On our second day in Belgrade we took a two and half hour guided walking tour of parts of the Belgrade Fortress. Our guide met with us at a designated place at one end of Knez Mihailova street which is the main pedestrian shopping zone in Belgrade. One then just had to just cross the road and enter the Kalmegdan Park area and to the various points of interest.
Our first stop was the ‘Roman Well’, located within an underground room. Interestingly, the Roman Well is neither Roman nor a well in the true sense.
It was built in the first half of the 18th century by the Austrians who occupied the fort at the time. Those days Belgrade was often under attack and it was of paramount importance to find a water source within the fortress without having to go out to the river nearby. So a hole was dug with the intention of bringing in water from the nearby Sava. Later excavations though showed the ‘well’ was not connected to the Sava river as was thought initially.
As for the ‘Roman’ tag, apparently anything old was thought to be ‘Roman’ and hence in the 19th century under Serbian rule, the Great Well as it was known till then was renamed to Roman Well.
The well for its time was an architectural marvel. Over the years unfortunately, it earned notoriety from the many tales of prisoners being thrown into the well. Presumably, as late as 1954, a mentally ill man killed his wife and threw her body into the well, the guide said. Just the thought made us shiver in the dark and brooding place.
Ever since that last unfortunate event, safety measures have been put in place, he added, but still cautioned us to be careful while taking pictures. There’s no coming back if you decide to go in, he joked, laughing heartily at his own dark joke just before letting us loose to take pictures and soak in the somber ambience of the place. The truth though is that at present no one can get in even if they so wished. Thankfully so.
© Shail Mohan 2022