Belgrade Real Estate
The three people wanted to cancel a walking trip of underground Belgrade because it was chilly and hadn't stopped snowing since the night before, but the idea of just the three of us going on the excursion was quite appealing. The assembly point in town centre was empty until 5 minutes prior to the walking tour assumed to begin when suddenly the next 30 people turned up. Our notion of "being on our own" wasn't very original!
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The first stop was that the Roman Hall situated in the City Library in the beginning of Knez Mihailova Street. The building used to be the most famous hotel in Belgrade, the Serbian Crown, which was due to be converted to the town library. Architects dug out the basement just to find the bases of a wall and tower of the main city gate from Roman times, part of the northern defences of their 2nd or 3rd century BC, and about that the settlement of Signidunum (present-day Belgrade) grew. There's a small collection of sculptures, altars and gravestones in the Roman Hall but what's most fascinating is the water pipe that moved water 10 kilometers away. It's said that when the Ottomans (the present-day Turks) inhabited Belgrade and discovered the pipes they chose to collect all the employees who had been working on upkeep and take them back to Constantinople, (present-day Istanbul) to keep their Roman water pipes.
We crossed the street and entered Kalemegdan Fortress, scene of many very interesting monuments and a lot history squeezed into a small location. We handed the Monument of Gratitude to France for her help during WWI, and then entered the Upper Town of this fortress through Karadjordje Gate. On the left we passed on the impressive Military Museum, passed via the clock gate built by Austrians during their brief occupation of Belgrade at 1715. We also stopped briefly at the Turbe (Tomb) of Damad Ali Pasha, one of those couple of Staten monuments of Islamic culture in Belgrade.
The next stop was the most interesting and also the most claustrophobic! Just before we were going to take photos of Belgrade's renowned landmark, Victor, we turned right and also a little, thick, rusty door set into a little hillock was opened for us. We moved down steep steps into a well-lit, narrow and long corridor. We passed empty rooms with doors that were heavy such as submarine doorways, and then we went up into a bunker. The celling was reduced and some people, including me, felt the lack of oxygen but the story we heard was worth any discomfort. Nobody knows when the bunkers were constructed but they were used intensively after WWII. According to documents that were opened recently, the Yugoslav military was stationed here, covertly, soldiers on a two-months-on and two-months-off basis. The question was how did they figure out how to sneak into the bunkers unnoticed alongside the most touristy area of Belgrade without anybody noticing? Old Belgraders remember that this place was shut off every 2 weeks for 'renovations' but the truth is it was closed off for the military and supplies to get into the bunkers. The place of the bunkers is extremely tactical over the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers which explains why their existence was top secret.
From there we proceeded into the Lower Town of Belgrade Fortress, departure another historical monument, an endowment of an Ottoman statesman hailing from Bosnia, Sokollu Mehmed Pasha, who was born into a Serbian family in Bosnia and subsequently removed at an early age by the Ottomans to serve as a janissary.
Next stop on our underground walking tour of Belgrade was the army shelter constructed by the Austrians during their occupation of Belgrade in 1718, known as locally Barutana (Gunpowder). During the 1990s the region was leased to entrepreneurs that turned it into a night club. Since then the authorities realised the importance of the location and forced it into a museum. Today it's a nice exhibition place hosting the National Museum's Collection of Stone Monuments. This rich screen is gathered from different portion of Serbia and consists of Roman sarcophagi, gravestones and altars.
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