To Pirot and back, a little journey to Eastern Serbia

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A perfect day trip from Sofia to Pirot and Poganovo monastery

We have been to Pirot, Serbia, so many times that we could write a book about it. Every trip has its own story. Once we got there after a long and adventurous drive through narrow country roads in Serbia. Other times it is easier – we just go for a quick lunch and walk. Last time we found a charming ethnographic museum in the city.

No matter what you are willing to do, Pirot has something for you. For people living in Sofia and around a day trip to the Serbian city is a great idea. If you are just passing by, it is a great place to have lunch or coffee and take a short walk around.

Places to stay in Pirot.
Poganovo monastery

Poganovo monastery

Poganovo monastery is located some 30 km from Pirot and about 30 km from the border with Bulgaria.To reach it you need to take the road from Dimitrovgrad to Pirot and look for a sigh on the left. We always visit the monastery before going to Pirot. We love its beauty and peacefulness and it is a wonderful retreat from the noise of the big city.

The church of Poganovo Monastery, Serbia

Poganovo monastery used to be a part of Bulgaria until 1920 but after the Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine the territory was given to Serbia.

The monastery complex, located on the left bank of the Erma river, consists of 4 to 5 buildings: living quarters, the main church, watch tower and courtyard. The church was built towards the end of the 14th century and the 15th century frescoes depict various religious figures painted by Greek masters. The slots of the frescoed cupola allows some light to shine onto the 17th iconostases which separate the church’s central chapel from the nave. The buildings surrounding the church are relatively new dating back to the 19th century. The complex was repaired in the 1980s.

The church in Poganovo Monastery

The church

During our trip there in 2014 we were welcomed by a the very nice father Theofil who told us about his adventures in Sofia. He seemed very impressed by our city, especially by the new metro line.

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Погановски манастир 42.979849, 22.639099

However, it is not always possible to see Poganovo monastery so calm and quiet. During weekends it gets really crowded with Bulgarian tourists arriving by buses. So you should better arrive early, before 9 am local time.

Църквата

If you are nature lovers, there are plenty of opportunities for a walk or picnic in the area. We usually go there in the cold season when the weather is not very pleasant but there are many trails around Poganovo monastery.

Sukovo Monastery

Before you reach the Poganovo monastery, you pass by a bridge on Erma river with a sing pointing to Sukovo Monastery – an old Bulgarian Orthodox monastery. They have probably finished the restoration of the church which was ongoing during our visit. This is the reason why I do not have good photos of it. However, the church is old and beautiful and I hope it has become even more beautiful after the restoration works. We spend good time there and the monks offered us sweets so we did not regret stopping by.

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Суковски манастир 43.042908, 22.664881

 

Driving to Pirot (The old road)

If you, like us, just like driving through the country and talking to local people, this is one of the best places for you. Back to 2011, our curiousity drove us exactly there. Instead of going back to the main road to Pirot, we decided to explore the road through Poganovo village. This proved to be the longest road ti Pirot but back then, travelling without navigation, we had no idea. We drove through some small villages where local men explained us that there were a nice new road in the area. They were really proud with the asphalt. Then we took some pictures of the hay bales along the road and picked a few very sweet apples from a nearby tree. It was an idyllic day in the country that we will never forget.

Nowadays you can use the highway from Bulgria to Pirot, but you will miss the beautiful Poganovo and Sukovo Monasteries. So you have to take the old road between Dimitrovgrad (Serbia) and Pirot.  

Погановски манастир

Бали сено

The cars on the Serbian roads make us smile, too. The old Yugo is still alive and no one seems to care what car is he driving as long as it is moving. We really like that.

Where to eat in Pirot

One of the main reasons we love travelling to Pirot is the good food. As you may have noticed, we are really food lovers and we do not miss an opportunity to try local delicacies everywhere we go. Serbian Pljeskavica is among our favourite dishes. Sometimes we try the original version, others we prefer the chilly one, or that with cheese. Another great version is Pljeskavica with Kaimak (Kaimak is something like cream).

If you are vegetarian, you might not enjoy the Serbian cuisine so much. Unfortunately meat is an essential part of it and there aren’t many vegetarian dishes in the menu. You could always have fried potatoes or a salad, but that’s almost all.

In Pirot there are many good places to have lunch. Acually, every kafana or restaurant will serve you a nice Pljeskavica or Cevapi or any other roasted meat. One of our favourite places is Krčma „Ladna Voda“, Nikole Pašića 47, Pirot (closed on Sundays). In the cold seasons it is a small and cozy restaurant and in the summer you can enjoy the garden. There you can pay with credit card. One of the things we don’t like is that smoking is allowed. However, this is the case through all Serbia.

Another restaurant we discovered recently is Lane Moje – ul. Vojvode Misica 42. The food is delicious, prices are low and on Saturday evening there is live music. If you are fan of Balkan music or you are just curious to taste it, go there!

We have stayed for a night in Pirot just once. We wanted to try a small guest house instead of a hotel and booked Vila Lola and Nikola, just outside Pirot. It is a nice country house with very kind hosts and is a good budget option. 

Pirot looks like a small town but actually 40 000 people live there. It looks neat and pleasant and there are several places of tourist interest.

The main attractions in Pirot

The fortress (Momchilov grad, Pirot Kale)

Momchilov grad (Momchilo’s fortress) in Pirot, Serbia, was built in the 14th century by Bulgarian brigand and local ruler Momchil. It is well preserved but for many years it has been closed for visitors. However, you could climb the neighbouring hill and enjoy the view to the fortress and the city from above.

The fortress in Pirot

The fortress in Pirot

 

Muzej Ponisavlja (The Old House)

Muzej Ponisavlja is an ethnographic museum in Pirot, just behind Ladna Voda restaurant. Against a really small entrance fee (something like 1 EUR) visitors are met by a very nice guide who was perfectly speaking Bulgarian and I am sure he speaks good English, too. He told us really interesting things about the museum and we recommend the tour if you have some time.

The museum is located in a 19th-century house, built in 1848. It was home of the local trader Hristo Jovanovic, also known as Mali Rista (Small Rista) because he was really short.

At that time Serbia was under Ottoman rule and Mali Rista had a complicated relationship with the turks. He made a lot of money by selling the same goods numerous times to Turkish soldiers that really angered them. When he decided to build such a big house, that was almost unthinkable. In order to get permission from the Turks, he agreed to turn the upper floor of the house into a konak (an inn for Turkish passers-by). But he also found a way to make the Turkish authorities obey him.  Because he was very short, he built a small room with lower floor just for himself. Then he started receiving his guests only there, making every visitor bend his head when entering. Nowadays some of the authentic firniture might be seen in the house.

On the first floor there is an exhibition of traditional local crafts and home furniture.

The park in Pirot

Pirot features a wonderful park along the Nishava river. On both sides there are bike alleys. Actually, bicycling is really popular in Pirot.

A day in Pirot

Пирот

Shopping in Pirot

Many Bulgarians travel to Pirot especially for shopping. It is believed that some goods are cheaper and better there but we are not very much into that. We usually buy some kaimak and Jelen beer which we really enjoy.

However, seeing the local market in Pirot is an exotic attraction. During weekends you can meet there many car-stalls (people selling goods directly from their cars). Everyone from the nearby villages comes to the city to offer what he has produced. This could be seen in some Bulgarian villages and small towns, too.

Temska Monastery Saint George

We had a pleasant walk nearby river Temeshtitsa, Temska village and the nearby Temska Monastery. The road leading to the monastery is narrow but picturesque and we even saw a hind there. Old big trees welcomed us at the gate of the monastery. We entered the beautiful tidy yard where we were met by a kind nun. She was happy to meet our little Anna and we enjoyed the walk around the yard and the beautiful church. There were not many visitors so we took our time.

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Темски манастир 43.268534, 22.561240
Temska Monastery Saint George, Serbia

Temska Monastery Saint George

 

Some tips

  1. Go to Poganovo monastery early in the morning to avoid the crowds of tourists (weekends only)
  2. Have Pljeskavica and Jelen beer
  3. Enjoy!

We wish you a pleasant and smiley trip!

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