Our group of 17, IWC members and friends traveled to Vrnjačka Banja, a famous spa town in southern Serbia on the 6th of May. The trip took about 2.5 hours, which went by very fast in good company and comfortable seats. We stayed in Zepter Hotel, a 4 star hotel, conveniently located on the pedestrian zone in the city, with all local sights accessible on foot. After a quick lunch we met up for a meditation session, led by Christina, in the park across from the hotel. Later we met with our guide who took us on a walk around the town, showing us the famous spots such as the japanese garden, the roman wishing well and the love bridge. We came back to the hotel for our first QiGong session, then had dinner at the hotel buffet, full of local food. Some went on to discover the local nightlife while others took a rest in their comfortable beds.

Saturday morning saw us bright and early ready for our second QiGong session, after which we had breakfast at the hotel. Then we went off on our bus to the precious monastery of Sveta Petka near Kraljevo. The ancient stone column here has been much venerated over the generations. We then traveled to Žiča Monastery, where we viewed what remains of the remarkable 13th century frescoes in this special place where all Serbian kings were crowned.

While some went back to take advantage of the hotel’s indoor swimming pool, jacuzzi, Sauna and independent massage parlors, for others a guided hike on Goč Mountain was on the agenda, with a promise of lunch by the lake. The sun shone and the air temperature was perfect for a hike. We had it easy getting to the viewing platform at the 1216m Goč summit as most of the climb was done while we were still on the bus (cheating or what?!). The panoramic vista looking down on Vrnjacka Banja was breathtaking.

We then followed trails through pastures of wild spring flowers, and farmlands with trees of apple and cherry blossoms to the lake, where we found a deckchair each, lined up on the edge of the water. Organic orahovaca, elderflower juice and local spring water offered us refreshment ahead of a Serbian picnic of hot cooked mixed meats with cabbage salad (hot meats on the remote mountainside, can you believe it?) and coffee and homemade hazelnut truffles to finish. This is how to do hiking - IWC organization at its very best!

On the last day of the trip we again met up for our last QiGong session followed by breakfast then gathered to walk to a famous local vineyard, Grabak. Their award winning wines are a must on a visit to Vrnjačka Banja because their extremely popular wines can rarely be found outside of the local scene. They have a state-of-the-art wine production facility, capable of producing 12 to 15 thousand liters of wine. They offer visitors a tasting menu of either three or six wines, accompanied by a variety of local cheeses. We even got to try their Gold Medal of “Decanter World Wine Awards” winning wine from the autotochton variety, Prokupac. The vineyard offers a variety of activities to the visitors as well as the chance to stay in their only bungalow during a visit. 

We returned from our experience in Grabak with arms full of wine bottles to a delicious lunch in the Vila Emilia restaurant, after which we made our way back to Belgrade, rested, relaxed and with new friendships established!