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Kalemegdan Park (Serbian: Калемегдански парк, Kalemegdanski park) or simply Kalemegdan, is the largest park and the most important historical monument in Belgrade. It is located on a 125-metre-high (410 ft) cliff, at the junction of the River Sava and the Danube. Its name is formed from the two Turkish words: "Kale" (meaning "fortress") and archaic word of Turkish origin "megdan" (meaning "battlefield").
|Location||Stari Grad, Belgrade|
|Open||Open all year|
Kalemegdan Park, split in two as the Great and Little Parks, was developed in the area that once was the town field. It provides places of rest and entertainment. Belgrade Fortress and Kalemegdan Park together represent a cultural monument of exceptional importance (from 1979), the area where various sport, cultural and arts events take place, for all generations of Belgraders and numerous visitors of the city.
The first works on arranging the town field Kalemegdan started in 1869, after the Turks completely withdrew from Belgrade and Serbia in 1867. Though not the oldest park in Belgrade, it is the one which is being continually groomed and attended the longest. The area of the town field was sort of a buffer zone between the fortress and the settlement outside of the Laudon trench, which separated the Turkish and the Serbian sections of Belgrade. During March 1891, the pathways were cut through, and trees were planted; in 1903 the Small Staircase was built, based on the project of Jelisaveta Načić, the first woman architect in Serbia, while the Big Staircase, designed by architect Aleksandar Krstić, was built in 1928.
Area at the top of the Little Kalemegdan, which is occupied by the Cvijeta Zuzorić Art Pavilion today, was an open fairground for a long time. The very first recorded circus in Belgrade settled here in 1845. Sources from the period claim this was the first time the Belgraders saw an elephant. In 1869, a Tunisian circus with 18 acts, performed at Kalemegdan. Later, the fairground became permanent. Tents were placed, with numerous attractions: panoptikum or collections of curios, okular ("funny" ocular lenses), magicians, fortune tellers, illusionists, etc. Ilija Božić performed here the very first Serbian puppet show, Kuku, Todore. In the mid-1920s the fair was displaced to Voždovac, an eastern suburb at the time, due to the impending construction of the art pavilion. As the new location was too distant for most of the Belgraders, the fair was soon disbanded. A one-off motor race was held on the roads surrounding the parks in September 1939, the Belgrade Grand Prix of which the Belgrade City Race was the feature race. It is additionally notable as the last Grand Prix to be held in Europe for many years as fighting in what would become World War II had started just days earlier to the north in Poland.
In the mid-1980s, open air disco "Crveni Podijum" (Red Podium) was organized in Kalemegdan. It was called the "largest open air disco in the Balkans" and was known to attract up to 10,000 visitors on some nights. In the 1990s, a club "Underground" was opened in the cave below the park. It was known for the specific type of music: acid jazz, funk, drum and house. The club enjoyed a cult status for years but after the change of proprietors, the choice of music also changed and the club began playing folk music. It was closed later.
As of 2013, Kalemegdan Park covered an area of 53 ha (130 acres) and had 3,424 individual trees from 80 different tree species. Most of the trees were between 20 and 60 years old.
Great Kalemegdan (Велики Калемегдански парк or Veliki Kalemegdanski Park) occupies the southern corner of the fortress, with geometrical promenades, a military museum, a museum of forestry and hunting, and the Monument of Gratitude to France.
The Big Staircase in Kalemegdan Park is the most monumental park motive in Kalemegdan. It occupies the area in the southwest frontline of the fortress, on the location of the former rampart and a hidden road.
The staircase was built within the scopes of the massive rearrangement and renovation of Kalemegdan. The concept design was done by Aleksandar Krstić, head of the parks department in the city administration, while the main project was work of Đorđe Kovaljevski. Main works were finished in 1928. It is envisioned as the three-part object, including two rest areas (podest) with semi-circle expansions. The staircase is designed in the Romanticist style, incorporating the elements of the Serbo-Byzantine Revival. It is embellished with the sculpture of the lying lion, work of Sreten Stojanović. The railing was made of the cut sandstone. The decorative balustrade was demolished in World War II. During the war, the staircase was damaged both in the German bombing of Belgrade in April 1941 and later during the war.
After the war, the staircase was only partially repaired. It got neglected by the 1950s and the 1960s. The staircase remained that way until 1987. That year, a project of the full reconstruction of the staircase was completed, including the restoration of the balustrades, columns and lanterns. The works were conducted in 1989, including the completely new steps. The choice of the material, the Brač limestone, proved to be a bad one. Due to the bad frost resilience, the steps began to crack soon. In October 2006 the steps were renovated again, but again the bad method was chosen. The cracks were filled with cement and artificial stone which only accelerated the cracking. The staircase deteriorated more in time and the new reconstruction was scheduled for the summer of 2016, but then was postponed to December 2017 and then to December 2018, due to the lack of funds. It was finally scheduled for March 2019. The stone steps and lining of the podests will be removed, cleaned and returned with the new stainless steel made clamps. The subwall will also be renovated and the ruined stone slabs will be replaced. Second phase, which includes the rearrangement of the wider surrounding area of the Big Staircase is set for October 2020. However, when works began in March 2019, instead of restoration and repair of the staircase, it was actually smashed. Architects and art historians protested, but city administration said "this is the best way".
The Brač limestone was replaced with the Danilovgrad limestone. Nine stone jardinières which were originally sculptured on the staircase, but perished in time, will also be restored. They are made of the sandstone from Bela Voda.
A pedestrian walkway along the southwest section of the fortress is called Sava Promenade. Due to the static problems, it was renovated in 1932–1933. The project was drafted by the Russian émigré architect Aleksandr Anastyevich Chelpanbaev. It connects the Big and the Small Staircase and is location of many outdoor exhibitions.
Pavilion on Sava PromenadeEdit
A pavilion, with an area of 77 m2 (830 sq ft) was built in the 1920s along the Sava promenade on the southern edge of the fortress. In the 1990s several families squatted in it. By the 2010s, the object was out of use, derelict and half-ruined. Lease of the object was announced in May 2014, but was recalled. It was repeated in July 2016. On 13 September 2017, without any announcements, the object was demolished. An info table was placed later, saying that the works on the reconstruction began on 15 September, two days after the object was completely razed to the ground. After public and media protests, the city owned communal company which administers the fortress, "Beogradska tvrđava", announced that the terrain is being prepared for the new object, which will have an artistic and cultural, but also a catering function. However, while the "Beogradska tvrđava", obtained a permit from the Ministry of construction, only works which will not affect the construction of the object were allowed, not a demolition. Also, at first they refused to disclose which company is the leaseholder, claiming that the investor pays for everything, though the info board named "Beogradska tvrđava" as an investor. As the entire Kalemegdan area is protected by the law, the State Institute for the monuments protection also had to approve any works. They issued a permit, naming which parts of the object have to be preserved and which may be demolished but, nevertheless, the entire house was demolished. "Beogradska tvrđava" claimed that everything has been done transparent and by the book (biddings, planned investments, etc.) but nothing could be found in the official records.
Since then, the leaseholders became known: two companies ("Cig" and "Black Rock"), which are already in the catering business, and which admitted that they planned to build a coffee shop, not to recreate an artistic of cultural pavilion. City sued all three participants, "Beogradska tvrđava", "Cig" and "Black Rock" and on 27 November 2017 the court declared their lease contract void. Only now became known that the contract was signed already on 5 August 2016, while "Cig" and "Black Rock" formed their consortium just one day before. Also, the works were to be finished by the mid-December 2017, after 3 months. Construction inspections visited the site several times and finally ordered the closing of the site and return to the previous state. On their side, State Institute for the monuments protection also banned any further construction. After the demolition, the wholes were dug in the ground, presumably for the new foundations, but in February 2018 the construction yard was abandoned and the dug out holes remained.
Public reactions were negative as from the start it was suspected that a restaurant or a coffee shop will be built. Further controversies, apart from the hidden information and almost absolute ignorance of the reporters and public inquires and refusal of the information disclosing by the "Beogradska tvrđava", were sparked when the bidding paperwork became public in the meantime. Only companies already in the foodservice activities were allowed to participate, even though it was noted that the object is not connected either to the waterworks nor the sewage system, and that there are no requirements to be connected at all.
Ministry of construction confirmed that Ministry of culture issued the permit for archaeological research on the location in December 2017, when the construction site was declared an archaeological dig. Archaeologists made three digs and discovered the artifacts from the Antiquity and the Middle Ages. A fact that the investor didn't provide the proper archaeological survey, which he had to do since it is obligatory when it comes to Kalemegdan, was one of the reasons named for the banning the works by the Institute for the monuments protection. Clandestine works continued in March 2019.
In August 2017 the construction of the gondola lift, which would connect Kalemegdan with the neighborhood of Ušće across the Sava, was announced by the city government for 2018. Construction was confirmed in March 2018 when the idea of a pedestrian bridge was dropped after it has been described as "complicated" and "unstable". On the Kalemegdan side, the station will be dug into the hill, 1 m (3 ft 3 in) below the fortress' Sava Promenade. There is a cave 7 m (23 ft) below the projected station, so there is a possibility that the cave will be adapted for visitations and connected to the future gondola station by an elevator. On the Ušćе side, the starting point will be next to the Skate Park, across the Ušće Tower. The entire route is 1 km (0.62 mi) long, of which 300 m (980 ft) will be above the Sava river itself. Estimated cost is €10 million and duration of works 18 months, but it is still not known when the construction will begin.Already existing criticism of the project continued, from the officially used name (gondola instead of a traditional Serbian žičara) and chosen location, to the route, especially the Kalemegdan station which is a collapsible locality above the cave, in the area already prone to mass wasting. Park of the Non-Aligned Countries in the neighborhood of Kosančićev Venac was proposed as the better solution.
Cutting of 47 trees in the park, because of the gondola lift began in March 2019. The pine trees were 50 to 60 years old. With an enlarged price of €15 million and unified opposition to the project by the environmentalists, architects and urbanists, with additional cutting of over 100 trees in Ušće park across the river, this prompted popular protests. Citizens organized and as the city was cutting the trees, they were planting new seedlings. Drilling also began and it was announced that the stone wall will be partially demolished, too. Municipality of Stari Grad also organized protests, demolishing fences on the construction site, filing complaints and fines against city and government officials and announcing 24-hours watch on site and demolition of any structure built in the meantime. Construction of the gondola lift is prohibited by the current Belgrade's General Regulatory Plan from 2016 which stipulates that construction of the "cables for the alternative transportation and recreation" is forbidden in the area of the Belgrade Fortress. The project was also opposed by the Serbian branch of the pan-European Federation for Cultural Heritage Europa Nostra, Serbian Archaeological Society and the History Department of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts.
In April 2019, Belgrade's Administrative Court temporarily halted further works citing legality of the construction permits but also saying that gondola lift may have "irreversible repercussions for both the cultural monument and the physical environment" and "damage wider public interests". Deputy mayor Goran Vesić stated that city "respects the court" but that construction will continue anyway. In May 2019, both the Supervisory and the Administrative board of the Republic Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Serbia conducted investigation, concluding that the permit issued by the institute was not valid as it wasn't issued following the necessary guidelines and protocols and excluding experts in the process. Even though no proper permits have been issued and no work has been done, city already in 2018 paid 267 million dinars (€ 2.26 million) to the contractor, or 83.5% of the planned investment in the project for 2018, though only 42% of other planned investments were realized.
Little Kalemegdan (Мали Калемегдански парк or Mali Kalemegdanski park) occupies the area in the eastern section, which borders the urban section of Belgrade. Northern section of Little Kalemegdan Park is occupied by the Belgrade Zoo, opened in 1936. The Cvijeta Zuzorić Art Pavilion, built in 1928, is also located here.
An artificial pond, with small island and pedestrian bridges was formed in front of the zoo. It was destroyed during the bombing in World War II. In 1958, an amusement park (luna park) was open on that same location. Its main attraction, the Ferris wheel, was installed in 1964. In Serbian called "Panorama", it was produced in the United Kingdom, then transported to Italy, while it arrived in Yugoslavia in the early 1950s. It was exhibited in almost all parts of the country, before it permanently settled in Kalemegdan. In 2013 there were only 6 of its kind in the world. Soon, it became a symbol of the park and Belgrade's counterpart of the Vienna's Wiener Riesenrad. When produced, it was the state of the art of its kind. It has a special mechanism which consists of a steel cable and a separate handle which allows for the manual bringing down of the gondolas, in case of power outage.
On 29 February 1952 city adopted the "Decision on protection, adaptation and maintenance of the people's park of Kalemegdan" which set the borders of the protected areas as the rivers of Danube and Sava and the streets of Tadeuša Košćuškog and Pariska. In 1962, Belgrade's Institute for the cultural monuments protection expanded the zone to several blocks across the streets. Detailed plan on Kalemegdan from 1965 provided that, despite the immense archaeological value that lies beneath the fortress ground, basically only what was discovered by that time can be explored, restored or protected. That caused the problem both for the expansion of the park but even more for the further exploration of the fortress' underground. Best example is the Lower Town where neither the park fully developed nor the remains of the former port, which was located there, are visible.
For decades, a 200 m (660 ft) long tunnel have been proposed along the eastern section of the park. It would actually follow the route of the Pariska Street, between the streets of Gračanička and Uzun Mirkova. This would allow for the ground level to be transformed into the plateau with a fountain, which would make an extension of the pedestrian zone of Knez Mihailova and create a continuous pedestrian zone from the Republic Square and Palace Albania to the park, the fortress and the rivers. It was envisioned by the first phase of the planned Belgrade Metro, 1973–1982.
A bit longer version, from the Gračanička Street to monument of Rigas Feraios in the Tadeuša Košćuškog Street, resurfaced in 2012, in conjunction with the project of connecting the Savamala port and the fortress. In March 2012 it was announced that the construction will start by the end of the year. However, the planners from the 1970s version were against the execution, because they believed that the entire complex can exist only if there are already functioning subway lines, which as of 2018, are still not built. This way, the traffic problems won't be solved. Do to the price, general halt of the subway construction and constant changes in its routes, the project hasn't materialized yet.
While it was inhabited, Kalemegdan formed one of the quarters in the administrative division of Belgrade. It was called Grad, and translated in the foreign languages as "fortress". According to the censuses, it had a population of 2,219 in 1890, 2,281 in 1895, 2,777 in 1900, 2,396 in 1905 and 454 in 1910. The quarter was abolished on 24 August 1913.
With the neighboring residential area, Kalemegdan formed one of the local communities (mesna zajednica, a sub-municipal administrative unit), which had a population of 3,650 in 1981, 3,392 in 1991 and 2,676 in 2002. Municipality of Stari Grad, on whose territory Kalemegdan is located, later abolished local communities.
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