As the end of a peculiar winter without much frost and snowflakes comes near and before the nature completely wakes up and starts exuding its lovely smells, we embark on the journey of exploring our towns. The road takes us to the northeast of Serbia, to the centre of the Braničevo District. To the city bordered by three rivers – the Danube, the Velika Morava, and the Mlava, at the foot of the Čačalica hill. To the hometown of Serbian Frida Kahlo.
1. Because horses are friendly in the Ljubičevo stud farm
A few kilometres before arriving to Požarevac, we stop at the Ljubičevo stud farm, one of the oldest in Serbia. It was founded by Miloš Obrenović in 1853. A few years later, he donated the stud farm with horses to the Serbian people. It was named by his son Mihailo, in honour of her mother Ljubica. It’s a quite large estate. The stables are divided into the one with race horses, where there are already experienced competition horses, and the one with breeding horses, which houses mainly mares in foal and those that have already foaled. A lot of horses are pretty friendly. They look at you softly with their dark, deep eyes, neigh briefly, and offer their necks to be cuddled. Future champions are trained in the riding hall, and on the spacious fenced meadows, these graceful animals are allowed to rest, graze grass, and run around. Wherever you turn, you will see these noble animals. Among them, there is even one made of white stone placed outdoors. It’s the pride of the farm, named Ljubičevac, the undefeated galloper.
In addition to horseback riding and spending time with horses, children can have fun in the adventure park, while adults can walk along the landscaped paths, exercise on the trim track with an outdoor gym, and freshen up in the café and restaurant. There is also the Trophy Hall, but it is not always open for visitors. Stallion registers are kept in the administrative building. The oldest one dates back to 1926. The most lively period is early September when the famous Ljubičevo Equestrian Games are organized. The winners are knighted. It’s a great place to spend a day in nature with thoroughbred horses. Remember to bring along some treats for the beauties.
2. Because Požarevac is the city of Prince Miloš
At the entrance we are greeted by the sign “Požarevac 1476”. This is the year it was mentioned for the first time in the Ottoman cadastral tax census (defter). It became known in the world after the signing of the Treaty of Požarevac in 1718. There are several legends about the origin of the city’s name. In the most vivid one, the main protagonist is despot Vuk Grgurević from the Branković lineage, known as Zmaj Ognjeni Vuk (Vuk the Fiery Dragon). An Ottoman commander named Ali Bey plundered his court. As he feared a duel with the despot, he escaped across the Morava River and hid in the reed. Vuk could not find the Ottoman commander, so he became enraged and burned all the reeds. According to tradition, Ali Bey burned to death, and the place where he died in the fire was called Požarevac (“požar” means “fire” in Serbian). According to another legend, the city was named after the village of Požerane near Gnjilane, the homeland of the families that first inhabited the present-day area of the city.
The people of Požarevac are very proud of Prince Miloš. He liberated the city from the Ottomans in the Second Serbian Uprising, developed squares, built houses for his family and himself, and made it his second capital. During the time of Miloš, the city flourished. In gratitude, a monument was made for Miloš that occupies a central place in the city park in front of today’s City Assembly. A magnificent building, built at the end of the 19th century. It is one of the most beautiful examples of construction skills at the time. It truly is. Next to the park, there is a pedestrian street, quite short and not very interesting. There are several important religious buildings. Among the most significant ones, there is the Church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel, also known as the Cathedral Church, built by Miloš in 1819. Today it is a cultural monument. The Church of St. Petka Paraskeva is one of the largest temples in the world dedicated to this saint.
There is no shortage of cultural buildings either. The Legacy of Miodrag Marković, who collected works of art and donated them to his hometown at the end of his life, presents the Serbian painting of the 20th century. It’s small, but significant. Items from the period of the First and Second Serbian Uprising are exhibited in the House of the Dobrnjac Family. It was built at the end of the 19th century on a plot that the descendants of Duke Petar Dobrnjac donated to Požarevac. It is currently being renovated. The Museum of Cultural History presents a typical house of a rich merchant family, a civic elite from the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, equipped with stylish furniture and art objects. One should also walk to the horse racetrack, one of the oldest sports facilities in Serbia. There is a lot to see and learn in Požarevac. Not far from the city, there is the archaeological site of Viminacium, a Roman military camp and a city that lived from the 1st to the beginning of the 7th century. Take some time to drop by the former capital of the Roman province of Moesia Superior.
3. Because Milena’s home is the soul of this painting diva
She was the daughter of the Italian composer Bruno Barilli and an educated Serbian woman, Danica Pavlović. She was born in Požarevac, educated in Belgrade and the big cities of Europe, and she lived in various cities. Educated, polyglot, exceptionally gifted, free-spirited, and uninhibited, she walked miles ahead of her time and surroundings. She sought recognition for her work outside her homeland, and she was therefore reproached for not being patriotic. But the letters to her mother testify exactly to the opposite. “You know, Mom, there’s one flame at the bottom of my soul that never goes out – it’s always alive, it’s flickering, and that’s Serbianhood!” She also made it to America where she painted and created costumes for ballet performances and covers for fashion magazines, including Vogue, which is still the most respected magazine. The house is which Milena was born was bequeathed by her mother Danica to the city of Požarevac. The Art Gallery of Milena Pavlovic-Barilli is located in the city centre. Original furniture, personal items, a library, and Milena’s paintings are on display.
Surreal, dreamy, poetic. Warm, melancholic, layered, each with a deep message. They can be watched and absorbed for hours. She died in New York at the age of 36. Her final resting place is in Rome. The world diva. She gained her fame abroad, but her soul longed for her native soil: “I do not love any city as I love Belgrade in the early morning, and nowhere does the sky look as beautiful at night as from our garden!” Milena wrote to her mother.
4. Because the National Museum in Požarevac is the heritage of several unique pieces
It was founded at the end of the 19th century and is the second oldest museum in Serbia, preceded only by the one in Belgrade. It covers the territory of the Braničevo District and preserves more than 50,000 museum objects from various historical periods.
The main building of the museum is in the city centre. Particularly interesting is the lapidarium where more than 100 stone monuments from the 1st to the 4th century are exhibited. The place of honour belongs to a sarcophagus from the third century decorated with a rich relief. It also preserves several world unique items, including the Roman calamus pen, which was used to write on wax plates, a unique numismatic collection, and the coat of arms of Viminacium made of marble. Frescoes from Viminacium, objects made of all types of metal, and interesting pieces of jewellery are also on display. The museum takes a particular pride in the Idol of Kličevac, a female figurine of a pagan deity from the Bronze Age, made of black clay. It was found in the nearby village of Kličevac. Its copies are on display because the original figurine was destroyed during the Austrian bombing of Belgrade in World War I, when the building of the National Museum where it was kept was destroyed. The figurine adorns the coat of arms of the city. Due to its small space, the exhibition is not large, but it boasts a wide variety. A headless sculpture is placed on the porch in front of the entrance, so one can be photographed in antique style in order to preserve the memory of the museum.
5. Because history resides in the Tulba ethnic theme park
On a hill above the city there is a small museum in nature that shows the traditional values of the folk architecture of the Braničevo District of the 19th century. A garden, a well, a log cabin with furniture of the time, a few more country houses, and a barn for storing grain. A monoxylon is placed in the courtyard, which is assumed to be from the 18th century. It is also a viewpoint with a beautiful view of the surrounding area.
Within the ethnic theme park, a red tent was erected to commemorate the Treaty of Požarevac, which earned the city a place in the world history. It was signed near Požarevac, on the Sopot hill in 1718, between the Ottoman Empire on one side, and the Habsburg Monarchy and the Venetian Republic on the other, with the mediation of England and the Netherlands. With this document, a part of Serbia was attached to Austria. Inside the tent, which was made according to the preserved drawings, a table was placed at which the wax figures of the negotiators and the guards – the Janissary and an Austrian soldier – are sitting. They are all dressed in the fashion of the epoch. The flags of the participating countries have also been placed, so one can choose which empire to side with.
6. Because Čačalica is a park above the ossuary
Once a swampy, impassable area, often called “no man’s hill”, today is an oasis of greenery and peace and a favourite excursion site for people from Požarevac. Deciduous and coniferous forests, meadows covered by molehills, and long hiking trails. Pretty clean and quiet. You can hear the birds chirping and the bees buzzing.
Silence befalls it, for there is an ossuary beneath the ground. In World War II, the occupier cut down the forest and turned it into a hill of death. Thousands of freedom fighters were shot. After the war, the hill was afforested, and several monuments were built to the fallen freedom fighters. The monument to the patriots executed by shooting in the period of 1941-1944 was made in the form of a wall with rifle dents. The ossuary, 441 birch trees brought from Russia, and red roses planted in the memory of the Red Army fighters. At the top, there is the Monument to Freedom, which is also called the Star because of its shape. A metal structure on a concrete slab rises 32 meters to the sky. It’s an unusual memorial work. Unfortunately, it is defiled by graffiti.
7. Because at Drive Cafe restaurants we always take refreshing breaks
We always take the best break at Drive Cafe restaurants at one of NIS Petrol and Gazprom petrol stations. They are not difficult to find – it is a chain of about 300 petrol stations in Serbia and the region. We enjoy high-quality coffee during a brief break, and then continue our gastronomic adventure. Because, by getting acquainted with of local specialties, we also learn more about the history of the place itself.
8. Because carnivores need not worry in the safe house
After a walk through Požarevac and its surroundings, it would be good to have something to eat. The Sigurna Kuća (Safe House) restaurant, opposite the Tulba ethnic thematic park, was recommended to us. Inside, it is lively and noisy, quite a crowd. It must really be a favourite place for dining. The talkative waiter immediately approaches us and recommends a plate of mixed meat as a specialty of the house. Ćevapi, smoked pork neck, sausages, grilled minced meat, fried chicken, ribs… He tries not to forget anything. Meat is a must, as is the case in most Serbian taverns, we thought. In addition, the waiter remembered that there is a portion of “pihtije”, savoury aspic jelly, just enough for a “light” appetizer. Calories are bursting all over the place. We accept, comforting ourselves that it’s still winter, at least according to the calendar.