I love to explore the underground of a city. Nothing is so diverse and so full of history like a tour into the underground. The Belgrade underground hasn’t been open to the public for long so I am thrilled that we were able to take part in a tour as part of a cooperation with the Tourist Organization Belgrade.
Our guide Milan was already waiting for us when we finished lunch at Kalemegdan Park. Together with him, we set off to see some of the spots that are now part of the underground tours in Belgrade.
He led us to the fortress of Belgrade. This is where we started the tour that he said would take 2 to 3 hours.
Roman Well or Big Well
The “Big Well” was created during the baroque reconstructions in the city conducted by the Austrians. A well was built between 1717 and 1731 to ensure access to water for the fortress even in times of crisis. Digging for water, however, turned out to be a hopeless endeavour. They did not find any. It was decided to repurpose the new well and to turn it into a dungeon.
The alternative name “Roman Well” appeared in documents in the 19th century. Researchers found that this well was never actually spring-fed. Instead, water from the surface was channelled into the well which thus was more a tank from which the people pumped up water.
The visit to the well reminded me a little of our trip to the well in Quinta da Regaleira in Portugal. Here, too, a little corridor spirals downwards. It is unfortunately no longer possible to go down into the well. Some construction work is needed to ensure the safety of visitors first. But looking down from the edge is possible. It is so dark in the well that I was not able to see the ground!
In the middle of the fortress are two little hills. Two air-raid shelters were discovered here. One has been reconstructed so that visitors can now see it from the inside.
The bunkers are from the 50s of the 20th century and until now no one really knows when exactly they were built and why they were placed here. Written on one of the bunker walls was the date October 1953. It is not clear whether or not the compound was ever actually used.
After another big group had left the bunker – only one group at a time is allowed in there – we took the stairs down into the underground of Belgrade.
To be honest, I was really pleased that only the two of us and the guide were down here. It is narrow and constricting in the long tunnel that led us to a small holding area. 4 foldable plank beds and the oxygen feed took up all the available space. Even with just the three of us, it was unbearably cramped. Turning around without bumping into something or someone was virtually impossible.
We move up one floor and stand where the anti-aircraft guns used to be. The little domeshaped room offers ever so slightly more space but should there have ever been anti-aircraft guns down here that were fully operational, it must have been so cramped, stuffy and unbearably loud.
A depressing location and I am relieved to see the light of day again.
The third stop on our tour through the Belgrade underground was an old powder magazine, built between 1718 and 1720 during the Austrian reconstruction of the fortress.
We enter a tunnel that leads to two rooms. In the mid-1800s the powder magazine was additionally surrounded by a thick, protective wall. What visitors get to see is a large space that resembles a storage room. The walls are massive – obviously to protect the surrounding areas against harm should the ammunition that was stored here ever explode uncontrollably.
No ammunition is stored here anymore today, of course. The National Museum of the city stores Roman sarcophagi, tombstones and stone altars here since 1970. There are some remarkable pieces amongst them, stemming from different historical epochs. They are mostly random findings from Belgrade and other Serbian places.
Discovered in the Belgrade underground: Lagum
The finale of the tour was a visit to a Lagum.
Lagums are subterranean corridors of caves underneath Savamala, along Karadordeva Street. They were dug into the hills in the 19th century and used to store the goods that were unloaded from the ships on the Danube.
Many of the Lagums are mere storage rooms today or even deteriorated. But some are still in good condition and one of them is now home to a wine tavern. We finished our tour there, a glass of wine in our hands.