snow piled on the green surroundings. We let ourselves into the main cathedral.
After the monastery, we drove down the hillside to a more infamous site. Banjska is known not just for its monastery but for its baths as well. You can see from the name that the villages natural hot spring was once of great significance.
According to our Serbian friends, Banjska was once a popular spa destination in the 1970s and 80s. In the ’90s, during the war with Croatia, Serbian refugees were housed in Banjska’s spa hotel. Our Serbian friends said it used to be a resort, now you almost need a hazmat suit to enter. It has all been utterly destroyed and left to rot.
Our friends, who live nearby, are hoping an investor will see potential in the natural spa and restore it to its former glory. It would revitalize the whole community.