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.



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.



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.



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.



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.

Jun 05

Nikola Tesla Museum (Muzeul Nikola Tesla)

Belgrade is home to one of the most exquisite museums on the Serbian territory: the Nikola Tesla Museum. This museum is dedicated to the engineer and physicist Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) who had made more than 300 revolutionary discoveries, the majority of them related to electricity and magnetism.

His discoveries led to technological progress. He was the one to use alternate currents to produce and distribute electricity, and the one to invent the rotating magnetic field. Because of this, the unit for the magnetic induction (in the International System of Units) is named after him: ‘tesla.’ You might be familiar with the fact that Tesla was the inventor of the high-voltage coreless transformer which at present bears the name of ‘Tesla Coil.’



The museum is situated in Belgrade, right in the center of city. The edifice which holds the exhibitions is a 1929 residential villa which was erected after the architectural plan developed by Dragiša Brašovan, a renowned Serbian architect. The Nikola Tesla Museum came into being due to a governmental decision made in 1952.

All the items found inside the museum were transferred to Belgrade from America due to Tesla’s wish. Tesla was actually an American with Serbian origin so he lived in the US. After his death, all his belongings became the property of his nephew, Sava Kosanovic, whom the American court had declared the rightful heir of Nikola Tesla. Kosanovic respected his uncle’s wish and he donated the items to the Serbian state.  Thus, the museum is the singular one of its kind, where the legacy of Nikola Tesla can be witnessed first-handedly.



This includes original documents (more than 160.000), books and journals (more than 2.000), plans and drawings (more than 1.000), photographs illustrating different types of machines, tools, and technical objects, as well as technical exhibits. All these collections are meant to recreate step by step the professional evolution of Nikola Tesla and to pinpoint the ground-breaking findings of the great engineer and inventor.

It is also noteworthy that the museum provides valuable information regarding the history of science, this being a place where researchers and scientists can find answers to questions they might have in the field. The documents encountered at the museum can serve as the foundation for future discoveries. But more so, one can grasp the meaning of Tesla’s contribution to the world of engineering and science.



The museum has become a part of the Memory of the Word Program – a program initiated by UNESCO in order to preserve the documentary heritage, to protect it against all the damages that it might be subjected to, either conducted by humans or by the unforgiving hands of time.

It is a rather uncommon situation that the documents of Tesla have traveled so far from their actual ‘home.’ Tesla, as it has been mentioned previously, was an American citizen and his connection to Serbia consisted only of the fact that he lived there for no more than 31 hours. And yet, it is the Serbians who are the safeguards of Tesla’s heritage.



Throughout time, several of the original documents found inside the archives have been deteriorated due to the fact that they were not adequately preserved inside the museum. Because of this, historians have reached the conclusion that it was probably not such a great idea to transport the works of Tesla to Serbia, as here these were not properly looked after. Whether or not this is a valid argument, is debatable.

The fact remains that Nikola Tesla Museum contains valuable papers and items belonging to the great inventor and engineer and that tourists have the chance to have a closer look at these upon their visit to Belgrade.



Visiting hours:

Tuesday to Friday: 10:00 – 18:00;

Saturday and Sunday: 10:00 – 13:00;

Monday: closed.

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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.


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.



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.



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.



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.