Republic Square [Belgrade]
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Trg Republike or Square of the Republic (Serbian Cyrillic: Трг Републике) is one of the central town squares and an urban neighborhood of Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, located in Belgrade's municipality of Stari Grad. It is the site of some of Belgrade's most recognizable public buildings, including the National Museum, the National Theatre and the famous statue of Prince Michael.
The square is located less than 100 meters away from Terazije, designated center of Belgrade, to which it is connected by the streets of Kolarčeva (traffic) and Knez Mihailova (pedestrian zone). Many people erroneously consider Square of the Republic to be the center of the city. Through Vasina street it is connected to the fortress and park of Kalemegdan to the west and through Sremska street it is connected to the neighborhood of Zeleni Venac and further to Novi Beograd. It also borders the neighborhoods of Stari Grad and Dorćol, to the north. Today, it makes one of the local communities within Belgrade (mesna zajednica) with a population of 2,360 in 2002.
The present square was formed after the demolition of the Stambol Gate in 1866 and the construction of the National Theatre in 1869. The Gate had been built by the Austrians at the beginning of the 18th century, and stood in the area between the present monument to Prince Mihailo and the National Theatre building. It was the largest and most beautiful town gate at the time when Belgrade was encircled by a moat. It was named after the road which led through it to Constantinople (Istanbul). The people remembered the Stambol Gate as the place in front of which the Turks executed the "raya", their non-Muslim subjects, by impaling them on stakes. It was also the place where during the attack on Belgrade in 1806 in the First Serbian Uprising, one of the leading Serb military commanders, Vasa Čarapić, was fatally wounded. In memory of this sad event, a street near the square and a monument in the vicinity were named after him.
After the establishment of Serbian rule and the demolition of the Stambol Gate, the site of the present square was not laid out for a long time. The National Theatre was the only large building standing here for more than thirty years and until Communist rule after 1945 it was named Pozorišni Trg (Theatre square). The square gradually started to acquire more buildings after the monument to Prince Mihailo was erected in 1882. The place where now the National Museum is, was the location of long single-storied building which housed, among other things, the famous "Dardaneli restaurant". This was the meeting-place of members of the artistic circles at the time. The building was pulled down to make way in 1903 for the Treasury (now the building of the National Museum). In a small park next to the National Theatre, there were the well-known "Kolarac" restaurant and cinema (owned by Ilija Milosavljević-Kolarac, a merchant and benefactor). The "Riunione" Palace, in which the "Jadran" cinema is located today, was built in 1930.
In the place of today's Press House, there have been old and single-storied buildings with shops, until World War II.
The statue of Prince Mihailo
Most of the buildings were destroyed during the German bombing on April 6, 1941. After World War II the tram tracks were removed (until then, a tram terminus was here), and the square, on which for a short time were the crypt and the monument to the Red Army soldiers died during the liberation of Belgrade in 1944, was removed (their remains have been transferred to the Cemetery of the Liberators of Belgrade). Later, the biggest building on this square, the "Press House" was constructed, so as the "City Restaurant" and the International Press Center.
The area of the present 'Plateau of Dr Zoran Đinđić', right across the National Theatre was seen for decades as the site of the future Belgrade Opera. However, this became highly controversial issue, both academic and public, in the 2000s, when city government decided to tear down the Staklenac mall (saying it has done its purpose, even though it was built in 1989) and to construct City Gallery, while the Opera is supposed to be built in the swampy and uninhabited area of Ušće in Novi Beograd. Despite opposition from the population, ensemble of the opera and prominent architects and artists, the city government, most prominently the official city architect Đorđe Bobić, insists that regardless of everything, they already made a decision that the Opera will not be built on the Square.
Ever since the first anti-Slobodan Milošević demonstrations on March 9, 1991, over to the student protest during winter 1996-97 and pro-democracy rallies in September and October 2000, the Republic Square was a central point of all of them. For this reason, opposition leader Vuk Drašković of the SPO party insisted on changing the name of the square to Trg Slobode (Freedom Square) but this was never officially done, even during the SPO's municipal rule in Belgrade (1997–2000).
The National Theater
The Square of the Republic is one of the busiest places in Belgrade, as one of the central business areas in the city. Being the intersection of major traffic routes in Belgrade, it is also one of the most polluted areas, with over 20 bus and trolleybus lines of the city public transportation passing through the square.
On one side, the square extends to the Knez Mihailova street, the pedestrian zone and one of the main commercial sections of Belgrade. On the opposite side, the square is occupied by the Staklenac (Serbian for glassy), the Belgrade's first modern glass and steel constructed shopping mall, built in 1989 for the purpose of the IX Non-Aligned Movement summit in Belgrade. The small flat area in front of Staklenac has been officially named 'Plateau of Dr Zoran Đinđić', after the Serbian prime minister was assassinated in 2003.
Prince Michael Monument
Main article: Prince Mihailo Monument
The bronze statue of Prince Michael on a horse, by the Italian sculptor Enrico Pazzi was erected in 1882. It was erected in honor of the Prince's most important political achievement, complete expulsion of the Turks from Serbia and liberation of the remaining 7 cities within (then) Serbian territory, still under the Turkish rule (1867). The names of the cities are carved on a plates on the monument itself, on the statue's pedestal and prince is sculptured with his hand allegedly pointing to Constantinople, showing the Turks to leave. However, his hand points to the opposite direction, to the north-east instead to the south-east. During recent years, the role and honor of prince somewhat fell into the oblivion and the statue became simply known as kod konja (Serbian for 'at the horse'). Even the nearby restaurant is named that way, Kod konja.
In 2000, a modern public clock, named the Millennium clock and funded by Delta Holding, was installed in the square. The clock is placed on a tall stand, and it also displays current weather conditions. Two main, digital clocks face the less busy sides of the square (near Čika Ljubina and Kolarčeva streets), while two small, analog clocks face the two busier sides (near Knez Mihailova street and the National Theatre). The clock and its stand are made of chromed steel and glass, which is somewhat in contrast to the rest of the square's architecture.
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Overview and History
Belgrade is the capital of Serbia and has a population of just under two million. It's in the middle of the Balkan Peninsula in southeast Europe where the Danube and Sava rivers meet.
Belgrade is one of the oldest cities in Europe with a history that goes back seven thousand years! Of course, with two rivers meeting you can expect that there will be a lot of human activity across the ages. Caves with Neanderthal skulls and bones from the early Stone Age show the time frame we're talking about here.
Due to its strategically valuable position between East and West, Belgrade has been at the center of battles throughout most of its history. Our history begins with the Roman colonization (of course) at the end of the first Century AD, when it was called Singidunum. The Huns destroyed the city in 441AD and began a period of squabbling between Sarmatians, Goths, Gepidaes and more Goths. During this time the name of the city changed to Taurunum and Malevilla.
The Slavs permanently settled here in the seventh century then immediately fought the Bulgarians. The Slavic name "Beligarad" was first recorded around 878AD, then Hungary attacked and the Byzantine Empire took over, remaining in control until 1284. The first, second and third armies of the Crusades came through in the early middle ages, seeing Belgrade in ruins.
For the first time, Belgrade became part of Serbian rule when King Dragutin was given the city from the Hungarian Crown. More fighting ensued, Hungary repossessed the city and by the fifteenth century they were battling the Turkish Ottoman invasion.
Between 1440 and 1867 the Turkish controlled Belgrade except when they were temporarily defeated by armies from Bavaria, Savoy, and Austria. Under Turkish control Belgrade was the second largest city of the Ottoman Empire, surpassed only by Constantinople. Being stuck between the Ottoman and Hapsburg Empires was not the best place to be.
Several centuries of internal rebellions and periods of occupation by the Holy Roman Empire prevented industrial development as was seen in other European countries. Finally in 1878 Serbia was recognized as an independent state and kingdom with Belgrade as its capital.
The World Wars of the twentieth century were not kind to Serbia. In WWI it was heavily bombed and occupied by Austrian and German troops. The city was then liberated by Serbian troops only to dissolve into a dictatorship as of 1926.
In WWII Belgrade was bombed by the Allies and occupied by Germans, who massacred one hundred Serbs for every German killed. It was liberated by the Russian Red Army, ending up as the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia in 1945.
Recent history: Belgrade was the center of the last outbreak of smallpox in Europe during its Communist period, in 1972. Massive demonstrations took place in 1991 and protests over election fraud continued until 1997. Serbia has the highest hyperinflation in the history of mankind in the year 1993. The first non-Communist government was installed in 1997, the Kosovo War saw NATO bombing Belgrade (again) in 1999, and finally the dictatorship of Slobodan Milosevic ended in 2000AD.
Serbia got its first democratic government in 2001. Yugoslavia was formally brought to an end in 2003. Serbia and Montenegro declared independence in 2006 and Kosovo followed in 2008 under continuing dispute.
Nikola Tesla Airport is where you'll be flying in if you come by plane.
Do you know Tesla? He was one of the geniuses of the modern world, who invented radar and alternating current by drawing the pictures which appeared to him in visions. He came from Serbia and would have given the world FREE ELECTRICITY if the leaders of the industrial revolution had actually wanted what was best for humanity instead of what would make them personally rich. They took control of his inventions and he died a broken man.
Anyway, the airport connects to Belgrade by bus, taxi and car rental. It's 18km from downtown.
From what I hear, unlicensed taxi drivers try to shove you into their car outside the bus station. You should probably go a few blocks and catch a licensed taxi which has two number plates on the roof for proof. If you take a taxi, make sure it's got a blue city taxi sign on the roof, pay what's on the meter and don't pay any extra for your baggage.
You can get around the city by bus, trolleybus and trams. Night buses and trams operate on slightly different routes than daytime, and don't forget to get your ticket punched when you climb on board.
People and Culture
The official currency of Serbia is the dinar (RSD), which was 95 dinar to the Euro at the time of this writing.
Due to the many kinds of invasion in the history of Serbia, the people of Belgrade reflect Jewish, Asian, Muslim, Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox influences in their heritage. A friend of mine from Serbia said that people listen to the tallest guy in the room who shouts the loudest. (He said it in a funny way, it's not meant as an insult.)
Serbian food is hearty and nutritious. Think of Greek cooking combined with Croatian recipes -- minced meat grilled and seasoned spicy. Lots of lamb, pork and veal. Stuffed cabbage similar to Moussaka. Home made apricot brandy, man!
Try Loki for a bite at night. You will feel like you never had a hamburger before!
Things to do, Recommendations
If you're visiting Belgrade in early March, check out the annual International Film Festival. It goes up in the same month as the Belgrade Documentary and Short Film Festival, a competition.
For nightlife in Belgrade, you have a lot of options. There are clubs build on rafts in the river, called Splavovi. For regular clubs on land, start with Anderground, a famous club located underneath the Kalemegdan fortress. The list continues here. There are about a gazillion pubs and bars to choose from when your night is getting started, as well as casinos and jazz clubs.
Text by Steve Smith.