Quick Stops in Serbia and Bosnia
Although we had a little over 3 weeks in Romania, we still missed a few places, one being Bucharest, but alas,we were to meet friends in Dubrovnik and we were running out of time.
With that, we planned on a few nights to reach Dubrovnik, so we needed to determine our stops, and one we knew we would want to visit was Nis. This town in Serbia was one of the oldest cities in Serbia.
As we drove to the border, we didn't expect that it would take us longer than expected, but 3 hours later we arrived in Nis, staying at a hotel close to the old town. Like so many cities and towns in this area, it dates back to the Roman times and this one was no different. The Romans overtook the city back in 75 BC and it was also the place where Constantine the Great lived, the first Christian Emperor, and founder of Constantinople. Your history lesson for the day.
We weren’t here for those reasons, although quite interesting, we wanted to visit the town to see the Skull Tower and the Red Cross Concentration camp. Upon arrival we headed to the Skull tower as it would be closed the following day. As usual museums in Europe tend to be closed on Mondays.
We arrived to the small like building which resembled an old church which originally held about 950 skulls, however nowadays there is only about 50 skulls to see. The skulls were of Serbians who resisted and lost in a battle with the Turks. There are two stories - one states the General of the Ottoman Empire had those men killed, beheaded and skinned, before hanging them out for all to see in hopes of scaring others who may want to attack their city, while the other was that the Serbian leader knew they would be killed, decided he would blow up their ammunition reserves, killing himself and his army to avoid capture, and also taking out a few hundred Turks as well.
Pretty creepy but interesting history.
The following day we hiked up to the Bubanj Memorial Park which itself has a very depressing story. Although ominous, it is important to see. On this memorial site this where the Nazi’s killed approximately 10,000 people, men, women and children. The three structures are different sizes representing the afore mentioned victims. As we wandered through the memorial we could here thunder not to far in the distance which also added to the eeriness.
Back to the center of town to grab a bite to eat, and see some old buildings which were clearly built during communist times.
There is a quaint pedestrian street full of restaurants and bars, so there was plenty options for dining. We opted to go to a traditional restaurant and splurged a bit. Mark ate some stuffed meat of some sort and I had the baked beans and sausage, together with a bottle of water and wine, worked out to be a little under $30.
The next day we went to the Red Cross Concentration camp, near our hotel. The name given to the name of this concentration camp was due to the proximity of the local Red Cross chapter. Established in 1941 as a concentration camp, this held Serbs, Jews and Romanians. There were 4 categories of prisoners, one was for every 1 German killed 100 were to be executed, the next Jews, the next for those cooperating with military units under Tito, and the last those cooperating with the local military.
For anyone interested in history, I would recommend visiting Nis.
After 2 nights in Nis, we headed to Visegrad, Bosnia, however there would be a couple pit stops to focusing on WWII memorials. One Mark wanted to visit and one which I wanted to see.
The first one Popina Memorial Park, which was somewhat neglected in terms of upkeep, was dedicated to those who fought in WWII.
After climbing to see this memorial and snapping photos we then went to see Kadinjaca Memorial park dedicated to those who resisted Nazi occupation. This one was extremely impressive but alas we didn’t stay long started to visit, as soon as we walked up to it the rains came. Mother nature wasn’t holding back, so it was a quick visit, but at least we got to see it.
Crossed over the border fairly quick, and enjoyed the lovely drive through the jagged mountains to our hotel.
Visegrad is a little town with some historical value. When we originally decided to stay here, the decision was made for this town due to the length of drive from Nis to Dubrovnik, and the town was in the middle. Made sense for us.
We didn't realize the significance of this town. The history of this town was made famous by a beautiful bridge, named Mehmed Pasa Sokolovic Bridge, built during the Ottoman Empire over 400 years ago. The author Ivo Andric, a Nobel Laureate, who wrote "Bridge on the Drina" (the river) helped drive the tourists to visit this town.
The town is also known as having the most expensive railway in the world back in the early 1900’s. The cost was over 75 million gold crowns during the Astro-Hungarian time frame.. The railway was to connect this region to Sarajevo, and today Visegrad is part of the narrow gauge heritage railway.
On a side note, this town was heavily looted and shelled during the Bosnian war back in the 1990's, with many Bosnians killed and then thrown off the historic bridge into the Drina river.
Although a short stay it was a great choice to overnight before our destination to Dubrovnik.
On the way to Dubrovnik we had one last memorial monument that we stopped to see, the Tjentiste War Memorial. This memorial was under renovation, as the area around it was being rebuilt and we could see new steps being put into place. We aren't sure who is paying, or why this memorial is being upgraded, as it is a distance from any of the major tourist cities, but it was impressive to see.