Yesterday we visited Avala, a mountain located in the outskirts of Belgrade. It is about 1,600 feet (500 meters) high and it is the highest point of the forested Šumadija region just south of the city. Because of its height, it has always been a strategic point and people naturally gravitated to it. Both the Romans and the Turks established fortresses there. The Serbian royal family and government also used the area through the years for various activities, like hiking, hotel, children’s clean air refuge, communications towers, etc.
Today it is still a preserved area with some interested things to see. The photo above is taken from the top of the newly completed tower. On April 29, 1999, NATO destroyed the tower as part of their attacks on the Milosevic-led Yugoslavian government. The purpose was hinder Milosevic’s use of the media, as the tower was used to broadcast the national television station. It didn’t stop the broadcast however because the station was broadcasted through many different stations. A big waste of money! Not only in the bombing raid, but also in the fundraising for construction of the new tower.
The kids were excited to go up to the top. Ocean was most enthused about handing the ticket to the lady at the elevator. The views over Šumadija were impressive. There is supposed to be a restaurant on the top but it was not open I guess. The attendant told me that between 500 and 2,500 people a day visit the tower.
I was annoyed to learn that the big monument on the mountain to the Unknown Soldier, built after World War I, was put over the ruins of a Turkish fortress. The strategic mountain must be rich in archeological history, but this has not been studied or developed. The medieval Serbs called the fortified city on top Žrnov. It was later taken over by the Turks. The Ottoman general, Gazi Porča, renamed it Havala, meaning obstacle or barrier. I guess it was a barrier against tribes from the south heading into Belgrade. Below is a picture I found in the Wikicommons of the remains of his fort. The monument is beautiful, but they could have preserved and improved the fortress AND build a monument. I would have preferred a center for Ottoman and Roman studies with the sites excavated, rather than monument.
There are a couple of other monuments on the mountain. One is dedicated to the Soviet military. A plane crashed in 1964 full of World War II veterans. They were going to Belgrade’s 20th anniversary of its liberation from the Germans. I want to see the Memorial Gardens in the nearby village of Jajinci. The Nazis used the area as a “killing fields” and over 80,000 Yugoslav were executed and/or buried there.
We got some popcorn and played “hide-and-seek” in the gardens around the monument. As we climbed on the monument, the marble is chipped in places. Owen was fascinated to learn that it was from flying shrapnel from NATO bombing raid 11 years ago. The kids slept in the car on the way home. It makes a good day trip any time of the year. We’ve gone several times and the kids always enjoy it.
I completed my second full day as a single dad. Nadia gets home today and we’ll head out to the airport this afternoon to pick her up. After Avala, I did some shopping while the kids slept in the car and we hung out at home. We have a sauna and hot tub in our apartment building. The steamy sauna was refreshing way to brighten up a cold February night.