Oct 05

The Devil’s Town (Orasul Diavolului)

The Devil’s Town is a wonder of nature located in the southern part of Serbia. In fact, the uniqueness of the natural monument has contributed extensively to the fame this specific monument had gained – in as much that the Devil’s Town is a strong candidate for the natural wonders officially recognized throughout the world.

The Devil’s Town is actually a rock formation which has been listed in the aforementioned race back in 2010 and had managed to remain in the competition until the very end, only to lose during the final voting session. But this event triggered the collective effort to enlist the natural monument in the World Heritage Program developed by UNESCO.

http://www.djibnet.com

The Devil’s town, or Djavolja Varos (the Serbian ecquivalet of the name), is located on the slopes of Mount Radan, a mountain renowned for the increased number of mineral and therman springs that traverse it. The region abounds in minerals which means that the landscape is devoid af any type of vegetation. Another characteristic of the region is that it is prone to errossion. This natural phenomenon heavily contributed to the uniqueness of the landscape.

The landscape is striking due to the gloomy imagery conveyed. In fact, this comprises 202 figurines made out of earth that measure as much as two meters, all having some sort of lids on top. These are actually andesite formations, which represent a form of rock that has emerged as a consequence of a powerful volcano erruption that occurred milions of years ago. These formations have pressed the earth for years on end and the result was the distorted forms of relief that appeared.

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The process of formation for the Devil’s Town was a mystery for many years and due to the fact that no scientific explanation was provided, a considerable number of legends emerged. According to one such folklore, the figures are actually the ruins of churches which have been devastated by evil spirits. This story was nurtured by the constant change that occurred in the landscape. The errosion of the soil led to the modification in shape and size of the rock formations and the locals actually bellieved that these were moving by themselves – thus the myth of devils lurking in the region grew.

These myths were the ones to give the name to the natural monument. The Devil’s Town has become renowned only in the later years, when it has become a tourist attraction. In fact, this is the sole touristic objective located on the European continent which is comparable to the Garden of the Gods (located in the US) in terms of mesmerizing beauty.

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Among the legends that revolve around this specific place, there are some which are better known than others. For instance, it is widely believed that the earthen figures represent devils which have been petrified, rebels or even a wedding party that had suffered the same fate. The mythical tales have had a base on which to develop themselves. The region is also rich in streams of red water, a coloration given by the iron minerals that descend from the slopes of the mountain, and these again having contributed to the gloomy décor tourists are presented with.

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In mid-20th century, the Devil’s Town has been declared a natural monument protected under the law. In 1995, the state had issued a degree according to which the Devil’s Town was declared a monument of exceptional importance. Since then, many projects have been initiated in order to transform the Devil’s Town into a site of touristic interest: a road was built so as to permit circulation in and out of the region and all the necessary facilities were developed (water, illumination and aparking space). These improvements have contributed extensively to the increase of the number of tourists that come to the area. At present, the Devil’s Town is visited by 50.000 people on a yearly basis.

Sep 07

St. Sava’s Cathedral (Catedrala Sf. Sava)

When taking into consideration the idea of visiting Serbia, the first thing that springs to mind is going to Belgrade. As this is the capital city of the country, tourists are more inclined to choose this as their first stop. Probably because they have this idea ingrained that Belgrade is the most important city located in Serbia and, as a consequence, they are bound to find several touristic attractions worth seeing.

St. Sava’s Cathedral is one such points of interest located in Belgrade. The Orthodox church is the largest house of worship of this kind located in the Balkan region and it is among the 10 biggest churches in the entire world. The cathedral is dedicated to St. Sava, thus the name of the edifice is explained. The location of the construction site, on the Vračar plateau was not randomly chosen. It is generally believed that in that exact place where the cathedral now stands erect the relics of the saint were burnt by the Ottomans.

http://www.belgradenet.com

The grandiose edifice dominates the skyline of the city and it is undoubtedly the most imposing building of the city. Even though this specific religious house is referred to as being a cathedral, the term is not accurately used from a clerical perspective as it is not the seat of a bishop. But it should be mentioned that in Serbian, the name bore is that of temple; the English translation is in a sense altered as a means of emphasizing the impressive size of the construction as well as the importance it carries in Serbia.

In terms of structure, we are talking about a Greek cross-like form. The cathedral consists of a main dome which is sustained by means of 4 spherical triangles (pendentives) which were used as transition elements between the circular dome and the rectangular base.

http://acvila30.ro

The main dome is elevated at 70 m, but the height of the cathedral is calculated while taking into account the gilded cross placed atop the dome, which adds another 12 m, thus piercing the sky with its 82 m in stature. Lengthwise, the church measures 91 m by 81 m. In total, the cathedral numbers 19 gilded crosses, which differ is size, placed atop its domes, and comprises 49 bells within its belfries.

In order to get an accurate idea of the colossal size of the edifice, it should be noted that St. Sava’s Cathedral can house as much as ten thousand believers, not to mention that the gallery especially arranged for the church choir contains 800 de seats.

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The cathedral’s appearance is conveyed by means of white marble and granite, whereas the interior is meant to be entirely covered with mosaics. The inner decorative design is still in the making process but the parts that are completed reveal that the final result will be stunning. The main dome is programmed to be adorned by means of a mosaic of Christ Pantocrator – a specific portrayal of Christ. Just to grasp the magnitude of this undertaking, you should know that the eyes of Christ will measure about 4 meters in width (each).

Jul 02

The Ethnographic Museum (Muzeul Etnografic)

The Ethnographic Museum is situated in Belgrade, Serbia, and has been officially founded in 1901. But in reality, the museum gained shaped quite a few years back. And it is normal to have been so as each state is interested in organizing a space where the historical past of that specific nation is recorded in detail. Ethnographic items began to be collected since the 1800s and close to the middle of the 19th century some of these objects were on display at the National Museum of Serbia.

An intense gathering began in the 1860s as a result of the Serbian participation at the All-Slavic Exhibition, an event organized in the Russian capital city, Moscow. Naturally, all of the states situated in the Balkan area participated at the event. There is one aspect that could be considered as a downside to the whole thing and that is that the items gathered with this occasion remained in Moscow. But it did trigger the population’s interest into its origins and thus the state began searching deeper and deeper in order to retrace its ancestral roots.

http://belgrade.resabi.com

 

The idea to create an actual museum of this kind was put forth in 1872 by the Serbian Learned Society. While this thought began to gradually take form and to transform itself into an actual plan, there was still a lot of work to be done in order to make the idea become a reality. It took almost thirty years for this to be attained but in the end, Serbia got its Ethnographic Museum in 1901.

The edifice which housed the museum was a gift presented to the state by Stevča Mihailović. With the lodging problem solved, the ethnographic items located at the National Museum of History were transferred to the new building. The initial collections consisted of 909 ethnographic items, 32 books, some photographs and an album belonging to Nikola Arsenijević which consisted of folk costumes made in water colors and drawing – this particular item is of great value.

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But the person elected to handle the administrative aspects of the museum took his job seriously and initiated a project which would eventually rise in 3 years-time as much as 8.500 items of ethnological importance. While the focus was on the items of Serbian origin, the museum also took interest in other items which explained the formation of different civilizations located in the Balkan region. Thus the field work and research began in 1902 and continued throughout the years.

1904 marks the year when the first permanent exhibition was organized at the museum and from then onward, the supervisors of the museum have engaged in serious collecting projects, enlarging the collections found at the museum year after year.

http://www.touristeye.com

 

But much of these items were destroyed during the two world wars. However, this did not mean that it was the end for the Ethnographic Museum. In fact, the museum expanded and as a part of this project, a gazette was published on a regular basis.

As time went by, the museum ended up having eight permanent expositions and nearly 300 temporary exhibitions. At present, the items found inside the museum are arranged in several collections: jewelry, folk attire, household items, pottery, glassware, film and video records, elements of national architecture, objects used in rituals, and the like.

http://www.panacomp.net

 

These are organized according to the centuries in which they were used, so tourists can chronologically follow the evolution of the Serbians, in particular, and of the Balkan populations, in general, throughout time. More so, the museum has a vast library which comprises a multitude of specialized volumes. So if you are ever in Begrade and you are interested in learning more about the history of Balkan people, you will find every information you need at the Ethnographic Museum.

May 11

Vrsac (Orasul Vrsac)

Vrsac is a town situated in Serbia – which is perceived by the Romanian population as the capital city of the Banat region “from the other side” (from across the Romanian borders).

The city, although not large in itself, as it has a population of almost 36 thousand people, has a couple of attractions to offer to its visitors. The town is situated on the site of an ancient medieval fortress and while most of the fortified construction had disappeared, there is one tower which had survived the passage of time.

http://ro.worldpoi.info

 

The Vrsac Tower is reigning above the town from its place, on top of the hill. Archeologists consider that the tower had been constructed somewhere between the later decades of the 14th century and the beginning of the 15th century, but there is not enough evidence to unveil the origin of the fortress.

There is a possibility for the fortification to have been erected by the Serbs, and legend has it that it was in fact the “Despotic King”, meaning the Serbian King Durad Brancovic, the founder of the fortress as he was the one ruling over the land in those times. But it cannot be said with exactness where we can find traces that will lead us towards the founder of the fortification.

http://www.panoramio.com

 

Another tourist attraction is the Banat Diocese, a cathedral erected back in 1760 by a German architect. The building underwent several renovations. The first was conducted in 1787 and was meant to repair the edifice and restore its original appearance, but in 1902, the cathedral was changed completely as the façade was “endowed” with a new architectural design.

What attracts visitors to this particular place are the works of art and important documents which are found inside the cathedral, such as rare books and manuscripts, church objects, portraits of the Vrsac bishops, as well as valuable objects of décor.

http://www.panoramio.com

 

There are also two churches found in Vrsac: St. Nicholas and St. Gerhard Churches. The first is built on the structure of an older house of worship. The construction work for this church was initiated in 1785, but the edifice did not see its completion until 1805, when the decorative work was finished.

St Gerhard Church, just as St Nicholas Church, has been constructed on the site of a former construction. But in this case, the previous church was dedicated to the same saint. The new one which took the place of the former is actually considered a symbol of the town. The name of the architect who designed it is left unknown, but the historical records inform us that this person was of Viennese descend.

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The church consists of a basilica and three naves, elements which make the structure resemble a Latin cross. The exterior of the edifice is not adorned in its entirety, with decorative elements abounding solely around the windows, rosettes and bell towers. But the interior of St Gerhard Church is wonderfully decorated.

Tourists can admire the artistically carved furniture, the alter paintings, the exquisite sculptures and stained-glass windows. So if you are ever passing through Vrsac, you should take your time and visit these places as they are definitely worth your time. You will be acquainted with true works of art.

May 07

The Red Cross Concentration Camp (Lagarul de Concentrare Crucea Rosie)

When we think about tourist attractions, we tend to take into consideration museums, castles, fortresses, impressive gardens, where history and art combine beautifully to offer an impressive image of the past times.

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But all the places we visit are meant to leave a mark on us, to contribute to the development of our view over life. And while tourists are interested in beautifying experiences, there are some which bring shivers down our spines, but which are necessary nonetheless in order for us to understand our past.

And one such experience consists of visiting a Nazi concentration camp. Located in former Yugoslavia, now in Serbia, the Red Cross Concentration Camp, is evidence of the cruel behavior adopted towards the “lesser” races during World War Two. It is estimated that 30,000 people were incarcerated here – belonging to the Jewish and Roma communities, but also members of the Yugoslav Communist Party, partisan prisoners of war and their family members.

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The name conveyed to the camp is definitely ambiguous due to the association of the terms: Red Cross and Concentration Camp, although the red cross could be representative of the Nazi swastika.

The concentration camp is located opposite of the Tower of Skulls and it has been constructed during the Nazi occupation of Yugoslavia. The site maintains its gloomy appearance as the swastika, the barbed wire and the guard tower are still in position. It is impossible not to be moved by this striking image which gets you thinking immediately about the atrocities that the prisoners had to have been subjected to.

http://www.mygola.com

 

But besides the terrible things the imagination seems incapable of conceiving, there is a more uplifting story that revolves around this concentration camp. The year 1942 marks the moment when an armed revolt that occurred within the camp favored one of the largest escapes ever to occur inside one such camp.

With this occasion, approximately 100 prisoners managed to escape. But the fugitives were not of Jewish origin which is a little disappointing so to speak as whenever the issue of the Holocaust comes to mind, it is the Jews who are portrayed as the victims. And it is as if we would expect for at least some of them to escape the tormenting death of being burnt alive. Not that it is in any way insinuated that one death is more tragic than the next.

http://www.gerhardkern.de

 

The escape has actually become the main subject of a movie directed by Miomir Stamenkovic in 1987 which was entitled “Lager Nis” (which is another name by which the concentration camp goes by). There were actually 150 people who had attempted to regain their freedom, but 50 of them were killed by machine guns as they were trying to pass through the barbed wire.

The last three levels of the Red Cross Concentration Camp were filled with solitary confinement cells. Trapped alone between four walls, the prisoners engaged in carving words or drawings on the walls and these are still visible to this day, as the walls have been covered in plexiglass precisely for this reason, to allow those interested to see the marks left behind by the victims of the Holocaust.

http://www.igougo.com

 

What probably most of you do not know is that the prisoners of the Red Cross Camp were not only sent to solitary when behaving badly, but they were obligated to sleep on barbed wire.

There is a fee charged for visiting the concentration camp, but the sum is quite small, less than a dollar, and the money is going into a fund which will be used so as to preserve the memorial museum as it is. Not everyone is extremely fond of the idea of visiting such a place, due to the horrible reality that is linked to a concentration camp, and also to the emotional weight it carries which is inevitable to affect even us, who have not experienced that historical time first –handedly.

Apr 26

Nis Fortress (Fortareata Nis)

Nis Fortress is located in Serbia, on the bank of the river Nisava. The citadel was built on top of the remains of a byzantine fortification and a Roman military base. It took five years to complete the edifice (from 1719 until 1723), which at present is one of the best kept monuments in the middle Balkan area.

http://serbiantiger.blogspot.com

 

Among the edifices preserved intact are the armor room, the Turkish steam bath (built in the 15th century), the Bali mosque (dating from the 16th century), the lady’s room, and the prison.

Structure

Nis Fortress has an irregular polygonal structure which measures 22 hectares. The length of the walls reaches 2.100 m, with a height of 8 m and a thickness of 3 m. The fortification has 8 terraces and 4 massive gates: the Stambol Gate, located in the southern part of the citadel, the Belgrade Gate to the west, the Vidin Gate to the north and the Jagodina Gate in the south eastern part.

http://www.panoramio.com

 

The stone used to erect the edifice was brought from a nearby quarry called the Hum, but there were additional materials used in the construction of the monuments or mausoleums. The fortress has a trench dug around it for defense purposes. While in times of peace the trench was left empty, in wartime, it was filled with water taken from the Nisava River.

http://www.tripadvisor.com

 

The fortification contained various barracks and military structures, as well as several shops and a house of worship. But not all of these have survived the passage of time. The remaining edifices are several gunpowder deposits, the Bali-beg mosque and an arched structure.

Taking into account the fact that the Turks were the ones to erect the fortress, it is no wonder that Nis features characteristics of the Arab architectural style.

A wooden system and an additional structure were developed so as to fortify the wall of the citadel at the interior.

http://www.localyte.com

 

If the fortress undergoes an ample restoration work, it will once again become an enclosed fortification, mirroring the original plan of the edifice. But even if this construction work is not initiated by the government, there are still many things to see at the site. Nis Fortress has been declared a national monument, a place where history and culture blend.

Since 1966, the city of Nis organizes on an annual basis a Film Festival at the fortress so if you intend to visit the place, you ought to schedule your trip so as to be able to participate at the event.