Skiers and snowboarder from the Balkans most probably immediately relate the name Brezovica with the ski resort on the northern slopes on Sharr mountain. However, for many people it stays unknown that the ski resort is named after the village located on the main road between Štrpce/Shtërpcë and Prizren.
Brezovica is a small village relatively new from the begining of the 20th century. Most of the people living here are originally from some of the neighbouring villages, who decided to build new houses and move away from their families. Moreover, it is clear that the tourism which was flourishing during Yugoslavian times, encouraged people to move to the new settlement, strategically located on the crossroad between the road to Prizren and to the ski resort.
According to the Department of Cadastre and properties of the Municipality, there are 620 people living in Brezovica with 140 households. It is described as the tourist center of the municipality, with few of the houses offering accommodation for tourists in the winter season. However, today the once glorius resort looks abondened. You can still notice Narcis – enormous hotel in the center of Brezovica, which every winter season was full of guests. Nowadays the hotel holding the name of the famous daffodils flowers growing on the slopes of Sharr, works to host weddings once a week or so. Next to Narcis you can find the abandoned Breza hotel, Breza meaning birch tree. Smaller and more cozy it used to host some of the international armies in the years during and after the war. Today, windows are broken and curious visitors could take a look in every corner of the hotel. In that role you can also see one of the famous restaurants of the resort – Velika Brvnara – a wooden building next to Lepenac river. It was privatized after the war but soon after closed and hasn’t been reopened since.
One of the symbols of Brezovica is the Rudina park – created as a monument celebrating the Sharr mountain partizan unit. It is located at the end of the village in direction to Prizren and next to it you can find the local school, thus making it as a favourite spot for afterschool time. The park used to be the main place for local gatherings and celebrations, for spending time in the open and a starting or ending point of little walks and hikes. Unfortunately, to some extent it shares the fate of the hotels and is forgoten by Municipality, there are no lights, neither garbage bins, and cutting the grass is a luxury.
On the top of one of the hills is located to new built church St Stephan which opens its gate only for big religious celebrations – Easter, Christmas, St Stephan’s day (January 9th, August 15th), etc. A local artists did the iconostasis of the church.
If you visit Brezovica, you cannot miss the construction sight on the hills next to the church. They are going to be the new homes for Internally displaced people who have been living in the ex-Yugoslavian hotels on the road to the ski resort for the last 20 years. Most of this people are originally from Uroševac/Ferizaj and have lost their homes during the war.
The ski resort
Brezovica ski resort was officially open in 1954 though the road and the ski lifts were built later on. The resort used to be very popular for the region, hosting different ski competitions and serving as an alternative site for the Olympic Games held in Sarajevo in 1984. Nowadays there are only three lift facilities functioning in the winter. The facilities are old and there haven’t been done any serious renovation work, however, the place still attracts many tourists mainly from Kosovo and Albania in the winter weekends. The company operating the ski lifts also owns the hotel Molika (meaning Macedonian pine), the Narcis and Breza hotel in the village and Mala Brvnara restaurant on the road to the ski resort.
There are investment plans supported by the Kosovo Government but opposed by civil society organizations, National park and local people, to build a huge ski resort in an area of the National Park that used to be strictly protected. There are no plans to invest into renovating the already existing facilities.
The ski resort hotels and restaurants functions only in winter with few exceptions working during the whole year or in summer weekends. There are several new hotels, restaruants and coffee places and weekend houses. Next to Molika other symbol of the ski resorts are the Kameni Dom (Mountaineers’ House) and the Ski school which can host bigger groups of visitors. Kameni dom is a favoruite place of GAIA due to the history and respect to the mountain which you can smell in the air (next to the smell of moist and lack of renovation).
On the way to the ski resort a constant construction side welcomes the tourist – the so called weekend zone…. Place reserved for the richest and most powerful people of the region. The area is expanding very quickly, control is very questionable and the size of the houses hardly could be described as typical weekend house. What is very challenging and with unclear levels of negative impact on nature is the lack of infrastructure (waste water and drinking water, electricity supply, etc.). The weekend zone is located within the boundaries of the National park in the sustainable management zone (third protection level zone or otherwise said least protected zone).
The municipality and other villages
Brezovica is locate in Štrpce/Shtërpcë municipality, a pre-dominantly Serbian populated municipality with several mixed villages and few totally Albanian villages. There are 15 settlements within the municipality.
The village of Sevce is one of the bigger villages int he municipality with 1400 inhabitants. It is located at the foot of Ošljak/Oshlak peak where the Lepenac/Lepenc river has its source. Sevce is one of the oldest settlement in the region. It is also facing isolation, since public transport exists only during the school year.