WWI monument in Kragujevac

WWI monument in Kragujevac

Many times I passed the WWI monument in Kragujevac, without even noticing it. I am interested in WWI monuments here in Serbia since we started to research the fate of the Serbian WWI soldiers who died in the Netherlands (see www.secanje.nl). This time I stopped and took a closer look and to my positive surprise: this monument is beautiful!

Unfortunately there are no names on the monument so also not from Đorđe Vukosavljević (more information) who was from Kragujevac and died in the Netherlands in 1919.

More WWI monuments in Serbia you will find on a, far from completed, map I created on Google Maps. If you know more WWI monuments and you want me to add them to the map you can contact me.

The Dutch “Florence Nightingale”  for the Serbs during WWI

The Dutch “Florence Nightingale”  for the Serbs during WWI

During the First World War (WWI) several medical mission were active in the Balkans. In Serbia they all know about the Scottish women hospitals (link), Flora Sandes, Archibald Reiss and more. Less known are the Dutch Red Cross medical missions with the doctors Arius van Tienhoven and van Dijk and others doctors, nurses and supporting staff.

During our research to the fate of the 91 Serbian WWI soldiers who died in the Netherlands we found a heart-breaking article from 23rd February 1919 in the “Telegraaf”, a national newspaper in the Netherlands. It was written and sent to the newspaper by  Ludovica Dominica Jeannette Koning, a nurse who served during several Red Cross missions on the Balkans. In July 1913 she served during the Second Balkan War (Serbia) and in July 1915 she served back again in Serbia during the First World War (most possibly in Kragujevac). In 1916 she served in Thessaloniki and Bitola until the summer of 1917 where she helped the wounded Serbs again. In January 1919 she is an active member of the committee who helped the Serbian Prisoners of War in the Netherlands. On behalf of that committee she wrote to the newspaper, here some extracts:

-BIJ DE ZIEKE SERVIËRS- (WITH THE SICK SERBS)

Nurse L. Koning writes to us:
“On behalf of the Serbian envoy in the Hague, I traveled to various cities and hospitals  the where Serbs are being treated so I pay these poor people a visit. When we provided care during the Balkan war to these good soldiers with their great powers of resistance, we could not have imagined that we would see a part of them again in a state in which they are now: exhausted, sick and without energy.

Later in the article she writes about an benefit evening which she helped to organise: In Amsterdam there was an art evening was which was held the 23th January for the benefit of the sick Serbian soldiers in our country and 1000 guilders were collected that evening.

The committee was therefore given the opportunity to provide the Serbs with some refreshments. Through such small acts of sympathy, the sick soldiers forgot their griefs for a moment which consists of ever-recurring melancholy reflections.
“What will Serbia look like? Will my parents still be alive, my wife, my children, my brothers, my sisters? In what condition will I see them again? Does our house still exist? Are we, as we used to be, or did we become poorer? “How many died of hunger? Only a few people live in Serbia somebody told me.

When I asked if somebody wanted to sing the Serbian national anthem or any other song, the answer was: “In 4 years we have not sung, we cannot longer do it; we have had little laugh. We only worked hard, often for little or no food “. 
How Serbia was, I do not remember, said one, I do not know anything about Serbia anymore, but I longing for it.

When I came to bring their lemons, there was a cheer. In Germany there were no lemons or only for 30 Mark each, a Serb informed me, but in Serbia, they were cheap. The Serbs use lemon in tea, in wine, cognac, in sugar water or drink it undiluted. When I told the Serbs that I visited their country several times, their faces were filled with joy and I had to mention in which places and hospitals I worked, which doctors and soldiers I knew.
She ends the article with: I left them with the thought: “How will these undernourished, weak soldiers still come through the long journey? “The Committee for the benefit of the Serbian soldiers in our country – of which the Consul General M. Merens is honorary chairman – is still willing to receive money, cigars, cigarettes, chocolates, chocolates, fruit (lemons), compote and illustrations. Many Serbian soldiers died in our country. Anyone who helps to give the survivors and the sick a few sunny moments do a nice job.

After her charity work for the committee for Serbian WWI soldiers in the Netherlands she continued to do good deeds for the Serbs: she started to work for  a  civil mission in Serbian and American service for orphanages in April 1919. Unfortunately it is not known until now what she did exactly, only we know that in November 1921 she moved back from Belgrade to Amsterdam. She died in an elderly house in Amsterdam in 1955, she became 81 years.

It is a pity that we could not find more information yet, but we should not forget those who took care of others and that also the Netherlands, although a neutral country during WWI,  contributed to help the wounded and the sick Serbian population and its soldiers.

The full original article can be found an Delpher (link) and the full translated article can be found here (link).

Meeting of the committee for the benefit of Serbian prisoners of war, Amsterdam, 23rd February 1919. Source: Collectie Stadsarchief Amsterdam: foto-afdrukken.
Morning walk through Kalemegdan

Morning walk through Kalemegdan

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.

A panorama as seen from the Kalemegdan fortress in Belgrade, Serbia

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

Destruction of railway heritage in Serbia

Destruction of railway heritage in Serbia

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.

Photo from Twitter

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.

JŽ 01-085 (left) and 51 series ( right), Belgrade 19/11/2016.
An old railway carriage with a glorious past (or not)…..

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.

Inside view.
I also saw this : Jugoslovenske Državne Železnice (JDŽ) = Yugoslav state railways

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” .

A same type of wagon which was brought from Hungary and which now stands in the railway museum in Utrecht (the Netherlands)

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.

Picture from : “Balkanzug” on www.retours.eu
Kajmakčalan

Kajmakčalan

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 church Sveti Petar (the top is called Profitis Ilias-(Sveti Ilija in Serbian) on the summit of Kajmakčalan.

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).

Ramonda nathaliae, also known as Natalie’s ramonda. The flower is considered a symbol of the Serbian Army’s struggle during World War and can be found also on Kajmakčalan.

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.

Front view of the church “Sveti Petar”.

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.

Inside the church “Sveti Petar”, with at the right the urn where the heart of Archibald Reiss was kept.

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 !

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.

Christmas in Serbia: Cvetke, 06/01/2018
Received in July 2018: a permanent stay with an ID for foreigners, old Yugoslav style.

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 !

The first victim of WWI: Dušan Đonović

The first victim of WWI: Dušan Đonović

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[1]. Other (Serbian) sources mention Ištvan Balohi as the first fallen K.u.K. soldier [2].

July 1914:  Serbian soldier on the Kalemegdan fortress in Belgrade overlooking the Sava river which was the border back then with the Austro-Hungarian empire. The first shots of WWI were fired here.

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.

The railway bridge between Belgrade (Serbia) and Zemun (then Austria-Hungary) was destroyed during the first hours of WWI.

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[3].

Plaquette in remembrance of Dusan . It is hanging on the wall of the First Economic School in Belgrade. From Politika, 16 March 2013 , link 

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.

The Austro-Hungarian attack on Serbia seen from another perspective.

 

Footnotes: 
[1]
Serbia and the Balkan front, 1914 -the Outbreak of the Great War-, James Lyon ,
ISBN 978-1-4725-8004-7, page 96-7.
[2] According to the article from Blic (Serbian), 11/11/2016: link
[3] According to the article “Sudnji rat” by Čedomir Antić in the Serbian newspaper Politika, 13/09/2008:  link

Articles: 
-Srbija Danas, 12 October 2017, link (in Serbian).
-Kurir.at, 29 December 2013, link (in German).

My earlier blogs about WWI:
See: http://blog.fabian-vendrig.eu/category/serbia-ww1/

Website:
Site about Serbian WWI soldiers who died in the Netherlands: www.secanje.nl

Thanks to:
Arjan Kapteijn

Belgrade´s main railway station.

Belgrade´s main railway station.

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.

Be aware that not all trains stop at those alternative Belgrade stations, so best is to check the timetables on the website of the Serbian Railways: http://www.srbvoz.rs/redvoznje.html , unfortunately this is only in Serbian. Another good option can be the site: https://www.bahn.com/en/view/index.shtml

Enjoy travelling by train in Serbia !

“Trst je naš”

“Trst je naš”

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”.

14/07/2018: Trieste, the Canal Grande (Grand Canal).
14/07/2018: A view from the castle of Duino, close to Trieste.

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!”

14/07/2018: a statue of the famous writer James Joyce who lived also in Trieste.