On the slopes, perfect snow. Along the road, slaughter

"THIS IS one of the most unusual mountains in Europe - you can ski here until the beginning of May," says Branimir Sekulovic, sitting in the dining room of his Alpine-style lodge, writes Raymond Whitaker. "I have been to many skiing centres, and nowhere have I found one as beautiful as ours."

It is not hard to see what he means. The slopes of Sar mountain, hard by the Macedonian border, are covered in perfect powdery snow, and more is in the air, spangling the trees and the steep-roofed chalets. Schoolchildren are throwing snowballs, and the lift is carrying a party of students from Belgrade up to the slope.

The horrific killings are only a few miles down the road. Here, though, skiing continues.

Mr Sekulovic, 46, came to Brezovica as a child, when his father was appointed the first director of the newly developed resort. "My best years were spent here," he says, and he is eager to tell foreign visitors of the opportunities for hunting and fishing as well as skiing, and for walking. "I have covered all these mountains on my own two feet," he adds.

But even Brezovica has not escaped Kosovo's upheavals. The first clue is Mr Sekulovic's dining room - on our arrival he hurriedly unstacks tables and chairs and brings out linen tablecloths before pressing us to have a drink. It is true, he admits: he has no guests. Nor does the 100-room hotel at the bottom of the ski lift. "They have closed, but here the heating is on and everything is ready for anyone who comes."

Plenty of vehicles stand outside the giant Hotel Narcis up the road, but there is a metal detector where the reception desk should be and security men looking suspiciously at unbadged strangers. The complex has been taken over as a training centre by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which has moved into Kosovo to monitor an increasingly tattered ceasefire. The ski lift, it emerges, is switched on only when groups from Serbia, such as the students, turn up.

"Last winter things were normal," Mr Sekulovic says. "We had all sorts - Serbs, Albanians, Hungarians, Russians. This year, nothing. How do I stay in business? It's a good question. I just hope that there will be an agreement by next winter. There's going to have to be - we have nowhere else to go, and nor do the Albanians.

"Before this there used to be buses bringing hundreds of Albanians, and even though this is a 100 per cent Serbian village, they never had any problems. I speak their language myself, and I used to go hunting with Albanian friends. But one night last September someone burned down the chalets owned by Albanians - it's not certain who - and no one comes now."

Even though wrecked homes are a common sight in Kosovo, the burnt-out chalets are particularly stark against the snow, and against the luxury of the intact lodges surrounding them.

A Serbian pensioner, a refugee from Croatia, says he knew Albanians who used to take their holidays here. "They were very kind to me. They would always give me any food they had left when they were leaving, and money. Now I have to live on what the Red Cross supplies - flour, some potatoes. My wife has diabetes, and it's very hard for us." If it was the Serbs of Brezovica who did this, they caused more harm to themselves than to the rich Albanians who could afford these weekend retreats.

Down on the main road, a lonely Mr Sekulovic is still trying to promote the resort's attractions. "There's been no fighting in these parts," he says. "You can tell British tourists that they'll be absolutely safe here. But it's the journey: I can't make the same guarantee about that."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions