The tower is situated at the highest point of Gardoš, right opposite the fortress of Kalemegdan and approximately at the same altitude. It is as if they are defying each other, reinforcing the fine rivalry between the residents of Belgrade and Zemun. Danube is certainly a part of life in this neighbourhood. They say that in restaurants in Gardoš, the fish jumps straight from the river and onto the plates.
“God spent six days creating the world, then he climbed onto Gardoš and got drunk” is a saying that’s been passed down from generation to generation for centuries. It relates to a neighbourhood in Zemun, where only fishermen, sailors and other people whose livelihoods depended on the river used to live; today, this is a hedonistic neighbourhood, an inspiration to artists, bohemians and hedonists looking to suck out all the marrow of life.
photo: Dragan Bosnić
The central location in this picturesque neighbourhood is occupied by a 36 meter tower, built on 5 August 1896; it was opened in an official ceremony 15 days later. That morning, there was a service in all churches in Zemun. Architects combined different artistic styles, somewhat dominated by the Roman style, to emphasize tradition and longevity of the Hungarian kingdom. It was built from stone and brick and, at the top of its turret, there used to be an eagle, with a wing span of four meters. It is open for visitors, who can visit the studio and gallery Čubrilo, as well as go out onto the observation deck, from which a glorious view of the surrounding area can be enjoyed. The place offers a direct collision with a tumultuous history, with archaeological findings indicating that this location was inhabited as far back as during the times of Starčevo and Vinča cultures.The tower itself has several names, which were the subject of some scientific disputes, but it just serves to reinforce its myth.
The Gardoš Tower is the name it got after the loess hill it sits on – Gardoš. “The Millennium Tower” is considered to be its most appropriate name, chosen as it was erected to celebrate 1000 years from the arrival of Hungarians into the Panonnian Basin, from 896 to 1896.
The people named it the Tower of Sibinjanin Janko, to commemorate the Hungarian nobleman Janos Hunyadi, a knight, a regent and an enemy to the Turks, the hero of many a folk song. On the walls of Kalemegdan, he won his greatest victory against the Ottomans, who charged in from the Danube. The famous Battle of Belgrade, which took place 14-21 July 1456 was not only important for Belgrade, but also for Zemun. On the right bank of the Danube, Janos Hunyadi commanded the Christian Army. At that time, Hungary supported Serbia, exactly because of its conflict with the Ottoman Empire.
On the Danube, right next to today’s restaurant “Šaran”, the Turks linked their ships with chains to prevent the passing of Hungarian reinforcements from the north. Janos managed to break through this blockade with his army, to defeat the Ottomans and thus secure the greatest victory of Christians over Ottomans in the 15th century and peace on south-eastern Hungarian border for 70 years to come. Only three weeks after the battle, while the celebrations were still ongoing, Hunyadi died from the consequences of the plague, in one of the towers of the Gardoš fortress. Since the memory of the great warrior and the place where he died remained in Serbian memory for a very long time, after the tower at Gardoš was erected, the people named it after him.
The tower is situated at the highest point of a loess hill of Gardoš, approximately lined up opposite to Kalemegdan at about the same altitude, about 105 meters. As if they are defying each other, reinforcing the fine rivalry between the residents of Belgrade and Zemun. It is surrounded by houses and other buildings and right next to it, at the hilltop, is the Zemun Cemetery. Many a mysterious tale has been told about the basement of this tower. One of these legends says that it opens into a tunnel that leads below Danube, reaching the fortress in Kalemegdan.
This tower did not have it easy at all times, its fate was strange. In 1919, the damage it suffered in World War I was repaired; then it had periods in which it served as an art studio, but also those in which it was in utter ruin. Conversations about its fate and restoration always raised suspicions, as there were a few people who remembered very well what it stood for. Under a constant threat of Hungarian revisionism, many believed that the tower in Gardoš should not be there, that it should be allowed to fall to ruin on its own, so that one of the last symbols of the old Hungarian monarchy would disappear.
The tower of Gardoš is under the protection of the Institute for Monuments of the Republic of Serbia.
Danube is an inevitable part of life in this neighbourhood and many a legend is carried by its currents. They say that fish jump straight out of the river and onto the plates in the restaurants of Gardoš. And this is a feast worth travelling for hundreds of kilometres.
Autor: Aleksandar Đuričić