Beautiful Serbian City.
Recharging in Nis.
To be honest neither of us had ever heard of Nis before we started planning this holiday. My aim was to try and get to as many former Yugoslavian countries as we could. In Serbia naturally we were going to include Belgrade in the plan and in Macedonia we were going to include Skopje. The journey between these two capitals is long and we were looking for a place to break it up and stopover; Nis seemed the perfect choice. We travelled to Nis from Belgrade by bus. The journey took three hours. It was reasonably comfortable and fairly pleasant. Unusually for us, we had chosen a hotel away from the centre of Nis. We normally choose accommodation near transport. On this occasion we stayed in the Hotel Aleksander which is located on a hill about half an hour's walk from the centre. We choose it because it had a swimming pool. This turned out to be a good choice. My husband had hurt his foot and did not want to walk all the time and the whole of southern Europe was experiencing a heat wave, so having a place to cool down was great. We spent two nights in Nis. On the day we arrived, we took a taxi from the bus station to our hotel; enjoyed the views from our room, swam and ate by the pool. Very relaxing and refreshing and a lovely change from rushing around mad. On the next day we booked our transport to Skopje, looked at Nis and swam. Overall our stay in Nis was very relaxing and enjoyable the town has a very laid back peaceful atmosphere and is a great place to recharge.
Nis is associated with the Emperor Constantine. A bronze image of him was found in the Nisava Riverbed. The Nisava River runs through the centre of Nis. Constantine helped spread Christianity around the world. Nis has had a turbulent history. There is a concentration camp in the town and there is a monument on Bubanj Hill to around 10,000 to 15, 000 Serbs massacred during World War 11. A little further afield there is the site of the Battle of Cegar. In 1809 the Serbs rose against the Ottomans who occupied there country. A group of Serbs led by Stevan Sindelic battled bravely against their enemies, but when it became clear that he and his men were sure to be defeated, he fired shots into his own sides powder magazine blowing up himself, his men and many enemy soldiers. In an act of revenge the Turks beheaded the dead Serbs and embedded their skulls in a tower - yet another of Nis's gruesome sights. Despite all these awful events, Nis really is a very pleasant place nowadays with pavement cafes and restaurants and monuments and friendly locals.
Hotel Aleksander: Hotel on the Hill.
We stayed in this hotel for two nights. It is set on a hill overlooking Nis. We chose this hotel because it has a pool. It was an unusual choice for us as it is not very central and we did not have a car. We arrived in Nis bus station and took a taxi to the hotel. The receptionist was very helpful and friendly. We were given a free map of the town. Our room was clean and comfortable. We had a little fridge. Free wifi was available and it worked well. Our room had a spectacular view over Nis and over the hotel's pool. The room was peaceful and quiet and we slept well here. The only negative thing I have to say about our room is that the air-con did not work all that well and the room was a bit hot at night. The hotel's swimming pool was wonderful. The water was so refreshing after a day in the sun. We loved it. On our first evening we walked down the hill from our hotel and found a supermarket at the foot of the hill. There were some restaurants here, too, but we chose to eat in the hotel as we wanted to swim again then eat. We ate dinner by the pool. The waiter was extremely pleasant and friendly - a great asset to the hotel. The food and beer were excellent, too. Breakfast was good and never over-crowded. There was a selection of hot food, bread, cheese, meat, cereal, coffee, tea and juice.
When we were leaving the hotel we had a few hours till our bus to Skopje the receptionist, I think he was probably the hotel owner, booked us a taxi and said it would be no problem for us to spend time by the pool while we waited, so we sat at the pool in comfort rather than struggling around Nis in the heat with luggage. I noticed there was a bus service from the centre of Nis up to this hotel, but we did not actually used it. We easily walked downhill into town from here and generally took a taxi back up due to the heat, so it was a good place to stay even without a car if you used the occasional taxi.
Things to Do.
This fortress is located on the banks of the Nisava River. The current fortress was built by the Ottomans and dates from the eighteenth century. It was built on the site of earlier Roman, Byzantine and Serbian fortresses.The site mainly consists of outer walls and gates. The walls are 2,100 metres long, 8 metres high and on average 3 metres thick. The fortress site occupies 22 hectares of land. The interior is like a large park with the odd historical building thrown in. There's an old Turkish bath house which is now a restaurant. In fact there are several pleasant open air restaurants in the fortress. There is an old Turkish mosque called the Bali-bey Mosque. There's a lapidarium displaying Ancient Roman tomb stones. There's a monument to Serbian liberator Prince Mihailo Obrenovic. Don't expect to be overwhelmed by this site but it is a very pleasant place to sit in the shade and sip a refreshing drink.
Monument To The Liberators Of Nis.
This monument is located in Nis's main square - Trg Kralja Milana or King Milan Square. On top of it sits a figure mounted on a horse. At its base it depicts the Serbs battling against the Turks, the Germans and the Bulgarians. The monument was created by Croatian sculptor Antun Auustincic. The square is a wide open space with many shops around it. It is bordered by the Nisava River. The monument is a popular meeting point for locals of Nis.
King Aleksander Monument.
The monument to King Aleksander is located in King Aleksander Square. He is depicted sitting on a charging horse. King Aleksander tried to unite Serbs, Croats and Slovenes into a single state. He was killed by Croat Nazis in Marseilles in 1934. The original monument to King Aleksander was made in 1939 by Serbian sculptor Rade Stankovic. This was removed and destroyed by the Communists. In 2004 the citizens of Nis put up a new monument to this king. It is 11 metres high and weighs over 3 tonnes. It was made by Serbian sculptor Zoran Ivanovic. Near this square there was another monument and a steam locomotive.
The Nisava River.
The Nisava River flows through the centre of Nis. We took a short walk along the river bank on the fortress side of the river along the river's pleasant walkway. The Nisava is crossed by several bridges. We saw quite a few people fishing in the river.
Nis Orthodox Cathedral.
This cathedral is in the centre of town near a shady square. It was built in 1872 by Andre Damanovic. The building is surrounded by a pleasant garden with some seats. It is an attractive building from the outside and very beautiful inside. There was nothing to say I could not photograph the building, but as there were several worshipers inside I did not like to disrupt their peace.
The Skull Tower.
Serbia was under Ottoman rule for around four hundred years and the Serbs rose up against the Ottomans to try and gain their independence on several occasions. At the Battle of Cegar in 1809 the Serbs led by Stevan Sindelic realized they had no chance of defeating the Turks, but rather than surrender, Sindelic fired shots into the powder magazine blowing up himself, his men and many of the Turks. The Turks were so angry about this that they decapitated the Serian dead and embedded their skulls into the walls of a tower to show the Serbs what would happen to them if they kept rebelling. Originally there were 952 heads embedded in the walls of the tower. Now only 58 remain. Many were stolen by grieving relatives and buried. The original tower is now enclosed inside a small chapel. The guide there explained that the site is revered by Serbs and symbolizes the importance of not giving up even when faced with great difficulties. Outside the chapel there is a monument to Stevan Sindelic. The Skull Tower was a bit of a walk from the centre of town but worth visiting. Although it was gruesome, it was quite unique. I have come across nothing quite like it before.
The Church Of The Emperor Constantine And Empress.
This church is located near to the Skull tower. It is situated in a very pleasant park which was filled with people enjoying the slightly cooler evening temperatures when we visited. This building is dedicated to the Emperor Constantine whose image was discovered in the Nisava River and to his mother the Empress Hellen. Constantine did much to spread Christianity. This church dates from 1999.
The Monument To Stevan Sremac.
Stevan Sremac was a Serbian writer who lived in Nis from 1879 to 1892. One of Sremac's characters was a hunter called Kalca. In stories Kalca came to Nis and stayed as a guest of local man Ivko. He was comfortable and did not want to leave so stayed for three days entertaining his host with far-fetched stories about his life while eating and drinking a great deal. There is a wonderful monument to these characters near the entrance to Tinkers Alley. I love monuments you can interact with and in this one you can sit down and become one of the guests enthralled by the exaggerated and wild tales.
There is a large market in Nis between the bus station and the fortress. Different sections sell different products. One part is devoted to fruit, vegetables and flowers, another section specializes in shoes; another part in clothing. It is quite interesting for a stroll and the fruit and vegetable part is fairly colourful.
Bus To Nis.
We traveled from Belgrade to Nis by bus - Nis Express. The journey took around three hours. It was fairly comfortable, maybe slightly cramped. There was no toilet on the bus. We stopped at one service station on route. We were right at the front and a bit put off by the drivers tendency to talk on his mobile phone while steering with his elbows, but we survived.