Yesterday the Serbian media reported (read here the news report in English from B92) that vandals damaged old steam locomotives in a railway depot from the railway museum near the old railway station. Actually this old railway depot is opposite of the police station and the area is completely being leveled, because of the controversial Belgrade Waterfront project. It did not surprise me that this destruction happened : already in November 2016 I wrote about it, you can read the blog here. The only difference now is that vandals really did their best to demolish irreplaceable railway heritage and that it came in the news.
I know Serbia has a lot of problems, like the healthcare & educational system which is falling apart, a collapsing infrastructure, mismanagement of public services, media freedom, a brain drain etc. etc. , but it sad to see that this could happen and for sure it will happen again in the future. As railway enthusiast and somebody who loves Serbia as well this is sad to see, as if my heart is teared apart twice…..
JŽ serie 1 (click to enlarge) in better times…. Source: Wikipedia.
An old railway carriage with a glorious past (or not)…..
Last Saturday I went to our train model club (Klub ljubitelja železnice Beograd) were we have a old Slovenian post wagon as our club premises. The wagon is stationed at the now closed Dunav stanica (Danube station) in Belgrade. The station is still staffed with friendly employees from Srbija Kargo , because there is still a connection to the Belgrade harbor. Old carriages are standing here now and I discovered that they stalled a “new” wagon was standing close to the former station building.The wagon at Dunav stanica
Curious as I was I took a closer look and this is what I saw on the wheels: Written in between the wheels was: ” K.P.E.V. Mod. 18A Wittman Haspe 1918 ”
I took some more pictures,as I thought this is pretty special: a train wagon which is 100 years, standing here now, I was really wow (for those who don´t know it yet: I like trains).The wagon seen from the other side.
When home I was tweeting these pictures and one Twitter follower, Arjan de Boer, who made a beautiful website about railway history (www.retours.eu) wrote to me that this is a beautiful discovery. Most possibly this is a wagon from the famous Wagon-Lits company (who exploited the famous “Orient-Express”). The K.P.E.V. stands for Königlich Preußische Eisenbahn-Verwaltung (KPEV) and they most possibly confiscated this wagon for their “Balkanzug” (Balkan train). The Balkan zug was a train from Berlin to Istanbul during WWI as alternative for the Orient-Express which could not be operated due the war. Arjan wrote me that he thinks that this must be wagon WL (Wagon-Lits) 2463 or 2467-2470 and that it stayed in Serbia after WWI. He sent me a picture of page from a book with some information about these wagons, see below:
I was pretty amazed that I just found such a wagon in ” the wild” .
I don ´t know what the plans are with this wagon, I hope it will be preserved for further generations, because it is a sad when railway heritage is being destructed as so much has already disappeared. I will find out what will happen with this old wagon. Below a picture of how it must have looked like when the wagon was fully operational.
Kajmakčalan is a 2528 a.s.m.l. meters high mountain on the Greek-Macedonian border. This is the second time I climbed this mountain, the first time was in 2011 (see here), but this time with my wife and two Dutch friends who are also interested in WWI history (and not only about the Western front). Since 2012 I did read a lot about the First World War and started even a research together with two friends (see www.secanje.nl) of whom one is now my wife (my dear Tanja). Back then it was the end of a tour through former Yugoslavia, just like the famous Yugoslav song “od Vardara do pa Triglava” (from the Vardar river in Macedonia to the Triglav mountain in Slovenia, I did it only the way around). Now it was a climb towards WWI history: on this mountain in September 1916 a battle took place between the Serbian army (part of the Triple Entente) and the Bulgarian army (part of the Triple Alliance) .
The battle was eventually won by the Serbs on 30th September 1916, but after huge losses on both sides. In Serbia this mountain is almost considered holy as it was for the Serbian army the first victory after their losses in 1915 and the retreat of the Serbian army to the Greek island of Corfu via the Albania. It was here, at Kajmakčalan, where the Serbian army resurrected from their ashes and it was here that they started to liberate their country (back then this was the Greek-Serbian border).
The church was recently restored ( 2016 ?), but unfortunately it was not done properly as the front part of the church is not white any more. It seems the cross on the top was also hit by lightening or a storm. A truly hope that funds will be available to repair the church and to keep it in good shape for further generations seen the historical value of this place.
Above the entrance is written in Serbian:
“Mojim divjunacima neustrašivim i vernim koji grudima svojim otvoriše vrata slobodi i ostaše ovde kao večni stražari na pragu otadžbine”
Translation in English:
“To my fearless and faithful colossal heroes, who opened the gate of freedom with their own chests and who stayed here as permanent guards at the doorway of fatherland”
Inside the church you can light a candle, write in the guestbook and see the urn of Archibald Reiss. Rudolphe Archibald Reiss (8 July 1875 – 7 August 1929) was a German-Swiss criminology-pioneer, forensic scientist, professor and writer. He investigated the Austro-Hungarian war crimes committed in Serbia in 1914 and 1915 together with the Dutch doctor Arius van Tienhoven. He retreated towards Corfu together with the Serbian army and followed them towards the liberation
After his death, his body was buried in the Topčider cemetery and, at his own request, his heart was buried on Kajmakčalan hill. The urn containing his heart was later demolished as revenge by the Bulgarians in World War II, but there are other stories that the JNA (=Yugoslav army) soldiers took it when they retreated in 1991 when Macedonia became an independent country.
It is hard to imagine that on this beautiful mountain so many soldiers died. Večna im slava! (=Eternal glory to them !)
Panorama picture of Kajmakčalan (click to enlarge).
*All pictures on this page are made by me on 18/08/2018 when I climbed Kajmakčalan.
And for those who want to climb this beautiful mountain themselves, here the route:
Hvala Srbijo ! Thank you Serbia ! Dank je Servië !
It is today 4 years ago that I took the plane to Serbia to live there with my Serbian wife. A year ago I wrote already a blog (see here) about the mixed feelings and the questions popping up when you move too another country, relatively close, but still far away from your family and friends in my old home country.
In this 4 years I developed a hate-and-love relationship with Serbia: I love the nature, I love the people, I love the food, the drinks,the music, the humor and many other things. I hate the trash everywhere, the bureaucracy, the chaos in traffic, the inefficiency… But when I was in a unpleasant situations, there was always a Serb with a smile and the famous “nema problema” (no problem) sentence: at the end everything will always be alright. Fortunately there were many more funny, nice and pleasant situations which let you forget the negative ones.
Serbia and its people give me so much inspiration to write many beautiful, but also nasty stories. I truly do feel happy here when I am driving for example through the beautiful Serbian landscape on a crappy road to visit my family in law, friends or a beautiful touristic spot. It are the small things which you have to learn to appreciate in this country and there are many of those things.
I still need to learn many things about this country and its customs, but many I already discovered. Mostly they are pretty funny for a foreigner and I have the intention to write them all down one day. The publicity below from “LAV” ( a beer from Serbia) has it all : they are celebrating “Slava” (a religious celebration of the family saint) and the foreigner here tear apart the T-shirt from the host…. You don´t do this during a Slava, but you do this when you celebrate that somebody became father and then you tear apart the white shirt of the father… and no, I was not in such particular situation, but sometimes I thought “what the heck…”
Serbs are an amazingly friendly people and very hospitable to foreigners, I repeat it again. Yes in these 4 years I also discovered nasty characteristics of Serbs, but he, nobody is perfect? And you definitely can´t generalize of course. The main conclusion is that I am very grateful to the Serbs to do their best to make me feel home: my family in law, friends, colleagues, unknown people in the bus, the shops or elsewhere. But most of all: Hvala draga (=Thank you my dear) that you are always there for me : to be patient when I am inpatient; to listen to me when I am talking nonsense, to be with me at the MUP (=police) when I want to explode for missing a form which they did not told me to have it with me; to translate conversations when I am lost in Serbian language; to help me to fill in incomprehensible forms, but most of all to love me for who I am. Hvala draga, hvala Srbijo !
In the night of 28/29th July 1914 the first shots of the First World War were fired by the Austro-Hungarian army (K.u.K. army) on the city of Belgrade, the capital of the Kingdom of Serbia. The afternoon before (on the 28th July) the Austro-Hungarian empire had declared war on Serbia via a telegram (see here). It was during that night that the first military and civilian victims of the First World War fell: the 16 year old Dušan Đonović, a military volunteer fell on Serbian side and on the Austro-Hungarian side the first victims reported were Karl Eberling, the captain of the first tug and his helmsman, Mikhail Gemsberger. Other (Serbian) sources mention Ištvan Balohi as the first fallen K.u.K. soldier .
Unfortunately, there are claims that the first victims and soldiers fell on the West front. For example the “Historisch Nieuwblad” (=a Dutch magazine about history)) wrote that André Peugeot (from France) and Albert Mayer (from Germany) were the first victims of the First World War: they died on 2nd August 1914 (see here and the article here). Of course, this is not true as many sources wrote about the first WWI victims which fell during the first days of WWI on the Serbian / Austro-Hungarian front. Not only this Dutch magazine is failing in indicating the first victims of WWI, many others do as well.
It is estimated that the Kingdom of Serbia alone lost more than 1.1 million inhabitants during the war (both army and civilian losses), which represented over 26% of its then total population and 58% of its adult male population.
Seen the above mentioned fact about the first victims (soldiers & civilians) of the First World War mentioned by several sources from several countries it is clear that the first scarifies were made on the Serbian – Austro-Hungarian front during the first days of WWI and not on the West front.
 Serbia and the Balkan front, 1914 -the Outbreak of the Great War-, James Lyon ,
ISBN 978-1-4725-8004-7, page 96-7.  According to the article from Blic (Serbian), 11/11/2016: link  According to the article “Sudnji rat” by Čedomir Antić in the Serbian newspaper Politika, 13/09/2008: link
Belgrade´s main railway station was moved 01/07/2018. I got a lot of questions from people abroad (but also Serbs are confused) about the current situation of railway station(s) in Belgrade, because the information is not easily available in English. Thus, I would like to provide you with the information you might need. Of course I can not be held responsible if some information is changed but it would be nice if if you have remarks , additional information etc., please share it with me.
Beograd Centar / Belgrade´s main railway station / Prokop The (“new”) main railway station of Belgrade is ” Beograd Centar” as they call it, click for the location on the Google Maps below. All trains leave from here, except the trains to Montenegro (see below under Topčider).
So for international destinations like Budapest, Vienna, Zagreb, Ljubljana, Skopje, Sofia this is the railway station you have to go to. Also for destinations in Serbia like Novi Sad, Subotica, Niš, Vršac this is then also your station.
How to get there?
This railway station is reachable by bus 36 from the old main railway station ( at Saska Trg). Another option is trolley bus 40 straight from Studentski Trg ( = city center). When you travel from the city center the stop is called “Ortopedski zavod”. A taxi is of course also an option.
Železnička stanica Topčider / Topčider railway station
The railway station Topičider is used for trains towards Montenegro,this is for day and night trains. Also the tourist train “Romantika” departs / arrives here.
How to get there? Simple answer: tram 3 to Kneževac brings you here.
Other railway stations Depending on where you are / have to go in Belgrade it can be wise to use another railway station. “Novi Beograd” could be an option for you or “Vukov Spomenik” or Pančevački most.
On this map I created you have an overview: Google Maps Železnice Srbije (Serbian Railways) The map is currently under development, but it will cover whole Serbia at the end.
Last week I enjoyed with my wife a small holiday in the region of Trieste, in the Northeastern corner of Italy. We were in Grado (beaches), Muggia (a small nice village on the coast) and Trieste itself. Trieste has an amazing history and lies on the border of the Roman, the Germanic and the Slavic world.
15/07/2018: Trieste as seen from Monte Grisa.
Until the First World War this city was the main harbor of the Austrian-Hungarian empire and thus an important city. The Austro-Hungarians built the “Südbahn”(=Southern railway) , connecting Vienna with Trieste which boosted the harbor of Trieste further. It was, and still is, a free port and the most important harbor for Central Europe or in German “Mitteleuropa”.
After the Second World War the Yugoslav troops liberated Trieste from the Germans, but that lasted not long: the city came after 40 days under British / US military administration. In 1947 Trieste became the “Free Territory of Trieste”, an independent city state under UN protection. In 1954 Trieste, part of zone “A”, became Italian and zone “B” became part of Yugoslavia.
The Yugoslav partisans wanted to have Trieste and their sentence was “Trst je naš” (Trieste is ours). They did not get it, but now it doesn’t matter any more as the whole area (Zone A and B, plus the whole of Istria) is now in the European Union and the borders disappeared. Triest, Trieszt, Trst, Трст or Τεργέστη is a pleasant city where the Germanic, Roman and Slavic world meets. Depending of your view the Balkan starts or ends here, Italy as well and yes once back in the old days also the Austro-Hungarian empire. I can strongly recommend to visit Trieste and the region, because it is a very interesting city & region and can´t wait to go back. As Dutch living in Serbia, loving Italy, I almost want to say: “Trst je naš!”
“Belgrad, ici (=here) Belgrad”, you hear in the James Bond movie “From Russia with love”, when the most famous British spy 007 arrived with the mythical “Orient-Express” in Belgrade (or in Serbian “Beograd” which is the capital of Serbia, before Yugoslavia) from Istanbul while he was on his way to Venice.
James Bond arriving in Belgrade in the movie “From Russia with love”
Not only James Bond made a stop in Belgrade. Many, many celebrities and ordinary people passed here and set their first steps in Belgrade on the main railway station, including myself.
The main railway station of Belgrade (in the movie they used another station I think) was once a huge railway knot in Europe: if you traveled from West to South-East Europe or from North to South you could not miss it.
It had connections with many railways stations in Europe, like Paris (Gare de Lyon), Roma Termini, Zürich, Köln HBF, Dortmund HFB, München HBF, Hamburg HBF, Malmö C, Istanbul, Athens, Moscow, Warsaw and many others.
In the last decades many connections were lost, minimizing the importance of the railways in Serbia. Unfortunately another sad story regarding the loss of (railway) heritage can be added on the 30th June because then the main railway station of Belgrade will be closed. The last scheduled train will arrive at from Vienna at 20:48. Then at 21h40 the last train ever from Belgrade´s main railway station will leave to Budapest.
Beside that it is a really sad that Belgrade will be one of the few capital cities where the main railway station will not be in the city center. A historical place for the city of Belgrade and Serbia in general which disappears…
Belgrad, Belgrade, Beograd, ici “Belgrad”
On the banks of the last kilometer of the Sava river there once was a famous railway station. A station where people started their travel towards their dreams, their families, their loved ones.
For others it was an arrival back home or a start for new adventures.
On the platforms people cried, laughed and sad farewell to their loves.
Kings, emperors, generals, adventurers all passed here,
when travelling to or from far destinations.
A bureaucratic pencil stripe ended it all. The rails to the station will be disconnected and
no more trains will ever departure or arrive here.
Modern times will simply vanish everything away, but they will never erase the memories of the people
when they heard “Belgrad”, “Belgrade” “Beograd” , ici “Belgrade”.
On a monument in a forgotten corner of Košutnjak park in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, is written in “Hier ruhen Serbischen helden” (German), below it is written in Serbian “Овде почивају српски јунаци”. The English translation is “Serbian heroes rest here”.
Pictures above: 08/06/2018: the monument in the Košutnjak park in Belgrade, Serbia for the fallen Serbian WWI soldiers who defended Belgrade in the autumn of 1915.
This monument was made by the German general Mackensen in 1915 after Belgrade was captured by the Germans & Austro-Hungarians. It is on the Serbian & German military graveyard which is on the hill of Banovo Brdo. Beside the monument for the Serbian WWI soldiers there is also a monument for the German WWI soldiers. Later also German WWII soldiers found their last resting place there, but the graveyard fell into disrepair.
General Mackensen had a huge respect for the Serbian defenders and was so impressed about the defenders of Belgrade that he made this statue for them. To give you an impression, here one of his speeches before he started the battle: “You are not going to the Italian, or Russian, or the French front. You are going into a fight against a new enemy who is dangerous, tough, brave and sharp. You are going to the Serbian front, to Serbia, and Serbs are people who love their freedom and who are willing to fight for it to their last.”
Picture above: The monument in the past, date unknown. On the monument is written “DAS PREUSS. RES. INF. RGT. 208 – SEINEN GEFALLENEN HELDEN” (=The Prussian reserve infantry regiment 208 – it´s fallen heroes). Source: Gentleman’s Military Interest Club
Picture below: The same monument as above, but now photographed by me on 08/06/2018.
It is a sad to see that these monuments with an amazing story behind it are in disrepair and forgotten. I did read that there were plans in 2016 plans for restoration, but there are still no signs that the works will start.
This is not just a monument for Serbian & German WWI soldiers: it is a monument which shows the bravery of the Serbian WWI soldiers but also the German chivalry which General Mackensen truly showed with ordering to built this monument for his brave & heroic enemy soldiers.
Last weekend I was with friends in Kenđija, located in the Northwestern part of Serbia, where Serbia meets Hungary and Croatia. When I opened my Google maps I saw the map below and was pretty surprised: according to Google I was in Croatia !
We did not passed any border post, neither we saw a sign or anything else: we were still de facto in Serbia. The real border is currently in the middle of the Danube river. My friend who has a weekend house there told me that they pay for all utilities which are delivered from Serbia. Beside it is the (disputed) border between Serbia and Croatia, it is also the border of the European Union. Serbia is candidate member state of the EU, but until Serbia will join the EU this is an EU “outer” border.
On Wikipedia you can read the following information about this still ongoing border dispute:
The Croatia–Serbia border dispute refers to differing views held by Croatia and Serbia regarding their border in the area of the Danube River. While Serbia holds the opinion that the thalweg of the Danube valley and the center line of the river represents the international border between the two countries, Croatia disagrees and claims that the international border lies along the boundaries of the cadastral municipalities located along the river—departing from the course at several points along a 140-kilometre (87 mi) section. The cadastre-based boundary reflects the course of the Danube which existed in the 19th century, before meandering and hydraulic engineeringworks altered its course. The area size of the territory in dispute is reported variously, up to 140 square kilometres (54 square miles).
The dispute first arose in 1947, but was left unresolved during the existence of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It became a contentious issue after the breakup of Yugoslavia. Particular prominence was given to the dispute at the time of Croatia’s accession to the European Union. As of September 2014 the dispute remains unresolved, and the line of control mostly corresponds to Serbia’s claim.
Interestingly this situation started in 1699 with the Treaty of Karlowitz, which transferred Slavonia and a portion of Syrmia (now Croatia) from the Ottoman Empire to the Habsburg Monarchy at the conclusion of the Great Turkish War. The rest of Syrmia was transferred to the Habsburg Monarchy through the Treaty of Passarowitz in 1718. And yes the Dutch diplomat Jacobus Colyer was mediating during both peace talks….
The place where we were was very nice with beautiful nature, it reminded me a lot to my old home country the Netherlands. So I spent a nice weekend with my friends on the Habsburg Monarchy shore with a view to the Ottoman empire…..