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This post is about a 17km walk from Niška Banja to Niš. I see a sign pointing towards Beijing, and I visit the Skull Tower and Niš Fortress.

Niška Banja was centered around a large sanatorium. It had a dark, Soviet look about it. But the park around it was nice.


There was a fountain in the center, and in front of the fountain, there was a large illustration of the compass winds on the ground. Helsinki was there and Paris and London. But to my amazement there was also Beijing. PEKING it said, 7425 KM.

It has taken me almost double the distance to get here from Beijing. How far was it really, I thought. But I loved the sign anyway. I hung around for a bit, then I walked down a road where the sidewalk was covered with pink flower petals.


The archaeological dig of Mediana was closed to the public. There was a high fence around it and a sign that said the area would be ready for visitors by 2021, and that I should go to the National Museum in the city if I wanted to see anything.

It was a bit sad.

the skulls

I arrived at the Skull Tower about a half hour later. There was a ticket office and a building that looked like a small church. I ran into a family that was partly from Turkey and partly from Serbia. They were very friendly. We talked for a little while and decided to look at the Skull Tower together.

It was horrible. About two centuries earlier, the Ottoman rulers had tried to deal with an uprising by killing more than 900 Serbian men and building a small tower out of their heads. This was meant as a warning to every Serbian. But the Serbians hadn’t taken it as a warning but rather as an encouragement. And once they had freed themselves from the Ottoman rule just a short while later, they decided to keep the Skull Tower as a reminder.

Today many of the skulls were gone. I hoped that their families had taken them and given them a proper burial.

“This is our shared history,” the Serbo-Turkish family told me. I wondered how far past these things humanity really was. We talked for a little while longer, and when we said goodbye they gave me a little stuffed chameleon. It was handmade, from Istanbul.

the fortress

I stocked up on my medication at a pharmacy, then I got a huge pizza on King Milan Square in the center of the city. There was a poster of the current president Aleksandar Vučić on one of the buildings. It was about 20 stories high, and it reminded me of the posters of Erdogan in Rize. When I asked some people what it meant, this poster in its enormous size, they laughed and said that they felt ashamed about it. I looked back up at the poster and noticed a worker beginning to remove it, window by window.

Niš Fortress was an 18th-century Ottoman construction. There wasn’t much left on the inside, but the walls were still there, and so was Stambol Gate, the Gate of Istanbul. I took the Caboose on a round-trip. There were some ruined buildings, some headstones, and in the center there was an old mosque, the Bali-Bey Mosque. It looked like a purely historical monument, as if nobody had prayed it for a long time.


the walk from Niška Banja to Niš

  • Hristo Uzunov

    Some beautiful present photos, and some gruesome past ones. Reminds me of Aztec skull towers, guess such shit is not isolated in human history. Ottomans did massacres after uprisings in Bulgaria too, Batak one comes to mind, but there probably were plenty of others in history.

    Don’t know if keeping the bones is a good way to commemorate the fallen victims, but at least it’s good in present mixed families from both sides can visit such places and ponder on them , live in peace and bring a smile to a stranger by gifting him a chameleon toy.

    Life… uh… finds a way. 🙂


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