Smederevo Fortress // One of Europe’s largest city-fortresses

Head east and visit one of Europe’s largest city-fortresses as well as one of medieval Serbia’s greatest achievements in military architecture. Just an hour from Belgrade, the Smederevo Fortress is home to some of the country’s finest cultural gatherings, recently unearthed remains of medieval noble society, and legendary tales speaking of lost treasures.

Being only 45 km away from Serbia’s capital, the Smederevo Fortress is a great day trip option from Belgrade. The fort is located along the Danube, Europe’s second-longest river, and is one of seven in the country that sit along its banks. An ample amount of tourist attractions worth visiting will present themselves to you while you’re visiting Smederevo, though one to keep your eye out for is the Fortress Theatre Festival. The event showcases some of the greatest theatre to be produced in the Western Balkans as well as Europe.

The Smederevo Fortress is widely considered the best and last example of Serbian medieval military architecture. Despot Djuradj Brankovic ordered that the fortress be constructed following the foreign occupation of Belgrade during the 15th century. After strategically choosing a spot along the Danube, construction began on what would be Serbia’s new capital, albeit for a short period of time. Shortly after the despot’s death, the Smederevo Fortress fell under Hungarian rule, thus making this a short-lived ambition.

Europe’s largest plane fortress covers a total area of 10.5 hectares, is defended by 25 towers, and is surrounded by water on three sides. To build the fortress, stones were hauled from Mt. Kosmaj, the Ram Fortress, as well as Viminacium. The fortress was divided into a small and large town. The despot, his family, and other nobles lived in small town, while it was predominantly villagers escaping Ottoman tyranny that resided throughout the rest of the fortress. Built within two years, Small Town features six towers, among which is the Donjon Tower, the fort’s strongest. Nobles would hide in this tower during Ottoman sieges for the protection its 4 m thick walls. Large Town was constructed between 1430 and 1439, on the other hand. The remaining 19 towers are located in this part of the fortress and they were mostly added to the construction during a peaceful period between 1444 and 1453.

The Smederevo Fortress was built at such great speed that many workers died during the construction process. Locals looked for a scapegoat for the great loss of life and the blame fell on Brankovic’s wife, Jerina. She would from then on be known as Wretched Jerina. Two main legends are associated with the fortress, one associated to its construction and the other refers to the lost treasure of Wretched Jerina. The former states that the Smederevo Fortress is the result of a dream Despot Djuradj Brankovic had, in which he was ordered to construct a new city on the river, so he ordered the construction of the Smederevo Fortress as the confluence of the Jezava and Danube rivers. In the case of Wretched Jerina’s lost treasure, the princess is said to have hidden a treasure within the fortress grounds in the hope that it would never be found by new conquerors.

Tips & Essentials:

  • Visit during August to attend the Fortress Theatre Festival, a ten-day festival held on the fortress grounds.
  • Visit in September to experience the Smederevo Autumn festival, dedicated to grape picking and wine making. The festival is held both in the fortress as well as in Republic Square.
  • If you’re a fan of poetry then visit the city in October. An international poetry festival, Smederevo’s Poet Autumn is held during this time in the city library.

How to get to the Smederevo Fortress:

Multiple daily buses travel from Belgrade to Smederevo, making the trip rather easy. Call the Belgrade city bus station on +381 11 263 6299 for bus schedules. On the other hand, should you wish to use your own mode of transport, take the E-75 southeast and follow the road until you reach Route 155. Exit there and follow the road through to the city.

Image source: Shutterstock

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