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Travel Report: Tasmajdan Park, Belgrade.

Tasmajdan Park Belgrade.

Tasmajdan Park, Belgrade.

August 2019.

I’ll never forget my first summer in Belgrade. It was the early days of my relationship with Sladja and there was a palpable sense of excitement and expectancy between us. In fact, I had come to the Serbian capital so that… at long last… we could finally hang out. An opportunity, we both knew, to see if we had a future together beyond this two-week adventure.

One of the first things we did was take a long, leisurely walk around Tasmajdan Park. Created in 1954 and having gone through a huge renovation between 2010 and 2011, this city centre park is a treasured and protected cultural monument. Its name translates loosely as quarry, because back in ancient times the land used to be a quarry and then a cemetery.

The History of Tasmajdan Park in Belgrade

The old cemetery, 1856.

Image courtesy of Gmihail. 

Later, in the 18th and 19th centuries, some of the battles fought for the liberation of Belgrade took place here. In World War I, locals hid in the area’s underground tunnels during the worst of the bombing. In World War II, meanwhile, this is where The Nazis rounded up a great number of the city’s Jews for execution.

Tasmajdan Park.

Tasmajdan Park, Belgrade.

I guess Sladja and I were both a little nervy that afternoon. Full of that largely positive but anxiety-tinged energy that channels between people in the early throes of a promising relationship. Happily, the conditions helped us relax and enjoy the moment for what it was.

With the sun in full force, the people of Belgrade had flocked to the park. And here they were before us, sitting chatting, reading and simply enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of urban nature. It really makes me smile to think of this uncomplicated, pre-pandemic world.

Tasmajdan Park, Belgrade.

Local men chatting in Tasmajdan Park

Chewin’ the fat, Belgrade style.

However, I can’t pretend that it was an idyllic summer afternoon for everyone. Indeed this was the first time I saw evidence of Belgrade’s homelessness. As I would come to know, this is a common sight around the city. On a summer’s day like this, not too awful I suppose. Though I couldn’t help but wonder what this poor guy had to go through during the winter.

Homeless man Tasmajdan Park.

Tasmajdan Park, Belgrade.

As we strolled the park that day, feeling thankful for our blessings in life, there was much to take in. Thankfully Sladja was my guide and interpreter, bringing to life the stories behind many of the park’s fascinating slabs of history.

Take this sculpture, for example, of the renowned Serbian poet Desanka Maksimovic. Born in Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia in 1898, this talented poet shot to fame as a young woman with poems published in the literary journal Misao and the Serbian Literary Herald.

Desanka Maksimovic Statue Serbian poet

Tasmajdan Park, Belgrade.

She later went to university in Paris before returning to Belgrade to work as a professor at the prestigious High School for Girls. When World War II hit, Desanka soon found herself fired by occupying Nazi forces. As a result, her life rapidly descended into a state of poverty.

After the war, she published a number of harrowing poems detailing the horrors of life under Nazi rule. One of these, A Bloody Tale (Krvava Bajka) focused on the awful murder of schoolchildren in the Kragujevac Massacre. The piece fast became one of Serbia’s most popular poems. Despite her hardships, Maksimovic lived to be 94 years old, passing away in 1993.

Exploring the Serbian Capital.

Desanka Maksimovic Serbian poet.

Desanka Maksimović, pictured in 1975.

A short while later, Sladja introduced me to another of Serbia’s celebrated writers, a certain Milorad Pavic. Although he was also a poet and the writer of numerous short stories, he is best known for the 1984 novel Dictionary of the Khazars.

Milorad Pavic Statue Serbian writer.

Tasmajdan Park, Belgrade.

Next, came the unexpected sight of a headless Don Quixote atop his faithful, battered horse Rocinante. It’s a curious and somewhat grisly sculpture by Jovan Soldatović. The piece shows off the artist’s signature approach, which often mixed figurative and abstract elements with the surreal. We couldn’t help but wonder where Quixote’s chatty companion Sancho Panza was.

Don Quixote Statue in Belgrade by Jovan Soldatovic

Tasmajdan Park, Belgrade.

Naturally, there are some war memorials too. Without Sladja, I’d have had little clue as to what or who they were dedicated to. The first, pictured below, honours Serbian victims of war between 1991-2000. A group called Families of Missing Persons from the Territory of Former Yugoslavia were behind the memorial, unveiled in August 2010.

Monument for Serbian War Victims 1991-2000 Tasmajdan Park Belgrade

Tasmajdan Park, Belgrade.

The much more decorative Monument to Milica Rakić and the Children Killed in the Nato Bombing certainly demands your attention. We Were Just Children, states the memorial, funded by the tabloid newspaper Večernje novosti. It laments the young lives lost in the infamous NATO Air Raids of 1999.

Tasmajdan Park, Belgrade.

We Were Just Children Nato Bombing Memorial in Belgrade

Tasmajdan Park, Belgrade.

The girl on the memorial stone represents Milica Rakić, a 3 year old Serb killed by shrapnel which flew into the bathroom of her Belgrade home. The girl’s death was a tragic consequence of NATO’s bombing of Batajnica Air Base, located nearby. She had been sitting on a training potty when the shrapnel entered the bathroom, killing her instantly.

Milica Rakić Serbian victim of NATO bombing in 1999

Milica Rakić (1996-1999).

Finally, we paused to observe the unusual Monument to the Bulgarian Legion Who Fought the Turks in Belgrade. The memorial says a heartfelt thank you to those Bulgarians who, in the summer of 1862, pitched in to help defend Belgrade Fortress from the invading Turks. The two dudes featured on the memorial stone are the legion’s founder Georgi Rakovski and the revered revolutionary Vasil Levski.

Monument to the Bulgarian legion Tasmajdan Park Belgrade

Tasmajdan Park, Belgrade.

Well fed with the park’s abundance of history and art, it was definitely time for us to rest our legs. Thus we found a bench that offered a bit of shade and kicked back for a bit to watch the world go by.

Visit Tasmajdan Park in Belgrade.

Tasmajdan Park, Belgrade.

As luck would have it, there was an ice cream vendor nearby. He was a kindly, gravelly voiced gentlemen who took a keen interest in Sladja and her odd, foreign companion. Fishing our chosen chocolate delights from his freezer, he smiled and asked if I was “a potential son-in-law” or “just a guest”. Following some communal laughter, Sladja replied “Well, he’s on a trial period”. To which the man merely smiled and shot me a sympathetic look.

Exploring the Serbian Capital.

Ice Cream vendor in Belgrade.

Tasmajdan Park, Belgrade.

Back on the park’s stone pathways, we eventually came across Tash Inn Hostel. My first thought was wow, what a great location. Unfortunately, when I looked into its online reviews, the general consensus is that it’s a big old dump. Nevertheless, Tash seems like a good budget option if you’re not fussy and want to base yourself in central Belgrade.

The Tash Inn Hostel in Belgrade.

Tash Inn Hostel.

In another corner of the park, we stopped to consider one last memorial, The Why Monument. It stands in remembrance of the 16 RTS (Radio Television of Serbia) workers who died when NATO bombed the National Television Building on the 23rd of April 1999.

RTS Building bombing memorial in Belgrade

Tasmajdan Park, Belgrade.

Erected by the families of those who perished, the memorial stands in a powerful location just across the road from the building itself. It is a sobering sight, a blackened shell that’s been deliberately left just as it was in order to serve as a memorial.

It’s another depressing chapter of Serbian war history that makes for grim reading. Especially when one learns that in 2002, RTS general manager Dragoljub Milanović was sentenced to ten years in prison. Why? He had failed to evacuate the building after repeated NATO threats that a bombing was imminent.

Tasmajdan Park, Belgrade.

Bombed out RTS Building in Belgrade

The shell of the former RTS headquarters.

There are a number of lovely cafes to unwind in around Tasmajdan Park. The first we tried was Giordino, a fine spot for cooked breakfasts, pancakes, burgers, pizzas, beers, wines and cocktails.

Giordino Cafe Tasmajdan Park Belgrade

Tasmajdan Park, Belgrade.

For elevated views, we made our way up to the popular rooftop terrace. On one side there are great vantage points across the park itself.

Giordino Rooftop Cafe Belgrade.

A summer’s afternoon at Giordino’s.

On the other side, one can gaze across the dramatic Tasmajdan Swimming Pool. Dating back to 1961, the pool is part of Tašmajdan Sports and Recreation Center, which has facilities for football, hockey and basketball. In addition to sport, it has also served as a concert venue for the likes of Ray Charles, Elton John and Tina Turner.

Tasmajdan Swimming Pool Belgrade

Tasmajdan Swimming Pool.

We also had some cool drinks at Poslednja Sansa (Last Chance Cafe), where the tables and chairs spill out into the park near a row of trees. It’s a lovely little spot.

Poslednja Sansa Cafe in Tasmajdan Park Belgrade

Tasmajdan Park, Belgrade.

Unfortunately, friendly service in the cafes and restaurants of Belgrade is not always a given. Indeed poor reviews on this front seem to be plentiful for The Last Chance, though we didn’t have any problems ourselves.

Exploring the Serbian Capital.

Chilling out in Tasmajdan Park in Belgrade

Sladja at Poslednja Sansa.

One could be forgiven for thinking that we had finally seen all of Tasmajdan Park’s delights. And yet, we still had to tick off its most dominant landmark. Hence we downed the last of our drinks and set off towards the handsome Serbo-Byzantine towers of St. Mark’s Church.

Visit St Mark's Church in Belgrade.

St. Mark’s Church.

Like this? Check out my many articles from across Belgrade.

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  • Toonsarah

    I’ve not been to Belgrade so this was an interesting read. Sadly the number of war memorials is testament to the troubled history of this region, but the park looks lovely nevertheless.

    May 15, 2022 - 10:04 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Sarah, hope this new series gives you a bit of inspiration for a potential Belgrade visit. You just can’t get away from the war stuff, it’s absolutely everywhere right across the country. Thanks for reading and for kicking off the comment thread.

      May 15, 2022 - 10:19 am Reply
  • Lookoom

    Tasmajdan Park is a good example of one of those great parks which, through their monuments, retrace the whole history of a city or a country, some elements of which are sometimes a little forgotten by its own inhabitants. This week, I was passing through the El Retiro park in Madrid which fulfils the same role, what a nice history lesson for these classes of children who were listening with a distracted ear. Thanks for sharing.

    May 15, 2022 - 12:08 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Quite right, I also remember fondly the delights of El Retiro Park. Glad you appreciated this look into Serbian history and culture, cheers for the contribution!

      May 15, 2022 - 12:16 pm Reply
  • Sustain |

    A good post. Thank you 😊

    May 15, 2022 - 2:14 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading!

      May 15, 2022 - 2:16 pm Reply
  • kagould17

    Looks like an amazing place to visit with a potential significant other. So glad you got such a personal tour. I imagine the peace of the park was a bit sobering with so much dark history, but every society needs to recall what it is to be free and how they got there. Thanks for sharing Leighton. Happy Sunday to you and Sladja. Allan

    May 15, 2022 - 2:23 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Allan, it is a handsome park with so much to take in. 15 months later, when we came back to Serbia to actually live in Belgrade, this is where I used to come jogging. Like most world capitals it’s a beast of a city full of traffic, noise, trash and endless construction. This makes the park an essential respite for the people.

      May 15, 2022 - 2:29 pm Reply
  • Memo

    What a lovely way to spend a day in a new city. Terrific weather, flowers in bloom, personal guide. Certainly a day to remember. Now I have to find a translation of Desanka Maksimović. Sounds like an interesting person. Rather a sad comment that so many of our memorable writers and events are connected to war. It’s one thing to never forget and another thing to actually learn something from it. BTW, I’m glad that you received a favorable verdict in your trial.

    May 15, 2022 - 2:28 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ha ha, I’m sure the ice cream vendor would have been happy for me. I think you’re right about many of the best writers and poets, their work often seems to be born out of the worst of humanity. I’m excited to have kicked off this series Memo, there is much to come over the next weeks.

      May 15, 2022 - 2:32 pm Reply
  • Mike and Kellye Hefner

    Nice post! Since I will probably never get to Belgrade, I thoroughly enjoyed the photos and commentary.

    May 15, 2022 - 3:25 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey guys, thanks for reading and getting in touch. This is the fist article in an extensive series on Belgrade. Hope you enjoy some more along the way.

      May 15, 2022 - 3:27 pm Reply
  • Rebecca

    What a beautiful park, along with the rich and poignant war memorials throughout. Tasmajdan Park is certainly a blend of nature and history, and Sladja was the perfect guide for you. Never been to Belgrade, but it’d been on my list when I was still living in France (just never made it around, sadly). Sounds like your time at Tasmajdan was good omen to you and Sladja’s marriage just a couple of years later!

    May 15, 2022 - 4:21 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Rebecca, it’s a fine park and I know I would have lost out on most of the interesting stuff behind it without Sladja. We simply cannot believe that it’s coming up to three years ago since that trip. Definitely a case of better late than never with blogging it all up. We’re glad that you’ll be along for the journey!

      May 15, 2022 - 6:30 pm Reply
  • Monkey's Tale

    Nice to have a personalized tour with your own local guide 🙂 So many monuments in the park, and such a troubled past. I’ve never been to Serbia and not sure if I ever will, so thanks for the walk in the park. Maggie

    May 15, 2022 - 5:44 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Maggie, I hope you enjoy the series, which has been quite an undertaking I must say. Hope you are both well on your side of the globe, summer is on the way!

      May 15, 2022 - 6:32 pm Reply
  • Little Miss Traveller

    I hope to get an opportunity to visit Belgrade at some point so it’s especially interesting for me to read this series of posts. The park appears to be an oasis of calm in a busy city and looks pleasant with its cafes, shady places to sit and war memorials to reflect on its troubled past. A strange name for a cafe ‘ The Last Chance’ do you know of its significance? Maybe there isn’t another one for some distance? A lovely photo of Sladja too!

    May 15, 2022 - 5:50 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Marion, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the series which I’ve had to split into parts. This current batch will relate to my initial trip back in 2019. The second bunch for the year we spent living there after Cambodia and Turkey. ‘The Last Chance’, Sladja believes, simply relates to a Serbian expression rather than anything more significant. She also says it’s a popular name for cafes and restaurants across the country.

      May 15, 2022 - 6:37 pm Reply
  • Lyssy In The City

    I find it amazing how such beautiful places can have such dark histories that the average person doesn’t even know about. I wonder how many things I walk past that have such a history that I have no idea of, good and bad. But I think a park is a great place to chat early on in a relationship and what a lovely tour guide you have 🙂

    May 15, 2022 - 10:41 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Aw, thanks Lyssy. You’re right, there are stories abound all around us everywhere we go. Some well documented, others just hinted at and so many lost completely. I’m so glad Sladja was able to lift the veil on the stuff that I otherwise would have been clueless about.

      May 15, 2022 - 11:59 pm Reply

    An unforgettable summer for you. We haven’t been to Belgrade either but our several visits to the Balkan have all been really enjoyable and actually very varied too. Belgrade is a city we’d like to see soon, especially after reading this post.

    May 16, 2022 - 6:48 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for checkin in guys, I’ve got a whole chunk of posts coming out on Belgrade over the next weeks, so hope you get more ideas for a Belgrade stay!

      May 16, 2022 - 9:44 am Reply
  • travelling_han

    I’ve never been to Belgrade, but it looks like such an interesting place 🙂

    May 16, 2022 - 10:04 am Reply
    • Leighton

      It’s a fascinating city in many respects.

      May 16, 2022 - 10:16 am Reply
  • wetanddustyroads

    I can see why this park in Belgrade must have a special place in your heart … lovely memories! Great pictures of the two elderly sitting on the bench (and a sad one of the homeless guy). To see war memorials, are always touching – shame, that poor little girl. ‘Trial period’ … that’s a good one Sladja 😁. Lovely picture of Sladja (and the church) …

    May 16, 2022 - 11:38 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Corna, thanks for joining me at the start of this new Belgrade series. In many ways I feel the trial period never truly ends. Just that one ended and another began 😉 Just kidding!

      May 16, 2022 - 1:21 pm Reply
  • grandmisadventures

    What a delight to get a small glimpse into the beginning of such a beautiful love story. And that picture of Sladja is stunning! Interesting to read on the different memorials and statues there around town and the sadness they carry. But Don Quixote without his head is a little unnerving.

    May 16, 2022 - 3:51 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Aw, thanks Meg. I guess this piece throws up a real contrast between the warmth between us and the grimness of the history on display. And yeah, Don Quixote is better with a head.

      May 16, 2022 - 5:56 pm Reply
  • NortheastAllie

    That is a beautiful story with Sladja! The Tasmajdan Park looks like a very interesting and historical park in Belgrade!

    May 16, 2022 - 5:56 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thank you Allie for your lovely message. There’ll be plenty more Belgrade adventures on these pages over the next weeks.

      May 16, 2022 - 5:57 pm Reply
  • ourcrossings

    Such a beautiful park. I would love to explore Belgrade one day as it looks like an authentic place full of contrasts and culture. Thanks for the tour, Leighton and have a good day 🙂 Aiva

    May 16, 2022 - 8:39 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      So glad Belgrade appeals Aiva, it’s a place so many people know next to nothing about. Hope you enjoy the series!

      May 16, 2022 - 9:04 pm Reply
  • Fashion Princess

    Such a beautiful and stunning park 😍

    May 17, 2022 - 7:26 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Glad you liked it, thanks for visiting!

      May 17, 2022 - 8:34 am Reply
  • WanderingCanadians

    Tasmajdan Park looks like a neat place to go for a stroll and spend the afternoon. I’d say this area is much better served as a park than a quarry. I love all the greenery and summer flowers. Sounds like there’s so much history here. Good thing you had a local guide to provide more background.

    May 17, 2022 - 11:58 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for checking in! I’ve really enjoyed putting this series together, as Belgrade doesn’t seem to get much blog coverage online. Thanks for reading!

      May 17, 2022 - 12:03 pm Reply
  • Travels Through My Lens

    Nice tribute to a beautiful park, and with a lovely tour guide. So much tragedy though, and so many sad events. Thanks for sharing.

    May 17, 2022 - 2:20 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading, as ever, and for getting in touch. Tamajdan Park was a great start to an unforgettable fortnight exploring the Serbian capital.

      May 17, 2022 - 3:30 pm Reply
  • ThingsHelenLoves

    The park looks beautiful, but if feels a bit flippant just to say that when it’s also home to so many meaningful memorials. I need to dive into the history of this part of the world, I don’t know much about the conflict that has played out here.

    Love the line about being ‘just’ a guest or a potential in-law and a trial period. As Mum of three daughters, I’ll store that away for possible future use!

    May 18, 2022 - 1:08 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Helen, I hope you enjoy my Belgrade series. It’s been a lot of work, but a huge amount of fun reliving that fortnight. Can’t believe it’s already been three years.

      May 18, 2022 - 1:14 pm Reply
  • rkrontheroad

    An excellent piece of storytelling… I was romanced by the opening photo and views of the park, then devastated by the stories of WWII. You have gone back and forth between the pleasant and the sad history. I do like the photo of the two older men on the bench, and again was delighted to see writers celebrated.

    May 26, 2022 - 6:59 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Glad you were charmed by this lovely park Ruth. I love the idea of us finding that old ice cream seller one day and telling him everything worked out great.

      May 26, 2022 - 7:15 pm Reply
      • rkrontheroad

        I’m sure he’d be pleased! ☺

        May 26, 2022 - 7:29 pm
  • greggreuben1

    Very interesting! Thanks for sharing.

    June 14, 2022 - 9:39 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for your comment!

      June 14, 2022 - 9:43 pm Reply
  • David Skudder

    Beautiful photos! Thank you for sharing your adventure.

    July 6, 2022 - 12:43 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading and leaving a comment!

      July 6, 2022 - 1:00 am Reply

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