If you are in the Balkans, do not miss an opportunity to explore Jewish heritage in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia and Ex-Yugoslavia. Delve into the turbulent history of this city, and explore Belgrade, Europe`s next capital of cool on our Jewish Belgrade tour!
Our journey from the past to the future begins at the monumental Belgrade Fortress. Built by the Celts on the confluence of the rivers Sava and Danube, this fortress has had a vigorous past and is evocative of the dynamic times in the city: from the first Celtic fortification to Roman Singidunum, the times when Belgrade was the border of the Western and Eastern (Byzantine) Roman empires, Atilla the Hun`s plunders in the 5th century and the restoration of the fortress by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century, arrival of the Slavs, Ottoman conquests and rule for almost 500 years intertwined with the Austrian-Hungarian occupation, this city has become part of Serbia in a relatively recent past- at the end of the 19th century.
We will stroll through the Kalemegdan Park, whose name originates from the Ottoman times: Kale means fortress and Megdan is battlefield. This huge green area is beloved by Belgrade’s citizens, and you will discover all the attractions of Upper and Lower Town: fascinating evidence of the Ottoman domination, such, as Damad Ali-Paša's Turbeh and the Old Turkish bath (Hamam), the Austrian arsenal Big Gunpowder magazine, and Ružica and Sveta Petka Churches.
Knez Mihailova, the vibrant pedestrian street that connects Kalemegdan Park to the Republic Square, studded with historical buildings, is one of the main attractions of Belgrade. The city’s architectural fabric is strongly permeated also by its socialist legacy. A visit to Marshal Tito’s mausoleum, and to the Museum of Yugoslavia are essential to understand the modern history of Belgrade.
Our Jewish Tour will retrace the history of Jewish life in the city and in Yugoslavia. In the 13th and 14th centuries, Belgrade was home to a community of Jews from Hungary and Italy, and after the Turkish conquest in 1521, a big wave of Sephardic Jewish immigration transformed the city into an important European hub of Jewish life. Living mostly in the Jewish mahala (quarter) near the citadel, Jews thrived, but were soon challenged by the decline of the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Turkish wars from the late 17th throughout the 18th century.
In the first half of the 19th century, Jews participated in Serbia’s movement for national emancipation, and eventually obtained full rights after the Congress of Berlin in 1878. At the eve of WWII, Belgrade’s Jewish population reached 12,000 people. The Ashkenazi synagogue Sukat Shalom, built in 1924, was turned into a brothel, while the Sephardic synagogue Bet Yisrael, built in 1907 and until then the city’s largest synagogue, was destroyed. In May 1942, Berlin received a cable and Serbia was declared as ‘ Judenfrei”. There are several sites today that mark these dark times, such as, Semlin concentration camp (Sajmište) and Topovske Šupe camp.
Despite its turbulent history, there are still places related to Jewish heritage in Belgrade.The Sukat Salom Synagogue, or Belgrade Synagogue is the only operating synagogue in the city today. The Jewish historical museum offers the opportunity to delve deeper into the history of Jews of former Yugoslavia and the whole Balkan area. Sephardic building Oneg Sabat, WW2 Jewish hospital that today belongs to the Belgrade University and Jewish cemetery all testify to the presence of Jews in the city in recent history.
As you make your way through this magnificent city and its tough history, make sure you participate in one of Serbia’s culinary dilemmas: is the original Burek (a delicious, freshly baked filled pastry) the one with meat or the one with cheese?
Don’t miss a journey into Europe’s new capital of cool on our Jewish Tour!
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