New Cemetery (Novo Groblje)

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Things to do


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May, 2019

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Despite its name, Belgrade’s “New Cemetery”: is the oldest in the city being founded in 1886. Our guidebook suggested it was a fascinating place to wander. It was a bit of a hike from the main city centre, but we eventually found an impressive brick wall enclosing it. Through openings, we saw the white crosses of the French Military Cemetery with its white crosses representing the soldiers killed in World War 1.

Arriving at the entrance, we found a poster which said it was an open-air museum and part of the “Association of Significant Cemeterys in Europe”: whose aim is to promote European cemeteries as a fundamental part of the heritage of humanity.

We took a phone photo of a helpful map of the cemetery layout which was neatly organised into sections with a legend pointing out the 20+ most important areas. Later I found a very informative “booklet”: online, which would have been helpful to have read in advance.

We walked up the Alley of the Greats with large, elaborate tombs, but as all the inscriptions were in Cyrillic, we had no idea who they were. Continuing up to the northern section, we found the British Military Cemetery from World War 2 but there didn’t seem to be an entrance without walking a long way round. We also saw the other areas of the Austro-Hungarian Military Cemetery (again, not accessible), the Alley of the Meritorious Citizens with very unusual ball-like headstones, Serbian and Russian Ossuary (although we were not sure what this was) and the garden of remembrance with huge memorials carved with many names in date order.

It was all well laid out and easy to follow with the aid of our map and signs. The tombs were large and ornate, and as they contained several bodies ranging from old to recent, it’s still a very active cemetery. A group of mourners passed by with the chief mourner carrying an engraved wooden cross which we’d seen on many of the graves, with the coffin being carried in a small, electric elongated golf cart. Many tombs have, in typical Orthodox fashion, a small fenced compound and bench for visitors and most had photographs of the deceased engraved on the headstone.

We wandered back and noticed a section devoted to children and one with a life-size statue of a footballer who may have been a Red Star Belgrade player or maybe just a fan. Sadly, we didn’t find the statue of the young woman in a mini skirt who, according to our guidebook, was cut off in her prime in the 1970s.

Across the road we found the Jewish Cemetery and the Memorial Cemetery of the 1944 Liberation of Belgrade, but by this point, we’d had enough of tombs. This may not be everyone’s idea of an interesting experience, but we found it provided an insight into Serbian life and death.

Helen Jackson

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