Topčider

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Topčider (Serbian Cyrillic: Топчидер, Serbo-Croatian pronunciation: [tɔ̝̌pt͡ʃide̞r]) is a forest park and an urban neighborhood of Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. It is divided between in the municipalities of Čukarica, Rakovica and Savski Venac. Being close to downtown, it is one of the major locations for relaxation, picnics and fresh air for the citizens of Belgrade.

Location[edit]

Geographically, Topčider covers a much larger area than what people generally refer to as Topčider today. The eastern slopes of Topčidersko Brdo ("Topčider Hill") begin already at the Mostarska Petlja and the highway. The neighborhood of Senjak is located on the western, and Dedinje on the right side. This is where the street of Topčiderski Venac and the roundabout of Topčiderska zvezda ("Topčider star") are located. The southern slopes of the hill extends into the valley of the Topčiderska reka, a tributary to the Sava river. This is the area identified with the term Topčider. Topčider Park begins five kilometers south of downtown Belgrade and extends west, east and south into the old Topčider woods which itself extend west into the park-wood of Košutnjak. In the upper parts, Košutnjak and Topčider forests grow together, while in the lower parts they are divided by the Topčiderska reka and a railway passing through the river valley (both Košutnjak and Topčider have their own, separate train stations). In the extreme north-west Topčider extends into the neighborhood of Careva Ćuprija and in the south-east into Lisičji Potok. It also borders the neighborhood of Kanarevo Brdo in this section.

History[edit]

Milošev konak

During Ottoman times, the valley of Topčiderska reka and the Topčider wood were locations where the Turkish artillery was positioned, intended to defend Belgrade, being distant from the town itself at the time (thus many military barracks to defend the city from later periods, but the town later spawned tens of kilometers further). This is how the area got its name as in Turkish it means "artillery men's valley" (top, cannon; topçu, artillery man; dere, valley), though it is usually erroneously thought it means simply the cannon valley.

The history of the park itself begins in 1831 when the Prince of Serbia Miloš Obrenović started building his personal quarters in the swampy terrain of the Topčider, today one of the major attractions in Belgrade, the famous Milošev konak. The supervisor of the park's construction was Atanasije Nikolić. The importance which Topčider gained for the city population can be seen from the fact that in 1884 it got its own railway station even though it had no settlement of its own at the time and also one of the very first tram lines in Belgrade used to connect Terazije and Topčider. In 1926 the park was extended even closer to the city when the forestation of Topčidersko Brdo began, extending the original woods. International tender which was supposed to reconstruct Topčider by the standards of the then modern urbanism was halted by World War II.

After 1945 city urbanists considered that the way the Topčider-Košutnjak complex had been handled was wrong, especially the expansion of the railway station into the marshalling yard and the construction of Filmski Grad, so Belgrade's General Urbanistic Plan (GUP) in the 1950s projected the complete removal of the railway objects from the Topčider valley, but that was never executed.

Characteristics[edit]

Monuments[edit]

The largest London Plane
Obelisk

A stone church, inn and military complex were also constructed. Planting of trees also began, mostly London Plane (Platanus × acerifolia), which are today among the oldest ones in Europe. The biggest and oldest specimen, protected by the state, is 34 meters high and the diameter of the deck is 55 meters, while the shade of its crown covers an area of 1,400 square meters. Some sources claim it was planted in 1834 when prince Miloš ordered for a seedling to be planted in the lime kiln in front of the konak. Other, more reliable sources say the tree was planted in 1868, when 250 seedlings of Platanus were bought in Vienna, Austro-Hungary, for which a receipt still exist today.[1]

Even older is the almost 180-year-old pear tree, nicknamed kruška topčiderka ("pear of Topčider") [2] According to popular legend, it was planted by prince Miloš a few years after the konak was finished. He wanted to redeem to his wife princess Ljubica because of his frequent infidelities and in front of the pear seedling swore loyalty. It still bears fruits, so attempts are being made to produce its seedling in the greenhouse. The pear is surrounded by five pedunculate oak, all of which are over 100 years old.

Topčider was the first public park outside the central city area. Today it covers an area (with the Topčider and Košutnjak woods) of 3.46 km². Many other monuments are centered around the konak: the binjektaš stone ("hopping stone") which prince Miloš used to jump on a horse, the Museum of the First Serbian Uprising (in the konak itself), three public drinking fountains with an additional fourth one with lion's heads which was temporarily moved here, but restored in 1976 and returned to its original location in Terazije, and the stone obelisk erected in 1859, one of the first public monuments in Belgrade. A bronze monument to the Swiss doctor and philanthropist Archibald Reiss (by Marko Brežanin) was erected in 1931.

Other features[edit]

The northern section of Topčider is the location of the Topčider cemetery (with the Orthodox church of Saint Trifun) and the Banknotes printing office (Zavod za izradu novčanica), that is, the mint of the National Bank of Serbia. In the western section, bordering with Dedinje is Beli Dvor, a court of the Serbian former royal dynasty Karađorđević and the present residence of the pretender Aleksandar Karađorđević and his family.

Controversies[edit]

Traffic[edit]

There are threats of destroying certain parts of the park because the government is planning to build a tunnel in this area which will connect Autokomanda with this part of the city and hopefully solve many car traffic problems in Belgrade. Some environmental groups protested against this project, but the constructing of this tunnel still hasn't progressed further than the idea stage. During the summer of 2007[needs update], a general planning idea will be chosen by a tender held by the city government, and it remains to be seen if this plan wil contain a solution for park preservation.

Lisičji Potok[edit]

The easternmost section of Topčider is a heavily wooded area, so the expansion of the neighborhood of Lisičji Potok was limited. In the early 2000s, due to the political changes which caused a vacuum in all levels of government, private entrepreneurs without gaining regular permits cut down over 1,000 trees in the Topčider woods for the purpose of constructing vast apartment complexes.

Topčider incident[edit]

The vast secret military complex of "Karaš" (in Teodora Drajzera street) was built and dug into the hill from 1965 to 1980, with numerous barracks and kilometers of underground passages.

In October 2004, two young guards, Dragan Jakovljević and Dražen Milovanović, were found shot dead under highly mysterious circumstances. The first official army report stated that the two guards got into a fight; one got shot, and the other one committed suicide. The investigation was so obviously sloppy (videos were made public of investigators walking all over the non-secured crime scene, not using any precaution measures or security protocols, etc.) to the point of absurdity, including the notorious statement of then military prosecutor Vuk Tufegdžić who stated that no DNA tests were done because DNA is an "overrated thing" and that "people watch TV too much". Because of the serious rumours and intense public pressure, a more thorough investigation was initiated, this time headed by Božo Prelević, former interior minister of Serbia. His commission concluded that the two soldiers were shot by a third party but the exact situation has never been clarified, except that the commission reject almost all findings of the first, internal military investigation. Not having any solid evidence or conclusions, it is widely suggested by the press that the two guards were the witnesses of either a high-profile indictee (as it was suggested at the time, Ratko Mladić) of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, who was supposedly hiding in the undergrounds of the Topčider complex, or some criminal activities, like smuggling.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Vekovi u krošnjama", Politika (in Serbian), 2008-04-26: 32 
  2. ^ "Tajna gospođice sa Topčidera", Politika (in Serbian), 2008-04-26: 32 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 44°46′07″N 20°26′50″E / 44.76861°N 20.44722°E / 44.76861; 20.44722