There is a neighbourhood in Belgrade that seems, at first sight, to breathe with serenity, a mix of wealth, elegance and some gentility, a little worse for wear – this is the neighbourhood that is common to Jovanka Broz and Peko Dapčević, the Karađorđević family, Slobodan Milošević and Zoran Đinđić, folk stars and athletes and criminals, as well as those who cannot afford to pay the bills for the villas they inherited from their ancestors. It is called Dedinje. Here is where cars with tinted windows drive through the streets; a neighbourhood with a multitude of security cameras and embassies. Here, it is difficult to walk on foot. History flows down the streets in streams.
And it is history, which is sometimes a literary form too, that says that prior to being inhabited in the present numbers, Dedinje had been covered with vineyards, orchards and fields. In the past, its names included Dedija, Mala Dedija and Dedina. There are differing opinions on the origins of the toponym Dedinje. One theory has it originating from “deda”, the title given to the elderly head of tekija, a Muslim monastery. According to the Turkish census from 1560, one of the tekijas in Belgrade had its vineyards just here. Still, it is more likely that the word originates from Serbian, with a meaning of “grandfather’s hill”. The settlement started to spread after World War I and the process intensified during the construction of the courts of the family Karađorđević in Dedinje, in the period from 1924 to 1936. Many wealthy Belgradians, such as industrials, bankers, traders and politicians built luxurious summer houses here and later, their family villas.
Dedinje is one of the most beautiful and most densely forested parts of Belgrade. The settlement mostly comprises private houses, among which are several dozen villas of extraordinary value, built before the war. At the edges of the settlement and down its main streets, residential buildings were built after World War II. These feature some of the architectural beauties of the civil Belgrade. A special tourist challenge comes from the Museum of Yugoslav History and the court complex of the Karađorđević family. Both of these places are visited by several thousand people every year. The House of Flowers, the final resting place of the former SFRY President Josip Broz Tito was opened to visitors in 1982 and has been visited by about 20 million people since.Topčider hill and Dedinje would probably not be what they are today if one fine day, King Aleksandar Karađorđević had not come to an idea to build a villa of his own. He looked and looked, and then he realized that the „place just up Topčider“ was perfect for his court, with a view over „the lovely, verdant forest in Košutnjak“, Rakovica valley, Kneževac and the „blue“ Avala, but also over the entire Belgrade, Zemun and the purple silhouette of Fruška Gora beyond.
During 1960ies, children of communist officials from Dedinje left a decisive mark not only on the life of the hills of Savski venac municipality, but on a far wider geographical space. Aromas and scents spread out throughout former Yugoslavia; good sound originated from this place. There were important goods for export, too. One of the most famous global artists of today, Marina Abramović – the granddaughter of the Serbian Patriarch Varnava, grew up in Dedinje in a Partisan family.
Rock’n’roll, opium and hashish arrived to Belgrade just a few months after they hit the global scene and Savski venac was the first municipality that would witness their use and the scene of the most decadent parties. Rumours of the famous parties in the gardens of Dedinje, secured by people’s police spread throughout Belgrade in the sixties, raising the eyebrows of the remaining city youth. The two heroines of Dedinje, sisters Maja and Mira Mijatović – daughters of the first SFRY president after Tito, Cvijetin Mijatović, were the dream of every young, hot, urban bachelor in the city. “Sex, drugs, rock’n’roll” lifestyle claimed the lives of the sisters Mijatović in the late eighties, the years which will see some of the creme-de-la-creme from Dedinje end up in the cemeteries of Belgrade, while other natives of the Serbian Beverly Hills would look for a salvation as monks of Serbian monasteries.
The legend, that no one could ever destroy, would remain. Another thing that remains, is the opportunity for you to talk to the ghosts of the past as you walk through Dedinje, to have the most exciting historical pictures dance around you and then, at last, to sit down in one of the few remaining old-school pubs, or, if you prefer, in some fancy restaurant, and, while you are waiting for your waiter to serve you, to think “This is such an exciting neighbourhood. I will come again.”
After marrying Maria of Romania in 1922, King Aleksandar decided to build his summer house in Dedinje. The court was still in construction when the King decided to build each of his three sons an apartment suite on a separate floor, as well as rooms for their teachers and two guest suites. This is today’s White Court (Beli Dvor), as Prince Pavle called it. The construction began in 1934, after the Old Court (Stari Dvor) was completed. But the King, who was assassinated that same year in Marseilles, would never get to enjoy his homes.
By: Aleksandar Đuričić