The magic of love -The Great War Island
Updated: Feb 29
We’re made to believe that true love doesn’t exist anymore, but let me prove to you that it actually does.
This is not just a regular, sappy love story, regardless of how much we love them, so prepare yourself to discover a rather turbulent, powerful yet unsuspecting love between two great gems of Europe,the Sava and Danube rivers.
If you’ve ever found yourself in Belgrade you couldn’t have passed it without noticing the product of their eternal love. This huge block of greenery, an oasis of untouched nature separated from the two urban parts of the City by water.
If you’d like to know more, then keep on reading, or join us at the Belgrade Turtle Boat where we never fail to admire this unique witness of Belgrade’s history.
From a simple kiss, an Island grows
As you may already know, Belgrade lies on two great European rivers, Sava and Danube. The Sava reaches the end of its long journey from Slovenia, right at the spot where the Island stands today. This is the place where two great European rivers, Sava and Danube, kiss, or if you’re not a poet at heart, this is the mouth of the river Sava. The Sava is the more rash of the two, the one with a greater speed to it, so when it met the Danube at this place, all of the mud and sand it carried got stuck here, thus making this island emerge over time, due to accumulation of all the substances the Sava carried. At first, it was only a small sandbank, it first emerged during the 16th century, but as time passed it grew and morphed to something much greater, and it continues to do so today.
Hidden Oasis in the Heart of Serbia’s Capital
As with all love stories, the magic doesn’t stop at a kiss. Such was the case here as well. Once the Island emerged it started developing further. This frutious land became home to an abundance of rare species of flora and fauna not typically seen in big cities. Today forests cover an area of 120 ha (300 acres), or 57% of the island. It is the only location in Serbia of the bird's little nest fungi, which is used for the antioxidant extraction. There are 66 bird species that actually nest on the island. The island was the largest colony of the great egret on the entire course of the Danube, maybe the largest one in Europe. During the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999, the herons, for the most part, disappeared.
A major attraction on the island is a pair of white-tailed eagles, a nesting couple. one love births another and this couple has nested new generations of the largest European eagles. They are best observed from the neighboring Ušće and Dorćol districts, but they are being spotted circling above the Kalemegdan and the Republic Square, practically the center of Belgrade.
In 2005, the island was protected by the state as a landscape of outstanding features. for this reason, it is divided into 3 zones with different protection regimes. Currently, two-thirds of the island are used as a nature reserve for 196 bird species, many of which are endangered.
The first zone (protection regime of the first degree)-This is the nature conservation zone, in its character it is a nature reserve. This is a no-people-allowed area, for a good reason. It serves to protect all the gifts nature has provided us with on this Island.
The second and third zone are the recreation and tourism zone. They include the city beach area, otherwise known as Lido beach, and parts of the Island you can visit with a guide as a must.
Love & War
After all this story of love, you might be wondering why the island carries the ironic name- The Great War Island. Well, it gained its militant name due to its history as an important strategic point either for the conquest or the defense of Belgrade. Throughout history, Belgrade was known as a very important base. It was an imperative crossroad for both trading and military actions. For this reason, the Island took the role of a popular war ground. The name officially appeared after 1717, when Prince Eugene of Savoy used the island as an attack point in his re-conquest of Belgrade from the Turks. Time went on and ownership of the Island went form one nation to the next, only after World War I, the Island became part of the new Yugoslav state. After 1918, a small colony of 20 destitute inhabitants of Zemun built stilt houses on the island which was then colloquially called "Sirotinjska Ada" (Poor man's Island). Also, a sandbank facing Zemun was adapted into the beach, being the predecessor of the modern Lido beach. The Island went through a lot of hardships. When the construction of Novi Beograd began in 1948, the city government made a decision to completely destroy the island by using its sand and earth to cover the marshes of Syrmia, where a new city was to be built. Luckily the Island managed to withstand all the difficulties it was faced with and today it is greatly cherished by Belgradians.
Hopefully, this story allowed you to gain an insight into this amazing creation of nature Belgrade has been blessed with. The Belgrade Turtle Boat has the exclusive opportunity to bring you a tad bit closer to it so you can admire it together with us on our daily City Cruise.
*Join us on this voyage of discovering all the beauties Belgrade holds. We’re waiting for you, so join us today!