FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Kalemegdan

Posted in Beograd, Serbia by folkestonejack on October 14, 2011

After returning from the outskirts of town I headed to Kalemegdan Park and the Belgrade Fortress. The fortress is arguably the most popular attraction in the city, drawing people at all times of day and especially at sunset. It takes quite some time to explore fully, especially when you stop every five minutes to take another photograph!

The history of the fortress is inextricably linked to the history of Belgrade itself, with the city population living within the walls for centuries. A wander around the upper town quickly demonstrates the threads of history that have converged on this spot as you stumble across a roman well and the tomb of the Ottoman Grand Vizier Silahdar Damat Ali Pasha (who was killed at the battle of Petrovardin in 1716).

The fortress is the location of one of Belgrade’s most recognisable landmarks – a monument known as ‘The Victor’ which commemorates Serbian victory in the Balkan Wars (1912-13) and the First World War. It was originally intended for Terazije square but was banished to this spot in 1928 in reaction to it’s shocking nudity. I have to say the spot it now stands on is the perfect location in my eyes.

The fortress contains a number of museums and historical buildings that you can visit, although some were closed during my visit. The clock gate tower, roman well and the tomb of Silahdar Damat Ali Pasha were closed, possibly because my visit fell out of the main tourist season. The Belgrade Fortress Museum which tells the story of the fortress also appeared to be closed for renovation with scaffolding all over the place and signs warning about the danger of loose rocks. However, the art pavillion, military museum, observation tower and churches of St. Petka and Ružica churches were open as usual. I would particularly recommend a visit to the churches of St. Petka and Ružica as their interiors are quite breathtaking (the exterior roof of the Ružica church was being re-tiled when I visited but this did not affect access).

The fortress is surrounded by Kalemegdan Park which features a number of interesting sculptures and monuments, including a dramatic monument that recognises the sacrifice of French soldiers in Yugoslavia during the First World War. It is also in the park that I first came across the stray dogs that are mentioned in so many of the travel guides. As I walked through the park my eyes were drawn to a pack of dogs in the park watching the ebb and flow of tourists. The Serbian government has estimated that there are about 15,000 strays in Belgrade alone – a massive amount for a city of just two million people. The situation is apparently a sad legacy of the early 1990s when many owners could no longer afford to feed their dogs. I am always a little nervous around dogs (having been attacked by an alsatian ten years ago) but in this case the dogs are more frightened than humans, living in terrible conditions.

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