The municipality of Valjevo is situated in West Serbia and is the center of the Kolubara District, which includes another five smaller municipalities (Mionica, Osečina, Ub, Lajkovac and Ljig) with a total population of almost 200000 people. According to the census in 2002, Valjevo has 96761 inhabitants, of which 61270 are urban and suburban, and 35491 are rural. It occupies an area of 905 square kilometers, and its altitude is 185 meters. Valjevo was formed near the river Kolubara, a tributary of the Sava river. The area of Valjevo has a mild, temperate climate.
Valjevo has a favourable geographical position. It is 100 km away from the capital of Serbia, Belgrade, and in the close vicinity of one of the most important republic traffic arteries - Ibar highway, which connects the north and the south of Serbia. Arterial highways leading to the Adriatic Sea, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the fertile soil of Mačva, and further towards the breadbasket of Vojvodina, also pass through Valjevo, and they connect Valjevo with other important centres of West Serbia – Šabac, Užice, Loznica and Bajina Bašta. Also passing through Valjevo is the Belgrade-Bar railway, which connects the capital of Serbia with Montenegro and the Adriatic Sea.
The oldest traces of human dwelling in this region date from the palaeolithic period and were found in the nearby Petnica cave. Out of saved written document in which Valjevo was mentioned, the oldest was discovered in the Dubrovnik Archive and it dates back to 1393. Valjevo was formed as a medieval square, at an important crossroads which was visited by famous merchants of Dubrovnik. It was also mentioned in the travel accounts of Eulia Chelebia (1660), Felix Kaniz (1860 and 1888) and Hans Vogel (1913). In the town centre, on the right bank of the Kolubara, there is the old shopping centre (Turkish bazaar) of Tešnjar dating from the 17th cetury, but todays appearance comes from the end of the 19th century. The oldest preserved building is Muselim’s Lodgings from the end of the 18th century, in whose cellar Dukes Aleksa Nenadović and Ilija Birčanin were imprisoned before their execution in February 1804. Тhis event, known in Serbian history as “Beheading of the Dukes” gave impetus to the First Serbian Uprising against the age-long Turkish occupation, so Muselim’s Lodgings today represents the Museum of the First and Second Serbian Uprisings. Dominating from a hill above the town center is Nenadović Tower from 1813, which was then used as a powder magazine, and was rebuilt in 1836 by Prince Miloš Obrenović.
In the vicinity of Valjevo is the village of Brankovina, the home of famous Serbian family Nenadović, which gave leaders of the First Serbian Uprising, ministers of the first Serbian government, spiritual leaders and travel writers Duke Aleksa, Archpriest Mateja, Dukes Jakov, Sima and Jevrem, writer Čika Ljuba and Queen Persida Karađorđević, mother of King Peter the Liberator. Brankovina hosted the best known Serbian poetess Desanka Maksimović, who spent her childhood (she was born in the nearby Rabrovica) and completed primary school there. Throughout her life, Desanka remained emotionaly attached to Brankovina, and she frequently revisited it and spent her last years there, and was finally buried under a hundred year old oak trees in the Brankovina churchyard, according to her wishes. The sights of Brankovina are encompassed in a cultural and historical complex, which includes the Church of Saint Archangel, Archpriest’s school, Desanka's school, Old Courtroom, Sleeping Outbuilding of the Nenadović family, the graves of the Nenadović family and Desanka Maksimović, as well as old “sobrašica” summer houses in the exquisitely beautiful Brankovina church yard.
In the close vicinity there are famous Serbian medieval monasteries. Ćelije Monastery, situated in the picturesque canyon of the river Gradac, dates from the 14th century. It is also well-known for the famous theologian Justin Popović, D Phil, who was a priest there from 1948 to the seventies in the last century. Archimandrite Justin Popović is the author of numerous important studies of orthodoxy and one of the founders of the Serbian Philosophical Society. Ćelije, together with the nearby Lelić Monastery, is a meeting place of a great number of pilgrims through the whole year. Lelić keeps the relics of Bishop Nikolaj Velimirović, a famous religious thinker, Doctor of Philosophy from Oxford, author of a large number of religious and philosophical works, the most important Serbian spiritual educator after St Sava. Pustinja Monastery from the 17th century (there are grounds to believe that it existed in as far back as the early middle ages) is important because of its unique architecture (Ras school) and valuable, well-preserved frescoes. One of the most outstanding is the fresco of St John the Baptist, which is protected by UNESCO. The Church of Virgin’s Shroud in Valjevo was built in 1836, and a new sanctuary at the confluence of the rivers Gradac and Kolubara, the Temple of Our Lord’s Resurrection, is currently under construction.
Valjevo mountain range (Medvednik, Jablanik, Povlen, Maljen, Suvobor) with gently-rolling hills surrounding the town is an oasis of clean air, medicinal herbs, forest fruit and wild game. The environment is kept away from industrialisation, the soil unpolluted, so the food is healthy too, and the conditions for hunting and fishing in the mountain rivers are extraordinary. The air-spa of Divčibare is ideal for rest, rehabilitation and recreation. Divčibare, a plateau in the mountain Maljen, with a picnicking tradition of 100 years, has an average altitude of 1000 m. It is 28km awaz from Valjevo and 110km from Belgrade. The epithet “air-spa” refers to the beneficial effect of Divčibare to the respiratory organs resulting from the meeting of maritime, Carpathian and Panonian climates. This picnic area is featured by private accomodation. Mountain lodges in other Valjevo mountains can accomodate mountain fans.
Vrujci Spa has mud-baths for rheumatic diseases, as well as a hotel and sport complex with swimming pools.
The canyon of the river Gradac, whose course, with almost untouched nature, ends in the town centre, is a favourite picnic area of Valjevo citizens during hot summer days. The Gradac is one of the cleanest European rivers, which is evidenced by the presence of otters, which exclusively inhabit clean waters. It abounds in brook trout, so it is a haven for fly angling fans. Old water mills are one of the simbols of this natural reserve of 1300 ha surface area, which has been entrusted by the Valjevo Municipal Assembly to the Gradac Ecological Society.
In Petnica, 5km away from Valjevo, there are outdoor swimming pools with minor sports facilities, as well as lake Pocibrava, a meeting place of swimmers and fishermen.
The most important cultural institutions are the National Museum, under whose auspices is the Museum of the First and Second Serbian Uprising and displays in Brankovina, the Institute for Protectionof Cultural Monuments, Historical Archive, Town Library with scientific, home and children’s departments, Cultural Centre with well-equipped stage and auditorium with 630 seats, and the Youth Centre with "Gallery 34" for exhibitions and forums. Valjevo has two elite galleries: Modern Gallery with a permanent display of works of Academician Ljuba Popović (1953-63 period), collection of works presented by the exhibitors so far, and a concept of representing fantastic painting after the model of the famous "Mediala", and the International Art Studio "Radovan Mića Trnavac", which stages exhibbitions of foreign painters of different styles. The Cultural and Artistic Society "Abrašević" has a renowned choir, folk, music and drama ensembles. Besides "Abrašević", the theatrical performances are given by the private theatre "Mala scena" and the Drama Studio of Valjevo Grammar School. The most famous cultural events are Tešnjar Evenings and YU Jazz Fest, accompanied by summer literary talks in the Library Yard and Desanka’s May Talks, along with granting the annual poetry award by the Desanka Maksimović Foundation in Brankovina.
- St Sava Athletic Race (27January)
- Children Sports and Recreation Festival on Divčibare (February)
- Festival of Flautists from Music Schools and Academies (March)
- Festival of Independent Films (April)
- YU Jazz Festival (1st weekend in May)
- Desanka’s May Talks (Valjevo – Brankovina, 15-16 May)
- International Children’s Folk Festival (May)
- Republic Reciting Show (May)
- Days of Medicinal Herbs in Valjevo Mountains (July)
- Days of Children Culture (May-June)
- Raspberry Days in Brankovina (June)
- Petrovdan Days in Valjevska Kamenica (11-12 July)
- Jeep Rally through Valjevo Mountains (July)
- Library Yard Literary Evenings (July-August)
- Tešnjar Evenings (2nd half of August)
- Motocyclists’ Parade (August)
- October Writers’ Meetings in Honour of Desanka (October)
- Mushroom Days on Divčibare (1st weekend in October)
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