This morning I had to walk through Kalemegdan, the old fortress of Belgrade, on my way to my office. Definitely not a punishment as it is very beautiful with a lot of green.If the stones could tell what happened here you would stay for sure a couple of days to listen to all the stories. It was here were the first fighting broke out of the First World War (read here more about it), but also where the Ottomans were fighting the Hungarians. But even before it was the military frontier of the Roman Empire.
The fortress is located on top of the 125.5-meter high ending ridge of the Šumadija geological ridge. It is bordered by the Sava which has it confluence with the Danube here. It is here where the Balkans starts geographically.
The autumn colors, the sunlight and the fact that it was quiet made the picture complete ! Kalemegdan is worth visiting and a must to visit, one of the top attractions in Belgrade which you should not miss!
Keywords: Belgrade, Beograd , Belgrado , Belgrad , Serbia , Servië , Kalemegdan , Danube river, Sava , Donau rivier
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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.
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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 !
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.
“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…..
Today I went for some medical tests which are compulsory to obtain a permanent stay in Serbia. Thanks god I am healthy, that is the most important thing of course in life, but you don ‘t beat Serbian bureaucracy with that: you have to wait in front of a šalter ( a counter) for minimum 30 minutes, pay, wait at least another 30 minutes and go from office to office. Anyway the people at the health care center were very nice, I have to admit and respect for them.
In the afternoon I had to come back to get the result of all the tests and the result was: “Sposoban za stalni boravak u Srbiji” which means “capable of permanent stay in Serbia” 🙂
Who would think that I would be ever happy in my life to get a medical certificate with a final statement like this ? And what does it mean “capable of permanent stay in Serbia”?
That I can continue listening Radio Bumbum (link) without any health reasons ? To be able at one day to sing the “Bože Pravde (the Serbian national anthem) without accent ?
With the help of my dear (Serbian) wife I was already aware of the things below, which are essential of surviving in Serbia….
From the book “Snippets of Serbia”, an illustrated guide about Serbia, by Komshe publishing. More info about the book you may see on their’s website (link).
So the medical test is done, I am now “capable of permanent stay in Serbia, officially recognized by the doctor , the next step is to deliver all the papers to the MUP (police) let’s hope they will think the same way. ~to be continued~, let’s have a coffee first 🙂
This morning I passed them again: the evil cats of knjižara (=book shop) Apropo (link) at Cara Lazara street in the city center of Belgrade. Every morning I pass them on my way to the office and I could not stand it any more, it was enough ! During my lunch break I went there and started to complain to the staff of the mentioned book shop about their evil cats.
I told them: “it is not fair that your cats are lying nicely and warm when I have to walk to the office”. “The worst thing is that they are smiling, jawing, looking at me stupid, evil or they are laughing at me”.“If next time they will do it again I will be back with my complaints”. The good staff member told me that she felt sorry for me and told me “that´s life”. The other one told me “you are always welcome with your complaints”. So that we call good customer relations :-).
One of the evil cats….
And of course, go there indeed, it is a lovely place (and the cats are nice during opening hours 😉 )
Sometimes “the media” finds me and then I have to appear in the newspaper or on TV. Do I like it ? I would lie if I would say “no”
First it was Blic (=a Serbian newspaper) earlier in April (yes on my birthday even) about the movies I posted on YouTube about traffic behavior in Serbia (article online here). Later I was contacted for an article in the newspaper of Blic and it was a very nice article, which you can find online here (link).
It caused a chain reaction, because this week I was contact by RTS (the Serbian national TV) as they wanted an interview about me living here in Belgrade and the pro’s and con’s of that…