„Surrendering our horses to the care of the khan keeper, I proceeded to the konak, or government house, to present my letters. This proved to be a large building, in the style of Constantinople, which, with its line of bow windows, and kiosk-fashioned rooms, surmounted with projecting roofs, might have passed muster on the Bosphorus.
On entering, I was ushered into the office of the collector, to await his arrival, and, at a first glance, might have supposed myself in a formal Austrian kanzley“, our British companion says. The first impression of downtown Shabac town really is Austrian-like. Actually, the inhabitants here often praise their town to be the first in Serbia to have a piano or even glassed windows.
The town quickly developed after the war and for the period of 15 years it was under the rule of Jevrem Obrenovic, Prince of Serbia Milos Obrenovic’s brother. Six months after Jevrem came to Shabac and took control, there was a letter sent to Vuk Karadzic in Vienna (linguist and major reformer of Serbian language), saying that „Shabatz on Bair (hill) became such place so that there’s a lot for the eye to see“. Long after Obrenovic’s rule Shabac was still an important town on the border towards Austria-Hungarian Empire.
But, right after you turn from the main street, you will find small stores densely lined up against each other. The area resembles to some parts you may find in the area of Rashka, in southern Serbia, populated by Muslim minority. And here you get the idea of that small „Turkish settlement“ near the river Sava, which was rebuild by Obrenovic.
Streets are not dirty nor narrow as they used to be, there are no minarets which loomed above the town once, but those small craft stores remain. And the Orient charm still lingers above.
I went for a coffee in the middle of the main promenade, just like genuine tourists do, and asked where to find a good local place to eat. I was recommended to go to seemingly the only „flashy“ place downtown (just like genuine tourists do, anyway!).
On one side of the street there were few cafes with couple of tables outside, parasol or two, and on the other – small two-stored construction, with strange decorations on its front. Just like one of those „fancy“ bars from Belgrade’s Danube shore was moved down here by a helicopter. But, they have convinced me that it was „the right place to go“. Totally different story inside – bricked wall and wrought iron chairs, tasty and full plates, pleasant atmosphere, decent prices. Although, as a local, the moment you leave Belgrade you will feel that prices are decent everywhere – everywhere but in Belgrade which is the most expensive.
The first night went by with some sporadic noise coming from the street. When the whole town fell asleep, there were couple of details which would always remind me on that night spent in Shabac. Firstly, it seemed that the streets were full of stray dogs back then. They didn’t sleep that night, that’s for sure. Didn’t seem dangerous, but they were just barking at something from time to time, then you could hear somebody shouting at them, and those dogs barked again, even louder… You get the picture.
Secondly, something was constantly beeping outside, tirelessly! It was harder to hear it in the morning, but only because the sun came up and the promenade became busy and crowded. I came out of the hotel, waiting for that green light to appear in order to cross the street, and there it was again – that was actually the traffic light beeping loudly night and day, signaling disabled when to cross the street, even when there was not a single soul or a car outside. Except for those dogs, but they surely didn’t care. Or maybe that was the reason they barked all night?
„The collector now accompanied me on a walk through the Servian town, and emerging on a wide space, we discovered the fortress of Shabatz, which is the quarter in which the remaining Turks live“, Andrew Archibald Paton wrote in his book Serbia, Residence In Belgrade 1843-1844, which I didn’t part from.
“Just continue straight until you get to the railway tracks. You cross there, turn right and there is the Sava river, just over the bridge. There is the famous fortress”, a policeman explained after he asked over and over again where I was from since I didn’t know “such a simple fact” – where the river is. Oh well, you learn something every day, right!
The full 19th-century Serbia SERIES