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Daily Democracy

Ryan Blethen discusses the press, media and democracy. Daily Democracy is part of the Democracy Papers, a series of articles, essays and editorial opinion examining threats to our freedoms of speech and the press.

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June 14, 2008 3:49 AM

Kalemegdan Park

Posted by Ryan Blethen

BELGRADE, Serbia - I spent Friday exploring Kalemegdan Park, which is between old Belgrade and the merging point of the Sava and Danube rivers. The park's main attraction is the Belgrade Fortress.

According to my tour book the first fort on this site was built by the Celts and expanded by those that followed, which included the Romans, Serbs, Turks, Serbs again, and Austrians. Sitting on the edge of the fortress wall it is easy to see why whomever controlled Belgrade utilized the location. There is a wonderful view of the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers with a great green plain extending to the horizon.

The fort's state of disrepair was as impressive as the view. Metal poles are holding up a tower at the Zindan Gate built sometime around 1450.

There are also signs warning of stones slipping from the archways in the tunnels passing through a number of the fortress walls.

OSHA might not approve but the locals did not seem to care. The park was busy. Kids on the playground, people strolling, lounging on benches, and enough displays of public affection to give an usher at Safeco Field fits.

Another impressive aspect of the fortress is the use of space. Basketball courts and clay tennis courts have been set up in areas between the fortress walls. The filling of these usually dead spaces gave the fort and park an authentic feeling. A place not just for tourists but for locals to use.

I found it refreshing to see such an old structure not hidden behind scaffolding. Every other time I have been to Europe many of the great sights have been wrapped in a skin of repair. Serbia is different than much of Europe. This is a nation that is not far removed from war and the transition from Tito's communism to a modern state. Finding money to shore up and polish an old fort will come after other issues have been figured out.

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