KALEMEGDAN (Turkish: Kale Meydani, Serbian: Kalemegdan; the name derives from Turkish words Kale – “fortress,” and Megdan – “duel field, battlefield”; the Ottoman Turks also called Kalemegdan Fikir-bayir, meaning “Hill of contemplation”)
The name Kalemegdan refers only to the plateau around the fortress; while the castrum stood as main military stronghold of Belgrade, this plateau served for observing and meeting the enemy.
Kalemegdan is actually the biggest park situated in the center of Belgrade, more precisely at the western horn that separates the city from the Sava and the Danube, and New Belgrade and Zemun, located on a 125-meter high rock and covering the area of 53 ha. It has broad paths, nice lawns and designed tree-lines and was landscaped for over 148 years, but still the oldest and most important cultural and historical complex of urban space, dominated by Belgrade Fortress. It is this area that until the 19th century divided Belgrade in two: the borough surrounded with a moat, and castle-fortress; the settling of this area began after the Ottomans surrendered keys of Belgrade Fortress to Prince Mihailo Obrenović in 1867.
Speaking of nature, there are 3,424 resident trees at Kalemegdan, represented by 80 species where trees aged between 20 and 60 years prevail. One outstanding jewel, the European beech, may be found in the Lower Town of Kalemegdan. This monument of nature is about 110 years old and nearly 20 meters high and has been under state protection since 1983. This tree is particularly attractive in autumn, when its fruits – beech nuts – are ripe. His Upper Town neighbors and peers from the plateau are the Turkish hazel (120 years), Pedunculate Oak (110 years) and Koelreuteria (80 years), and they are a members of the very rare canopy gang; this trio is eavesdropping the echo of stories embossed in the heavy bricks of ramparts and iron gates, and some cheerful music of songbirds too.
Patient birdwatchers may enjoy watching blue tits between trees on the vast platform in the vicinity of the great observation site (it is not surprising that the adjacent tower is transformed into an observatory), the stone wall, a place of attraction for both tourists and young couples. Sunset or midday, from here the view dramatically breaks and one feels like the mighty ruler of the lands thinking “the world’s mine oyster,” standing on the spot close to the statue of the Victor, a symbol of heroism of the Serbian city and people (built in 1928 and 14 meters high), who overlooks the vast lowlands and two serpentine rivers from his vantage point on a slightly lower platform.
We also find squirrels in their natural environment joyfully skipping and hopping around the conifer trees near the tennis clay court, unaware of the warm-up routine practiced by future tennis stars below; little did they know that only a 100 meters ahead they could happen on a 2014 Musicology Festival held at another tennis court, just around the corner, and hear Mr. Mario Biondi resounding through the hot July evening with other local and international jazz musicians. Oh, by the way, the Belgrade Zoo is just below the nearby Kalemegdan Terrace restaurant, but don’t worry, the animals are used to music and noise!
Museum of the Natural History, Military Museum, historic gates, bridges, two small churches, towers, Turkish hammam and turbe, corridors, underground tunnels, sport fields, retirees and passers-by playing chess on stone chess boards, spontaneous and strange Saturday round dance, fresh sights, colors and people wait for you in this imposing park. Carpe diem – “Seize the day!” – is heard from the depths of the Roman well. Give it a chance!
Miloš Vuckovic was born in 1964 in Belgrade, and turned freelance translator in 1994. Interested in archaeology, history, languages, and arts, he is also a choir singer who likes opera and church music, but also smooth jazz, jazz, and world music. Nature, the Mediterranean region, and good food provide him with life energy. Favorite phrase: Nil bastardum carborundum.