FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Zemun

Posted in Serbia, Zemun by folkestonejack on October 15, 2011

A few hours of daylight remained so I jumped on a number 84 bus and headed out of central Belgrade to Zemun.

Zemun was once a town in its own right, sitting on the banks of the Danube, but the growth of Belgrade has swallowed this place up and today it is a municipality of Belgrade (with a reputation as a mafia centre according to the guidebooks). Nevertheless, as you wander the oldest parts of Zemun you could be forgiven for thinking you were wandering around the cobbled streets of a traditional and somewhat sleepy town many miles from the bustle of Belgrade.

My first stop in Zemun was the Air Force Headquarters, which sits on Aviators’ Square. The headquarters was designed in the modernist style by Dragiša Brašovan in 1935 and was intended to emulate the form of a jet. I couldn’t quite see it from my perspective, but the form of the building is certainly striking. The building remains wrecked since the NATO bombing of 1999.

Air Force Command, Zemun

On one side of the building, a monumental statue of Icarus perched on a ledge, looks out across the crowds at the nearby bus stop. I saw it the moment I stepped off the bus and it is hard to ignore his gaze!

Statue of Icarus at the Air Force HQ, Zemun

After leaving Icarus behind I headed towards the oldest part of the town, on Gardoš Hill, to visit the Millennium Tower. It is a remarkable structure built on the ruins of a fourteenth century castle and a great viewpoint across the area. I had read that the tower was open between 4pm to 7pm so timed my trip to fit between these hours and it was well worth the expedition.

The tower was constructed in 1896 to celebrate one thousand years of Hungarian settlement in the Pannonian Basin and was originally one of four that marked out the extent of the empire. The tower in Zemun marked out the southernmost point of Hungary. Today it is the only one that remains, with the others having long since vanished along with the empire they represented. It certainly has the feel of a last outpost of empire.

View from the Millennium Tower, Zemun

For many years the tower was neglected and closed but relatively recently the structure has been given a fresh lease of life by its latest owner. The building has been restored and now houses the Cubrilo gallery at ground level. You can pay a relatively small fee (150 dinars) to climb up to the terrace which presents you with a great view across Zemun and on to Belgrade – including a distance view of Kalemegdan. The more surprising revelation of the terrace was that many of the bricks are etched with grafitti that is in itself now historic.

Historic graffiti on the Millennium Tower, Zemun

At the time of my visit the main exhibition space at the base of the tower was being used for an exhibition about the connections between Nikola Tesla and photography – including the incredible photographs of his experiments. It seems that everywhere you go in Belgrade you pick up a little bit more information about this incredible man and his work. Inevitably, this has made me more and more curious – so I have pencilled in a visit to the Nikola Tesla museum tomorrow.

For more about the tower, see Tower of Sibinjanin Janko and the Kula Gardoš website.

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