Members of the media stand outside the town hall in Bugarach, France. Some people believe the Peak of Bugarach contains doors into other worlds, or that extraterrestrials will return there on Judgment Day to take refuge. REUTERS/Jean-Philippe Arles
If doomsday really falls on Friday, the residents of this
Serbian mountain region are cashing in while they can.
"We're booked out Dec. 20-23. We have a New Age convention
and guests are coming because of the end of the world," said
Nebojsa Gajic, manager of the 160-bed, Communist-era
Millennium Hotel on the slopes of Mount Rtanj.
The region is selling itself as the best place to survive the
looming apocalypse - which will fall on December 21,
according to mystics whose calculations depend on the ending
of an era in the 5125-year-old Mayan calendar.
It is basing its promise on the mystical powers that locals
say have flooded the area since its pyramid-shaped mountain
swallowed a castle belonging to a well-to-do sorcerer,
trapping him inside.
About 250km east of the capital Belgrade, towards Bulgaria,
Mount Rtanj is part of the Carpathian range and famed in
Serbia for its herbal tea, pristine nature and clean air.
Like the French Pyrenean village of Bugarach - which is
guarded by another magical mountain believed to contain doors
into other worlds, - Rtanj is offering salvation from
Friday's cataclysm and safe passage into a golden age.
Residents say they have been inundated with enquiries from
Serbia and abroad.
"We're booked out," said Darko Jovic, manager of the
Balasevic hotel. "People were even calling from the United
States and we had to say 'No'. I couldn't even get a room for
my own mother and sister."
The Serbian daily Blic reported the going rate for private
accommodation had shot up to 500 euros ($US660) per night.
A Reuters reporting crew in Rtanj said the area appeared
quiet, but bulldozers were clearing the roads of snow in
preparation for the expected influx.
"We came because of the end of the world," said Dragoljub
Arandjelovic from the nearby town of Paracin. It was unclear
if he was serious, or in search of a good party.
"We tried to find a room but without success. If we can't
stay here, we'll just have to grin and bear it," he added.
Locals say the sorcerer still lives in the mountain and that
there have been sightings of fireballs hovering above Rtanj's
Serbian media reports say physicists have recorded magnetic
anomalies in the area, which is riddled with abandoned
coal-mine shafts dating from the 19th century.
Retired show-business promoter Dragan Milenkovic, 65, said
the mountain, with its striking pyramid shape, was built by
aliens who would return on Friday.
"On Dec. 21, on the summit of Rtanj, we'll see a beautiful
violet and red light that will engulf the planet for about
five seconds and they (the aliens) will come," he told
Reuters. "That will mark the beginning of a golden era that
will last 1345 years."
Others were unconvinced.
"For me, doomsday comes every month when I have to cover
monthly expenses of 300 euros with a salary of 250 euros and
a family of three to feed," said 36-year-old nurse Dragana