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Interesting Stories of Old Belgrade You Didn’t Know

Ancient city full of mysterious corners and stories

Photo: Matt Zimmerman via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Just like any other city, Belgrade too has a lot of mysterious corners and stories. Some of those stories are just tales, a product of imagination, but the others really happened. Which ones are true and which are not? Well, who’s to say, history can sometimes be really misty and covered with fog. Here are just some mysterious and interesting stories that streets of Belgrade hide.

The Lost City of Žrnov

There are several settlements below the Belgrade, some of them dating from the Neolithic period. Below the Banjica (part of Belgrade) is a real Neolithic town called Vinča. Vinča is one of the most enduring settlements in the territory of Europe.

Source: Wikipedia/Жрнов из XIX века (цртеж Феликса Каница).

However, if we exclude the Kalemegdan which is the biggest mystery of this city, there is one more destroyed city that also has a story to tell. A city that is under the veil of secrecy is a medieval castle-fortress Žrnov (or Žrnovan) which was located in a place of today’s monument to the Unknown Soldier at the top of Avala. It is unclear why this medieval fortress, which had its golden age in the era of Serbian despotism, king Aleksandar Karađorđević decided to brutally destroy it in 1934.

The remains of the city were destroyed so the monument to the Unknown Soldier (designed by Ivan Mestrović) could be built. How the idea that Žrnov has to be destroyed was unexpected can be seen in the reaction of the Belgrade citizens, who were shocked when news spread that the city will be destroyed.

Either way, the city Žrnov was demolished, and some sources justified it by the fact that the king thought that the city was built by the Turks, not the Serbs, and as a result, he demolished it. Just a few months after this event, the king Aleksandar was killed in the assassination, and today few people know the sad story of the city of Žrnov.

Kalemegdan and Roman Well

The epicenter of Belgrade mysterious stories is the Roman well which is sometimes referred as the navel of the world, ie. the place where the mythical hero Orpheus descended into the underworld. The well was not actually built by the Romans, but by Austrians, (it was built from 1717 to 1731).

Source: beogradskatvrdjava.co.rs

This well is 51 meters deep, and all two hundred steps are paved with bizarre tales, and in it, many gullible treasure hunters and unfortunate people ended their lives. How Roman well is an interesting space is best illustrated by the words of the famous film master of “tension” Alfred Hitchcock, who once said that such a space is the inspiration for him. A little further of the well is the Nebojša Tower. The name is derived from the negation of the verb “to be afraid”, it is clear why it is so mystical.

The basic fact is that the Nebojša Tower was built by Hungarians, and Turks demolished it by artillery later on.

However, the greatest mystery of the Nebojša Tower is what happened during the Ottoman rule where death found many disobedient Christians of the Ottoman Empire. Thus, the tower has become one of the darkest symbols of Belgrade and therefore a big secret.

The Oldest House in Dorćol

Belgrade’s oldest house is located in Dušanova 10 and there still different mysterious stories about it.

Source: Gradjevinarstvo.rs

The house was built from 1724 to 1727 according to the design of the Swiss architect Nicole Doxatta de Mourèze, but the unfortunate builder was later executed by the Austrian authorities for what they said –  treason! There are some rumors that the Swiss architect was killed because authorities didn’t want him to reveal secret passages that were below the house and that they lead who knows where. People think that these passes attracted many others who gave this house big importance.

Citizens of Belgrade first took an interest in this house during World War II. The Germans searched and dug under this house. There were a lot of stories, and all versions have been related to some kind of treasure. Apparently, there were the hidden treasures that the Germans transported to Berlin. But what were they really looking for, and whether they found it, people will probably never find out.

A few years after the departure of the occupying forces, citizens found the beginning of the tunnel that led to the center of Belgrade. To this day people of Belgrade still don’t know where this tunnel precisely led.

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