|Rock Mine World War II Bunker Karst Cave
|Incandescent Electric Light System
Zoran Nikolić, Vidoj Golubović (2002):
Beograd ispod Beograda,
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|By order of Prince Miloš Obrenović the Serbian Orthodox cemetery was moved here from the outside of the Varoš Gate in today's Brankova Street.
|travel writer Felix Kanic notes that more than 600 oxen carts with food could be sheltered in the cavern.
|underground cemetery abandoned.
|German bunker built inside the caverns.
|the book "Belgrade under Belgrade" was published.
|managed by JP "Belgrade Fortress".
Tašmajdanska pećina is a quite enigmatic site. It is actually not open to the public, although there are massive efforts going on to open it to the public. The site became widely known in 2019, and is open on several occasions every year. The plan is to open it with regular open hours, but this has not yet happened, probably delayed by the pandemic. However, we decided to create the page nevertheless, if you travel to Belgrade you should check the online sites for the sporadic scheduled visits.
The site is located inside the hill, on which the church Црква Светог Марка на Ташмајдану (Church of St. Mark in Tašmajdan) stands. Ташмајдан (Tasmajdan) is the name of the hill, and the cave was also named after this hill. The entrance is at the parking lot behind the RTS - Radio Television of Serbia. The cave extends almost to the Palilul Market.
The hill is composed of Lajtovac limestone, which formed in a shallow, oxygene rich sea about 11 million years ago. The limestone is karstified and contains natural caves. The Romans started quarrying the limestone, which was continued until the 19th century. The Turks continued the quarrying while the country was occupied by the Osman Empire, and this is the origin of the name. Taš means stone, and majdan means mine, so Tašmajdan means Rock Mine. Beneath the natural caves there are also the pits of quarrying and caverns which were created when the high quality limestone was quarried underground. Most likely numerous natural caves were found during the quarry works. Those quarries were vast, the great travel writer Felix Kanic recorded in 1860 that more than 600 oxen carts with food could be sheltered in that place.
The rocks which were quarried here were used to erect the buildings of Belgrade, formost the Kalemegdan Fortress. But not only limestone was quarried, from some caves saltpeter was extracted, so they were called Šalitrene (Shalitrene). Actually we could not find out how this deposit formed, but we guess the abandoned quarries were frequented by bats since Roman times, and they quarried the bat guano. Saltpeter was mined as it was a component of black powder. A part of the open cast quarries has been used to build Tašmajdan Stadium inside.
There are also numerous stories about the caverns, which are not very clear. There is the story that the natural caves were a Neolithic cult place and used to sacrifice people or bury them here, the stories are a bit fuzzy. It was a hideout for Karađorđe, led horsemen to fight against the Turkish invaders. Others say the cave was probably the center of the worship of Arianism around 300-400 AD, the first great Christian heresy was named after the heretic Arius, an Alexandrian priest. Pope Arius was exiled to the Balkans, and then he came to Belgrade. Here he created a completely new church and Belgrade is the only place where their cult existed. In one of the caves, the Turks allegedly burned the relics of Saint Sava. One of the caverns was used as a catacomb, to bury the dead, it was Belgrade's Old Cemetery. And there was a cavern which had a waterfall during Roman times, which was later gone. And of course there are the stories that Adolf Hitler was one of the greatest magicians of the 20th century, and he was also a sorcerer. He knew about the cave and sent his army here to confiscate all the magic items and send them secretly to Berlin. All those stories are obvious nonsense, but the make good stories for future guides. Even stranger than the stories is the fact that they are claimed by the senior curator and educator of the Natural History Museum in Serbia, Miodrag Jovanović.
The last development was quite recently, during World War II. The walled them, created rooms and installed electric light, and they built communication centers. It is estimated that the bunker was big enough for 1000 soldiers, as well as food and water for 6 months. This part of the structure is called Lerova pećina (Ler's Cave) after Alexander von Lehr. He was a general and ordered the April 6 bombing of Yugoslavia. But Alexander von Lehr was never a military commander for Serbia, this is just a legend which was created by a fictitious TV drama in 1976. There are also legends, that the Gestapo kept the most notorious prisoners here.
A part of the bunker was walled off after the retreat of the Nazis by the Serbs and Russians for security reasons, because they feared that they were mined. Until today, it is unknown where those walled off passages lead to. Of course there are rumours, they extend to Nikola Pašić Square, the Faculty of Law, Manjež, and to the railway station. However, such stories about secret connections to far away locations are quite popular for centuries now, and normally they are untrue. More likely is the story that Adolf Hitler (or his staff anyway) knew about the Tašmajdan caves even before the Germans came to the Balkans. They searched for the caverns, removed any valuables they found, before they handed the caverns over to the Wehrmacht to build the bunker.
In the Tašmajdanski park is the restaurant Последња шанса (Poslednja šansa, last chance). It was built on top of a cave entrance and during summer the cool air from the caves creates a sort of air conditioning for the restaurant.
It seems the caves became known from the book Beograd ispod Beograda (Belgrade under Belgrade) by the authors Zoran Nikolić and Vidoj Golubović. As a result the city of Belgrade started to officially develop the caves as a tourist site. In 2019 the Mayor of Belgrade Prof. Dr. Zoran Radojičić visited the Tašmajdan Caves. While there is the will to open it to the public, there are still legal issues with the property owners, and then there are security issues with the stability and statics of the caves.