World War II, the Battle of Čegar, and Constantine in Niš

The remains of marble columns at Constantine I's Mediana palace

The remains of marble columns at Constantine I’s Mediana palace

The city of Niš in Serbia is full of tremendous historical sites spanning hundreds of years. The city is the proud birthplace of Roman emperor Constantine I and tourists can visit the 4th century site of Mediana, where the remains of the palace and some churches have been found. Although not extraordinarily impressive on its own, when coupled with a visit to the National Museum in town a visitor can get an impression of what life was like for the Romans.

Just down the road from Mediana is the creepy skull tower (Cele Kula). This was built by the Turks from nearly 1,000 skulls of Serbian soldiers in a battle on Čegar Hill, near Niš, in 1809. Though the initial intent was to intimidate the Serbian people, the tower quickly become a symbol of patriotism.

A more recent historical site is the Red Cross Concentration Camp, which was the site of a successful escape by over 100 prisoners on February 12, 1942. The rooms are completely preserved and you can see barbed wire on the floors of some cells (so prisoners cannot sit or sleep) and etchings on the walls with last messages to family and some drawings.

Finally, a visit to Bubanj Hill to see the memorial to the prisoners killed there during WWII is definitely worth the time and effort. The memorial is a family of fists – father, mother and child – defiantly raised into the air. It’s chilling to think of the thousands of lives that were taken there by the Nazis in a place that is now a popular picnicking spot.

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