archeology

belgrade day trip: viminacium

We were able to see some more of Serbia’s rich history the other day when we took a quick day trip. An hour and a half or so outside of Belgrade, there are the remains of a Roman town, Viminacium. Our Garmin didn’t have the site itself, so we picked a destination nearby and then followed signs — even though they often seemed to point us in rather unexpected directions. Our car was sent down small, dusty roads that had seen better days… until we ended up at a power plant surrounded by farmland. We looked at each other, and at the plant workers looking at us, and I voiced the skepticism everyone in the car felt. We found the last sign to Viminacium and it pointed us down a rolling, single-lane road that cut through the farms.

I knew we were in the right place when, in the parking lot, I spied a number of Roman chariots lined up along the side. When we went inside to purchase tickets, we found out that the only way to see things is with a tour guide. Fortunately, there was a tour starting soon; unfortunately, it would be in Serbian only. Grant talked with the woman at the counter and eventually established that someone could give us a tour in English, but we would have to wait a bit longer. Since we had driven all the way out there, we decided to wait it out, in hopes that our tour would start sooner rather than later. And it did!

We had hardly sat down when we were told our tour could start now because the other tour guide was back. So we got back into our car along with the tour guide (“We have a bus but it is broken. This is Serbia, after all!” she told us) and drove to an excavated site nearby. It was very nice to have a private tour! We drove around to a number of different sites, where we got out of the car and the guide told us about what we were seeing as we looked around.

they recently built an enlarged version of a Roman villa, with a library, classrooms, guest rooms, and a lab

they recently built an enlarged version of a Roman villa, with a library, classrooms, guest rooms, and a lab

As it turns out, when the power plant was being built, a large Roman cemetery was unearthed, which is where the excavating began. Since then, all the fields around it have been bought from farmers but are being rented back to them until a time when archaeologists will work to uncover what is beneath them. As a consequence, there are now a few excavated sites scattered among fields of sunflowers, corn, wheat, and more.

One of the coolest parts is in the mausoleum, where visitors are not only able to get up close and personal with some of the artifacts but they can also view the inside of a couple of tombs and view what had been painted on them (this was really fascinating; the long, dark tunnel we had to walk through was not).

Currently, most of the funding for the projects comes from the power plant and the Serbian government, although we were told the US Embassy provided one of the initial grants. All in all, we enjoyed our trip. We like seeing the tourist spots that draw not only foreigners but also Serbians, and this one definitely qualifies as being off the beaten path…