A Serbian Sojourn, Day 8: Oplenac and Topola regions ©Sangeeta Venkatesh

Topola: It was time to check out of Hotel Tornik and head back to Belgrade. En route we had planned to visit the small town of Topola.

It took us a little over 2 hours to reach Topola (Oplenac) which resembles a 19th-century town till today.  In the 19th century, this area was covered in woods. The term Oplenac most probably derives from “oplen”, meaning wooden parts on ox cars.

Church of Saint George: We stopped by first at the Church of St. George, which was founded by King Peter I of Yugoslavia. This 5-domed church was built in the Serbo-Byzantine style and has many members of the royal house who are buried in the church, either in the crypt beneath the church, or in the churchyard. The two tombs inside the church are the tombs of Karadordje (who is considered the founder of the Karađorđević dynasty, which ruled Serbia at several intervals during the 19th and 20th centuries); and Peter the 1st, who was Karadordje’s grandson and the was the last king of Serbia, reigning from 15 June 1903 to 1 December 1918. On 1 December 1918, he became the first king of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, and he held that title until his death three years later. Since he was the king of Serbia during a period of great Serbian military success, he was remembered by the Serbian people as King Peter the Liberator, and also as Old King.

Fort of St. George – the exterior
The entire area is a mosaic!

The interior of the church is decorated with a mosaic of 40 million cubes in 15,000 shades. Simple stupendous! These are copies of the most beautiful frescoes of 60 Serbian monasteries so experts say that this church represents a true anthology of mural paintings of medieval, Serbian. The initial idea of King Peter I was to carve into the walls the names of all soldiers and officers who had perished in the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913. But, since the church was not fully completed, and since First World War followed (1914-1918), this idea had to be abandoned.

King Peter’s House: During preparations for the construction of St. George’s Church in Oplenac, the so-called “Church House” was built in 1910, designed by architect Kosta J. Jovanović. It was supposed to be a temporary place of residence, from where the church was supposed to be supervised.

King Peter I

He stayed here till 1915 till he shifted to a retreat in the Albanian mountains. His son  (later King Alexander I) came here from the General Headquarters in Kragujevac, to submit his reports about military plans and operations. The King wrote down daily notes, in this very house, filled with precious data about the building of the church, everyday life and the many people who came to Topola. Today, Peter’s House has an art gallery and offices of the “Endowment of King Peter I Karadjordjevic”, and a venue for thematic exhibitions, dedicated to the Karadjordjevic Family or the events at the Endowment Compound.

Karadjordjeva monument and house, Topola: This is the best place to learn about about Karađorđe ( Dordje Petrovic) and his uprising against Ottoman rule (1st Serbian Uprising). The Karađorđe House is also known locally as Karađorđe Konak. This house, which is now a museum, is a recreation of the house Karađorđe himself established during his lifetime. 

Karadjordjeva monument
Inside the museum
Painting of the uprising in the museum
The original cast Karadojev canon of 1812

Đorđe Petrović was born into an impoverished family in the Sumadija region of Serbia (Ottoman regime), on 16 November, 1768 and was the oldest of his parents’ five children. 

After fighting for Austria as a member of an ethnic Serb militia in the Austro-Turkish War of 1788–91, Karađorđe and his family fled to Austria following the Ottoman victory. He later returned to Ottoman Serbia following a massacre of Serb chieftains, and led a rebellion against those responsible for the killings. This was successful and they carried on fending off the Turks. Needless to say he is a hero for the Serbs, even though his struggles did not end with this victory, and he was murdered in a deceitful plan in 1817.

Wineries: Topola and Oplenac surroundings have always been known as quality vine-growing and wine-producing region. Suitable moderate continental climate with regular temperature fluctuation and specific terrain configuration, mostly exposed to the east and south, influenced the earliest local population to grow vine. We stopped by the King’s Winery to learn about the history of wine-making in the region.

The surrounding sunny hills with mild slopes are rich with fruit, herbs and mushrooms. “Oplenac harvest”, a traditional three-day festival of grapes, wine and national folklore, has been taking place every October since the times of Prince Alexander.

Karadjordje was the first to plant vineyards on the slopes of his estate in Topola, near the peak of Oplenac hill. The old documents from the times of the First Uprising testify that the Topola vineyards yielded so well that there was not enough space to store the abundance of grapes and wine.

The King’s Winery also contains archive wines, which are certainly the oldest national wines in Serbia. Among others, Oplenka, Žilavka and White Burgundy from 1931, in uniquely shaped bottles with the Royal coat of arms, and Prokupac, Hamburg and Plemenka from later vintages. After World War 2, Oplenac vineyards were neglected until 2000. After their renovation, the first harvest took place in 2006, and from the following year on, wines from the King’s vineyards are once again served all over the world.

After a lovely lunch at a roadside café, we set off to return to Belgrade to spend the last 3 days of our holiday.

The Vineyards

For the previous posts on Serbia, check out

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