Walk to House of Roses & History of Yugoslavia Museum
Nikola Tesla Museum
Cathedral of St Mark
A full day today, we want to do at least three things today! I know, we are pushing it, we consider ourselves lucky if we can do even one thing in a day.
The first objective is to visit Tito and learn a little about his life, and Yugoslavia at the same time. Apparently there is a museum complex at his mausoleum that we can do this from. It is a little way out of the centre of town, and a nice walk along busy roads. Belgrade is a city. It feels like a city, acts like a city, has the traffic of a city, and unfortunately, smells like a city in places.
The walk took us past the railway station along the river, so we checked out train times for tomorrow, an added bonus. Then overpasses and underpasses before taking us to some quiet parks. It was good to see that these are being utilised by the inhabitants, and are quite popular, especially as there is not much around this area. Our map is pretty small, and the large icons of places to see are not always in exactly the right place, so we missed our target. A nice Serb saw us trying to work out the map, and asked if she could help. I love the people here, I have not written in everyone that has helped us, as there are so many! Unlike Bulgaria, people are always willing to help. So, we had missed the mausoleum by about 100m. Not too bad.
Going up to it, we were struck again that there are a lot of fountains in the city, similar to Bulgaria as well,but these are all working. Not only the ones that have had millions of Euros pumped into them by the EU – Wait a second, Serbia can have all its fountains running, and get NO money from the EU. They are not even allowed to join (This is a sore point at the moment, but probably a good thing considering the last five or six years).
The only let down with the fountain was that the slate pathways around it are disintegrating quickly. Behind this is the Museum of Yugoslavian History. This is probably the one major museum we are looking forward to. We went in, got our tickets, and had the layout of the buildings explained to us. There are three. This New Museum with an exhibition on the top floor, the Mausoleum itself, and the old museum. Starting here, we went up and were greeted with the Royal presents that have been given to Tito. A lot of these are the medals you get for joining the Royal Orders of countries, and Holland was proudly represented along with many others. In the same room are the presents, these range from the whimpsical to the ancient. The craftsmanship in all of them apparent. Replicas of things from Ur in Iran to a carved stone from Angkor Thom in Cambodia. There must have been a special relationship with Haile Selassie from Ethiopia as there are a lot of items from different visits.
This is apparently only a small part of the collection, so when we tried to go into other rooms on the floor, we were surprised that there was nothing there. It is only the one room of about 5, and even then, not that full. There is nothing yet on the life of Tito, or the country, so we headed down and went to the next section.
His mausoleum is pretty plain. Anna made the joke that the outside could have been an old folks home. This is appropriate, as it was the house built for him in his 70’s. His tomb is in a central courtyard and very simple. We were half expecting ornate displays of wealth or devotion, but it is very simple with a few plants and flowers around it. Considering the devotion that people still have for him here, we thought there would be wreaths or similar placed around in his memory. Nothing. There was a side room though. Going into this we could see all the relay batons collected over the years. This is pretty special, as every year on the 25th of May there is a large relay race. This is his birthday, and was always well attended. The first relay had over 9,000 runners over a distance of 12,000km! It only grew from there. Organised as a youth event it took on a life of its own.
As a side story for the freedoms people had here: Someone objected to running with a baton, so they got peoples signatures on old meat packing paper. After collecting thousands of signatures, they bound it all together with a blue cover, so the first race was 6 batons and a little blue book!
Although there are some fantastic batons in all different shapes and sizes, all we had learnt was his birthday. We still need to know more about this man and his country, so we headed over to the third building.
The Old Museum. Our hopes are here for the history of Yugoslavia and Tito, but no, once again we have been thwarted. This is an ethnographic museum now. Interesting in its own way, with clothing from different regions, shoes, socks, belts all the way down to water bottles. Then there are the displays of Swords, Rifles and Pistols from the old flintlock era. Some of these are amazing in their decorations. Still not what we wanted. Old spears and shields from Ethiopia, with a couple of photos of Tito dressed up in the part came next, then we were out. Nothing. No life history, no information on the country or anything. With the museum fully explored, we went back to the offices and asked why the History Museum of Yugoslavia has no Yugoslavian history! Apparently they don’t have the funding. Four months ago they had a temporary exhibition on it, but that is no longer here. Personally I thought temporary exhibitions were more expensive to maintain than permanent ones, but I must be wrong. If we come back on Saturday though, there would be someone here that would be happy to talk to us about it….
With that, we headed out. It is unfortunate, and we are now worried that our only source of information on the country is going to be Wikipeadia. Maybe if they turn off the fountain, they can get money for the exhibitions?
Sava Temple is the next on our list, and it is back towards the centre. Built on a hill and the second biggest Orthodox temple in the world, we should be able to use it as a landmark to find it. With all the tall buildings around that was impossible, but we did find a school, another couple of temples, a sports stadium, and the suburbs. It was an interesting walk that slowly wound us towards our destination.
Sava Temple has only just had its outside completed, and is massive. A small park area surrounds it, and a few vendors outside, along with the beggars, touts and people just hanging around.
Going in, we can see why they think it is still going to take 20 years to finish, as there is no paintings done yet. There is even no plaster over the concrete domes and walls. Most of the marble work is in place, and the ornate carved plaster is currently going up. This is building at a gigantic scale. Inside there was a large van to transport materials, and it is dwarfed by the scale. The good thing about this is that it lets you see the construction techniques involved in the domes and walls. Massive amounts of concrete have been used, along with the steel supports and other stonework. Not a brick is in sight.
We were doing well so far. We have even managed to visit two of the planned places today, and now off to the Nikola Tesla Museum…
It was open. A good start. Going in and getting our tickets we started with the informative side of the museum first. Saving the machines and inventions for last. This was a bit disappointing. It was all about his death in NewYork, and the start of the museum. Gaining the Administrative rights to his works and shipping it here. A strange place for his museum though, as he never lived in Belgrade, and although born in Croatia, spent most of his time in America after being educated in Hungary and Switzerland. That done, we moved onto the inventions. It is supposed to be an interactive museum, but everything is labelled “Don’t touch” While we were in one room, a movie started up, so we sat to watch it. In Serbian with no English subtitles. We had fun making up stories using the few words we recognised in the movie, then the guided tour started. This was also in Serbian, until everyone else said they understood English, and she switched (There was us, another American couple, some Germans, a Serbian living in Australia and her Serbian Serbian friend). This was a lot better. We got to see some of the machines running, including Induction motors and wireless electricity production. Then finally his remote controlled boat. This is an amazing invention created before Marconi invented the radio! (a few patent issues there, with Marconi losing his patent in 1944. A nice date considering Italy’s relations with the USA at the time)
Our last place to see was St Mark’s Temple. The weird story about this is that it was built to replace a temple that was bombed in WWII. My only issue with this story is that it was bombed at the same time! It was being constructed well before the other one was destroyed. Still, it is a beautiful building and a very different style to the Sava.
The large parks around here, being closer to the centre are in full swing. Kids and people everywhere enjoying the sunshine at the end of summer. A lively and happening place in the city.
Again, we have walked a lot, seen a little and had a good day in Belgrade. I don’t think I could live here, but it is a fantastic city with a mix of old and new, busy and quiet. Well worth a visit.