If you spend even a small amount of time in Belgrade, you will hear someone praising the "Kalish" or "Kalemegdan" as the most beautiful place in the whole city, as "their" place, an oasis of tranquility in the midst of the city noise. It is also likely that you will hear the term “heart of Belgrade" in this context. In the case of Kalemegdan park and fortress, this statement is not only metaphorical - in fact it is true. Areas of the Kalemegdan fortress and park are the oldest parts of Belgrade - they are remnants of the old military camps that were built at that location because of its favorable strategic position on the border of the fertile Pannonian Plain and the Balkan Peninsula, which is also a crossroads from the old times where roads were intertwined and connected the then Constantinople (now Thessaloniki ) with the rest of Europe. Not to mention the waterways in the navigable rivers that were offered by the Sava and Danube which also intersect here. From ancient times the value of the Pannonian plain was well known, and even today is said that in the right hands it could feed the entire Europe - and all this tame space and farmland could easily be kept under strategic control from a single point – the Kalemegdan Fortress .

However, Kalemegdan, or "Kalis" as it is now called around Belgrade, came a long way from its modest beginnings to its present form. Among other things, there are archaeological finds from the plateau of the Upper Town which prove that the first settlements on the site were founded as early as the Neolithic period. The first “major“ settlement in these areas were built by the Celtic tribes who settled here on their way back from an ( unsuccessful ) campaign to Delphi . In contact with Illyrian and Thracian tribes that inhabited this area, the name of the area came into being as a combination of the words Singi- which was an Illyrian name and Celtic word for " city " - dunum. Although the settlement around which quickly developed agriculture, pottery and even coins caused the emergence of the next, it would not be within the territory of the Kalemegdan fortress, but in today's Karaburma.

Foto: Pavle Kaplanec

“Foundations " of today's Kalemegdan fortress were set by the Roman legions, who had immediately noted the significant strategic position of this point. Between 6 and 11 AD a Roman camp palisade rose here, surrounded by earthen walls, among other things to resist the increasingly frequent attacks of barbarian tribes of the ridge confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, which raises the risk for the then northern border of the Roman Empire. At the military camp a Roman legion IV , Flavia (Latin: Flavia IV ) found its home, and stayed there from the second to the fourth century. What began as a temporary military camp (by the end of the end of the second century), had grown into a true Roman cestrum ( Roman military camp typical with walls and four gates connected), which later received the status of municipium and then a Roman colony. In the relative security provided by the presence of a Roman military camp on the site of today's pedestrian zone began to develop in the central city street Via Cardo, which coincides with today's pedestrian zone.

Traces of the first cestrums are few , but they exist. The remains of the walls, and the ruins of a square tower were found beneath layers of fortifications that were built later and can be seen even today on the northwest wall of the Upper City. They also discovered the remains of several structures that are believed to have been an old sanctuary , probably dedicated to Mithras, Nemesis , and Silvanus, and the blacksmith and armory (where they found hundreds of old swords ) . Also today Castellan (Despot) tower which houses the National Observatory, basically contain the remains of a Roman fort north of the tower, and not far from it can be found the remains of another. Of the four gates of the former castrum to date, two have been discovered: Northwest, reinforced with two towers in today Dizdar Gate and Southeast ( Latin: Porta decumana ) , reinforced with two internal and two external towers whose remains can still be seen in " Roman hall " library of the City.

The last mentions of the Roman legions in Singidunum date from before 376 and it’s not known if they were there during the Gothic wars. However, in the future stagnation of the city and up to 441 there was ruralization , when Attila's Huns conquered and destroyed all the Roman towns along the Danube. With the division of the Roman Empire, the fortress came into the possession of its eastern part , and the Byzantine Empire , but in its ruined state, was left abandoned for some time. Is not exactly known when it re-entered into service, but there are records according to which there existed a fortified settlement in mid- ninth century. It is believed that the local people had moved into the remains of the fortress to escape the incessant attacks of barbarian tribes and rebuilt it using the remains of other ruins. This settlement probably occupied the area west corner of the former fort ( which would later be built Byzantine castle and town Despot ) and fortified citadel of stone, all of which were surrounded by earthen ramparts and palisades with a dry moat, which was typical for European fortifications of the time . The remains of this trench were found only 2012.

According to the records of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus, who was also a historian, the Serbs came to Singidunum around 630, where they settled. Since the early Byzantine fortress was built of pure, white limestone that is widely visible under the sun across the Pannonian Plain , the Slavs called it the White City, that is - Belgrade . It’s not exactly certain when the city was founded on the ruins of the ancient fortress, but it is speculated that it came about at the turn of VIII to IX century, and was first mentioned in writing by name of the city 16th April 878 in a letter which the Roman Patriarch John VII had sent to the Bulgarian khan Boris.

Over the next century, the fortress of Belgrade changes ownership between Hungary , Bulgaria and the Byzantine Empire several times, which made it possible to restore the city after the fall of the Empire of Samuel 1018. This has made the city an important forward fortress on the border of the Byzantine Empire along the Danube, which is further fortified the city and its walls rebuilt.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century there is a drastic change in this area - the Avarian kaganate disappears, and parts of Pannonia establish the Frankish supremacy. During this time, east of Belgrade Bulgaria grew stronger, but in the thirties of the ninth century it progresses to the northwest and over the city . Due to its favorable position on the border with the Franks, the fort was to have enormous strategic importance for Bulgaria.

In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, Belgrade is in the hands of the Byzantine Empire. During this period it had been repeatedly been destroyed and rebuilt. During the Third Crusade, around 1189, Belgrade has been the meeting place of the Crusader armies of Frederick I Barbarossa. When during the reign of Manuel I Comnenus the borders of the Danube were restored, Belgrade once again received reinforcement of its fortifications. It was built over the towers and ramparts and deltoid castle in the Upper Town. In the twelfth century the Hungarians controlled Belgrade with a few short breaks.

Belgrade ended up in Serbian hands for the first time at the end of the thirteenth century in the reign of King Dragutin, who was married to Catherine, daughter of Hungarian king Stephen V. Since he was at the Council of Dezevo in 1282, he gave up his throne in favor of his younger brother, in 1284 he received governance over Machva with Belgrade. There is very little record from this period – it is known that the Byzantine princess and Serbian queen Simonida visited the town probably around 1315, when she gave the icon of the Virgin which is considered to be miraculous and was regarded as the most sacred of Belgrade’s possessions from the seventies of the XI century. Until Dragutin's death Belgrade remained in the Serbian government. King Milutin in March 1316 occupied the area ruled by his late brother and managed to keep it up to 1319, when the Hungarians conquered Belgrade . Later Serbian monarchs - Stefan Dusan and Prince Lazar tried for years to regain the city, but without success. The city remained in Hungarian possession until the beginning of the fifteenth century.
After the battle of Angora, which took place in 1402 the son of Prince Lazar, Stefan Lazarevic received the title of despot from the Byzantine emperor Sigismund, king of Hungary and was given Belgrade to rule. And so, after years of unsuccessful attempts of conquest, Belgrade - through diplomatic channels - became the capital of the Serbian state, and also the center of economy and culture. The city was in grave condition, according to the Constantine the Philosopher, ruined and abandoned, but the Despot immediately took steps towards its restoration. First of all, re- built fortifications, then the walls and towers. Belgrade was divided into lower and upper town, surrounded by double walls with towers and a moat. The Upper Town where there was once the Roman castle, the despot's castle was built and further fortified with walls with towers and a moat and a drawbridge over it. In the castle there was a palace, Gowen Field and Nebojsa tower, library, homes of the aristocracy, chapel and treasury.

But soon after followed the first attack on the valuable position of the Belgrade fortress. For the first time, Belgrade was defended from a Turkish attack in 1440. In 1456 came the second major campaign against Belgrade undertaken by Sultan Mehmed II, the conqueror of Constantinople. Great battle ensued on the rivers and on the land, however Belgrade was once again able to defend and became known as “Antemurale Christianitatis " or "bulwark of Christianity ". Only the third expedition, in 1521, which undertaken by Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent , succeeded and Belgrade finally fell into Turkish hands, and became their base for further movement towards the center of Europe. The name "Kalemegdan" ( kale - city, megdan - a field ), the Turks had given to the city area immediately in front of the fortress , while Brek where the fort itself was built as the " ficir Bair " , "hill of thinking ." Since a large number of buildings that were erected by the Turks in the fortress itself, preserved to date were the fountain of Mehmed Pasha Sokolović, the second half of the 16th century Turve of Damad Ali Pasha in the 18th century. Belgrade, and with it the fortress remained under Turkish rule for two centuries until Austria came to rule over Belgrade in 1688. But it lasted only until in 1690 when Turkey occupied the town again . While under siegef one of Turkish bombs hit the tower in the Upper Town and the fire spread to the gunpowder store which caused a huge explosion that killed thousands of people and Lazarevic Despot castle was completely destroyed. Having conquered the city, the Turks continued to work on the restoration of the fortifications that Austria was started by architect Andrea Corner . From 1717 to 1739 Belgrade once again ended up in Austrian hands, and immediately came under the supervision of Colonel Nicholas de Doksat Moreza who began to build new walls with bastions and earthwork.

After all the effort and resources invested in the construction and upgrading of the fortress, it is not surprising that eventually became one of the most powerful military fortifications in Europe. In spite the face that this town again came to be under the Turks in 1739, it was without conflict , by signing the Belgrade peace. Belgrade was in Austrian hands only once after – in 1789, but already in 1791 Austrians left the city after signing the peace treaty of Svishtov and the Janissaries were denied entry until the beginning of the 19th century when by murdering the commander Haji Mustafa Pasha they established their power in the city and surrounding area. It was under the Janissary and terror events around the dukes which led to national awakening that ultimately caused the First Serbian Uprising in 1804, led by Karadjordje Petrovic .

The rebels won the town in 1806, And the fort early in 1807 but despite the failed uprising in 1813 the Turks again come into possession of the fort until their final departure. In Kalemegdan there was the handover of keys of the city from the Turkish commander to Knez Mihailo Obrenovic in April in 1867. The Turkish military had dismissed and our flag was raised next to Turkey’s. After these events the fort lost its importance it had as a military base.

Development of urban fields ( Kalemegdan ) at the park as we know it today began in 1869. In March of 1891 trails were built and trees planted. A staircase was built towards France Street, which was a project created by the first woman architect in Serbia, Jelisaveta Nancic. This was followed by the construction of the great staircase in 1928, designed by Aleksandar Krstic. All the surviving traces of the old buildings were completely destroyed during the First World War and the walls have suffered significant damage . The works were still continuing between the two world wars, the park is finally the look that we know today. Is regulated by Sava walk from the Grand staircase which leads to the gate of the king and then the newly built statue winner. At that time they began the earliest archaeological studies that have led to major discoveries that are still continuing. The Kalemegdan fortress was protected by the state in 1946.