Saturday, September 5, 2009

A 19th Century Charm - Konak kneginje Ljubice

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Konak kneginje Ljubice is one of my favorite places in Belgrade. But, first, let me explain you what this name means. The word "konak" is an old Serbian word for "residence" or "place to sleep", "kneginja" is pronounced as "kneghinya" and it is a title similar to duchess, but at that time (end of 19th century) it was the highest title, as her husband, knez Miloš Obrenović (pronounced as Milosh Obrenovich) was the sovereign of Serbia. Finally, Ljubica (Lyubitsa) is duchess name, so it means "The Residence of duchess Ljubica".
It was built in two years, 1829 - 1831, as royal residence, by order of knez Miloš, who never lived there. One could ask "why"? Well, actually, knez Miloš was separated from his wife - although he was known as intimidating and harsh man, he was afraid to live with his wife, after she killed his mistress with a holster. He built himself another residence (1831 - 1834), outside former territory of Belgrade, and lived there with his numerous mistresses until he died. Enough gossiping!
The architecture of this building is clearly in Balkan Oriental style, but with obvious influence of Western architecture in some details. Knez Miloš had very complex personality, although half-literate, unpredictable and rude, he was also brave, innovative and dedicated to modernize Belgrade. He was the first one to introduce glass windows in Serbia. It is the best preserved residence from the 19th century, but there is no original furniture, since it became Lyceum, with uprising of a new dynasty of Karađorđević (Karageorgevich). The building changed its purpose many times, until 1980, when it became memorial type museum. Today, the house is furnished with 19th century furniture from Belgrade houses, which is nicely arranged and well incorporated with the house, giving you the feeling that the time was stopped inside its walls. The only part of the house that preserved it original look is bathroom, built in oriental hammam style, but with strong influence of old Roman bathrooms. The walls of the house are very thick, preserving constant temperature inside the house - once (I've been there many times), custodian told us that body heat was sufficient to keep the in-house temperature of about 20 degrees Celsius during winter.
When I went there few years ago (not for the first time, of course), the custodian was on the "lunch break" (a truly long one), so the guard let us in and told us many interesting stories about how they lived, where did they sleep and even how many children did she have (it was something between 7 and 12, I've forgot) and how most of them died young. He was truly friendly and helpful, and made our tour interesting, but at the end he did not want to charge us for tickets "because you haven't received a full service, since the tour wasn't guided by an expert custodian".
This year's visit gave me a surprise: they said that photographing is not allowed, although there is no sign on the entrance. Plus, I was shocked to find out that once beautiful marble bathroom was destroyed in a fire, caused by the crew of some stupid movie shooting. Luckily, the rest of the house was not affected, and it looks intact.
Konak is located in the center of Belgrade, literally surrounded by many other attractions like Kalemegdan, Saborna Crkva, Knez Mihajlova Street, "?" (or Question Mark) restaurant and Kosančićev Venac. You can get there by all three ways of public transportation (bus, trolley-bus and tram) and if you go by car, there is a public garage at 10 minutes walking distance, but it is often full, since there is almost impossible to find parking space in and around the center, which is normal for all cities. There is another, much larger garage, below Stari Dvor, next to the Parliament, which requires about 20 minutes walk through the Pasic Square with big fountain and Knez Mihajlova Street (if you don't stop too often to take photographs).

Note: the new web site is still under construction.  






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PierreJ said...

A fascinating post! Must admit I can understand why knez Miloš moved out ;-)

experienceserbia said...

Link je postavljen - cheers!

Secrets said...

So glad you dropped by my blog to comment because now I have found you. This is definitely being added to my list of places to visit.
Great photos and interesting information.

merkat said...

Thank you Wanda! Hope to see you in Belgrade, soon :o)

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