An unusually warm day in November in Belgrade gave me the excuse to take a day trip to a small town in central Serbia, called Topola. I had always wanted to go and visit this charming town to see its church of St George which is the mausoleum of the Serbian Royal Family, Karadjordjevic. The five-domed church was built in the style known as Serbian–Byzantium, a sort of oriental gothic style, between 1910 and 1930, by King Peter I who was a grandson of the founder of the royal family who led the Serbs in an uprising against the Ottoman Empire that had controlled the Balkans for centuries. The revolution was successful, the Ottomans were booted out and in 1811 Karadjordje was confirmed as the lawful ruler of Serbia and his heirs after him. At St George’s Church four of Serbia’s kings and 18 members of the Karadjordje dynasty are buried in the crypt, their tombs made of onyx from Decani in Kosovo, and representing the pearl of Serbia’s cultural and historical heritage.
The most important characteristic of church is the mosaic that covers much of the interior walls, made from Murano glass from Venice. I loved the huge candelabra which is made of melted weapons from the Battle of Kajmackalan in WWI and in the shape of the medieval crown of Serbia but upside down, symbolising Serbia’s mourning at the loss of their country at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389.
Entry tickets are 300 Serbian Dinars which is around GBP2.5 or Euro 3. The price includes entrance to St George’s Church (the curator is happy to give you lots of information in English), King Peter’s house (a small summer villa built in 1912 for his own use and today a museum), the villa of King Alexander I and Queen Mary (closed to visitors at the moment) and entry to the tower and Church of Our Blessed Lady of Karadjordje Town, dating from 1811-1813.
If you have time you may visit the royal winery at the foot of Oplenac Hill. Every year in Topola since 1963, on the 2nd weekend in October, the traditional Oplenac Vintage takes place.
By car from Belgrade is around 3 hours each way, through picturesque countryside. But please be aware that the roads are potholed and road signs are very poor in Serbia – most of the time there are no signs at all, and if you are lucky enough to find any they are in Cyrillic. But on the upside, there are lots of traditional Serbian restaurants known as “kafana” which serve wonderfully hearty, freshly cooked food and the average price is a modest GBP15 for a three course meal including drinks. We recommend MB Kafana.