Homeland of Constantine the Great
The city of Nis (Niš) lies on a fertile plain surrounded by mountains at the intersection of the Nišava and Južna Morava Rivers. These two rivers comprise the two main travel routes in the Balkans. Since the ancient times, these routes have led to Sofia, Constantinople (Istanbul) and Thessaloniki. The two bodies of water merge near Niš before continuing to Belgrade and into Central Europe.
Niš is 238km from Belgrade, accessible via highway. Sometime before the birth of Christ, the Romans conquered this town and named it Naissus. It is the birthplace of the Emperor, Constantine the Great. Niš flourished during his rule from 312 to 337. During the Middle Ages, this region was part of Byzantium, Bulgaria and the Kingdom of Hungary. For almost 400 years thereafter, Niš was under Turkish rule.
In the period from 1719 to 1723, the Turks built Niš’s famous fortress on the right bank of the Nišava River. Today, the structure has been adapted to meet modern day needs. The Artistic Pavilion is now located in the 1857 Arsenal building, Salon 77 is inside the Bali Beg mosque, and Pasha’s konak (residence) now houses an administrative office. The ancient prison is now home to the Niš Investigation Center. In 1975, the city erected a large stage in one part of the fortress. Today, the stage is the venue for the Festival of Theatre Achievement, several choir festivals and the Nisomnia Summer Music Festival.
Since the 14th century, the city has developed on the left bank of the river. There are five main roads that branch out from the city center’s Liberation Square. At the end of the 14th century, a mosque was built on this bank of the Nišava River. A large, open space was created when the mosque was later demolished. This space eventually became the city square and soon blossomed into a lively pedestrian area featuring a number of beautiful buildings.
Built in the 1960’s, the Hotel Ambasador in the city center was Nis’s first high-rise building. Stroll to the center of the square and you will the monument by Antun Augustinčić’s dedicated to the liberators of Niš. You will also discover a beautiful building in the direction of the river and central park that is used by the mayor of Niš. Obrenović Street, which was at one time a covered čaršija (bazaar), is now the city’s main commercial street. It stretches from the central square to the southern parts of the city. This vibrant street is now a pedestrian zone, which is dotted with an array of shops, cafes and restaurants. Enjoy a Kujundžijsko sokače, a brass band, at one of the cafes here.
Explore further and you will discover the beautiful Stambolijski family residence, one of the most stunning examples of Turkish residential architecture. Today, the building is home to a popular restaurant. The Niš Orthodox Church is located on the southern outskirts of the old town, in the former Christian neighborhood known as Crkvena mala.
Ćele kula (Skull Tower) is easily one of Niš’s most important sighs. Located 2km from the center of the town, it was erected following the gory battle between the Serbian army and the Turks on Čegar. After the battle, the Turkish Commander Hushid-pasha ordered his soldiers to skin every head of a fallen Serbian soldier, fill it with hey, send it to the Sultan of Stambol (Istanbul), and stack the skulls into a tower which would serve as a permanent warning to the Serbian people. Of the total 852 skulls that were used to build the tower, 58 are preserved today.
Venture out of town in the direction of Niška Banja, and you will discover the renowned Mediana archeological site. Constantine the Great built the complex as his summer residence around 330. The remains of the palace include the baptistery, granary, thermaes and pagan temple. You will see some of the most extraordinary mosaics here. These stunning works depict gorgons, Medusa and the God of Water, and a range of beautiful geometric patterns.
For centuries, individuals suffering from cardiac and cardiovascular diseases, rheumatism and sciatica have flocked to the Niška Banja (Niš Spa), which lies 10 km from Niš at the foot of Koritnik Mountain. The Radonski thermal springs, whose water temperature average 37 degrees Celsius, were renowned during the Roman and Byzantine times. The opening of a tramline connecting the spa to Niš greatly boosted its development between WWI and WWII. The spa contains peloid, a natural therapeutic mud recommended for sufferers of rheumatism. Banja Topilo (Topilo Spa) lies 25km from Niš.
If you are a nature enthusiast, head to the spectacular 17 km long Sićevačka canyon and Nišava River. The area is dotted with more than 30 churches and monasteries. Because of its extraordinary beauty, the area has received special status as a nature resort. The Jelašnička canyon, which also enjoys this special status, is 15km away.
The Moravica River joins the Južna Morava River at Aleksinac, which is 30km from Niš off the highway heading to Belgrade. Interestingly, Aleksinac was the first town to be connected by telegraph to Belgrade. Traces of ancient civilizations are evident at every corner here. Explore the town’s surroundings and you discover several amazing fortresses, including Bolvan, Petrus, Lipovac, Gradac, Kulina, and Korman. According to historical documents, Aleksinac was one of the most prominent towns in the area during the rule of Prince Miloš. Its rich traditions, resources and architecture are still evident here today.
If you are visiting the area, it is worth stopping in Deligrad, the site of several battles and victories during the First Serbian Uprising against the Turks.
The people here are proud of their customs and have worked hard to preserve them. Since 1965, Aleksinac has organized the Na Moravi vodenica stara (Old watermill on the Morava River). Every September the town of Rutevac organizes the Convention of the Paprika. Bakers’ Day takes place every October. Aleksinac is also known for preparing the perfect ćevapčići, a grilled minced meat delicacy.
When in Niš, Niška Banja, and Aleksinac, we recommend:
– A drink in one of Nis’s Kujundžijsko sokače cafes
– Admiring the mosaics at the Mediana archeological site
– A taste of delicious Aleksinac ćevapčići
The Holy Trinity Temple in Gornji Adrovac (near Aleksinac) was erected in the very spot where Colonel Rayevski was killed. The character Vronsky in Tolstoy’s Ana Karenina novel was based on Rayevski. Some believe Rajevski was also buried here at one time.
INFORMATIONSTourist Organization of Niš 7 Voždova Street, 18000 Niš Tel: +381 18 521 321, 523 118 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com www.nistourism.org.rs
The Municipal Organization for Toruism and Sport “OTIS” – Aleksinac 54 Dušana Trivunca Street, 18220 Aleksinac Tel: +381 18 804 025 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com