On Monday April 29, our first day in Belgrade we visited the old Belgrade Fortress that overlooks the confluence of the Danube and Sava Rivers. The Fortress site is as old as Belgrade itself dating back to the founding of the city in 3 B.C. as Singidunum by a Celtic-like tribe that won over other groups in the area that tried to defend the strategic location and build forts at the site. The next group to take the Singidunum site were the Romans who saw it as an important place to defend their growing empire from the barbarians in the eastern frontier including Goths and Huns of whom Attila the Hun was the greatest threat and who took Belgrade and advanced across much of Europe before his death in 453 AD. One legend tells a story of Attila’s grave hidden somewhere under the fortress or along the perimeter where the waters of the Sava and Danube Rivers may have covered his last resting place that is unknown to history.
Belgrade Fortress has a long history after Attila as it remained a key place in the Balkans between the the Western Roman Empire and Byzantium Empires, Slavic kingdoms including Serbs and Bulgarians and others who wanted to control the “White Fortress” as it became known after 878 AD. Wars continued in the region until Belgrade Fortress was taken by the Turks in 1521 and other than a few short periods it remained part of the Ottoman Empire until 1867. Today the name of the park in which the fortress sits, Kalemegdan Park is a combination of Turkish words meaning fortress (Kale) and battlefield (Meydan) recognizing the many battles that occured at the fortress and its surrounding areas.
In recent years a special event called the “Belgrade Race Through History’ is a 6K elite by invitation only footrace with a limited number of runners that follows a course through the winding trails of Kalemegdan Park and cobblestone paths in Belgrade Fortress. We walked a part of this trail of history on a very hot Monday and stopped for lunch at a wonderful restaurant in the fortress overlooking the Danube.