28 April 2010
ARTICLE PUBLISHED IN POLITIKA ABOUT THE ROYAL COMPOUND
The palaces on Dedinje are well preserved museums in which the spirit of
monarchism is still being kept, and are something more than just the repository
of history. It is exactly for this reason they are the destination for numerous
domestic and foreign tourists. We are opening the premises for you.
The palaces complex on Dedinje covers some 130 hectares, which is a great
estate, in Serbia, and imposing. To add to that size, the position, it could be
rightfully accepted that the home of the Karadjordejvic’s is in a geographically
and historically strategic location.
The palaces are positioned at the end of what is called “Belgrade Veduta” –
it is the line with the metropolitan’s arc, starting from Kalemegdan, going
through Knez Mihailova Street, continuing over Terazije, climbing over the
Vracar plateau up to Dedinje hill. So Kalemegdan and the Karadjerdordjevic’s
palaces are two starting points of history, and in a geographical sense, they
are the gates of Vojvodina and Sumadija. As one would say – they knew where to
build their home-nest.
At the gate, a strict gendarme – and he is the homage to the tradition. The
Gendarmerie has guarded the palace in the time of the kingdom as well. The first
building, opposite the gate is the gendarmerie building. Behind it, there is a
larger guard Building, nowadays empty.
While walking towards the White Palace, we are “followed” by the terraces of
the nouvelle-riches who built villas in nearby Lisicji potok not being sorry for
the chilly-high price of a square metre for their estate. The view looking at
the palace park tripled the price of the land. Naturally, who wants air like
that, should pay.
The iron fence with arms is not originally from this palace – it was
relocated from the city centre, where it once enclosed Parliament. On the right
side, fifty meters in the woods, is the grave of Tito’s wartime girlfriend
Davorjanka Paunovic. Someone placed a red rose on the gravestone. She died
officially from tuberculosis, and the palace whispers, unreliable by nature, say
that the death of the “Fiery Pozarevac girl” is still mysterious. According to
legend, not far away from there, the Marshall’s faithful dog Tigar is buried as
well. Tito loved him very much, too. He had a big heart.
We start the tour from the auxiliary buildings. The so called Thatched house
is ordinary in every way except for a thick thatched roof. Inside, what is most
remarkable is the high fireplaces made of stone. The building was built for the
king to monitor the construction of the palace. The Princes used it as a school
and Queen Maria as her atelier. Regarding the Queen’s works, the only one
remaining is a bronze sculpture “Knight in Contemplation”. It was made after the
assassination of her husband in Marseille. Next to the Thatched house is the
“Recreational centre” – a building of glass and red bricks, built in the time
when Tito ruled. It was conceptualized as spa centre, there is no information
that it was fully operational. Some hidden witness might tell whether Tito’s
masseuses from the Military Medical Academy were included as well, they were
more than just officers.
The kitchen, too, is in a separate building, 90 meters from the Royal Palace.
We passed through a tunnel where food is being transported to the palace. The
tunnel is curved and lined with white tiles. On the side there are the doors to
the depository rooms. Through the wooden door with a combination lock there is
an entrance to another kitchen, where meals are served.
Beside these technical buildings, in the park there is also an art work by
Mestrovic, “The history of Croats”, located in a pavilion. A refined building,
with the seated sculpture.
In the White Palace, we climb to another floor. In front of the main
apartment, there is a Rembrandt’s painting “Man with a Flute”. This most
valuable painting announces a significant place. The bedroom of the ladies
apartment is modest, the bed has no cover. It feels cold. Through the
gold-plated salon we pass to the bathroom. It is spacious. The sanitary items in
bathroom are in a lavender colour. A magnificent colour, soft and thick. We turn
on the tap of the original shower – and it works. With the sound of running
water, memories pour out…. It is so great since the taps have not been changed
for 70 years – and they work.
The Partisans from the 6th Licka (Division), who entered the Palace first,
told us that Germans left everything in order. Under Tito, the complex was well
maintained. But, there is also damage: a bayonet-spiked red star engraved into
an onyx-pillar, painted over royal coat of arms in the Room of Whispers, three
bullet holes in the fresco of Jesus Christ the Pantocrator in the Royal Chapel,
one in the middle of the forehead, the icon of Christ cut in “rightful” anger.
And, by the thieves’ in the custom of this region and the red system, the
original icon of the Mother of God from Ohrid, was replaced with a copy made of
simple thin wood. The stay of the former president Milosevic left a mark with
the barbaric installation of air condition units. The Library windows were
broken during the NATO bombing, cutting in pieces the Venetian constellation
globe that portrays the star constellations and horoscope signs, from the 17th
And that is not all. The palace is being taken good care of. Milan Panic, the
picturesque President of Yugoslavia, was astonished when he saw the Guard
soldiers that were protecting the complex, were still keeping Tito’s boots on a
regular basis and changing the oil in Marshal’s limousine.
The acoustics are Opera like in the reception salon at the palace. Voice is
intensified when one steps on to an “acoustic point”, and it appears like, at
that moment, that a microphone is on. The glass wall of the salon terrace opens
towards Topcider woods, and the stairway-type skyscrapers of New Belgrade are
also visible. Busts of the Goddess Hera, the protector of marriage, and Madam De
Barry, the mistress of Louis XVI watch from a corner. What did the palace’s
taste wanted to say with these statues? That mistresses are also in Hera’s
service? Who knows! Every palace has its own recipes for the happiness of
marriage. Two large caissons for the married couples’ clothing items, from the
15th Century, given by the Italian King Victor Emmanuel for the wedding of
Alexander and Maria Karadjordjevic, are valuable. They are so big, a man can
hide in them. On the inside of the cover, the bride and bridegroom are painted.
The groom is in the renaissance clothing of a noble man. And the bride,
Magdalena Frescobaldi, is naked. Completely natural.
The basement is the most intimate part of the palace. Russian immigrants,
Krasnov and Lukomski, decorated it in the spirit of nostalgia for Russia. Low
ceilings are decorated with motives inspired by the ballet Phoenix bird and
Scheherazade, performed by the Diagiljev’s troop. The ceilings showing the scene
of a Russian ballet, while the basement is a replica of the Teremni castle in
the Kremlin. In a niche there is a place for confidential conversations. The
vertical fountain with five “cups” is a sound-barrier. Whenever the ruler wishes
to prevent his staff from listening, he turns on the key in the wall – and the
fountain flows. The secret then disappears in the sound of the running water.