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Underground. Belgrade goes under.

A city underground. This idea was developed by Emir Kusturica – filmmaker born in Bosnia, raised on Islam, later converted to Christianity and self-proclaimed Serbian – in the movie Underground (1995), which showed the eventful recent history of the former Yugoslavia in a tragicomic point of view, with the protagonists create their own world underground to protect their interests, forgetting about the events above the ground. This is some kind of Plato’s cave where they live isolated while about the Nazis invade the territory, later Tito regime during the Cold War and finally the Yugoslavian war.

Located strategically between western and eastern territories, at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers and by the Adriatic, Aegean and Black seas, probably is the European city that has been devastated and rebuilt again the most. Serbian capital has been occupied about 38 times in the past 300 years. Austrians, Serbians and Germans have created all kind of structures in the territory that Belgrade occupies.

The insides - a tangle of tunnels, shafts, caves and bunkers - have always been there, preserved during all these wars and also created because of them. Most of the historical center is on archaeological sites and hundreds of meters of tunnels were built for many reasons, during thousands of years.

Since 2012, some of these secrets can be revealed in Belgrade - even most of them still remain closed to the public – in a trip through subterranean routes. Total, there are about 140 structures certified officially nowadays, which are allowed to be visited.

But for now is almost impossible to know how many elements can be found underground. One person that knows this well is Zoran Nikolic, cowriter of Beograd ispod Beograda (‘Belgrade under Belgrade’) where he reveals the secrets that he now also shows as specialized guide around this area.

Under the library in Belgrade

By the start of Knez Mihailova street the City Library can be found, located in a building that used to be the most famous hotel in Belgrade. In the underground floors there is the Roman room, with well-conserved rests of an old fortress and a collection of Roman sculptures and graves. The room is used for lectures, music concerts and other cultural events.

Under the Belgrade fortress

Kalemegdan, the great Fortress of Belgrade, is one of the seven fortifications that stand by the Danube, along Serbia and at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers. Here is where, according to the legend, Attila was buried. The fortress along to the Kalemegdan Park, become the most relevant historic-cultural complex in Belgrade.

Under the ground there is Barutana cave, a former Austrian military warehouse now used as archaeological museum, including pieces from Singidunum, the antique Roman city that used to be where Belgrade is now, including sarcophagi, tombstones and altars.

Bellow the park there is also a fascinating bunker, from the last days of the Soviet Union. Josip Broz Tito, Yugoslavian head of state, wanted to built a bunker after World War II to protect Belgrade of a possible Russian invasion.

Near the fortress, artificial caves where used as food warehouses. Nowadays, restaurants and cellars are located here, where there is never a need for air-conditioned.

Under Tašmajdan park

One of the most significant parts of the route is under the centric park of Tasmajdan, right bellow the Serbian Parliament. Bellow asphalt and concrete layers there are caves built by the Romans that were used centuries after for many purposes: during the Great War they were a warehouse for bombs and during World War II they were used as hidden headquarters by the Germans.

Picture from wikimapia.org

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