An underground tunnel between two nuclear bunkers in the Kalemegdan park.
Text and images by Kevin Loumann Eienstrand
Few might know this but “notes from underground” is the title of a fantastic book by the great Fjodor Dostojevski. This article has absolutely nothing to do with neither Dostojevski or his book, just that it also tells an appealing story from underground.
Visiting Belgrade there are many things you should check out but an absolutely “must-do” is the underground tour of the city. The tour will take you to the most important historic parts of Belgrade in the area around Kalemegdan – the park that holds the Belgrade Fortress, but before you enter the park you will be shown one the oldest pieces of architecture in Belgrade. The remains of the city wall which dates all the way back to the Roman empire. The wall also marks the first trip to the city’s underground as it is located right beneath Knez Mihailova – the busiest street in Belgrade.
Roman City Wall remains at the Roman Hall underground today’s Belgrade City Library
After that cool touch of history the tour goes into Kalemegdan Park which, if the weather treats you good and it usually does in Belgrade, will be a breathtaking experience by itself. The beauty of Kalemegdan is not the purpose of this tour though and you have to focus to not get caught up in the atmosphere of the park – you have quite a trip through history to get to and there are many stops along the way. A few landmarks of magnificence will be passed on the tour and there is always a story or two attached to every sight. One of the most exciting above-ground stops is a small hexagonal building does not seem very important at first but this is actually a part of Turkey in the middle of Belgrade – yes that little weirdly shaped building belongs to the country of Turkey and it has some great stories to tell but I will leave that to your tour guide.
Entrance of the Belgrade Fortress from Kalemegdan Park
Next landmark before we go back underground is a tall monument surrounded by beautiful flowers. It is a monument at Kalemegdan Park dedicated to France. During the WWI, the Germans and Austrians occupied Belgrade and Serbia and forced the Serbian army to march towards the Albanian mountains and leave the territory. The Serbian Army lost thousands of lives until French boats arrived and rescued the remaining soldiers. The French transferred the soldiers from Albania to Corfu, Greece where the army recovered and returned to Serbia in 1918 to fight for the Serbian liberation.
The monument was built by Ivan Mestrovic and represents the Mother France and Sorbonne University, as many Serbian orphans studied there after the war and later became the literacy new elite in the new Kingdom of Serbians, Croats and Slovenians.
A La France monument dedicated to France
Now it is back underground into the Roman well which apparently is not build by Romans at all but actually Austro-Hungarians and it has a few horror stories attached to it. The newest underground setting follows when you enter one the nuclear bunkers that lays underneath Kalemegdan. From the look-out post in the bunker there is a beautiful view over both the river Sava and Danube and with the right guide you will be treated to a cool little laser when entering the bunker. The tour continues into the Belgrade Fortress where you again will experience an amazing view before you down into the old gun powder shelter which according to Serbians in their 30’s was the coolest nightclub in the 90’s. Today it is used to display Roman artifacts, but the parties of the 90’s is still lightly present on the floor where the remains of chewing gum is everywhere.
Roman Well entrance stairways – currently closed as the air downstairs in not recommended for breathing
Room entrance in the underground army bunker built by Josip Tito order
The tour ends with a short walk down to the riverside and into an old underground storage room which today is a very cool wine bar, where you will get a taste of Serbian wine in beautiful surroundings.
It is quite a long tour but the know-it-all guides and the high chance of great weather makes it worth every minute.
Don’ go to Belgrade without going underground.