Beyond Brutalism: Belgrade’s Magical Pre-WWII Architecture

Although best known for socialist modernism and brutalism, Belgrade’s architecture is (in)famously eclectic due to the various political twists and turns that shaped the city’s identity (as I’ve written here). Although through much of the 19th century, Belgrade’s foreign and foreign-educated architects were trying to find their feet by copying architecture of Serbia’s powerful neighbours, in early 20th century and arrival of art-nouveau, which embraced … Continue reading Beyond Brutalism: Belgrade’s Magical Pre-WWII Architecture

Brief Histories of Favourite Balkan Foods

While foreign rule and power struggles often brought havoc to the Balkan peoples, it also left behind a diverse cuisine in which various influences merge and make the best use of the region’s fertile lands. While some regional specialities do not cross borders, the limits between the national cuisines in the Balkans tend to be blurry, with many nations enjoying same foods, albeit claiming them … Continue reading Brief Histories of Favourite Balkan Foods

Hidden Belgrade (36): ‘German Bridge’ and its Hero

Belgrade’s relationship with this iconic green-arched bridge, the city’s shortest and oldest continuously standing, started off in the worst possible way during the darkest days of World War II. After Nazi Germany attacked the Kingdom of Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941, the Royal Yugoslav Army blew up all of Belgrade’s bridges on the Sava and the Danube in order to slow down the enemy advance. … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (36): ‘German Bridge’ and its Hero

Hidden Belgrade (35): The Home of Serbian Expansionist Project

On August 10 1889, cannons announced the arrival of the teenage King Aleksandar Obrenovic to an empty plot in Dusanova street. Although cleared for years, the spot at which the young king was standing, held the remains of two empires between which the young Kingdom of Serbia was slowly growing. It used to be “Pirinc-han”: the palace of Eugene of Savoy during the Habsburg rule … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (35): The Home of Serbian Expansionist Project

Hidden Belgrade (34): Rabbi Alkalai, Zemun and Zionism

Although in the past few decades Zemun is best known for its tough guys (read: mafiosi), great lively restaurants a more chilled vibe than old Belgrade, this ancient town has for centuries been a vibrant melting pot of various cultures, drawing merchants and craftspeople to the border of Central Europe and the Orient, which, for centuries lay on the banks of the Danube. Despite many … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (34): Rabbi Alkalai, Zemun and Zionism

National Museum of Serbia, preview

On this rainy day, I had the privilege of being allowed to see a preview of the National Museum’s new permanent display. As the old one was removed 15 years ago, the Museum for me is a vague memory, conspicuous by its absence. It was a place where I can’t take my visiting friends, it contained artworks that I, alas, cannot see, and was proof … Continue reading National Museum of Serbia, preview

Hidden Belgrade (32): Eternal Belgraders

Sculptures on Belgrade’s buildings were created in the relatively narrow period of time. Out stone and bronze citizens were all born in the stretch of about 80 years, between the end of the austere Balkan architectural style in mid-19th century (which, following the Islamic custom forbade depiction of people) until the final victory of modernism in Belgrade’s  architecture, when Tito broke away from Stalin and … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (32): Eternal Belgraders

Pokretači #31 Donald Niebyl – Spomenik Database / Illinois, USA

Donald Niebyl founded and manages Spomenik Database, a website dedicated to monumental Yugoslav WWII memorials. Donald not only travelled up and down former Yugoslavia visiting monuments (or ‘spomeniks’ as they are called in local languages), but he also researched and wrote detailed history of many of them, soon to be published as a book – ‘Spomenik Monument Database’ (pre-order on Amazon). Notes Spomenik database on … Continue reading Pokretači #31 Donald Niebyl – Spomenik Database / Illinois, USA

‘Nemanjici’: the Show that United Serbia

A recent survey by IPSOS showed that Serbia is the world’s most divided society among 27 countries around the world that were included in the study. Some 93 per cent of Serbians agree that Serbia is fairly or very divided, compared to “only” 84 per cent of Americans or 75 per cent of the French. Given the country’s relative ethnic homogeneity and lack of immigration, … Continue reading ‘Nemanjici’: the Show that United Serbia

Escaping Tito’s Long Shadow

In Serbia and most former-Yugoslav republics, May, it seems, was, is and will be, at least for another few decades, the month of Tito. Not only does it start with the International Worker’s Day,  but Tito was born, celebrated his official birthday, and died in May. He was born on 7 May 1892 in Kumrovec, Croatia, to a Croat farmer father and a Slovene mother. … Continue reading Escaping Tito’s Long Shadow

Hidden Belgrade (30): Neimar –  Belgrade’s First Leafy Suburb

During Belgrade’s population boom in 1920s and 30s, its better heeled citizens decided that they wanted to create suburban neighbourhoods which would guarantee them a degree of comfort away from the town’s hustle and bustle. While then, like now villas in neighbourhoods of Senjak and Dedinje were considered the best addresses in town, the educated (upper) middle classes sought also wanted to get away from … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (30): Neimar –  Belgrade’s First Leafy Suburb

First Years of Modern Belgrade

A century and a half ago, on April 6 1867, the last Ottoman soldiers left the Belgrade fortress, the northernmost post of the sprawling, if crumbling, empire. That day, celebrated with much pomp in Kalemegdan, marked the beginning of modern Belgrade. Under Ottoman rule, Belgrade was known as Dar al Jihad (House of the Holy War) and in the 17th Century it was one of … Continue reading First Years of Modern Belgrade

Belgrade’s Socialist-era Interiors

With a MoMA exhibition of Yugoslav-era brutalist architecture coming up in the summer, countless photos of Spomenici (aka WWII monuments) making weird architecture listicles and the never-ending appeal of mid-century architecture, it seems like a high time for Serbia to start preserving its Socialist-era architectural heritage, including its peculiar interiors. Although there have been some notable public efforts recently, like reconstruction of Belgrade’s Museum of … Continue reading Belgrade’s Socialist-era Interiors