Belgrade’s Rivers, Bridges, Islands, and Lakes

Savamala Clubs Sava River – serbia.com

Serbia is a country of rivers, lakes, valleys, and mountains. Each one “tells its own story”. I’ve been exploring Belgrade’s riverside and Savamala District on foot. Early spring weather is warm and beautiful – perfect for walking.

Ušće Park – Wikimapia.org

Transportation isn’t Belgrade’s forte. There’s no metro and traffic is heavy. Drivers are impatient and like honking their horns. Packed trolleybuses are slow and knowing where and when to catch them seems complicated. Taxi drivers are untrustworthy, and the transportation apps I’ve tried – Moovit, CarGo – didn’t work well. My apartment is well-located, so it’s easier and less stressful to walk. The most pressing issue is deciding where to go each day.

Building Savamala Neighborhood

Belgrade rests along the banks of two major rivers – the Sava and Danube. They “connect the city with the world and provide food, water, and recreation”. In addition to the two big rivers there are “192 smaller rivers and streams, a dozen lakes, 20 islands, 3 large beaches, and countless tiny inlets”!

French Embassy Near Sava River – lakwatsa.net

Savamala

Savamala is a lively neighborhood along the Belgrade riverside. Young people enjoy popular destinations like party riverboats and trendy nightclubs. The cobbled streets lead to Brankov Bridge, cafés, restaurants, galleries, and unique architecture.

Ušće District Sava River Statue of the Victor by Ivan Meštrović – Wikipedia

Karađorđeva Street is Savamala’s “main artery”. It follows the Sava connecting Belgrade Fortress and Port with Sava Square. Spectacular buildings in the area include embassies, Belgrade Cooperative (Geozavod), and Bristol Hotel.

Bristol Hotel Belgrade – Vestinet.rs

There’s a variety of restaurants and shops in Beton Hala. I’ve walked the area – usually teeming with people – but enjoy kafanas on quieter backstreets.

Geozavod Building Savamala

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In the summer people flock to the rivers to escape the heat. For Belgrade residents “the rivers are their seaside”.

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Port Splav Belgrade – Belgrade Experience

Splavs – Floating Restaurants and Nightclubs

On hot summer days Belgrade residents visit splavs – floating cafés, restaurants, and nightclubs. The opening of splavs is the first sign of summer.

St. Sava Orthodox Church Sava Square – shutterstock

Hundreds of floating restaurants, bars, and clubs anchor along the banks of the Sava and Danube. I haven’t noticed any splavs open yet but with warmer weather it may happen soon.

Belgrade Port – belgrademyway

In addition to restaurants and clubs, Belgrade rivers have hundreds of floating cabins of various sizes and designs. Floating cabins are usually built on wooden platforms buoyed with metal barrels for stability.

Belgrade Fortress – Belgrade at Night

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Belgrade splavs are a unique experience that can seem surreal, magical, and incredible.”

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Floating Cabins Sava River – Depositphotos

Each splav has a distinct personality – usually characterized by its music. There’s something for everyone. Finding just the right splav is challenging, but local guides are available to help. For those “who want to be seen fashionable splavs blast international pop music; casual splavs play Serbian folk music; and cool hipster splavs spin underground music”.

Rivers

Danube River

The Danube is Europe’s second largest river, after Russia’s Volga. It flows through 10 Central European countries and “connects Belgrade with the North and Black Seas via canals and waterways”.

Serbia Map – World Atlas

Floating Cabins Sava River – Serbia.com

Sava River

The Sava was former Yugoslavia’s “largest national river connecting three capitals – Ljubljana, Zagreb, and Belgrade”. The Sava meets the Danube at Ušće in the center of Belgrade. Great and Little War Islands are directly at the confluence of the two rivers.

Great War Island – Enjoy Belgrade

Great War Island is an uninhibited nature reserve with wildlife and lush vegetation. If the Danube is “Europe’s great river, the Sava is its equal for Yugoslavia”.

Drina River Canyon – visegradturizam

Drina River

The Drina River is the “most famous body of water in the Balkans”. It forms a border between Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Drina became famous in 1945 with Yugoslav novelist Ivo Andrić’s Nobel-Prize-winning novel The Bridge on the Drina.

King Alexandre Bridge Destroyed During WWII – Wikipedia

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After Rio de Janeiro and Istanbul, Belgrade is third among world cities with the most beautiful locations.

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Valley of Lilacs Ibar River – Breathtaking Places in Serbia WordPress

The Drina is the Sava’s longest tributary. It’s known for speed, character, and sharp curves. The Drina “became a modern lexicon”. Someone trying to solve an impossible problem is said to be “attempting to straighten the Drina”. The river has inspired songs and stories and is “close to the hearts of Serbs”.

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“People don’t take trips, trips take people.”  John Steinbeck

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Ibar River Valley – Company

Uvac River

The Uvac River forms some of the “most majestic natural sights in the Balkans”. Dramatic cliffs and lush forests surround the river’s bends.

Uvac River Nature Reserve – Avanturista

Ibar River

The Ibar River is the most polluted river in Serbia. The river’s lower course “created a number of gorgeous valleys. The Ibar Valley has spas and natural springs. It’s also called the Valley of the Kings and Valley of Lilacs. Over the centuries, famous Serbian monasteries like Studenica, Žiča, and Gradac were built near the Ibar”.

Bridges

Urban Belgrade has six bridges on the Sava River and one on the Danube. The Danube has three more bridges in the southern suburbs. Brankov and Ada are Belgrade’s most famous bridges. Many of the smaller ones don’t have names.

Danube River – mix.com

Bridges Sava River

Ada Bridge

Ada Bridge opened at midnight on New Year’s Eve 2012. It’s the newest and tallest bridge in Belgrade and the “longest single pylon bridge span in the world”.

Ada Bridge – Wikipedia

Brankov Bridge

Brankov Bridge is the most famous bridge in Belgrade. It has a walking path and is the main connection between Belgrade City Center and New Belgrade. It’s visible from Kalemegdan and Ušće Parks. One of the oldest bridges in Belgrade, Brankov’s pillars are from the King Aleksandar Bridge destroyed during WWII.

Gazela Highway Bridge – Wikimapia

Old Tram (Sava) Bridge

The Old Tram Bridge is the “only arch bridge in Belgrade”. During WWII it was the “only bridge that remained intact in Belgrade and is one of few bridges the retreating German forces didn’t demolish”.

Banko Bridge with Ada Bridge in Background – A. Nalbantjan

Gazela Bridge

Gazela Bridge “has the shape and color of a gazelle”. The bridge is part of Route E75, a major European highway passing through City Center connecting Belgrade with the Serbian cities of Niš and Novi Sad.

New Railway Bridge – Wikipedia

Old Railway Bridge

Located between Gazela and New Railway Bridges, Old Railway is the oldest bridge in Belgrade and the only bridge from the 19th century.

Gradac Monastery Ibar River Valley – TrekEarth

Studenica Monastery Ibar River Valley – Depositphotos

New Railway Bridge

New Railway Bridge, Belgrade’s second railway bridge, opened in 1979. It was built to help facilitate Belgrade’s traffic. It was the first railway bridge in Europe to use the cable-stayed girder system.

Sunset at Confluence of Sava and Danube Rivers – Lonely Planet

Bridges Danube River

Pančevo Bridge

The Danube’s Pančevo Bridge is a “combined road and railroad truss bridge“. Built in 1935 it was destroyed during WWII and rebuilt at the end of the war. Pančevo bridge was constructed as a “temporary 10-year solution”, but it’s still being used.

Pančevo Bridge – Wikipedia

Islands

Great War Island

Great War Island is an “oasis of wildlife and tranquility in the heart of Belgrade”. Located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube it had “strategic importance for either conquest or defense of Belgrade Fortress”.

Ada Međica Island – alo.rs

Great War Island is accessible by boat from Zemun Quay or crossing a pontoon bridge built in summer to connect it to the mainland. Undeveloped but popular Lido Beach is on the northern tip of the island. The island is “covered in forests providing a habitat for small game and over a hundred bird species”. It’s ideal for birdwatchers.

Ušće Park – Belgrade Beat

Bela Stena Resort

Bela Stena (White Wall) is a getaway resort for “lovers of untouched nature.” It’s on an island in the Danube River between Belgrade and the city of Pančevo. Pančevo is only accessible by boat.

Ada Cignalija Island Belgrade Seaside – serbia.com

Ada Ciganlija Island

“From the hand of God to the plans of man” – Ada Ciganlija was once an island in the Sava. Now it’s a man-made peninsula known as “Belgrade’s Seaside”.

Old Sava Bridge – Wikipedia

Ada Međica Island

A small island covered in trees Ada Međica is unspoiled by modern tourism. The Ada Međica Fan Club is making sure it stays that way.

Ada Međica Island – Mapio.net

The only means of transport to and from Ada Međica is a small boat from Sava Quay in New Belgrade. A walking path and “picturesque floating cabins and stilt houses” run the length of the island. There’s a small café next to the boat platform but there are no electricity, water, or public toilets on the island.

Perućac Lake – serbia.com

The south-eastern tip of the island is a good place for swimming, but swimmers need to beware of strong river currents. The island’s code of conduct “requires taking all your garbage with you when you leave”.

Ada Ciganlija Island – belgrade-beat.com

Lakes

Sava Lake

Also known as Ada and Ciganlija, Sava Lake is the largest lake in Belgrade. Its pebble beach is popular in summer. Features include a marina, picnic spots, ground and water sports, fishing, rowing clubs, cafés, floating cabins, and paths for walking, biking, and skating. To the delight of fishermen, the small lake is “brimming with carp”.

Sunset Lake Palić – serbia.com

Lake Palić

Lake Palić is North of Subotica on Serbia’s border with Hungary. “The story goes that Lake Palić was made from the tears of a shepherd who lost his golden lamb”. The lake hosts a film festival and is known for its health spas.

Vlasina Lake – serbia.com

Vlasina Lake

The “highest lake in Serbia” Vlasina Lake is another “magnificent body of water.” It’s home to permanent and floating islands.

Silver Lake Resort – belgrademyway

Silver Lake

An oxbow lake, Silver is on the right bank of the Danube. It’s near spectacular medieval Golubac Fortress, remnants of the medieval town of Golubac, and the entrance to Đerdap Gorge and National Park.

Đerdap National Park Serbia – Modern Flaneurs

Bela Crkva – serbia.com

Bela Crkva Lakes

Bela Crkva Lakes consist of six artificial lakes with the most “unpolluted water in Serbia”. A favorite “cooling off spot” during the hot summer months, Bela Crkva is known as the “Venice of Vojvodina“. The city is surrounded by the Serbian Carpathian Mountains in Banat – between Romania, Serbia, and Hungary.

Austrian Embassy Belgrade

Ada Ciganlija Lake

Belgrade’s most popular resort, Ada Ciganlija, is a big island on the Sava River. Embankments connecting it to Belgrade’s mainland created an artificial lake with swimming beaches. Bathing season runs from June through September.

Golubac Fortress Danube River – tvrdjavagolubackigrad.rs

Žiča Monastery Ibar River Valley – PanaComp

Perućac Lake

An artificial lagoon on the Drina River, Perućac Lake is a fisherman’s paradise. It’s named after a nearby Serbian village. The lake is the result of the dam that created Bajina Bašta Hydroelectric Power Plant.

Zemun Quay – belgrademyway

Belgrade is a fascinating city – there’s so much in Serbia. Time exploring was well spent and reaffirms the need to experience a place yourself to better understand it!

Stilt House River Sava – Remorker Architects Miloš Martinović

Galerija Meštrović Split Croatia

Galerija Meštrovic

Galerija Meštrović

Today I toured Galerija Meštrović which houses Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović’s masterpieces in marble, bronze, wood, and plaster. Meštrović designed and built the gallery between 1931 and 1939. It was his home, studio, and exhibition space.

Mestrovic Gallery2

The magnificent gallery is surrounded by a Mediterranean garden with large bronze sculptures and a view of the Adriatic Sea including Central Dalmatian Islands. Observing its spectacular beauty is one of the highlights of my time in Split!

mestrovic_prayer1

Meštrović is Croatia’s most famous artist – sculptor, painter, architect, and writer. He’s the first living artist to have a one-person show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and known as “the greatest sculptor of religious subjects since the Renaissance”. Many compare his art to Michelangelo and Rodin.

Mestrovic Gallery4

In addition to the main gallery there’s a separate 16th Century Renaissance summer-house complex (chapel) which Meštrović refurbished as a place of “peace and contemplation”. The summer-house – named Holy Cross Chapel – is within walking distance of the gallery but secluded on a cliff above the sea.

stone best

The complex has a cloister with stone Doric columns and a crucifix in the chapel’s sanctuary. The chapel has “a cycle of 28 wooden reliefs portraying the Life of Jesus of Nazareth along the walls”. Renovation of the wooden crucifix in the sanctuary is in process.

It took almost 35 years (1916 – 1950) for Meštrović to complete the cycle of wood reliefs and they remain “a masterpiece of European sacral sculpture”. The reliefs are so beautiful they almost take your breath away – the detail is amazing! It was difficult getting a good photo with my little camera.

bronze7

Meštrović’s works received many rewards and he accepted several commissions for public monuments. He lived and worked in European cities such as Rome, Paris, London, Cannes, Geneva, and Zagreb. In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower personally presented Meštrović with his US passport. Meštrović had various US university offers for positions as professor of sculpture.

Ivan Meštrović

“In 1952 in his will Meštrović made a donation to the Republic of Croatia, which made possible the founding of a museum institution – the Ivan Meštrović Gallery. The Gallery ceremoniously opened to the public on 9th September 1952. The Gallery was under the jurisdiction of the Conservation Institute for Dalmatia until 1955, when it became independent and placed under the Culture and Education Department of the City of Split.“

Chapel

Holy Cross Chapel

Wooden Relief

Wooden Relief

Meštrović was born in the small village of Vrpolje in the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia. A master stone cutter from Split noticed his talent and took him as an apprentice. His artistic skills improved by studying the monumental buildings in Split.  A wealthy mine owner from Vienna paid for Meštrović to move there and funded his admission to the Academy of Fine Arts – the rest is history.

split mestrovic gallery sculpting

Meštrović obviously had a fondness for the human figure – especially the female form. His magnificent work is awe-inspiring. The gallery and its setting couldn’t possibly be more beautiful!

Meštrović suffered personal and family tragedies during World Wars I and II. In 1946 when Syracuse University in New York offered him a professorship he moved to the US. He died in 1962 at the age of 79, in South Bend, Indiana.

Marjan Hill Split, Croatia

Dusk from Marjan

Dusk from Marjan Hill Split, Croatia

Marjan (pronounced MARyan) is an exquisite hill on the Split peninsula. Covered in a lush Mediterranean pine forest it overlooks the city of Split and the Adriatic sea.

Bene Beach

Bene Beach Marjan

The area is a beloved park enjoyed by the citizens of Split for picnics, weekend excursions, and recreation. Marjan has beaches, jogging paths, hiking trails, tennis courts, a zoo, and the Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries.

Split Peninsual Rovinj Fenomeni

Split Peninsula – Rovinj Fenomeni

Sweeping views from Marjan include the entire city of Split, surrounding islands, and the mountains of Mosor and Kozjak part of the Dinaric Alps. I’ve visited Marjan several times and plan to go back again. The entrance is about a 25 minute climb from the Split’s riva (boardwalk).

Pine Forest

Pine Forest

Daytime View

Daytime View Split, Croatia

“In ancient times Emperor Diocletian built his palace near Marjan and organized areas close by as parks. There is a rustic 13th century AD church on Marjan dedicated to St. Nicholas, a favorite saint of fishermen of which there are many in Split.”

Hermitage Caves

Hermitage Caves

The 15th century church of St. Jerome lies along Marjan’s south rim. Directly above and behind St. Jerome are a group of Renaissance hermitage caves built into the cliffs. Split’s old Jewish cemetery is on the eastern slopes of Marjan just above the city.

Steps to Marjan

Steps to Marjan

The Meštrović Gallery is on the south side of Marjan. It’s the former villa of Ivan Meštrović, considered “one of the greatest sculptors of religious subjects since the Renaissance”. I will visit the famous gallery later today.

Mestrović Gallery

Meštrović Gallery

On Friday evening I leave Split and head north to Zagreb via train. The glorious weather and time spent here in Split has been a highlight of this trip!