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Savamala is located south of the Kalemegdan fortress and the neighborhood of Kosančićev Venac, and stretches along the right bank of the Sava river. Its northern section belongs to the municipality of Stari Grad, while central and southern sections belong to the municipality of Savski Venac. The central street in the neighborhood is Karađorđeva.
Originally, the entire western section (Terazije slopes) of today's city center was called Savamala, roughly bounded by the modern streets and squares of Terazije, King Milan's, Slavija, Nemanjina and Prince Miloš'. The entire area was known as Zapadni Vračar, but that name completely disappeared from usage, while as Savamala today is considered only a section along the Karađorđeva street.
Today, the zone of “preventive protection Savamala” is bounded by the steeets: Brankova, Kraljice Natalije, Dobrinjska, Admirala Geprata, Balkanska, Hajduk Veljkov venac, Sarajevska, Vojvode Milenka, Savska, Karađorđeva, Zemunski put and the Branko's bridge. That means it encompasses the neighborhoods of Zeleni Venac and Terazijska Terasa.
Savamala was the first new settlement constructed outside the fortress walls of Kalemegdan. Construction began in the 1830s as ordered by the prince of Serbia, Miloš Obrenović, after a popular pressure to build a Serbian settlement outside the fortress and the Turkish settlement. The area was originally a bog called Ciganska bara (Serbian for Gypsy pool), but the name was later changed (and still survived as such) to Bara Venecija (Venice pool). The pool was drained in 1884.
Prince Miloš relocated the city’s port from the Danube to the Sava river and the customs house, called Đumrukana was build around 1835. The prince issued a decree that “merchants and trade agents must settle along the Sava”. By 1841, when Đumrukana was adapted into the first regular theatre house in Belgrade, the commerce blossomed and the „Kovačević Han“ was build where the modern „Bristol“ hotel is. „Beogradski mali pijac“ (Belgrade’s little green market) was established at the center of Savamala and with the Karađorđeva street, became the focal point of city’s commerce. Storages and shops were abundant and the most esteemed merchants in Belgrade began buying lots and building houses: the Krsmanović brothers, Rista Paranos, Konstantin Antul, Luka Ćelović and Đorđe Vučo. State financially supported the construction of 46 shops, administrative building of the State Council (future “Odeon” cinema), building of the Ministry of Finance with the Financial Park and the Assencion Church. The first foreign consulate in Belgrade was opened in Savamala. It is recorded that in 1854, at the Liman section of Savamala (where the pillars of the Branko's Bridge are today), a trading caravan arrived with 550 big and 105 small camels. By the late 19th century, a tram line connected the peer with the Slavija Square.
Early 20the century was Savamala’s golden age. By 1914, it was the most densely populated area of Belgrade with arranged streets, primary school, first bank in Serbia and a quay along the bank of Sava was under construction. The area around the “Mali pijac” became to most prestigious one in the entire city and was affordable only to the wealthiest ones. Savamala was heavilly bombarded in both world wars and partially demolished in the World War II. After 1948, state and city authorities favored the construction of New Belgrade so Savamala lost the importance it had. It became a transport hub and a transit route for commercial traffic which made it even less desirable neighborhood to live in due to the noise and air pollution.
As a neglected neighboorhood, in the 1960’s Savamala became known for its local rascals, typical for the Belgrade at that time, when each neighborhood had ones. It had such a bad reputation that mothers would warn their misbehaving daughters that if they don’t act nice, they will “marry them into Savamala”.
Due to its relative low altitude toward the Sava, and lack of any protection, Savamala is the only part of the central urban area of Belgrade that gets flooded during the extremely high waters of the river. It was almost completely flooded in 1984 and during the major floods in 2006.
Although considered as one of the most neglected parts of downtown Belgrade (mostly due to the very bad maintenance of the Karađorđeva street and surrounding buildings), Savamala is the location of many important traffic features in the city: the Karađorđeva street itself (with a railway parallel to it and the tram tracks), two bridges over the Sava (Brankov most and (Stari) Savski most), Belgrade Main Bus Station and bus station of the Lasta transportation company, Belgrade Main railway station and the Sava port (Savsko pristanište). The area (squares and parks) around the bus and train stations is known for prostitution and pornographic cinemas, further contributing to the already poor image of the neighborhood.
Out of many kafanas and shops, only few survivied today. Kafana “Zlatna moruna” (Golden Beluga), built in the late 19the century, at the corner of the Kamenička and Kraljice Natalije streets, is one of the rare. Meeting point for the members of the revolutionary movement Young Bosnia prior to the World War I, it was restored in 2013. Confectionery store “Bosiljčić” in the Gavrila Principa street is the only one in Belgrade that still produces hand made candies. University of Belgrade’s Faculty of Economics is located in Savamala.
Lagums, underground corridors beneath the Savamala, which were used as wine cellars, and the little known Armenian cemetery which was located on the slope beneath the Hotel Moskva, fell into oblivion.
In April 2016 a controversy started about buildings that were suddenly demolished over night in Savamala. It is believed that this happened in order to make space for an Arabian finanaced project on the Belgrade Waterfront.
The population of Savamala (local communities of West Vračar, Gavrilo Princip, Zeleni Venac and Slobodan Penezić Krcun) was 23,781 in 2002 and 18,950 in 2011. It is estimated that in 2015, population of Savamala in its widest sense was around 35,000, which is only third of the population that lived in it in the 1950’s.
In the 2010’s few artistic enthusiasts began transforming Savamala into the new creative hub of Belgrade. Formerly representative buildings, but now completely dilapidated, became headquarters of the cultural organizations like Mixer house, Cultural Center “City” and Urban Incubator. They chronicled stories from the inhabitants about old Savamala and empolyed artists and designers to revitalize the area who painted many murals, renovated parks and made ice rinks. Also, they invited artists, architects and chefs from all over the world and organized exhibitions, work shops, concerts and lectures which are now held in Savamala almost on daily basis. With all this development, Savamala began attracting tourists and the night life was invigorated with many new performances, galleries, clubs and restaurants. They were joined by the Society for the ambiental protecion of Savamala which organizes yearly celebration of the Savamala Day.
Mixer House, moved to Savamala in 2012 from the neighborhood of Dorćol and organize regular Mixer House Festival which has over 10,000 visitors. Festival constists of movies, musical and artistic performances, lectures and exhibitions. Urban Incubator turned “Spanish House” into pavillion where they coordinated work shops, exhibitions, literary nights and seminars about architecture, urbanism, design, arts and culture. Mixer House announced it will move back to Dorćol in May 2017.
Savamala received worldwide attention due to its cultural renaissance. Articles about it were published in Financial Times and Wallstreet Journal, CNN devoted several reports to it, while The Guardian regularly follows the happenings in Savamala, placing it among top ten most inspirational places in the world.
Some of the best known landmarks of the neighborhood include:
|Manak’s House||corner of Gavrila Principa 7 and Kraljevića Marka 12||1830||cultural monument of exceptional importance from 1979||named after its owner, merchant Manak Mihailović; today part of Ethnography Museum|
|Mala Pijaca’s Cross||park next to the “Lasta” bus station||1862||cultural monument from 1987||merchant Ćira Hristić erected the black marble cross in memory of the fighters who died during the liberation of Belgrade from the Turks in 1806|
|Spanish House||Braće Krsmanović 2||1880||formerly one one of the most representative buildings in Belgrade, belonged to the Belgrade port, Serbian shipping society and was a Museum of the river shipping; today in ruins with only the outer skeleton of side walls existing|
|Belgrade Main railway station||Savski trg 1||1884||Von Vlatich, Dragutin Milutinović||cultural monument of exceptional importance from 1983|
|Belgrade Cooperative||Karađorđeva 48||1905-1907||Andra Stevanović, Nikola Nestorović||cultural monument of exceptional importance from 1979||often cited as one of the most beautiful buildings in Belgrade; fully restored in 2014|
|The House of Đorđe Vučo||Karađorđeva 61-61a||1908||Dimitrije T. Leko||cultural monument from 1997|
|Hotel Bristol||Karađorđeva 50||1910-1912||Nikola Nestorović||cultural monument from 1987|
- Daliborka Mučibabić & Dejan Aleksić (15–16 February 2015). "Savamala – četvrt umetnosti I tri četvrti noćnog života" (in Serbian). Politika. p. 21.
- Jelena Beoković, "Zaboravljeni život Savamale", Politika (in Serbian)
- The Collapse of the Rule of Law in Serbia: the “Savamala” Case, Pointpulse
- Belgrade Waterfront, The Guardian
- Popis stanovništva po mesnim zajednicama, Saopštenje 40/2002, page 4. Zavod za informatiku i statistiku grada Beograda. 26 July 2002.
- Stanovništvo po opštinama i mesnim zajednicama, Popis 2011. Grad Beograd – Sektor statistike (xls file). 23 April 2015.
- "Doviđenja, Savamala: Mixer House se seli na Dorćol" (in Serbian). Blic. 24 January 2017.
- Will Coldwell (7 February 2015). "Belgrade's Savamala district: Serbia's new creative hub". The Guardian.
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