One attraction in Serbia that is often overlooked is a fortress built in the Middle Ages on the Danube River. The locals know about it. But tourists tend to head to the jagged mountains for skiing in the winter and the meandering meadows in the summer.
There’s only so many beer gardens a person can go to in Belgrade and the “quaint” little shops stop being so quaint by the time a tourist has walked into several dozens.
A long hike, or short taxi ride, can open up the past and future of Serbia.
Southeast of Belgrade on the right shore of the Danube where the Danube and Jezava meet, is an ancient fortified city called The Smederevo Fortress.
Built between 1427 and 1430, the site served as a makeshift capital-of-sorts of Serbia in the Middle Ages when the Ottomans and Serbs were in the midst of sieges.
Despot Durad Brankovic, the leader of the Serbian Despotate, ordered it built. By the close of the 15th century, the Ottomans, who seized the city, ordered the fortress strengthened.
The fortress, heavily damaged throughout World War II during the bombing, restoration began in 2009. Today, the fortress is one of the rarely conserved castles of feudal Serbian rulers. Named a Native Monument of Culture in 1979, by 2010, the fort was put on the agenda for potential designation as a World Heritage Site.
The fort’s position enabled the Serbian capital to continue next to the Kingdom of Hungary and satisfy Sultan Murad of the Ottoman Empire by closing the corridor of the Hungarians into the Morava valley.
Joining the Balkans and Central Europe, the fortress occupied the holy and trading center for ages. The Danube links it to additional historic places including Belgrade, Vinca, Novi Sad Golubac fortress and Viminacium.
During the Second World War, the German army used the fort to store ammunition. In June 1941, the ammo dump exploded and reached settlements as far as 5 miles away. The southerly parapet of the fort was almost totally destroyed. The train depot, crowded with travelers, was destroyed and much of the city left in ruins. Roughly 2,500 individuals died, and every other resident injured. In 1944, Allied bombing caused more damage.
The fort now has parts ranging from well preserved to those that have seen no repair work and have collapsed.
The Iron Gate, finished in 1972, boosted the water level of the Danube basin and triggered severe flooding. From 1970 until 1980, a drainage system was constructed to guard the fortress, and surrounding city, from future flood events. That didn’t stop major flooding in 2006 when heavy rainfall combined with melting snow, to breach the 1970s dikes.
The fort is now a town square and hosts galas, shows, festivals and other events. To the southeast, the expanse along the Jezava has a harbor and marina. Plans call for modern uses and the development of projects to further renovate and reestablish the old fort.
Serbia is experiencing a rebirth. Following years of political instability, the nation has a progressive government.
Tourism is quickly becoming Serbia’s main industry, but the government is also pushing technology and has become business-friendly. There are many opportunities for Serbian citizenship-by-investment and many individuals and families are taking advantage to start over and enjoy life “in the jagged mountains for skiing in the winter and the meandering meadows in the summer.”